Friday, July 29, 2016

Video Friday: We got mummies

I receive a lot of links to videos, which I sometimes include in my Monday posts, Ancient Egypt this week. Many cool videos don't make it into those posts for space reasons. So, I decided to devote every other Friday to a post with videos that enchanted me during the week. I'll try for a theme (like this week's Mummies), but I make no promises.

An Egyptian Mummy at Iredell Museum

You might not expect to find a real Egyptian mummy in North Carolina, but Statesville's Iredell Museum Gallery has just that in this extensive new exhibit!

A Mummy in Jerusalem: Secrets of the Afterlife

From the conservation laboratories to the Gallery...

Howard Carter and Tutankhamun's Tomb

"The Valley is exhausted." Theodore Davis gave the concession to dig to Carter, saying, "There is nothing left to find." He was obviously wrong

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Ladies, take the stage

Women Who Changed the History of Ancient Egypt

When we think of ancient civilizations, we usually assume that women were not treated as well as they are today However, Egypt treated its women better than any of the other cultures within the ancient world.

Women in ancient Egypt were really ahead of their time – they could rule the country and they had many of the same basic rights as men. This is very different than other ancient cultures, such as the society of Ancient Greece where women were considered to be legal minors without the same rights as men.

The tomb of one of the most important women in ancient Egypt has just been unearthed

The daughter of a prince and the mother of two of the most powerful governors in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, a noblewoman known as Lady Sattjeni has been unearthed some 3,800 years after her death, in an ancient tomb in southeastern Egypt.

Sekhmet at the World Museum

When you first come into the World Museum in Liverpool, you find yourself in a large, airy foyer with some of the museum’s biggest items on display. This includes an unnervingly large spider-crab shell and a pterodactyl suspended from the ceiling. Here, flanking the entry to the main staircase is a pair of gorgeous Sekhmet statues. Although I was already a little familiar with the ancient Egyptian lioness, I wanted to know more. Who was this enigmatic goddess, seemingly so serene and regal-looking? And what role did she play for the ancient Egyptians?

Photo published on social media creates brouhaha in archaeological spheres

A photo captured at an entrance to the Egyptian Museum which showed a number of golden objects on the dock of a truck has created brouhaha among Facebook and Twitter, as some users claimed that the truck was improperly transporting a collection of authentic artifacts.

Beams of Khufu's second solar boat transported to Egyptian Museum

An Egyptian-Japanese archaeological team has removed Tuesday a collection of 12 wooden beams from the pit of Khufu’s second solar boat in order to send them to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) on the Giza Plateau for restoration.

MM Note: Egypt is home to many wonderful and inspiring objects. I was totally unprepared for how spectacular the first solar boat was.  If you're planning a trip to Egypt, make sure you visit The Khufu Boat Museum, which is right outside the Great Pyramid.

Mickey as Indiana Jones? Minnie saves the day!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Hedgehogs?

Hedgehogs and ancient Egypt

When I think of animals in ancient Egypt, hedgehogs aren't the first ones that come to mind. Apparently, I need to rethink this assumptions. Some articles on this prickly part of Egyptian history.

Picture of the Day: Hedgehog

Luck or Misfortune? Hedgehogs in Folklore and Tradition - In ancient Egyptian society, the hedgehog had a favorable reputation. The ancient Egyptians were familiar with two species of hedgehogs, namely Paraechinus aethiopicus , or the desert hedgehog, and Hemiechinus auritus , or the long-eared hedgehog. This is deduced from the way the Egyptians represented hedgehogs in the form of amulets.

Hedgehogs: The Little Prickly Guys - It started off well enough. The ancient Egyptians venerated the hedgehog as a symbol of rebirth.

Hedgehogs and porcupines - The hedgehog was admired for its survival in the semi-desert areas outside the green floodplains and was a symbol for rebirth after death because of its hibernation.

Reconstructing the 'primitive machine' that guarded the Great Pyramid

Here's how you keep tomb raiders out.

Egyptologists have digitally recreated the 'primitive machine' ancient Egyptians used to thwart would-be tomb raiders from stealing artefacts from the Great Pyramid.

While the security system has been studied since the early 19th century, this is the first time researchers have used computer models to demonstrate how it actually worked.

 InfographicHow Ancient Egypt Shaped the Modern World

In a way, we are all a little bit Egyptian.

When we think of ancient Egypt, for most of us, such things as the pyramids of Giza and the great temple of Karnak come to mind. But you might be amazed to find out that the ancient Egyptian legacy extends far beyond these iconic sites, touching almost all aspects of the society we live in today.

Oldest Egyptian writing on papyrus displayed for first time

CAIRO (AFP).- The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is showcasing for the first time the earliest writing from ancient Egypt found on papyrus, detailing work on the Great Pyramid of Giza, antiquities officials said Thursday.

The papyri were discovered near Wadi el-Jarf port, 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the Gulf of Suez town of Zafarana, the antiquities ministry said.

The find by a French-Egyptian team unearths papers telling of the daily lives of port workers who transported huge limestone blocks to Cairo during King Khufu's rule to build the Great Pyramid, intended to be his burial structure.

The New York Times story has a few more details.

Pharaoh Island to be listed as World Heritage Site in September

Egypt will submit a special application to the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to list Pharaoh Island in the town of Taba in South Sinai, as a World Heritage Site next September, Yasmin El-Shazly, General Supervisor of the International Organizations Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, stated.

The Pharaoh Island includes of a fortress built by the Ayyubid Prince Salaheddin to protect the Islamic Empire from the Crusades.

Old Kingdom tombs at Giza Plateau in good condition

Giza Plateau Director Ashraf Mohi asserted to Ahram Online that the tomb of the fifth dynasty official Rawer is in good condition and dismissed claims that its ceiling had collapsed.
Mohi said that most of the tomb’s walls and ceilings are not authentic, as the structure was in a partial state of preservation when first discovered in 1929 by Egyptian Egyptologist Selim Hassa

The Most Famous Ancient Egyptian Site You Have Never Heard Of

by Nigel Fletcher-Jones
As dusk settles over modern Luxor, and from the very top of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, it is possible — as it was in antiquity — to make out the outline of the great temple of Karnak across the Nile.

Look down from that vantage point, on a line towards the modern visitors’ centre, and you will also see a rather unprepossessing low square of wall—unlabeled and ignored by the passing tourists and local people alike.

Peering inside this enclosure—known as Bab el-Gasus (‘the gate of the priests’) — is not very enlightening, yet this is the entrance to the last resting place of 153 priests and priestesses who served the god Amun in that temple across the river during the 21st Dynasty (around 1070–945 BC).

Pharonic Review

Pharaonic, developed by Milkstone Studios, is one such game. Set in Ancient Egypt, Pharaonic is a sidescrolling action RPG with precise combat, tough enemies and a wonderful Egyptian setting.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Tale of Osiris (Video by Ashraf Ezzat)

I've seen plenty of videos about the Osiris story. Most of them are pretty god-awful, no pun intended. If they're not scrambling the story to suit a personal agenda (and the story is pretty scrambled to begin with), the video is often just tacky.

Now comes this video by Ashraf Ezzat, which took my breath away. The narrative is clear from beginning to end, and the animation is crisp. Well worth a watch, even if you don't agree with every point.

You can find out more about the creator of this video and see his other works on his blog.

I first heard about the video on a Facebook page that I follow called The Hotel Healing Centre / House of Life Abydos. They offer tours, health treatments, accommodation, and a course of Ancient Egyptian Healing. They also have a web page.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ancient Egypt this week: Games, Videos, and the Ministry of Antiquities

Childbirth stelae picked as Egyptian Museum's July piece of the month in online vote

The foyer of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir will be graced with the newly-picked July piece of the month; a Ptolemaic childbirth stelae that won a Facebook poll put up by the antiquities ministry.
The stelae is carved in limestone and depicts the childbirth process, showing a Ptolemaic woman giving birth with the help of two ancient Egyptian deities sitting beside her.

Ministry of Antiquities newsletter

The 1st issue of the Ministry of Antiquities’ new monthly Newsletter is out.

It is in both English and Arabic.

Curator’s diary July 2016: Egyptomania at Biddulph Grange

Yesterday several curators from Manchester Museum had the pleasure of visiting  Biddulph Grange, a National Trust property in north Staffordshire. We are particularly interested in exploring the theme of migration – of people, objects and ideas – and in ways of capturing the connections. Biddulph Grange represents a wonderful example of multi-cultural influences in the later Nineteenth Century that stretches across traditionally separate areas of Botany, Geology and Egyptology.

A relief of King Nectanebo II recovered to Egypt from Paris

 Egypt's antiquities ministry succeeded in recovering the stolen relief of King Nectanebo II of the 30th dynasty that was smuggled out of Egypt over a decade ago.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, the supervisor-general of the Antiquities Recuperation Department, told Ahram Online that the object was stolen from a temple in the Saqqara necropolis during the 1990s.

Why did ancient Egypt spend 3000 years playing a game (Senet) nobody else liked?

It was hard work being dead in ancient Egypt. You had to put the hours in. Upon death, ancient Egyptians believed that your ba - soul is the closest word we have - was kicked loose from your body and freed to roam the lands. This freedom came with limitations, however. Every day your ba left the tomb where your mummy rested and wandered in the heavens. Every night, it had to work its way back home, descending with the sun god to the world of the dead and undergoing great trials, before it finally rejoined the body in an act of supreme spiritual renewal. As above, so below: the Egyptians believed that the sun was born every morning and died every evening. The ba mimicked its journey through the sky.

The importance of death in everyday Egyptian life

Often, exhibitions of ancient Egyptian artefacts divide their galleries into objects of ‘daily life’ and those associated with ‘burial and the afterlife’, despite most of the objects deriving from the excavation of burials, and the majority of these having been used in life. The Egyptians themselves would probably have been bemused by this division; to them, death was a transition to a different state of being, where life continued. True death only occurred following the judgement by Osiris, king of the blessed dead, when a person could be sentenced to obliteration. To some degree then, preparation for death was a bit like considering what to pack for a move abroad; many of the items used in life would be just as useful in the beyond.

Nile Cruise in 1964
 This is an odd little video made right before the Aswan High Dam was built. The narrator cheerfully concludes that many temples and monument will go underwater, but it's ok because we've already recorded everything we need to know. One monument he has a bit of remorse about is Abu Simbel, but then concludes its fate was sealed. Which as we know, it thankfully was not.  A rare glimpse into the mid-twentieth century.


Somewhere along the way, and a few thousand years, monuments such as Karnak fell into disrepair. Between the ever relentless sands of the desert reclaiming its territory, the Nile’s inundation, and the passage of time, they almost faded out of memory. Every now and then through the millenia, travellers and explorers would stumble upon an obelisk here, or statue there, and if they were persistant and lucky enough, maybe a pylon and gate into a mysterious past.

Egyptian Gods and the Devourer

Horrible Histories - Egyptian Gods and The Devourer - YouTube from Ellen Warburton on Vimeo.

Friday, July 8, 2016

June Reads

Perfected - Kate Jarvik Birch

Synopsis:  Perfection comes at a price.

As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these "family companions" enter their masters' homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.

For fans of Keira Cass's Selection series and Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden series, Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.

My take:  I'm not sure how it maps to the Selection series, but I'm definitely seeing the connection to the Chemical Garden. With its tales of manipulation of women's bodies and crooked politics, you also wouldn't be wrong to see connections to  Margaret Atwood's  Handmaid's Tale.

The maiden-in-distress love story plot isn't particularly new, but the setup is thought-provoking. If you've ever owned pets, this novel will make you squirm just a little bit as you imagine Ella as one of the trophy dogs you see Paris Hiltonypes carry onto an airplane. It's dystopia redefined for a new generation. It might make your skin crawl, but it's a perfect read for a hot summer day. Then, it will keep you up all night wondering about what it says about humans.

There is a second book, which I'm probably not going to read. I'm a little weary of the YA cliff-hanger approach. As my friend CE Roberson says in her post called The Trilogy Curse: "Too many good YA novels become a hot mess when they string the reader along into a second or third book." Perfected was a satisfying read on its own. Why ruin a good thing?

Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate, and the Throne - Christopher Anderson

Synopsis:  The #1 New York Times bestselling author of William and Kate and The Day Diana Died takes a compulsively readable look into the relationships and rivalries of Queen Elizabeth, Camilla Parker Bowles, and Kate Middleton.

My take:  So, the first two chapters speculated about what might happen when Elizabeth II dies, and it was amazing. The corgis, apparently unloved by all members of the Royal Family except the Queen, are shuffled off to new homes. At first there is an outpouring of love and enthusiasm for Charles and Camilla, but then it all sort of fades away, much like the interesting part of the book.  Yes, it dishes all the gossip particularly about the so-called rivalry between Kate and Camilla, but to be honest it's a bit regurgitated. If you're a royal watcher, you've probably already seen most of it in Celebrity Dirty Laundry and Vanity Fair.  It's a guilty little pleasure read for when the weather is hot and you just want to curl up with a Gin and Tonic and live in fantasy world for a little while.

After last month's Eligible, I went full on Curtis Sittenfeld for June. I think it's safe to say after this month, I might give Prep another read, as well as American Wife and Sisterland. Let this be my summer of Curtis Sittenfeld.

A Regular Couple (From The Atlantic Archives)  by Curtis Sittenfeld

Synopsis: Available exclusively for Kindle, Curtis Sittenfeld's A Regular Couple follows Maggie, a star lawyer who while on her honeymoon encounters her one-time nemesis, Ashley, the faded queen bee of her high school. Discovering that the erstwhile prom queen is married to a bore, Maggie might have felt pity for Ashley. But old resentments surge, and she can't quell the questions that rage within her. Could her wonderful new husband really love her, plain as she is despite her star-lawyer status? Or is he only with her for her money? Is she still that same gullible high-school girl? Shouldn't Maggie be married to the bore, and doesn't her new husband belong with Ashley.

My take:  This is a short story that all women who haven't been the head cheerleader can identify with and live to regret. I felt myself cringing and recognizing bits and pieces of myself. Ah, Curtis, you know us all too well.

The Man of My Dreams: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

Synopsis: In her acclaimed debut novel, Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld created a touchstone with her pitch-perfect portrayal of adolescence. Her prose is as intensely realistic and compelling as ever in The Man of My Dreams, a disarmingly candid and sympathetic novel about the collision of a young woman’s fantasies of family and love with the challenges and realities of adult life.

My take:  Again, there was that cringe-worthy moment (several of them in fact) when you recognize yourself and your love life from decades past. Your search to discover the perfect man while escaping from the embarrassing foibles of your family all comes back to you. You relieve those awkward mistakes: the man who got away, the one who was too good (in an angelic sort of way) for you to consider seriously, you know the drill. The Man of My Dreams was a bittersweet novel told by narrator whose sarcasm and wit  I appreciated. While not as good as Prep, as many reviewers are quick to point, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Synopsis: An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong—this stunning first novel is perfect for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

My take:  Who isn't sucked in by tales of Charlie Manson and the Tate/LaBianca murders? There must be somebody, but I haven't yet met them. I was 16 when the murders occurred, about the same age as Evie, the protagonist of this novel. Her slow seduction by the cult members could have happened to me or many other girls I knew who struggled with many of the same issues as Evie. Didn't many of us long to be cool? Yearn to belong to a clique even as we disparaged the idea? Secretly dream of the hippie lifestyle awaiting us if we ever summoned the courage to run away from our boring life, our boring and embarrassing families? Didn't we wonder (OK, obsess) about sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Just a nudge might have pushed many of us across the line in that summer of 1969.

Cline does a remarkable job of capturing a moment in time and the girl who lived it. You are there. Sometimes, the shift forward in time to the grown-up Evie is a little jolting and snatches you out of the hallucinatory narrative, but overall it works. The last line is chilling and reminds us of the innocence  lost that summer.

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel

Synopsis: Labor Day, 1976, Martha's Vineyard. Summering at the family beach house along this moneyed coast of New England, Fern and Edgar—married with three children—are happily preparing for a family birthday celebration when they learn that the unimaginable has occurred: There is no more money. More specifically, there's no more money in the estate of Fern's recently deceased parents, which, as the sole source of Fern and Edgar's income, had allowed them to live this beautiful, comfortable life despite their professed anti-money ideals. Quickly, the once-charmed family unravels. In distress and confusion, Fern and Edgar are each tempted away on separate adventures: she on a road trip with a stranger, he on an ill-advised sailing voyage with another woman. The three children are left for days with no guardian whatsoever, in an improvised Neverland helmed by the tender, witty, and resourceful Cricket, age nine.

My take:  This book was on one of those "Summer Must Read" lists. I usually enjoy a Gatsby-esque novel where the characters ". . .smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . ." I like the object lessons and (to be honest) the schadenfreude of it all. This book seemed promising.

I made it about 40% of the way through, according to my Kindle. The last 20% with the hope that it might get better. It didn't. I gave up. Enuf said.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Battle of Kadesh: A Debate on video

Robert Ritner and Theo van den Hout | The Battle of Kadesh: A Debate

The Oriental Institute Lecture Series organized by the University of Chicago brings notable scholars from around the country and abroad as they present on new breakthroughs, unique perspectives, and innovative research applications related to the Ancient Middle East.

The Battle of Kadesh, ca. 1285 BC, is the earliest military encounter that can be analyzed in detail. This conflict between the Egyptian forces of Ramses II and the Hittite army of Muwatalli was celebrated as a personal victory by Ramses, but is often treated by modern scholars as an Egyptian defeat or as a stalemate. In any case, the battle had profound impact on international politics of the age, with unexpected results. Join us for a lively debate presented from the two sides of the ancient conflict, provided by noted Oriental Institute scholars Robert Ritner, for the Egyptian side, and Theo van den Hout, for the Hittites.