Monday, June 15, 2015

Ancient Egypt this week: Mummifying millions, 26th Dynasty Tombs, Sun Temples of Abusir, Karnak, and the Sphinx

Mummifying Millions: The Canine Catacombs and the Animal Cult Industry of Ancient Egypt

Many associate two popular themes with ancient Egypt: animal worship and mummies. The two have been combined on unprecedented levels deep in the Catacombs of Anubis in North Saqqara. The necropolis of Saqqara is the burial site of kings, commoners and sacred animals.

Six tombs containing mummies belonging to elite figures of 26th Dynasty unearthed in Egypt

A new collection of 26th Dynasty tombs are uncovered in Aswan, described as 'distinguished' by Egypt's antiquities minister. Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty describes the discovery as "distinguished" in being the first discovery in that area of tombs from the Late Pharaonic period. All the tombs previously discovered there are dated to the Old and Middle kingdoms.

The missing sun temples of Abusir 

There are some sun temples out there somewhere.

Abusir is one of the large cemeteries of the Old Kingdom kings, around 16 kilometres south of the famous Great Pyramids of Giza.

The Burning Question after the Karnak Attack

At lot has been written since local police pounced on a planned attack at Karnak Temple on Wednesday. Much of it revolves around the big question: is it safe to visit Egypt right now?

 Excavating the Sphinx

The Great Sphinx is believed to be the most immense stone sculpture in the round ever made by man.

The figure was buried for most of its life in the sand. King Thutmose IV (1425 - 1417 BC) placed a stela between the front paws of the figure, describing an event, while he was still a prince, when he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx. During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and told him to clear away the sand. The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the bargain. Of course, over time, the great statue, the only single instance of a colossal sculpture carved in the round directly out of the natural rock, once again found itself buried beneath the sand.

When Napoleon arrived in Egypt in 1798, the Sphinx was buried once more with sand up to its neck, at by this point, we believe the nose had been missing for at least 400 years. Between 1816 and 1817, the Genoese merchant, Caviglia tried to clear away the sand, but he only managed to dig a trench down the chest of the statue and along the length of the forepaws. Auguste Mariette, the founder of the Egyptian Antiquities Service,also attempted to excavate the Sphinx, but gave up in frustration over the enormous amount of sand. He went on to explore the Khafre Valley Temple, but returned to the Great Sphinx to excavate in 1858. This time, he managed to clear the sand down to the rock floor of the ditch around the Sphinx, discovering in the process several sections of the protective walls around the ditch, as well as odd masonry boxes along the body of the monument which might have served as small shrines. However, he apparently still did not clear all the sand.

In 1885, Gaston Maspero, then Director of the Antiquities Service, once again tried to clear the Sphinx, but after exposing the earlier work of Caviglia and Mariette, he also was forced to abandon the project due to logistical problems.

Between 1925 and 1936, French engineer Emile Baraize excavated the Sphinx on behalf of the Antiquities Service, and apparently for the first time since antiquity, the great beast once again became exposed to the elements.

In fact, the sand has been its savior, since, being built of soft sandstone, it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried for much of its existence.