Monday, March 28, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Curses, Demons, Mummies, and Pyramids Oh, my!

Swansea University hosts ancient Egyptian 'demons' conference

Experts studying ancient Egyptian supernatural entities in texts and objects are gathering for a conference at Swansea University. An academic who advised on films like The Mummy is among speakers to attend. The aim is for scholars to share their research findings into "demons" featured in ancient Egyptian artefacts. The Demon Things Conference 2016, which is open to the public, is hosted by the Egypt Centre and the Department of History and Classics.

And lest you think this is a one-off thing, you really should check out the DemonThings - Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project site, which among other thngs features a Daily Demon.

The composite being appears on a mythological papyrus that belonged to an elite woman named Dirpu, Lady of the House, Chantress of Amun. The 21st dynasty papyrus was found at Deir el-Bahri.

Nail-biting films depicting the wrath of mummies for disturbing their final resting places are no more than the myth of Hollywood, says a leading expert on Egyptology.

The biggest conference of its kind ever held is seeing experts from around the world converge this week on Swansea to put the whole question of curses and demons under the microscope.

Uncovering ancient Egypt's afterlife
Going beyond the images of mummies and pharaohs, an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum throws light on the mystique that surrounds the rites of mortality.

The coffin belonged to a man named Nespawershefyt and on its surface appears to be a gloriously elaborate memoriam, exquisitely decorated, finely constructed, capturing all the mystique that surrounded the Egyptian way of death for millennia.

What the pictures from the CT scan showed was something more mundane. The coffin had been made with bits of wood from other coffins and patched up to appear as good as new.

Is the Golden Age of the pyramids coming back?

Can it be that the Old Kingdom’s five-century run didn’t end, that it was just lying in wait to be noticed again? How else to explain the growing number of buildings shaped like tetrahedrons?

Ancient paintings discovered in Egypt’s Aswan shows evidence of prehistoric life

German archaeological excavations have unearthed more than 15 prehistoric inscription in Egypt's southern city of Aswan, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced Thursday.

Getting ready for Grand Egyptian Museum Grand Opening

OK, it's not until 2018, but this is going to be a big, big thing. (I for one hope they're not totally closing down the old museum, which I dearly love.) They're moving artifacts already. Here are a couple of articles from this week's prep.

Ancient Artifacts Collected for Grand Egyptian Museum's Big Opening with video
 CAIRO — How do you move a precious and ancient statue that weighs as much as a small elephant? Very carefully.

That's how team of experts last week shipped a 4-ton, 3,500-year-old statue of King Amenhotep seated next to the falcon-headed Egyptian god Ra. The pink granite piece, which had lain hidden in the sands of southern Egypt until it was rediscovered in 2009, was packed in a purpose-built box and carried in a heavy truck on special air bags over 400

800 ancient artefacts moved to Cairo for Grand Egyptian Museum

About 800 artefacts have been moved to Cairo for a new museum that is being built in the Egyptian capital. The artefacts were moved from the ancient pharaonic city of Luxor.

Ramesses III Killed by Multiple Assailants

The New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III was assassinated by multiple assailants — and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to improve his mummy's appearance.
Those are some of the new tidbits on ancient Egyptian royalty detailed in a new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem, "Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies" (American University in Cairo Press, 2016).

The Daily Mail also reports on this with some nice color photos.

Boat discovery sheds light

Scholars have long debated the purpose of ancient Egyptian boat burials. Did they serve the deceased in the afterlife? Or might they have functioned as symbolic solar barques used during the journey of the owner through the underworld?

The Old Kingdom kings adopted the earlier tradition and often had several boats buried within their pyramid complexes. Unfortunately, most of the pits that have been found are empty of timber, while others contain little more than brown dust in the shape of the original boat. The only exceptions are the two boats of the First Dynasty king Khufu, and these have been reconstructed or are in the process of reconstruction.

However, no boat of such dimensions from the Old Kingdom has been found in a non-royal context until the newly discovered boat at Abusir.

Friday, March 25, 2016

All Nefer-Tuti, All the time

Yes, we're very excited about what's going in KV62. Here's a round-up of a few of the stories since the news conference on March 17th, in case you missed it.

Add caption
Egypt: Scans of King Tut's Tomb Unveil Hidden Rooms  -- Scans of King Tut's tomb appear to have revealed two hidden rooms - a discovery that heightened speculation the chambers contained the remains of the elusive Queen Nefertiti.

Nefertiti: Who is the mysterious Queen who might be hiding in Tutankhamun's tomb?

The most famous tomb in the world may have been shared, a discovery that could unlock one of the world’s greatest mysteries: What happened to a beautiful queen who once ruled ancient Egypt?

Tomb radar

CAIRO — Radar scans of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber have revealed two hidden rooms, a tantalizing discovery that could resolve a mystery as old as the pyramids: What was the fate of Egypt’s beautiful Queen Nefertiti?

At a packed Cairo news conference Thursday to announce the find in King Tut’s tomb in Luxor, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty declined to comment on whether any royal treasure or more mummies might be inside the rooms.

King Tut may have had company in his tomb

CAIRO — Egypt’s top antiquities official said Thursday that a deeper analysis of radar scans taken last year in the tomb of King Tutankhamen indicated that organic material or metal could be hidden behind its walls — inching forward a theory that someone, perhaps Queen Nefertiti, was buried in the tomb, too.

The tiptoeing language used by the official, Mamdouh Eldamaty, suggested no breakthrough, but rather an attempt to satisfy the huge worldwide interest in ancient Egypt and especially anything related to Nefertiti or Tutankhamen, also known as King Tut.

It was potentially “the discovery of the century,” Eldamaty, the antiquities minister, said at a packed news conference in Cairo. But he added: “I cannot say anything about the organic material. I can only say we have some organic material. Maybe. I don’t know.”

What do those scans look like?

Here are photos from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities press conference:

Cavity pattern: red arrows indicate the entrance to the cavity

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Of sex, wine labels, and the mummy zoo

Egypt’s zoo museum features mummified animals through centuries

At one of the sides of the Giza Zoo in Egypt, the Zoological Museum appears as a medium-sized short white building. The front does not suggest the inside large main hall with a dome-like ceiling, the side showrooms and the other two floors that contain mummified animals from the modern age back to the time of Egyptian pharaohs.

Here's a review of the zoo, which was right across the street from my hotel in Cairo. Sadly, it was closed while I was there, but I could peer into it from my 10th floor room.

Statuettes of ancient Egyptian gods unearthed in Delta

During a excavation mission carried out at the Graeco-Roman cemetery in Tel Al-Tabla archaeological site in Dakahliya governorate, a collection of statuettes of ancient Egyptian gods has been unearthed.


While we may still need to decode a wine label in order to understand all of the vital information it’s imparting, we have to admit that the label is a very convenient invention. It’s quite hard to imagine what we’d do if we were uninformed about the wine inside the bottle. Without the label, there’d be no way to identify the grapes used to make the wine, where the wine was made, who made it, or its vintage. It would also be difficult to determine which wine was worth more than another, making trade nearly impossible. Which is exactly why the ancient Egyptians invented the wine label.

How Yorkshire archaeologists are helping to give a new lease of life to Egypt’s ancient capital

ARCHAEOLOGISTS from Yorkshire are playing a pivotal role in giving a new lease of life to the ruins of the capital of Ancient Egypt.

The team from York University are part of a major scheme to regenerate the site at Memphis which for many centuries was Egypt’s capital.

Also some different photos from this project in  A new beginning for Egypt’s ancient capital.

Sekhmet statues and Amenhotep III discovered

The site of Amenhotep III funerary temple at Kom El Hitan on the West Bank in Luxor still has a lot to offer.

The European-Egyptian mission working at the site of Kom ElHitan directed by Dr. Hourig Sourouzian has unearthed a number of Sekhmet statues, parts of other statues and the middle part of a statue of Amenhotep III.

The Meaning of Sex: Ancient Egypt

Sex in ancient Egypt is not your typical icebreaker, but on Friday at the University of Memphis it will be.

Liz Cummins, an adjunct professor at the University of Reno, Nevada, will talk about sexual activity in ancient Egypt at the University Center Fountain View Room at 7 p.m.

Cummins was featured in the documentary, “Sex in the Ancient World-Egyptian Erotica,” that aired on the History Channel, where she spoke about art and texts related to not only sex, but also divine birth imagery and fertility.

Picture of the week

Model Steering Oar, 2040-1648 BC, Egypt, Middle Kingdom
painted tamarisk, Cleveland Museum of Art

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pharoah Paddy? Saint O'Sirus?

When I first saw this piece of sheet music on eBay, I was mildly amused. I collected sheet music, once upon a time. To say I'm interested in Egypt is an understatement. Ireland is one of my favorite countries, and the only one besides Egypt that I've visited twice. Sometimes I can be a little obsessive about the things I like, so forgive me if I thought one of my tech savvy friends was playing a joke on me by making this sheet music come up in my eBay recommendations.

Then, I started getting hits in other feeds about the Irish-Egyptian connection. Was there something behind the whimsy?

Much to my surprise, several Irish legends connect the Irish to Egyptians, but they've have been impossible to prove so far. Not for lack of trying, which has included DNA testing.There are two stories that seem to come up repeatedly.

The most famous story is of Queen Scota, an Egyptian princess or queen, depending on which version of the legend you read. She may or may not (depending on the version) have been Akhenaten's daughter.  After being exiled from Egypt, she arrived in Ireland and was killed by the Tuatha De Danann (fairies) in a great battle. Her supposed grave is marked by a giant inscribed stone in County Kerry. Its importance has led to local politicians calling for its preservation.

Another intriguing story centers around the discovery of the skeleton of a 15-year-old boy at The Mound of the Hostages, near Tara, by Dr. Sean O Riordan of Trinity College in 1955. Carbon dating showed that the remains were roughly 3,800 years old. A necklace found with the skeleton was made of faience beads. The faience beads were similar to those found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, who was Meriaten’s (Scota’s) famous brother. The necklace was carbon-dated to 1350 BC, which was during the reign of their father Akhenaten.

In the middle of the 20th century, a shipwrecked boat was excavated in Northern England and it was found to have a design very similar to those used by the Egyptians. It was carbon-dated to 1400-1350 BC.

After reading many articles, I am not qualified to say whether or not the legends are true. But wouldn't it be nice to know the god Set's  red hair still lived on in the Irish? Or wouldn't it make for an interesting novel. Hmmm. Must consider that one.

For your edification, here are a few of the articles I read:
The Egyptian Origin of The Irish People
Thoth’s Storm: New Evidence for Ancient Egyptians in Ireland? 
Ireland's Cleopatra
An Irishman's Home Is His Pyramid?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Tut-a-RAma

Is Queen Nefertiti hiding in a chamber behind King Tutankhamun’s tomb?

IN the walls of the tomb where King Tutankhamun was discovered is, according to experts, the “greatest antiquities discovery of all time”. There’s just one problem — getting to it is almost impossible.
Experts in recent months made a discovery they say will change history. Using detailed scans for the first time, they watched temperatures change in different parts of the tomb, deep inside the Valley of the Kings. They say concealed in the walls are two sealed doors. Behind them could be Queen Nefertiti’s tomb and riches the likes of which the world has never seen.
Michael Usher and the 60 Minutes crew flew to Egypt and saw for themselves what the greatest minds on the topic say is a game-changer.

Enigma of the Heartless Pharaoh: Who Stole the Heart of King Tut, and Why?

The tomb of Tutankhamun revealed a wealth of anomalies, beginning with its discovery in 1922, right through the subsequent years of its excavation. The plethora of mysteries that surround the boy king's mummification and royal burial have endured for nearly a century, from the time they were first noted by the assiduous archaeologist, Howard Carter.

Lenore loves this King Tut tomb!

On Nov. 26, 1922, Howard Carter took out the little chisel his grandmother had given him on his 17th birthday when he, an English lad, was already obsessed by ancient Egypt. Now pushing 50, a middle-aged archeologist who had seemed promising, then washed up, then possibly promising again, Carter was standing in a hole in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, sweating.

778 Ancient Egyptian artefacts from Luxor to bolster Grand Museum in Giza

A collection of 778 ancient Egyptian artefacts is set to arrive tomorrow from Luxor to the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to open in 2018

GEM general supervisor Tarek Tawfik told Ahram Online that the objects to be delivered to the museum were previously stored in Ali Hassan and Abul-Goud's archaeological galleries in Luxor, as well as in archaeological storehouses in Esna.

Cleveland Museum of Art's "Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt

CLEVELAND, Ohio – It has taken two years to organize "Pharaoh: King of Ancient Egypt," a major loan exhibition of ancient masterpieces from the British Museum in London that opens Sunday at the Cleveland Museum of Art as part of the museum's 2016 centennial.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: The new archaeologists play like Egyptians

Armchair archaeologists reveal details of life in ancient Egypt

Online volunteers uncover shopping lists, hangover cures and a match-fixing agreement among Oxyrhynchus papyri fragments.

People around the world are helping to transcribe more than a half-million ancient documents from the comfort of their sitting rooms, thanks to a major crowd-sourcing project that is revolutionising our understanding of life in Greco-Roman Egypt and how scholars sift through vast quantities of archaeological material. The Ancient Lives project, a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the Egypt Exploration Society, the Citizen Science Alliance and others, asks its 250,000-strong group of online volunteers to review digital scans of papyri fragments from Oxyrhynchus in Upper Egypt.

3D virtual reality headsets used to 'dive down burial shafts' of Egypt's ancient Giza pyramids

Students and archaeologists at Harvard are using the latest technology to stroll around the Giza pyramids – without actually being there. Researchers at the Ivy League college have used photographs, maps and aerial surveys of the site from material collected from museums around the world to recreate what inside Egypt's Great Pyramids looked like 4,000 years ago.

Play like an Egyptian

Egyptian 'Seven Sacred Oils' relief recovered from Switzerland

The ancient Egyptian relief had been stolen and smuggled out of Egypt in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution. Egypt’s embassy in Bern, Switzerland received the ancient Egyptian Seven Sacred Oils relief within the framework of a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and Egypt prohibiting illegally importing and exporting antiquities, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty announced.

King Tut fans flock to Putnam

For more than half his life, 5-year-old Sequoyah Roesner has been transfixed by all things Egyptian.

On Sunday, along with hundreds of other people in the Putnam Museum, Davenport, Sequoyah marveled at a replica of the sarcophagus of the king whose very name recalls the mystery and glory of ancient Egypt.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Michalea's February Reads

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way

My take: Confession. I am a die-hard dystopian, so it's no surprise I bought this book. Perhaps more of a surprise, it's been buried in the bowels of my Kindle for over a year. However, on a sleepless night, I organized my Kindle and found it again. So, as part of my new "read the backlog" before I buy any more books. . . yeah, let's see how long that lasts...I gave it a whirl.

Anyway, back to How I Live Now, our heroine Daisy may be anorexic, and she is definitely having underage, incestuous sex with one of her telepathic cousins. Combine this with TEOTWAKI, and this book should have kept me on the edge of my reading seat. However, I sadly think the reviewer who characterized the book by saying: I slept and then I woke up and then there was war and then I ate and then I slept some more was on to something.

 It's not that I don't appreciate sarcastic, neurotic teen narrators, after all I cut my reading teeth on Holden Caulfield.  But Daisy is about as compelling as listening to a teenager on her cellphone in Starbucks. The characters are flat, the incestuous sex is dull, and everyone shuffled through the apocalypse. Anyway, that's the way it felt when I gave up on the book about half-way through. I heard that the movie was better, and surprisingly it was. It had all the tension and character development the first half of the book lacked. So sad when that happens.

Brotherhood in Death - J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts

Synopsis: Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

My take: Let me be perfectly clear, I am an Eve Dallas/In Death fan girl. Yeah, I know, I throw away the right to complain about anything after saying that. My sister tells me, you read one of these books, and you've read them all. It's kind of true. The books follow a pretty predictable pattern and plot. A murder; Eve stands for the dead. Eve makes wisecracks and has sex with Roarke. Roarke buys Eve's team a lot of food and takes over the known universe. Eve has sex with Roarke. Peabody complains about the size of her ass, but comes through for the team. Eve has sex with Roarke. Did I mention they have REALLY good sex. Eve and Roarke take down the bad guy and have some more sex. Anyway, I think  you catch my drift.

Yet beyond all reasonable expectations, I troll Amazon wondering and waiting for the next In Death book. Damn that Nora Roberts. How does she do it?

17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History

Synopsis:  Andrew Morton tells the story of the feckless Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor, his American wife, Wallis Simpson, the bizarre wartime Nazi plot to make him a puppet king after the invasion of Britain, and the attempted cover-up by Churchill, General Eisenhower, and King George VI of the duke's relations with Hitler. From the alleged affair between Simpson and the German foreign minister to the discovery of top secret correspondence about the man dubbed "the traitor king" and the Nazi high command, this is a saga of intrigue, betrayal, and deception suffused with a heady aroma of sex and suspicion

My take: This was one of the great love stories of my childhood. The man who gave up the crown for the woman he loved. What could possibly be more romantic, right? Later, I heard the other sides of the story, and there were many. She didn't particularly love him, but what do you do when someone makes such a gesture. You can't just say, no thanks. She might have been a prostitute; he might have been impotent. There were other men, maybe for both of them. (The 17 carnations were sent to Wallis by von Ribbentrop, maybe one for each of the times they slept together.) There was the extravagances, the jewelry, the lives that were pretty ordinary at the end of the day, except for that whole crown business, and maybe some Nazi collaboration on the side. Near the end of the book, the author says this about the one-time royal heart throb, the golden prince of his day, the one about whom everyone knew these lyrics were written: I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales.
Gardening, gossip, golf, and pleasing his wife were the mainstays of his life. . . . If something was to be done about the world, it was not going to be by him, especially if it endangered his tax status. Money was his mantra and his motivation, his meanness legendary.
Yep, it all came down to this sad little picture:

I like my Schadenfreude in big healthy dollops, and this book didn't exactly give it to me.
The bulk of it covers what to do about the legendary Windsor files that the Nazis kept about the Duke and Duchess. What was covered up? Who covered it up? Why? Interesting at first when connections between what was in the files matched up to what was going on in the life of the Duke and Duchess. Somewhere mid-book, it became all about the political machinations around the files. George VI did this; the Nazis did that; Churchill did thus; Roosevelt and Eisenhower did something else; and, oh my god, a mind-numbing number of bit players did a whole lot more. There was a cover up in high places, and maybe it was because everybody loved and respected the Queen Mum.  At some point, I ceased to care.

Trust me, there are better books on the Windsors flirtation with Nazi party politics. For those looking for the Wallis and Edward version of Diana: Her True Story, this ain't it.

The Vegetarian: A Novel -  Han Kang

Synopsis:  A beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul

Before the nightmares began, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary, controlled life. But the dreams—invasive images of blood and brutality—torture her, driving Yeong-hye to purge her mind and renounce eating meat altogether. It’s a small act of independence, but it interrupts her marriage and sets into motion an increasingly grotesque chain of events at home.

My take: As I was reading, I kept thinking this novel might be called Obsession: The Body. Obsession with what we put in our bodies. What we put on them. What we do with them. What others do to them. How we see them.  How we make art and life with them. It's verbally tactile.

Yes, it is darkly allegorical. Yes, it's how we try to break free and how we submit. Someone said it's not much of a story, and if you're looking for a series of event, this isn't it. It's a book to make you think about the choices you make.