Monday, December 28, 2015

Ancient Egypt this week: Isis Does Christmas & S'more Tuterfiti

The Women Who Worship Isis for Christmas

This Christmas, as we spend time with the people, gifts, and food that we love, we should spare a thought for the thing that made it all possible: Isis.

Not that ISIS.

Facebook users solve mystery of 'ancient' relic unearthed in Jerusalem

Israel’s Antiquities Authority spent six months trying to identify the object. Within hours, Facebook users had named it as a New Age ‘energy harmoniser.The beamer is named after Isis, the Egyptian goddess of medicine, magic and nature. It can be purchased from German firm Weber Bio from €67 (£50/$74) for a pendant, to over €1,000 for the largest version, which, the seller claims, “may harmonise even extremely strong geopathic and electromagnetic radiation fields”.’ Weber Isis Beamer

The Gold Mask of Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten  
If you want to read the paper published by Nicholas Reeves about the mask of Tutankhamen/Nefertiti it is available here.

King Tut's golden mask back on display

The mask was being restored after the beard of the priceless antiquity was reportedly broken by cleaners and hastily glued back on with epoxy.
Did The Iconic Funerary Gold Mask Of King Tutankhamun Belong To His Stepmother Queen Nefertiti? – Before being published in a scientific journal in December, British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, from Arizona University, sent Al-Ahram Weekly an advance copy of his article on the original name inscribed on Tutankhamun’s mask.

Reeves determined to prove his theory

After three days of radar investigation to test his theory locating Queen Nefertiti’s crypt inside Tutankhamun’s tomb, Nicholas Reeves was standing next to Tutankhamun’s mummy. He wandered over, exhausted but happy.

Did the radar investigation meet your expectations?
The initial analysis of the data was extremely encouraging.

Archaeological wonders of King Tut’s tomb recreated for exhibit

Premier Exhibitions, the company behind “Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition,” recently revealed its newest exhibit “The Discovery of King Tut,” which allows visitors to travel back in time and experience the unearthing of the boy king’s tomb. Filled with replicas and recreations of the tomb itself, this interactive exhibit is guaranteed fun.

Gene Kritsky, The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt: 'Egypt with a sting in the tale' - book review

'The Egyptians believed that when Re, sun god and creator of the world, wept, his tears turned into bees upon hitting the ground'

If beekeeping in ancient Egypt strikes you as an off-puttingly obscure subject for a book, you need to be apprised of two facts. First, the Ancient Egyptians were, as far as we know, the first people to practice organised apiculture, the earliest records dating back to the third century BC.

Second, Gene Kritsky, the American entomologist who is an authority on the subject, has a cultural approach that makes this short book engaging and accessible even to non-melittologists (melittology being the study of honey bees – but, of course, you knew that already).

King Tut's Tomb

King Tut's Tomb by michalea-moore

The Real Mythology Behind 'Gods of Egypt'

In case you're wondering, not everything about the Gods of Egypt movie is false, even if this reviewer really believes the contendings of Horus and Set were over the throne of England. (Could that be an auto-correct error?)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays, Horus!

This post is not meant to be comprehensive or scholarly; it's merely my musing on the topic after being bombarded with more than a few seasonal messages. 

There is a room located on the second floor of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. The only entrance is through the roof of the temple. It contains bas-reliefs that illustrate the resurrection of Osiris. On my first visit to Egypt, I went to Dendera. As the guide told the story, some tourists were puzzled by the similarity of the Osirian myth to Christian beliefs, because this myth preceded their own by several millennium. Their conclusion was, and I quote, "God was very clever to plant this story to prepare the way for Jesus." That's faith for you. (More about faith at the end.)

Around this time of year, the internet is filled with competing articles about

No doubt about it, the Christmas story and many of its traditions have some bonafide pagan bones, but there's also some specious research behind some of the claims. Never more so than when it comes to the Egyptian god, Horus, son of the aforementioned Osiris. Click here and here for a couple of the most egregious examples. The one that particularly irritates me is when someone claims and then rejects the story that Horus is a resurrected god. I always want to say, "HELLO, that was his father."

No doubt the confusing nature of Egyptian mythology contributes to the silliness. Yet, when you go to the core myth, clearly, the god who is often called the Bringer of Light bears some resemblance to Christ. (So do many other ancient gods, but that's someone else's blog to explain.)

Horus protecting the king
So, who was this Horus god? And why does he get mixed up in Christmas?

He was the son of Isis and Osiris, often portrayed as a hawk. He was not, as some claim, the KING of  Gods or the God of the SUN; he was the GOD of Kings. Horus is credited with establishing the order of kingship and with protection of the king.

Egyptian kings were called the Living Horus, had a Horus name, and claimed Horus's mother Isis as their mother. Instead of calling their heir the Prince of Wales, the heir was Horus in the Nest.

Horus is perhaps best known for fighting his Uncle Set to reclaim his father's throne and to avenge his father who was murdered by said uncle. Set is sometimes erroneously compared to Satan. Horus is also known for his somewhat erratic devotion to mother Isis, whose head he once cut off. She is often erroneously compared to Mary. Let's be clear about it: Isis, who had sex with her brother Osiris while they were both still in the womb, was no virgin by any stretch of the imagination.

So what makes Horus similar to Christ?

Similar iconography. No doubt Isis with the Horus Child bears an amazing likeness to Mary with the Christ Child.

Isis with Horus/Mary with Jesus

"Unique" conception. On one hand, Christians have a god impregnating a virgin via a winged creature (the annunciation). On the other hand, Ancient Egyptians have a goddess impregnating herself by becoming a winged creature to resurrect her dead husband, also a god, just long enough for the deed to take place.
Conception was interesting in the ancient world

A god for a father. Horus's father is Osiris, who judges the dead and decides whether
they can go to paradise. Christ's father is Jehovah, who also judges the dead and decides whether they can go to paradise.

My dad's a god!

Similar birth date. At some point, Christians settled on December 25 as the birthday of Christ. Plutarch tells us that Harpocrates (Horus the Child) is born on the winter solstice, December 21:
It is said that Isis, when she was aware of her being pregnant, put on a protective amulet on the sixth day of Phaophi, and at the winter solstice gave birth to Harpocrates, imperfect and prematurely born, amid plants that burgeoned and sprouted before their season . . . and they are said to celebrate the days of her confinement after the spring equinox. (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 65B-c)
A host of angels and or gods attended the birth of both and marveled at the newborn.

Horus and Jesus are born and worshipped
This is no place to have a baby. Plutarch says Isis loosened the island of Chemmis from its foundation and set it afloat to protect Horus from Set while she gave birth in the reeds. We all know the manager story.

Enemies in high places at an early age. Isis hides Horus from his murderous uncle Set, the King, who fears Horus will steal his crown. Mary hides Jesus from Herod, who has similar concerns. Is it just coincidence Mary goes to Egypt to hide?

Superseding the one that came before/ascension. John the Baptist predicts the coming of one who will be greater than he; later Jesus ascends to heaven. In the Coffin Texts,  the god Atum saluted Horus while discussing other matters with their fellow gods, such as Horus's seat on Ra's solar boat. While they were talking, Horus flew up on his own, higher than even the "old" gods who inhabited the constellations and became Lord of the Horizon.

That girl! Horus married the goddess Hathor, or maybe she married his Uncle Horus. It's all a bit confusing. At any rate, Hathor, the goddess of love, music and inebriation (or, as we now say, sex, drugs, and rock ' n' roll) anointed Horus with milk from the Sycamore tree to restore his sight when Set ripped out his eye. This is the same goddess who flashed Ra and shook her breasts to cheer him up. Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, used nard, an expensive perfume, to anoint Jesus' feet and dried his feet with her hair to restore his spirits when he was down. Cue up Everything's alright from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Hathor and Horus/Jesus and Mary Magdalene

Battle at the end of the world. In the  Egyptian story, Horus battles his uncle Set for 80 years and is finally victorious in reclaiming the crown of Egypt. However, there is also a belief that their final battle has yet to occur, and that they will fight again to determine the ultimate fate of the universe. Will Ma'at (justice, balance, order ) or Isfet (chaos) prevail?

Horus' victory over Seth/Jesus' victory over Satan

According to Christians, Jesus will return to earth and defeat the Antichrist (the "beast"), the False Prophet and Satan the Devil in the Battle of Armageddon. Then Satan will be put into the "bottomless pit" or abyss for 1,000 years, known as the Millennium. After being released, Satan his followers will encamp surrounding the "holy ones" and Jerusalem. Fire will come down from God, out of heaven and devour Gog and Magog. Book of Revelation, people!

In conclusion. So yeah, there are a few similarities.

But at the end of the day, belief -- whether it's in Horus, Jesus, Allah, Festivus, nature, a variety of gods, a wind-up universe, or in nothing at all  --  comes down to faith, the confidence in something that cannot be proven.

With that thought in mind, I wish you the joy of both your faith and the season. I hope it is not marred by dwelling on the differences that make us sublimely human or by a choice of words in a greeting that intends to convey joy and love.

Many thanks to my good friend, Clara Robertson, for Santa Horus.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ancient Egypt this week: Egyptology in 2015

The Book of the Dead of Padiusir

For the first time in its history, Manchester Museum is currently displaying (sections of) a copy of the Egyptian ‘Book of the Dead’.  Despite the negativity implicit in its modern title, the ‘Book of the Dead’ is, in fact, an extremely optimistic document.

Egyptology in 2015

As the year 2015 comes to a close it is time to take a brief look back at the events of the past year in the world of Egyptology. It has been a busy year for researchers of her ancient culture as the past reveals itself in a myriad of excavations from Aswan to Alexandria. The year has also produced large amounts of stolen artifacts from illegal excavations over the years that have been smuggled abroad, and now are being repatriated back to Egypt.


In this episode of the podcast I am joined by fellow UCLA Egyptologists Kara Cooney and Emily. With plenty of wine and whiskey in our systems, we discuss the Great Pyramid and the lost tomb of Nefertiti. Along the way we take some detours and discuss Zahi, made for TV archaeology, terrorism, and the field of Egyptology. If you ever wondered what academics are really like behind closed doors, this is your chance to find out!

History Buff  interview with Tears of Re author

Recently, we spoke with one such bridge-builder, entomologist Gene Kritsky, about his new book The Tears of Re: Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt (published by Oxford University Press), as well as his experiences using science to answer historical questions, and history to answer scientific ones. We’re still a little skittish about bees, but we’re infinitely more optimistic about the future of collaboration between scientists and historians.

Smuggled Ancient Wall Carving Returned to Egypt

A 2-foot-long wall carving featuring the pharaoh Seti I is back in Egypt after being repatriated from the United Kingdom, the Egyptian minister of antiquities announced Monday (Dec. 14).

Servants for the Afterlife
This is a non-commercial site about the old-Egyptian statuettes known as shabtis or ushabtis *).
For a dazzling two-thousand years, prosperous Egyptians took shabtis with them in their tombs. Firstly, as possible replacement for the mummies in case they should decay or perish, and secondly as servants or slaves to serve them in the Hereafter. Their task was to relieve their owner of any form of labour, such as farming.

King Tut’s mask back on display after beard glued on

Piece of famed artifact was broken off by workers, but restored using an ancient Egyptian fix: beeswax

A new discovery in the Golden Mask of King Tut
A huge press conference was held yesterday at the Egyptian Museum to announce the results of the restoration process of King Tutankhamun' s famous Mask. Antiquities Minister Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty who is also the head of the scientific team responsible for restoring the Mask after a false restoration last August declared that the Mask will be on display starting from today 17-12-2015 in its original place in the Museum.
The restoration process revealed, added Eldamaty, a new archaeological discovery related to the original technique used in manufacturing the Mask; a gold tube was found inside the royal beard that was used to install it in the Mask. Another secret was also revealed; the original material used to fix the royal beard into the mask was the beeswax, the same material used in this process.
Eldamaty also added that a scientific study is being prepared now and a book will be published soon tackling the whole restoration process and the detailed scientific studies related to the Golden Pharaoh's masterpiece.
In his presentation, professor Christian Ekmann, head of the scientific German team has displayed the mechanical technique used in removing the resin used in the false restoration saying that wooden tools were used in order not to scratch the gold mask. He also emphasized that no chemical solvents were used to remove the "epoxy" and separate the royal beard from the Mask. Then the beard was refastened using beeswax, the same material used by ancient Egyptians, so that it will be easy to remove in the future.

Picture of the week

Isis beseeching the sun god Ra  on behalf of Osiris by  illustrator Donn P. Crane, 1878-1944.

Egyptian Egypt Medication

See the rest of the storyboard here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Eight videos on Ancient Egypt

I  keep track of the videos I like about Ancient Egypt, although not all of them are historically accurate. When I updated my website last week, I added a new page  with eight videos. They are best viewed with the Chrome browser.

The videos include:

  • Anubis music video
  • The Egyptian Pyramids  - Funny Animation
  • Isis and Osiris Official HD Video
  • Ancient Egypt - A Crash Course in History
  • Reconstructed Ancient Egyptian Melody
  • Ancient Egypt Flyover
  • The Grief of Isis
  • The Book of Gates

I'll start a new list, and when I get enough, I'll probably add a second page.

Click here to see the videos.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ancient Egypt this week: Mummies with broom handle neck & head full of dirt


The oldest patient at Massachusetts’ General Hospital (MGH) does not lie in one of the beds in a patient room, rather he’s been in a display case in its original surgical amphitheater for more than a century. This surgical amphitheater is known as the Ether Dome because this is where, in 1846, William T.G. Morton demonstrated the first public surgery using anesthetic, or ether.

Uncovering Middle Kingdom Egypt with Adela Oppenheim

During Egypt's transformational Middle Kingdom period (ca. 2030–1650 B.C.), earlier artistic conventions, cultural principles, religious beliefs, and political systems were revived and reimagined. Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, on view through January 24, presents a comprehensive picture of the art and culture of the Middle Kingdom—arguably the least known of Egypt's three kingdoms, and yet one that saw the creation of powerful, compelling works rendered with great subtlety and sensitivity.

The Kings’ Delta

Egypt has been conceived of by many as limitless desert sands, pyramids and Sphinx. Immensely desert land, a cut river band of the life-giving Nile. Rarely do we realise how important the Nile Delta, as if standing out in this scheme and bathed in green, was and still is. The Nile Delta or perhaps the Kings’ Delta...

The Delta region has never drawn a crowd of explorers. It had been said that the most interesting discoveries could be made in Upper Egypt or in the area of Memphis Necropolis because the famous pyramids near the present-day Cairo are located there. The Delta put the people off because it lacked spectacular ruins on its surface.

Mysterious Egyptian Mummy Has Head Full of Dirt

A mysterious Egyptian mummy dating back about 3,200 years has dirtin the skull, a new investigation reveals.

The presence of what looks like dark sediment inside the mummy's head is bizarre, said the researchers, who used computed tomography (CT) to peer inside the mummy. Not only was there some sort of sediment in the head, the researchers found, but the individual's brain remains inside, too.

Museum to open at Cairo International Airport

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty is to open  a small museum in the transit hall at Cairo International Airport's Terminal 3. Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the museum was established in an attempt to promote tourism and Egypt’s distinguished civilisational history.

Ancient Egypt

A little more gets added each day. Check it out.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ancient Egypt this week: Sobek, Seti, Nefertuti, Theda & Nutella

Oddly enough, there are other things in the news about Ancient Egypt besides Tut's tomb and Nefertiti. Although we can't completely ignore that topic, today's post does address some other news items, like the Theada Bara as Cleopatra and the Nutella scandal.

Scanning Sobek

If you're going to be in London in the next couple of months, come face to face with an enormous mummified crocodile from ancient Egypt, covered with small mummified crocodile hatchlings.

The ancient Egyptians believed this mummy was incarnation of the crocodile god Sobek.

Tuesday's Egyptian: Seti I

A post about the Seti I (father of Ramses the Great) from the lovely blog Egyptians.

By the time Pharaoh Seti I was buried in 1279 BC he had restored Egypt to the former glory lost during the Amarna period of a half century earlier. Seti left as tribute to his reign temples such as at Abydos with some of the finest raised reliefs known in Egyptian art of the New Kingdom. Seti's fourteen year long reign also resulted in one of the finest tombs ever constructed in Egypt, and certainly the finest in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.

Hope for Nefertiti’s Tomb, and Egypt’s Economy

LUXOR, Egypt — For weeks, a group of explorers have scanned the walls of a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, using radar and infrared devices, in the hopes that science might confirm one Egyptologist’s theory: that hidden behind a wall of King Tutankhamen’s burial chamber sits the long-sought tomb of Queen Nefertiti.

How the movie industry created the legend of Queen Nefertiti and King Tut

Hidden chambers may have been discovered behind the world-famous tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt. Radar and infrared research point to “another chamber, another tomb” in the Valley of the Kings, leading experts to believe that they may have found the burial chamber of Queen Nefertiti, King Tut’s mother.

The New York Times says the find may revive Egypt’s ailing tourism industry, hurt by years of political upheaval. They may be disappointed — the “Egyptian revival” fad of the early 20th century wasn’t sparked by, but by Hollywood. To foreigners, Egypt’s most beloved queen wasn’t Nefertiti or Cleopatra, but an early film star whose productions are all but lost today. To foreigners, Egypt’s most beloved queen wasn’t Nefertiti or Cleopatra, but an early film star whose productions are all but lost today.

1922-1930 The deconstruction of Tutankhamun's tomb, in color 

The painstaking — and sometimes back-breaking — work of recording, cataloging and then removing every object, one-by-one, began in October 1926. The final objects were taken from the tomb, almost eight years after Carter's momentous discovery, on Nov. 10, 1930.

And, if that isn't tut-enuf for you, how about a youtube video?

From religious rituals to drama, Ancient Egyptians pioneered theater

Many people across the globe, Egyptians included, believe that it was the Greeks that invented the art of theater. However, ancient records and documents reveal that long before the Greeks, Ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to ever perform shows publicly.

Nutella Refuses to Customize Jar for 5-Year-Old Girl Named After Egyptian Goddess Isis

A five-year-old girl is missing out on Nutella’s “Make Me Yours” campaign, which allows customers to personalize jars of the popular hazelnut spread with their own names, in her native Australia because of her name — Isis.

Seriously, let's stop being such babies!

Object Biography # 18: A wooden cat coffin from Saqqara (Acc. no. 9303)

From Egypt at the Manchester Museum blog

Ancient Egypt is closely associated in the popular imagination with cats, and cat statuettes, coffins and mummies are common highlights of museum collections around the world. The reason they proliferate is because these images of the goddess Bastet were considered appropriate gifts to give to her.

Recently, archive research by volunteers at Manchester Museum enabled one particular example, previously without sure archaeological provenance, to be contextualised in time for our ‘Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed’ exhibition.