Monday, May 30, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week - S'more Pyramids and Pictures

One of Egypt's oldest pyramids King Unas reopens after 20-year closure

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany is inaugurating Thursday evening the opening of the pyramid of ancient Egyptian King Unas at the Saqqara necropolis after 20 years of its closing.

The pyramid of King Unas is the last pyramid of the 5th Dynasty. Despite its small size, it is considered as one of the most important Egyptian pyramids, as it is the first pyramid to record the "Pyramids Texts," which hold important religious significance on the resurrection of deceased kin.

Exhibition Season: Annual Archaeological Exhibitions in London, 1880s-1930s

Annual archaeological exhibitions were a visible symbol of archaeological research. Held mainly in London, the displays encapsulated a network of archaeologists, artists, architects and curators, and showcased the work of the first generations of trained archaeologists. The exhibition catalogues and published reviews of the displays provide a unique method for exploring the reception and sponsorship of archaeological work overseas and its promotion to a fascinated, well connected and well moneyed public.
The drawing is from Illustrated London News, September 20, 1890. A view into WMF Petrie's first exhibition of objects found at Lahun, Oxford Mansions, London, 1890.

Copying the Kings: Preserving Egypt’s Heritage for Generations to Come
Photo courtesy of Factum Arte

While the debate on the existence of a side-chamber in Tutankhamun’s tomb has been a hot topic in national and international news in recent months, few people realize that British artist Adam Lowe has created an exact facsimile of the young pharaoh’s burial chamber in the grounds of Howard Carter’s house on the West Bank in Luxor. Having visited the original many times, the precision of the replica is slightly unnerving.

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3800-Year Old Female Mummy from Middle Kingdom Found in Egypt

A 3,800-year-old female Egyptian mummy found in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa in southeastern Egypt is from the Middle Kingdom. The tomb belonged to a woman called “Lady Sattjeni,” one of the important personalities of the kingdom.

For some amazing photos, see this article and this one.

The meteoritic origin of Tutankhamun's iron dagger blade

An international research team (Politecnico di Milano, Università di Pisa, Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Italian National Research Council, University of Fayoum, Politecnico di Torino, XGLab Italian company) documents the meteoritic origin of the iron of the dagger blade belonging to the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun (14th C B.C.E). This solves a longstanding heated debate among scholars since its discovery in the wrapping of the king's mummy in 1925, by archaeologist Howard Carter.

Egyptian Papyri Found to Contain R-Rated Magic Spells

A pair of two 1,700-year-old Egyptian papyri, freshly-translated, have proven to be filled with the kind of premium cable television incantations that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of “Game of Thrones.”

EgyptAir on the Great Pyramid

CAIRO: The Giza pyramids were illuminated with the logo of EgyptAir on Saturday night in solidarity with the victims of the national carrier’s passenger plane that crashed over the Mediterranean last week, Youm7 reported.

Picture of the Week

\Hippolyte Délié and Emile Béchard - Statuettes of Egyptian Deities, 1871-72 
Identified items shown in this image:
115 - Memphis- Saqqarah - Isis as Mother
132 - Memphis- Grandes Pyramides - Head of Anubis
225 - Memphis- Saqqarah - Osiris-Aah
240 - Memphis- Saqqarah - Harpocrate
241 - Memphis- Saqqarah - Harpocrate
251 - Memphis- Grandes Pyramides - Osiris seated
252 - Memphis- Grandes Pyramides - Osiris seated
(from Mariette, "Notice des Principaux Monuments..." 1872)

via The History of Photography Archive  at

Monday, May 23, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Tea with the Sphinx

Tea with the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt and the Modern Imagination

The first annual conference will be held at the University of University of Birmingham at the end of September. ‘Tea with the Sphinx’ encourages discussions of ancient Egypt as imagined by ‘Western civilisation’ from Napoleon’s invasion until the millennium. It sounds fascinating. 

I want to attend, but I must be content with planning to go to the Second Annual Conference and noting that many of today's articles pay tribute to the timeliness of this conference.

The amazing Popovy Egyptian dolls

These showed up in my Pinterest feed, and they were just too good not to share.

Twin sisters Ekaterina and Elena Popovy are  professional artists and fashion designers. They  graduated Ural State Academy of Architecture and Arts in Yekaterinburg and started making dolls in 2004.The combined their passion for fashion design and dolls art into small conceptual collections of 10 to 15 dolls. Click here to learn more about them and their other doll collections.

Virtual Tour of the Oriental Institute Museum

Welcome to the Oriental Institute Museum’s 360° interactive virtual tour! This tour was completed 2014 by Virtually Anywhere, a virtual tour production company, in collaboration with the Oriental Institute Museum’s Curatorial Assistant Mónica G. Vélez.

There are two Egyptian galleries tours.

Ancient Device for Determining Taxes Discovered in Egypt

Note: The last paragraph in the article is REALLY interesting.

The nilometer was used to predict harvest (and taxes) linked to the rise and fall of the Nile River.

American and Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a rare structure called a nilometer in the ruins of the ancient city of Thmuis in Egypt’s Delta region. Likely constructed during the third century B.C., the nilometer was used for roughly a thousand years to calculate the water level of the river during the annual flooding of the Nile. Fewer than two dozen of the devices are known to exist.

Searching for the roots of western botany in Ancient Egypt

Western botany traces its roots back to Ancient Egypt, that is to say well before the Greek and Roman era. This is the theory illustrated in the essay “Herbals in Ancient Egypt” written by Professor Marilina Betrò from the University of Pisa for the volume “Naturalia e Artificialia: Le piante e i fiori d'Egitto nell'esperienza museografica degli scavi e degli erbari” which has just been published in Spain.


Depending on how you look at it, Egyptology as an academic discipline is thousands of years old, or less than two-hundred. In this episode of the podcast we’ll examine the first Egyptologists and the birth of Egyptology as an academic field.

Ancient burial sites reveal Egyptian and Nubian cultures merged after fall of New Kingdom Empire
DeAgostini/Getty Image
Nubian burial sites in the Nile River Valley bear traces to the idea that Egyptians and Nubians may have interacted, married and eventually formed an integrated community in ancient Sudan, researchers say. They excavated different tombs on the archaeological grounds of Tombos in northern Sudan to better understand the relationship between both populations.

See also Burial sites show how Nubians, Egyptians integrated communities thousands of years ago

Egypt Repatriates 44 Stolen Archaeological Objects from France
Photos Egypt Ministry of Antiquities

After more than six years of negotiations, French authorities agreed to hand over to Egypt 44 artifacts belonging to various periods of Ancient Egypt that had previously been smuggled to France, the Ministry of Antiquities said in a statement released on Monday.

Cities from the deep
AFP/Getty Image
Archaeological wonders that lay beneath the Mediterranean seabed for more than a thousand years are to go on show for the first time.

Towering statues, golden jewellery and hieroglyphic tablets that were feared to have been lost forever have been reclaimed from the sea and will be go on display in a major exhibition at the British Museum.

The treasures belong to the sunken cities of Heracleion and Canopus, built on the shifting ground of the Nile delta, which are now buried beneath 10ft (3 metres) of silt.

Blood-red Nile River seen from space

It looks like a Biblical scene -- the Nile River is seen from above, turning a deep blood red. In fact, the sight is not something out of the Old Testament but instead a satellite image captured by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-3A satellite. The red coloring indicates the location of vegetation, according to an ESA press release.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: More tattooes and mummies

Egyptian tattooing video

A four-minute documentary on Egyptian tattooing on a mummy from Deir el Medina by Anne Austin. Video and photos made by Jean-François Dars and Anne Papillault (Dars Papillault). This is a nice video to go along with the Intricate animal and flower tattoos found on Egyptian mummy article.

Youngest-ever mummified foetus from Ancient Egypt discovered in tiny coffin

The youngest ever example of a mummified human foetus from Ancient Egypt has been found in a discovery that shows “just how precious the unborn child was” to people at the time, experts have said.

The pregnancy lasted for 16 to 18 weeks, according to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge where staff used a special kind of CT scan to determine the age of the unborn child.

A collection of artefacts arrives to the Egyptian civilization museum

A collection of 13 stone engravings arrived to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Fustat, Giza on Wednesday evening from Al Shisha hill in Aswan.

Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Enany announced that the engravings have been very well preserved and would be subject to restoration and archaeological documentation leading up to the museum’s official opening.

It paid to be a royal servant in Ancient Egypt!

It may not have been an easy job but the royal butlers of ancient Egypt's powerful pharaohs certainly earned an impressive burial and were laid to rest in style.
Four tombs belonging to the royal butlers of Queen Hatshepsut and King Ramses II have opened to the public.

  • Here is the official announcement from the Minstry of Antiquities. Minister of Antiquities Dr. Khaled El-Enany is to open today (Friday, May 13th) evening four tombs that belong to the Royal Butlers of Queen Hatshepsut from the 18th Dynasty and King Ramses II from the 19th Dynasty. The opening comes after the completion of their restoration works.

Shamans, Masks and Bes, Again!

I've been reading some interesting stuff recently. It all started as I was thinking about the Bes objects in the Egypt Centre. Many of them seem to show Bes’s head but not the rest of him. For example, we have Bes head amulets, a Bes head bell, Bes head pottery vessels. Our cippus has Bes's head only.

Behind the scenes of a myth-busting exhibition on ancient Egypt's animal mummies at Kelvingrove

DR Campbell Price can recount many a happy childhood afternoon spent at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

He would skip through the doors with his grandparents and make a beeline for the same exhibit time and again: an Egyptian mummy. “I remember the smell of antiquity, going to the Egyptian section and seeing the mummy on display,” he says. “I thought: ‘Wow, this is what I want to do with my life ...’”

Spool forward to the present day and Price, 31, is the curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum – a passion he credits as being ignited by those visits as a youngster.

WATCH: Secrets of animal mummies revealed at Kelvingrove

Picture of the week

This stunning photo of the Temple of Hatshepsut is making the rounds of the internet this week.

How did Ancient Egypt influence 1920's Flappers? 

All will be revealed in this short video.

Major events, such as Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon, have had a significant impact on popular culture, inspiring Star Wars, David Bowie's song Space Oddity and even Michael Jacksons signature Moon Walk dance.

Movie Makers, artists and fashion designers fell in love with Ancient Egypt as Howard Carter opened Tutankhamun Tomb's for the first time in over three-thousand years. Even the discovery of Tut's sequinned clothing triggered a fashion trend in glitzy sequins that is still felt today.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tutterings -- What happened last week?

Last week saw the Second Annual  Tutankhamun conference in Cairo. Many people (okay, maybe just the media) expected a resolution to the controversy of whether there is something behind the walls of his tomb. Well, maybe not a resolution, but at least an exciting announcement. It didn't happen.

Or maybe it did, and we didn't want to hear it. Because the possibility intrigued us. We wanted to believe, because it wasn't that long ago in archaeological time that the theory of "nothing left to find" in Egypt was prevalent and then proven wrong.

It is certain that a big kerfuffle among well-known Egyptologists occurred. It also seems certain the likelihood of finding something in the tomb is diminishing or altogether gone, depending on which news story you read. Still, wouldn't you have liked to have been a fly on the wall during cocktail hour?

For your reading pleasure, a compendium of the stories, beginning with the official release from the Ministry of Antiquities.

The official release from the Ministry of Antiquities Facebook page

Outcomes of the Second International Tutankhamun Conference
“It is essential to perform more scans using other devices at the Tutankhamun Tomb (KV62) at the Valley of the Kings- Luxor using more technical and scientific methods and radar devices ” is one of a number of recommendations reached at the end of the Second International Tutankhamun Conference that was held today (May 8th 2016) at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).

Antiquities Minister Dr. Khaled El-Enany emphasized at the open scientific discussion that came at the end of the conference that no drilling will be done at the tomb’s walls unless we are 100% certain that there is a cavity behind them. Egyptology and radar experts participated in the final session among them former antiquities ministers Dr. Zahi Hawas and Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Japanese radar expert Prof. Watanabe, Dr. Yaser El-Shayeb from the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University and a number of Egyptian archaeologists and stakeholder.

In his lecture, former Antiquities Minister Dr. Zahi Hawas said that radar scan is not sufficient alone to make a new archaeological discovery stressing that he is against the British scientist Nicholas Reeves’ hypothesis that Queen Nefertiti’s tomb exist behind that of King Tut’s. Hawas added that a scientific committee consisting of archaeologists, radar experts and remote sensing experts should be formed immediately to supervise the works inside the tomb.

Former antiquities minister Dr. Eldamaty also gave a lecture entitled “the Rediscovery of the Tutankhamun Tomb” in which he summed up all the work steps that have been made at the radar scan project at the Golden Pharaoh’s tomb, expressing that the results reached so point out that there is a 50% possibility of a cavity behind the Tomb’s walls.

In a related context, Dr. Tarek Tawfik – General Supervisor on the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) Project added that among the recommendations of this conference came the formation of an Egyptian Archaeological Committee with the assistance of foreign experts aiming at drawing a road map for the transfer process of the Golden Pharaoh’s fragile artifacts that are sensitive to light and motion. Also the Tutankhamun’s Research Center that was established last year will be provided with a web channel to publish all the researches and studies related to the Boy King.

(c) Ministry of Antiquities, Press Office
Wrote: Asmaa Mostafa  Translated by: Eman Hossni  Photos: Khalil Elsayed

Egyptologists differ on Tut tomb 'hidden chambers'

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said on Sunday new technology is needed to determine whether Tutankhamun's tomb contains hidden chambers which a British archaeologist believes may hide queen Nefertiti's remains. . .

The mood at Sunday's conference was skeptical months after former minister Mamduh Damati said the secret chambers probably existed, raising expectations of another historical find.

Nefertiti Still Missing: King Tut's Tomb Shows No Hidden Chambers

Radar scans conducted by a National Geographic team have found that there are no hidden chambers in Tutankhamun's tomb, disproving a claim that the secret grave of Queen Nefertiti lurks behind the walls.

In Egypt, Debate Rages Over Scans of King Tut's Tomb

Never underestimate the mysterious, unpredictable, and slightly insane power of Egyptology . .  . more than a hundred people watched two former government ministers sit onstage and angrily accuse each other of trying to drill holes into World Heritage Sites without proper permission.

King Tutankhamun: Experts unconvinced of secret chambers inside boy pharaoh's tomb

Archaeologists and researchers expressed their divided opinions about possibility of existence of hidden chambers inside the tomb of ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun during a recently held conference in Cairo. The international meet concluded that no digging inside the tomb shall take place without full evidence about the sealed-off chambers.

Egyptologists differ on King Tut tomb 'hidden chambers'

CAIRO -- Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said on Sunday new technology is needed to determine whether Tutankhamun's tomb contains hidden chambers which a British archaeologist believes may hide Queen Nefertiti's remains. . .The mood at Sunday's conference was skeptical months after former minister Mamduh Damati said the secret chambers probably existed, raising expectations of another historical find.

Egypt in denial as reports leak out that radar survey found no secret Tutankhamun tomb chambers

EGYPT has a problem. Leaked reports reveal there are no hidden chambers inside Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Valley of the Kings tomb. So how does one break the news to an excited world?
Recent radar scans of the 3300-year-old tomb of the boy king, conducted to verify a similar scan late last year, have reportedly yielded disappointing results.

Egypt 'suppressing truth' over hidden chambers in Tutankhamun’s tomb

The world of archaeology was electrified last year by the news that Tutankhamun’s tomb could contain hidden chambers possibly containing the remains and riches of Queen Nefertiti. It was a story that seemed to have everything: false walls, buried treasure, at least one mummy – and new hope for Egypt’s ailing tourist industry.

There was just one problem: the announcement now seems to be unfounded. But scientists say the evidence, based on new research, is being suppressed by the government in Cairo.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week : Tattoos, Tombs, Tut, & Videos

Nostalgia: Bushey Artist Gets Egypt Bug

In the early 1920s, Myrtle Broome, an educated, middle class woman, was living quietly in Bushey. She spent her days painting and practicing other arts and crafts.

Within a few years, however, the steady nature of her day-to-day life was dramatically enlivened by a series of visits to Egypt.

Myrtle was born in London, the daughter of a music publisher.

She first studied at an art school in Bushey before an enduring interest in Ancient Egypt led her to study Egyptology at University College London.

Intricate animal and flower tattoos found on Egyptian mummy

Scholars excited by depiction of actual objects on the body of a 3,000-year-old woman.

A mummy from ancient Egypt was heavily tattooed with sacred symbols, which may have served to advertise and enhance the religious powers of the woman who received them more than 3,000 years ago.

Top 10 things you might find in a Pharoah's tomb – in pictures

From sarcophagi filled with mummified bodies to vintage wine to mysterious board games, this fascinating gallerys sets out what you might come across should you discover a tomb from ancient Egypt by the  author and illustrator of Discover: The Ancient Egyptians!

Illustrated by graphic novelist Isabel Greenberg and researched by her sister, Imogen Greenberg, this series of books are presented as comic strips which offer a fresh and accessible entry point to core educational topics for children 8+.

No more surveys on Tutankhamun's tomb until project discussed 8 May

Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany did not stop radar surveys on King Tutankhamun’s tomb upon the request of former minister Mamdouh Eldamaty or Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves.

Rather, he has postponed any survey until a scientific discussion takes place among scholars during the second round of the international seminar on Tutankhamun scheduled 8 May.

The second conference kicks off in Cairo. The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is hosting the second International Tutankhamen Conference on Friday to discuss views on the best latest results of the recent radar scan survey carried out on the young Pharaoh’s tomb.  During the three-day conference, Lectures on Tutankhamen’s funerary furniture, costumes and jewellery will be delivered by a number of archaeologists from all over the world.

In The Footsteps Of Egyptologist Howard Carter With recent news confirming there’s more to Tutankhamun’s tomb than previously thought, we visit Howard Carter’s house to see where he worked on one of modern history’s biggest discoveries.

Outcomes of the Second International Tutankhamun Conference

‘It is essential to perform more scans using other devices atthe Tutankhamun Tomb (KV62) at the Valley of the Kings- Luxor using more technical and scientific methods and radar devices’ is one of a number of recommendations reached at the end of the Second International Tutankhamun Conference that was held today (May 8th 2016) at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC).

Archeologists Clash in Egypt Over King Tut Tomb Theory

Archeologists clashed at a conference in Egypt on Sunday over a theory that secret burial chambers could be hidden behind the walls of King Tutankhamun's tomb.

Speaking at the conference, former antiquities minister and famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass rejected the theory that undiscovered chambers lie behind the tomb and likely contain the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, one of pharaonic Egypt's most famous figures. The theory has prompted new exploration and it has been extensively scanned by radar.

Cosmic particles reveal what the inside of ancient Egypt's pyramids look like

The mystery surrounding the pyramids of Egypt may one day be revealed thanks to a groundbreaking new technology, which shows what the inside of a pyramid looks like for the first time. The group of scientists and archaeologists behind the Scans Pyramids project have revealed their first findings since they began last year to internally map the Bent Pyramid, a 345ft monument located 25 miles south of Cairo in the town of Dashur.

Ramose's Book of the Dead - (1290-1275) B.C. 19th Dynasty New Kingdom

The Book of the Dead of Ramose. Egyptian Books of the Dead were provided as part of a person's burial to ensure their safety in the afterlife. The collection of spells, were often written on papyrus, a paper like material made from a plant of the same name. The owner of this papyrus is called Ramose, the supervisor of royal archives. The illustrations are particularly vivid, some covered in gold.

The faces of ancient Egypt

Friday, May 6, 2016

April Reads

 All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

Synopsis: From the editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

My take: Life, love, and the apocalypse  pretty much sums it up. This novel combines two things I like almost as much as I like Egypt: technology and magic, and it does it without patronizing or silliness. If you've ever worked in high-tech or done any coven time, you've met the two geeky main characters. They are heartbreakingly real, and their journey into the apocalypse is both engaging and inevitabe. This book captures the feel and language of millenial characters, and while you might sometimes get lost, you'll want to continue the journey.

The Tigress and the Yogi - Shelley Schandfield

Synopsis: A talking tigress.
A wandering yogi.

A young Untouchable's harrowing journey through an ancient land where chaos threatens gods and mortals alike. Shelley Schanfield's novel,  The Tigress and the Yogi, is the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, novels about the personal and spiritual struggles of women who knew Siddhartha, better known as the Bhudda.

My take: See my review of this book from last Friday's post.

The Secret Chord - Geraldine Brooks

Synopsis: Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage. We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age.

My take: God, I loved this book! I stayed up most of two nights to finish it.

This is no pastel colored Bible story. Geraldine Brooks' prose is almost  always beautiful and engrossing and never more so in the story of David, who comes across so much more complex and beautiful than we ever saw him in Sunday School. Her descriptions of David's music almost make you believe that you were there while he played. This is a David who intrigues and seduces you not in spite of his flaws, but because of them. Even though you know going in that David is man who achieves and loses much, you turn the page to find out what happens next. The twist of the David and Bathsheba story was effective, and its resolution in story of young Solomon was particularly satisfying.

The Run of his Life - Jeffrey Toobin

Synopsis: The definitive account of the O. J. Simpson trial, The Run of His Life is a prodigious feat of reporting that could have been written only by the foremost legal journalist of our time. First published less than a year after the infamous verdict, Jeffrey Toobin’s nonfiction masterpiece tells the whole story, from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to the ruthless gamesmanship behind the scenes of “the trial of the century.” Rich in character, as propulsive as a legal thriller, this enduring narrative continues to shock and fascinate with its candid depiction of the human drama that upended American life.

My take:  I was a busy single mother during the whole OJ hullabaloo, so I'd catch glimpses of the trial on Nightline between putting my children to bed and nodding off while folding the laundry. I missed the infamous slow-mo chase, except in reruns, and I never understood exactly how he got off scot-free. Just recently, I caught the television mini-series and went back to the book.

This is clearly a "truth is stranger than fiction" story. In no novel would such obvious legal machinations, overt racism cutting in both directions, star power, ego, and incompetence be believed. The distance between the lives OJ and Nicole lived and the jury who condoned her murder by finding him not guilty seems like a particularly American tale.  In the aftermath of Ferguson and Tamir Rice, it recalls  a time and place that now seems both quaint and obscene. If you want a cautionary tale of how the justice system fails on many levels, I suggest this book.

The Mystery of Hollow Places - Rebecca Podos

Synopsis: The Mystery of Hollow Places is a gorgeously written, stunningly original novel of love, loss, and identity, from debut author Rebecca Podos.

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist; she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when she was a baby, a woman who was always possessed of a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

My take: The novel hooks you from the beginning with the wonderful line: "The bedtime story my dad used to tell me began with my grandmother’s body." Although billed as both YA and a mystery, it felt like neither, but something much vaster. It is a quest for meaning told in ordinary terms. Imogene is one of those smart, geeky characters that feel so real she could step right off the page. The symbol of the hollow heart works wells, and this is a mystery in the best sense of the word.

Mothers of Egyptology -- an early Mother's Day salute

Sunday, May 8 is Mother's Day in the United States. Last year, I honored the great mother, Isis, on Mother's Day. This year, I decided to do something a little different.

It's not hard to name the Fathers of Egyptology. Carter, Ebers, Petrie, Budge, Belzoni, Champollion, and Gardiner sort of rolled off my tongue with not much effort. But what about the women? Was Egyptology only for men? No, indeed. Since I'm starting a novel with a main character who is both a woman and an Egyptologist, I've been looking for role models. So, it seems fitting that for Mother's Day, I mention a few of the women whom my protagonist might have considered heroines.

Dorothy Eady

Dorothy Louise Eady was also known as Omm Sety or Om Seti (16 January 1904 – 21 April 1981). Omm Sety was Keeper of the Abydos Temple of Seti I and draughtswoman for the Department of Egyptian Antiquities. She believed in a previous life she was an ancient Egyptian priestess and the lover of Seti I (father of Ramses the Great.) She is also known for her considerable historical research at Abydos. Her life and work was the subject of many articles, television documentaries, and biographies. A New York Times article described her as "one of the Western World's most intriguing and convincing modern case histories of reincarnation."

Her books include: Abydos, Omm Sety's Abydos, Omm Sety's Living Egypt: Surviving Folkways from Pharaonic Times.

Jonathan Cott's The Search for Omm Sety, which was acquired by Jackie Kennedy when she was an editor at Doubleday, is a fascinating read for those who want to know more about Omm Sety.

Side note: I hadn't heard of her when I was in Egypt the first time. My incredulous guide gave me Cott's book and said if you asked the archaeologists working at Abydos about her, they'd all say "There's really something there."

Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Amerlia Peabody

Barbara Mertz was born on September 29, 1927, in Canton, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor's degree in 1947, a master's degree in 1950, and a PhD in Egyptology in 1952. (I should add that these facts almost make her a neighbor.) She authored two books on ancient Egypt, both of which have been continuously in print. but primarily wrote mystery and suspense novels.. She became a published writer in 1964.

Under the name Barbara Michaels, she wrote primarily Gothic and supernatural thrillers. Her publisher chose that pseudonym since Mertz had already published one nonfiction book on ancient Egypt, and he didn't want the novels to be confused with her academic work. Mertz published her Amelia Peabody historical mystery series, using the nom de plume Elizabeth Peters, which were the given names of her two children.

She was member of the Editorial Advisory Board of KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, Egypt Exploration Society, and the James Henry Breasted Circle of the University of Chicago Oriental Institute. Her bequest also made the Petrie Museum possible. She donated her collection of several hundred Egyptian antiquities, many of historical importance. The collection grew to international stature in scope and scale thanks mainly to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942). (See our next Mother, Hilda Petrie)

You can find the Amelia Peabody series here. You should also check out her official website.
Mertz died at her home in Maryland on August 8, 2013.

Hilda Petrie

Hilda Mary Isabel Urlin Petrie (1871–1957) was an Irish Egyptologist and wife of Flinders Petrie, the father of scientific archaeology. Having studied geology, she was hired by Flinders at age 25 as an artist, which led to their marriage and a working partnership that endured for a lifetimes.

Hilda travelled and worked with Flinders to excavate and record numerous sites in Egypt and later in Palestine. She directed some excavations and often worked in difficult and dangerous conditions to produce copies of tomb hieroglyphs and plans and to record the work for reports to the Egypt Exploration Fund. When the British School of Archaeology in Egypt was founded in 1905 in London by Flinders Petrie, she worked as its secretary and fundraiser to secure support for the school and their continued excavations. Hilda took part in archaeological excavations and surveys throughout her married life, except for a period while their two children were young. Her work was published, and she also gave public lectures in London and elsewhere.

Margaret Alice Murray

Margaret Alice Murray (13 July 1863 – 13 November 1963) was an Anglo-Indian Egyptologist, archaeologist, anthropologist, historian, and folklorist. She was the first female to be appointed as a lecturer in archaeology in the United Kingdom. She served as President of the Folklore Society from 1953 to 1955 She published widely over the course of her career.

In 1894 she began studying Egyptology at University College London (UCL). Her mentor was department head Flinders Petrie, who encouraged her early academic publications and appointed her Junior Professor in 1898. IShe took part in Petrie's excavations at Abydos, Egypt, discovering the Osireion temple, and the following season investigated the Saqqara cemetery. These finds established her reputation in Egyptology.

She supplemented her UCL wage by giving public classes and lectures at the British Museum and Manchester Museum. In 1908 she led the unwrapping of Khnum-nakht, one of the mummies recovered from the Tomb of the Two Brothers. It was another first: the first time a woman publicly unwrapped a mummy. Murray authored several books on Egyptology targeted at a general audience.

Murray's work in Egyptology and archaeology was widely acclaimed and earned her the moniker of "The Grand Old Woman of Egyptology", although after her death many of her contributions to the field were overshadowed by Petrie.

You can find a list of her books on Egypt (as well as her books on witchcraft and folklore) here.

Some mothers and daughters of Egyptology

You might also want to read The Eloquent Peasant's post The Women of Egypt and Egyptology: ancient, past, and present, although it is not strictly limited to Egyptologists.

And here is a list of female Egyptologists and links to their stories.

Barbara G. Adams
Susanne Bickel
Käte Bosse-Griffiths
Edda Bresciani
Mary Brodrick
Betsy Bryan
Kara Cooney
Renée Friedman
Violette Lafleur
Rosalind Moss
Christiane Desroches Noblecourt
Lise Manniche
Sarah Parcak
Danijela Stefanović
Elizabeth Thomas
Joyce Tyldesley
Hilde Zaloscer
Christiane Ziegler