Friday, December 2, 2016

Video Friday: Disney does Ancient Egypt


Let's start December out with a little fun!

Egypt Melodies (Silly Symphony)

Without a doubt, this video is my favorite Egyptian Disney, but Silly Symphonies have always spoken to me.



Dance like a Pharaoh



Prince of Egypt



Entombed

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Mummies, Gender Transformation, & Tut



A Woman's Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt Opens At Brooklyn Museum, 12/15

The ancient Egyptians believed that to make rebirth possible for a deceased woman, she briefly had to turn into a man. In A Woman's Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt, the Brooklyn Museum presents new research--- inspired in part by feminist scholarship--- to tell this remarkable story of gender transformation in the ancient world. Opening on December 15, the exhibition showcases 25 works from the Museum's celebrated Egyptian collection to explore the differences between male and female access to the afterlife. The exhibition is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong project celebrating a decade of feminist thinking at the Brooklyn Museum.

Steep commute gave ancient Egyptian workers osteoarthritis
Andrew McConnell/Alamy Stock Photo

Commuting to work can be a real pain, and it was no different in ancient Egypt. About 3500 years ago, the artisans who dug out and decorated the rock-cut royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings—the burial ground of Egypt's New Kingdom pharaohs—had to walk about 2 kilometers from their homes, over the Theban hills, to the royal necropolis for work. It was a steep climb, repeated week after week for years, leaving them suffering from osteoarthritis in the knees and ankles, according to a new study

New Children’s Book Shows Human Side Of Mummies
by Nigel Fletcher-Jones
all images from How I Became a Mummy (AUC Press)


. . . as he watches the palace servants struggle getting his well-rounded body onto a stretcher, that, “Maybe a little less honey cake and fine wine might have been a good thing.”
from How I  Became a Mummy
 In last month’s column, I described the ways in which museum curators and archaeologists are bringing together a number of scientific techniques in order to delve deeper, and more meaningfully, into the real lives of individuals who were mummified in ancient Egypt.

Howard Carter’s First Glimpse Into Tutankhamun’s Tomb

On 4th November, Carter and his excavation team found a set of steps that they hoped would lead to the pharaoh’s final resting place. After some initial investigations, Carter wired his benefactor and patron: Lord Carnarvon, to come to the site, sensing that he had found something important. On 22nd November, with Carnarvon, Carnarvon’s family and others in attendance, Carter chiseled a small hole into the top left hand corner of the tomb’s sealed entrance.


Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum Takes Shape

With a grand opening now in May 2018, the final form of the main building will leave the viewer with a “tremendous sense of awe due to its immense size,” said Waleed Abdel Fattah, Hill’s senior vice president of North Africa.

Picture of the week


Monday, November 21, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Tweeter, Tut & Akhenaten



Emily Tweeter The Egyptologist

Emily Teeter, 60, is an Egyptologist, research associate, and curator at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, where she’s in charge of special exhibits.
Interview by Aimee Levitt
Photographs by John Sturdy

Why are there jugglers in an Egyptian-themed opera? How the aerial magic of 'Akhnaten' came to be

Before Los Angeles Opera’s production of Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” opened, general director Pl├ícido Domingo occasionally would take a break from his office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and slip into rehearsals.

Fit For A King: Grand Museum Will Showcase Tut And Egypt's Ancient Culture
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

The angular steel and concrete skeleton of Egypt's huge new museum rises up on the Giza plains, in sight of the pyramids that inspired it. When it opens next year, visitors to the Grand Egyptian Museum will be able to see the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Menkaure through the glass wall that fronts the galleries. The back wall will be made partly of alabaster, meant to glow like a jewel in the setting sun.

Why an undamaged mummy uncovered in Luxor will stay in Egypt

Spanish archaeologists have uncovered a 3,000-year-old mummy "in very good condition" near the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, said Egypt’s antiquities ministry this weekend. . .
The discovery comes as Egyptian authorities continue work on recovering the estimated $3 billion of antiquities stolen during post-2011 political instability. That effort is resurfacing intense patriotic feeling around Egypt’s cultural patrimony, as well as contributing to the emergence of a new generation of antiquities experts that some say are changing a traditionally dense and hidebound bureaucracy.

Ancient Egyptian Demons - Swansea Museum festival event

People in Swansea can learn more about the mysterious world of ancient Egyptian demons, and create their very own, at a hands-on arts and crafts session taking place at Swansea Museum, home of the famous Egyptian mummy, on Saturday 19 November, as part of the Being Human Festival 2016.

‘Demon stations’ will give people a chance to create their very own heroes and demons.  Children can dress up as their favourite hero or villain and come along to Swansea Museum to make their own character based on their hopes, dreams or fears.

OFFICE WISDOM STRAIGHT FROM ANCIENT EGYPT

We’ve all seen Egyptian hieroglyphs, but we rarely get to know much about the stories they tell or the wisdom they impart. Now Cambridge University Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson has released a book, Writings from Ancient Egypt, collecting what was written on these ancient papyrus scrolls and stone carvings.

There’s a lot of stuff in there, and it offers an illuminating peek into Egyptian culture. One thing is clear, though: people haven’t really changed much.

In fact, there’s a section from 1850 BCE from 110-year-old pharaonic vizier Ptahhotep that sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday. It’s good advice.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ancient Egypt this Week: A little bit of everything



Unlocking the medical mysteries of King Tut’s tomb

Tutankhamun ruled ancient Egypt for a little more than a decade, from around 1333 B.C. (when he was only 9 years old) to about 1324 B.C., during the 18th dynasty (circa 1550-1295 B.C.) of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (circa 1550-1070 B.C.). His brief reign, disabled left leg and foot, and premature death at 18 or 19 have long been sources of fascination.

Soon after Carter’s discovery came rumors of a death curse for anyone disturbing Tut’s deathly repose. Tales of the curse soon grew like a snowball rolling down a huge hill, gaining force and size with each turn.

An Anti-Indiana Jones is Solving the Pyramids’ Secrets
PHOTOGRAPH BY MOMEN BADR

When Yukinori Kawae explores the Great Pyramids at Giza, he isn’t after treasure or lost chambers—he’s looking for dimensions. For all that the pyramids have been dug, scanned, and photographed, the exact measurements of many are still unknown.

The American University in Cairo Press e-newsletter
Already November! For some, that may mean packing away Halloween costumes, bracing for the US elections, anticipating Thanksgiving, preparing for Christmas, and perhaps contemplating new resolutions.

November is also an ideal time to leave the rain and cold weather outside, plunge into drier universes and discover new authors.

Too Many People Have Stolen Egypt’s History; Here’s How It’s Getting It Back
COURTESY OF U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT
en one asks Tarek Sayed Tawfik about the centuries of theft of Egypt’s historical treasures, he becomes visibly angry.

“We are not encouraging anybody to continue stealing Egyptian objects,” declares the general director of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open at the beginning of 2018. “In spite of it being difficult and agony to retrieve objects, and it’s not cheap and it takes time. But … anybody who in an illicit way tries to take objects out of Egypt will be prosecuted.”

CT Scans of Mummy of an Ancient Priest Reveal He Was Stricken with Modern Diseases

The mummy of an ancient Egyptian man from 2,200 years ago was recently scanned by researchers. The results proved that the man, who lived during the reign of the Ptolemies, had weak bones and tooth decay – two issues that are generally associated with a more modern way of life.

Timelapse Animations Present The ‘Unexpected’ 3D Facial Reconstruction Of Cleopatra

Cleopatra – the very name brings forth reveries of beauty, sensuality and extravagance, all set amidst the political furor of the ancient world. But does historicity really comply with these popular notions about the famous female Egyptian pharaoh, who had her roots in a Greek dynasty? Well the answer to that is more complex, especially considering the various parameters of history, including cultural inclinations, political propaganda and downright misinterpretations.

Akhnaten as you've never seen him: How L.A. Opera delivers Philip Glass' Egyptian Pharaoh tale

Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” is the un-“Aida.”

Verdi and Glass both re-imagined an ancient Egypt suited to the composers’ own times. But whereas Verdi relies on the great 19th century Italian opera themes of forbidden love and the like to make the exotic realm of Pharaohs and gods knowable, Glass operates on the late 20th century perspective of history as unknowable.

To see more amazing photos like the one in the title and the following one and other info from the LA production, click here:


Here is an interesting trailer from another production of the opera.


Akhnaten (Philip Glass) - trailer from Opera & Ballet Vlaanderen on Vimeo.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Video Friday: Fashion, Beauty, & Bling in Ancient Egypt


When talking about fashion and beauty in Ancient Egypt, let's start off by strutting our strongest suit with Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida.



Beauty and Makeup



THE ULTIMATE FASHION HISTORY - Ancient Egypt



If your Dover coloring book moved. . .



Ancient Egyptian clothing and jewelry project



Ancient Egyptian Clothing



FDM-Egyptian Fashion Influences

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ancient Egypt this Week: Abydos Boats & Underworld Navigation


Five Museum and Exhibition Books to Run and Get

From the Egyptians blog, just in time for the holiday season and the Egypt-o-phile on your list.
About once a year I make suggestions of what books or guides will be of interest as gifts for my reader's loved ones and friends who are interested in art and Egyptology. I am of course a giant fan of museum and exhibition guides as they usually contain objects and artifacts that are rarely if ever published elsewhere. 
22,000 sign up to learn the secrets of ancient Egypt
(Emma Lee/WHYY)

David Silverman is one of the world's foremost authorities on ancient Egypt. Whenever a crackpot theory about Egypt comes to the surface - like how space aliens must have built the pyramids - he is asked to comment.

He doesn't mind. Even wackadoo questions lead to interesting answers.

Archaeologists Reenact 19th-Century Mummy Ritual
 Photos by Cydney Scott

In the late 1800s, the hottest ticket in town would get you into an event where an Egyptologist and a doctor crouched over a 3,000-year-old mummy and slowly unwrapped its bandages “for scientific purposes.” In the spirit of Halloween, and with a more than seasonal interest in archaeology, about 70 students and guests gathered Thursday night at the Castle to do the same thing at a sold-out event called Unrolling Egyptomania.

TT40, the tomb of AMENHOTEP, surnamed  HUY

Tomb TT 40 is in the Theban necropolis at Qurnet Mura’i. This is one of very few tombs datable with certainty to the reign of Tutankhamun. The owner is called Amenhotep, but prefers to be called the most familiar diminutive of Huy; he undertakes the very important function of "King’s Son of Kush, Overseer of the Southern Countries", in other words, he is Viceroy of Nubia.

The tomb of Huy is one of our major sources for understanding the functions of a Viceroy: the scenes showing presentation of the tribute to the sovereign are exceptional examples of such work and created the reputation of this monument. Another interesting point is the mixture between ‘classic’ elements and others that recall the Amarna period - which had just ended.

Graphic of the Day - Catastrophic Hieroglyphs



Image by Dom McKenzie (all rights reserved).

Twitter had this cool modern appropriation/reinterpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs applied to contemporary concerns about impending and ongoing mayhem. It accompanied the fascinating and insightful article "What the ancient past can teach us about the chaos of 2016."

3,800-Year-Old 'Tableau' of Egyptian Boats Discovered
Wiley Online Library Photo

More than 120 images of ancient Egyptian boats have been discovered adorning the inside of a building in Abydos, Egypt. The building dates back more than 3,800 years and was built near the tomb of pharaoh Senwosret III, archaeologists reported.

This story is blowing up the news. You can read bits and pieces in the following articles, or you can read the full, scholarly article in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.



How I became a Mummy by Leena Pekkalainen The American University in Cairo Press (AUC Press)

If you thought making an ancient Egyptian mummy was just a matter of wrapping a body in bandages, think again! It was a long, complicated, and sometimes gruesome process.

What happened to the intestines, lungs, and other soft inside bits?
How did they get the brain out of the skull? What did they use to dry the body out, and how long did that take?

These questions and many more are answered here by Mr. Mummific, a king of Egypt who went through it all himself, and ended up a mummy with attitude.

A little confused when he first died (but relieved that he no longer had toothache), he needed his own guide to explain things, so it's lucky that his dead but cheeky son was there to lead him by the hand. Together, they let us in on all the grisly secrets of the embalmers' tent.

Illustrated with eighty colorful scenes from the life, death, and afterlife of the funniest mummy you'll ever meet, How I Became a Mummy is an icky treat for children and Egyptologists of all ages.

Discovering sunken city, gateway of ancient Egypt to outer world
(Hilti Foundation photo) | Xinhua | Manila Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Around 16 years after his discovery of the submerged ancient Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion, French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio still recalls the discovery as one of the most “fascinating” moments in his life.

This intact stele, 1.99 meters high, bears the inscription of the Decree of Sais, which was commissioned by Nectanebo I (ruled 378-362 B.C.) The stele came to light in the city of Thonis-Heracleion and is almost identical to the stele of Naukratis from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Preview: Animal Mummies Revealed

In Liverpool, 1890, an unusual event took place: 180,000 mummified Egyptian cats, 19.5 tons worth, were auctioned at the docks, the majority destined to be ground up and used as fertiliser on fields across Merseyside.

That’s just one of the fascinating details disclosed to visitors of Animal Mummies Revealed at the World Museum in Liverpool. Combining mummified specimens such as crocodiles, jackals, birds and cats (several survived the grinder) with cultural relics, travel journals and photographs from Egypt, the exhibition will also examine the history and future of scientific study alongside the change in attitude toward ancient artefacts.

Ancient Egyptian plants to tell the story of a civilisation

Elshafaey Abdellatif Elshafaey is part of a new generation of Egyptian archaeological scientists changing our understanding of the past.

Elshafaey, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Botany and Microbiology at Helwan University, is trying to understand how the development of the ancient Egyptian state in the 4th Millennium BCE changed the environment, agricultural regimes, diet, and food economies.

Two new pharaonic cemeteries discovered in Aswan

Two rock-carved cemeteries belonging to the Late Period of ancient Egypt have been discovered close to the shrine of Agha Khan, located west of Aswan, the Antiquities Ministry said in a press release on Monday.

Nasr Salama, head of the ministry’s department for Aswan and Nubia antiquities, said the two cemeteries were badly preserved, with no inscriptions were found on the walls.

Navigating the Underworld


Friday, November 4, 2016

October Reads



Loner: A Novel by Teddy Wayne

Synopsis: David Federman has never felt appreciated. An academically gifted yet painfully forgettable member of his New Jersey high school class, the withdrawn, mild-mannered freshman arrives at Harvard fully expecting to be embraced by a new tribe of high-achieving peers. Initially, however, his social prospects seem unlikely to change, sentencing him to a lifetime of anonymity.

Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells. Struck by her beauty, wit, and sophisticated Manhattan upbringing, David becomes instantly infatuated. Determined to win her attention and an invite into her glamorous world, he begins compromising his moral standards for this one, great shot at happiness. But both Veronica and David, it turns out, are not exactly as they seem.

Loner turns the traditional campus novel on its head as it explores ambition, class, and gender politics. It is a stunning and timely literary achievement from one of the rising stars of American fiction.

My take: Wow! The unreliable narrator of this novel sucks you into his fever hot delusions almost until the end. The story is not a new one, as so many critical reviews point out. What is fresh and exciting is how David Federman remains a fairly sympathetic character until almost the end of the novel. Yes, he does despicable things; but I rather identified with the gifted social outcast's impulses and forgave him. Who hasn't Face-stalked someone, if not quite to the degree Federman does? Who hasn't found significance in some throw-away social interaction with a someone you had a crush on? Who hasn't sat at the loser table because there was no other place for you? And above all, who hasn't experienced some shift in your daily existence (something far less than life-changing than leaving the Jersey suburbs for the prestige of Harvard) and imagined an opportunity to reinvent yourself or (at the very least) to be recognized for the talent you know you have? C'mon. Admit it.

Yes, I admit the last couple of chapters seem to wind things up a bit too tidily and go on a bit too long. Wayne could have ended the novel before the lengthy explanation of what happened afterwards, and we would have all been satisfied. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this novel.

The Killing Lessons: A Novel by Saul Black

Synopsis: When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims—women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them—has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she's losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

My take: The opening chapter was practically perfect for a crime thriller. It was horrific, unusual, and made you want to read more. Based on it, I bought the book, which quickly dissolved into a hot mess.

The biggest problem was the perpetual head hopping, and some of the heads just weren't that interesting. The most boring heads belonged to Valerie Hart (the detective), the so-called psychopath, and the psychopath's assistant. Hart is the too predictable and troubled, hard-drinking, makes-bad-choices-and-loses-her-one-true-love detective that haunts about 80% of crime novels. The psychopath and his assistant are a little too easily pigeon-holed. No David Federmans here.

The plot is clunky, and there's a weird revenge thing going on between Harper and another agent. I'm sure it's there to increase the tension, but it doesn't. It sort comes out of nowhere and goes to the same place without adding a jot of tension.

In short, don't be taken in by the perfect beginning. Find something that lives up the promise of the first chapter.

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel, a taut, emotionally wrenching story of how a seemingly "normal" family could become desperate enough to leave everything behind and move to a "family camp" in New Hampshire--a life-changing experience that alters them forever.

How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally--a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly--whose condition is deemed undiagnosable--is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas.

The family turns to Camp Harmony and the wisdom of child behavior guru Scott Bean for a solution. But what they discover in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her younger daughter Iris (the book's Nick Carraway), this is a unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.

My take: I loved Dogs of Babel, so I was pretty excited about Harmony. Pairing autism and cults, two  flash point issues of our time, promised to knock the story out of the ball park.

For the most part, the novel delivered.  The mother really resonated with me. What mother hasn't been pushed to the point of no return and then did something regrettable that she might not do under any other circumstances? Desperate times, makes people do desperate things, so yeah, totally believable. The Tilly POV ranks right up there with Benjy in Faulkner's Sound and Fury when it comes to capturing the thought processes of an idiot savant.  Iris? Well, Iris is serviceable.

For the first three-quarters of the book, I went along for the ride. Parkhurst did a masterful job of creating doubts about Camp Harmony from the get go, and the chapters about family life with Tilly captured both the humor and the despair. It's when things start to fall apart that the book experienced its weakest moments. While Parkhurst did a great job in  showing us why people might follow Scott to Harmony, his unraveling feels a bit trite and comes too fast in a denouement that isn't set up well. Remember Checkov's dramatic principle?
Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.
Scott's fall in Harmony has the exact opposite problem. There's no gun, not even a shelf. It feels contrived. Still, there's a lot to chew on, and you wouldn't be wasting your time if you read Harmony.

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

Synopsis: You have three minutes to save your life . . .

THREE MINUTES

You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.

TWO MINUTES

The Sidhe are close. They're the most beautiful and terrible people you've ever seen. And they've seen you.

ONE MINUTE

Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she's determined to prove them wrong.

TIME'S UP

Could you survive the Call?

A genre-changing blend of fantasy, horror, and folklore, The Call won't ever leave your mind from the moment you choose to answer it.

My take: I am usually not a big fan of novels about the Fae. They often seem either trite or precious. The books remind me of a story I've read about a million times before. Yet, I really liked The Call.

If I had to pitch it, I'd say something like:
A fresh take on YA dystopia when a disabled person goes to a dark version  of Hogwarts to prepare for a supernatural Hunger Games and finds herself in the middle of Lord of the Flies. 
The writing is good; the author knows his Irish mythology; the characters work. I was hooked from beginning to end. If you're a fan of horror, YA dystopia, or mythological twists, read this book NOW!

The Graces by Laure Eve

Synopsis: When a glamorous family of teenage witches brings a mysterious new girl into their fold, they unwittingly nurture a powerful black magic that could destroy them all. This paranormal YA fantasy features intrigue, spells, and a devastating twist. In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.

My take: A kinder and gentler version of Stephen King's Carrie? It felt a bit like that. Whereas Carrie goes out in a blaze of glory, the protagonist of this story inflicts a million paper cuts.

The protagonist, River, is an interesting unreliable character, but there are just too many "I've seen this all before" moments for that to save the novel from being sort of meh.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Synopsis: Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past.

Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.

It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.

As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

My take:  This book is on a gazillion must-read lists, probably due to the subject matter. Mischling means of mixed blood, and the two narrators are Jewish identical twins who have blonde (Aryan) hair. In this case, the narrator uses mischling to refer to herself as the hybrid creature Mengele makes her into, although it cannot quite shed its original meaning as a Nazi term.

Mischling does a yeoman's job of describing Mengele's Auschwitz, but overall I found it disappointing. Not because I found it too brutal or horrifying, as many reviewers did, or unbelievable. Compared to other books about the Holocaust, Mischling is fairly mild.

I just didn't find the characters particularly compelling despite the circumstances. Their character-arc is pretty much a flat-line. I suppose some might say there was some insights about the beast inside us all or the resiliency of the human spirit. I'm not saying that. Kosar relied too much on the situation and not enough on the story or the journey.

Some reviews call Mischling a dark fairy tale that casts the light on a particularly gruesome aspect of our collective past. It does that, but not as well as some of the survivor stories, no matter how beautiful Kosar's prose is.