Monday, February 27, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: From Beer to Sacred Cat Rugs


Did you know that the gods of Egypt used to get hammered? Or that there was an entire festival dedicated to drinking beer and passing out?

The ancient world was a dangerous and freaking terrifying place. Pretty much any time before the invention of wifi and the microwavable burrito are dark ages full of ignorance, plague, and terrible monsters. Even just drinking the water back in the day could lead to a slow and agonising death.

For more about beer in ancient Egypt, see my slightly less humorous post, Bread and Beer.

Kings and Queens of Egypt: Metropolitan Museum

The ancient Egyptians regarded their king and the office of kingship as the apex and organizing principle of their society. The king’s preeminent task was to preserve the right order of society, also called maat. This included ensuring peace and political stability, performing all necessary religious rituals, seeing to the economic needs of his people, providing justice, and protecting the country from external and internal danger. It has sometimes been said that the ancient Egyptians believed their kings to be divine, but it was the power of kingship, which the king embodied, rather than the individual himself that was divine.

Funerary cloth of Isetnefret 

From the Egyptian Textile Museum: Funerary cloth of Isetnefret From Egypt New Kingdom, 1300-1070 BC Tii pours a libation before her deceased mother This type of painted linen panel was placed on the chest of the coffin. It was another means of ensuring the eternal provision of offerings, which were also depicted on the walls of the tomb. Water, as a substance with no colour, taste or smell, was used in Egyptian rituals for purification.
It is now in the British Museum EA65347.

Amara West 2017: Greetings from Osiris!

Elisabeth Sawerthal (King’s College, London)
Working on objects in a study season involves the close cooperation of different specialists on the same objects. This became especially apparent in the last days.

As an illustrator for the study season at Amara West, I get to work on a great variety of types of objects collected over eight seasons of excavation at the site. These objects need to be drawn for final publication and further study.

Ancient Egyptian Stories Will Be Published in English for the First Time

Translated from hieroglyphics on monuments, tombs and papyri, the book will present tales few outside of academia have read

While people may view inscriptions in Greek or Latin as pretty, they still recognize their merit as text. Indeed, writings from ancient Greece and Rome are revered and considered classics of Western literature. Egyptian hieroglyphics, however, are often seen as mere decoration. Sometimes, the characters are literally used as wallpaper.

Egypt’s Sun King: the Dazzling Reign of Amenhotep III (course information)

In the late 15th century BC Egypt possessed its greatest empire extending from north Syrian in the north to southern Nubia in the south.

Its trading contacts linked to the Mycenaean civilisation, Syria and tribal Africa. At the centre of this economic powerhouse resided the magnificent Pharaoh Amenhotep III who used his wealth and power to commission some of the greatest cultural achievements in ancient Egypt’s 3,000 years of history.

When Egyptomania crept into pottery

The fascination with Egypt has a long pedigree. Centuries ago, Europeans associated Egypt with mummies, tombs and pyramids. It was a land dedicated to the dead. Despite that grim association, Egyptian motifs cropped up again and again in European art and literature.

Giuseppe Verdi alluded to Egypt when he wrote his famous Aida. Not even Shakespeare was immune to this country's charms. An Egyptian obelisk, at some huge expense, was moved from Egypt to Italy in 1690 and erected in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica for all the world to see.

The First Egyptian Room. Photograph, 1875. Frederick York

This is one of a collection of photographs taken by Frederick York of Notting Hill in 1875 which shows the first Egyptian room of the Museum. Along the wall above the display cases can be seen a cast of the sculptured and painted bas relief depicting the conquest of the Egyptian king Ramesses II (r. about 1279–1213 BC) over the Ethiopians. The cases below were mainly devoted to what the guide book of the time described as the ‘civil section’, showing domestic items such as furniture and costumes.

The exception to this were the cases seen in the far left of the photo, which contained religious iconography, including representations of sacred animals such as the jackal of Anubis and the Apis bull. The case in the far corner (Case 7) contained images of the gods Anubis and Bes. The mummies and coffins shown in the foreground were displayed in two rows of angled cases along the central part of the gallery.

The first Egyptian room is now the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Egypt and Africa (Room 65).

Egypt's antiquities ministry restores colossus of Ramsess II at Karnak Temples
 Photo courtesy of restorer Abdel Razek Ali

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities is conducting comprehensive restoration work on a colossus statue of king Ramsess II that once decorated the façade of the first pylon of the Karnak Temple Complex.

Sacred Cat Rug
Drawing of the Sacred Cat Rug (the Museum does not allow photographs) J Ginsberg

Possibly the world's oldest rug, this Egyptian relic is woven entirely from ancient cat hair and once carried a mummified human foot.

Built in 1883 by a millionaire merchant, the eccentric residence was sold in 1913 to Abraham S. Mussallem, and avid collector who expanded the museum’s assemblage of rare and historic artifacts that came with the unusual house. As an expert in both oriental rugs and Egyptian relics, Mussallem came into possession of an unusual find, a mummified human foot wrapped inside of a rug, which was taken from a pyramid or other archaeological site.

A garden in the desert
© Juan R. Lazaro

Note: Unless you read German, you need to click Translate in the pop-up window.

4,000 years ago King Snofru, south of Giza, built the first great pyramids of Egypt. A hundred-year-old death cult began with them in the necropolis of Dahshur. But the Pharaoh went further, as archaeologists have discovered: He transformed the area around Dahshur into a completely man-made landscape.

The Pharaoh’s House - "It Starts With Them"

The Manhattan-Based Center for Kids will Help Spark a Desire to Learn by Figuratively Transporting them Back in Time to Ancient Egypt

Antonio Kenyatta, Founder and Chief Pharaoh Scientist of The Pharaoh's House – It Starts With Them, is pleased to announce the upcoming launch of his innovative new learning center.

As a spokesperson for the project noted, The Pharaoh's House is a Manhattan-Based center for kids designed to reawaken their natural curiosity and spark an enthusiasm for learning. Pulling together math and science learning program principals and exploratory fun into a museum-quality environment, this center will inspire kids to want to start learning more.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Video Friday: Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Although a new museum is in the works, whenever I think of the Egyptian Museum, I'll think of this one.

Inside the museum with Hawass

From Hassan Mohiy Mohiy

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Pyramids and Museums

Visiting the Pyramids c. 1860-1935

Since the visit of Herodotus in the 4th century BC, the enduring monuments of Ancient Egypt have drawn tourists across the Mediterranean from Europe, most of all to the towering pyramids of Giza. This article has some great photos of 19th Century tourists at the Pyramids.

My own photos from my three trips aren't as whimsical. Well, except for the sleeping dog. While it's true you can't climb the outside of the Pyramids (actually, for the right bakeesh, you can), you can climb up to the chamber at the top through the Grand Gallery. It's a long haul, and that's why you see such big smiles on our faces on the bottom photo.

Ancient Egypt was one of the most feminist societies ever, here's how

Although the West tends to nod to ancient Greece when remembering its cultural heritage, there is at least one important cultural movement whose roots are firmly buried in ancient Egypt: Feminism.

Hidden Stories of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square, Cairo

For ancient history aficionados, no trip to Egypt is complete without a visit to the remarkable Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. A tour of the museum provides an indispensable glimpse into the lives and legacies of some of the world’s most fascinating historical figures, from a proud civilization with traditions lasting for millennia. At over 120,000 items in its collections, its wealth of artifacts is second to none. Even repeat visitors will find something new to admire and analyze on every return to the museum. Its collections, lovingly curated by dedicated staff, contain relics of one of the greatest civilizations in human history.

Some photos from our recent visit.

National Museum of Egyptian Civilization opens temporary exhibit, free admission

Under the name "Crafts and Industries through the Ages" the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) is set to open its first temporary exhibition Wednesday evening, showcasing the history of four crafts in Egypt: clay, jewellery, textiles and wood.

The Metternich Stela

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Isis and Thoth (far left and right) aid Horus on the famous Metternich Stela. The top half of this stela was skillfully carved in the hard dark stone. On the part below the central figure panel, rows of hieroglyphs record thirteen magic spells to protect against poisonous bites and wounds and to cure the illnesses caused by them. The stela was commissioned by the priest Esatum to be set up in the public part of a temple. A victim could recite or drink water that had been poured over the magic words and images on the stela. As a mythic precedent, the hieroglyphic inscription around the base describes the magic cure that was worked upon the infant Horus by Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing. Read more at this link from the Met.

Queen Nefertiti Greatest Mystery of Ancient Egypt History Documentary (video)

The most strange, fascinating, and mysterious thing about Nefertiti is after twelve years of marriage to Akhenaten there is nothing. No records, depictions, or stories about what happened to Nefertiti. We are only left with more speculation as to what happened to this notorious women. Some say she died while others consider the possibilities of her continued reign with the pharaoh.

Imhotep Presents a Simple and Familiar Take on Ancient Egypt

The 2016 boardgame Imhotep was nominated for the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award, losing out to Codenames, which was itself a huge commercial success (and a fun party game), but unlike nearly every past winner of the award. Imhotep is at least more in line with previous winners and nominees, a straight-up boardgame with simple rules and mechanics, very little luck involved, and—perhaps unlike a lot of previous winners—a quick playing time, around 30-45 minutes depending on your number of players.

Imhotep’s Egyptian theme has players trying to place their cubes on four different monuments—the temple, the obelisk, the pyramid, and the burial grounds—each of which awards points in its own fashion. There’s also a fifth area, the market, that grants players cards that awards point bonuses or allows players to make two specific moves on a single turn.

Luxor's Stoppelaëre House transformed into scientific centre for heritage

After 12 months of restoration, Stoppelaëre House is to be opened with a view to developing it into a cultural and scientific centre for heritage.
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner will open the house Friday. The house is a fully restored masterpiece of 20th century architecture by Egypt's pioneer architect Hassan Fathy. The restoration was part of the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative launched in 2008

Friday, February 17, 2017

Video Friday: KHAEMWASET "The First Egyptologist"

Prince Khaemweset (also translated as Khamwese, Khaemwese, or Khaemwaset)  was the fourth son of Ramesses II, and the second son by his queen Isetnofret. He is by far the best known son of Ramesses II, and his contributions to Egyptian society were remembered for centuries after his death.  Khaemweset has been described as "the first Egyptologist" due to his efforts in identifying and restoring historic buildings, tombs and temples. In later periods of Egyptian history, Khaemweset was remembered as a wise man, and portrayed as the hero in a cycle of stories dating to Greco-Roman times.  In these stories his name is Setne, a distortion of the real Khaemwaset's title as setem-priest of Ptah; modern scholars call this character "Setne Khamwas."

And just by coincidence (NOT), he is a character in my current Work in Progress, Reeds of Time.

KHAEMWASET "The First Egyptologist"

Khaemwaset, the world's first archaeologist?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Ramses the Great dominates

Children's footprints and rare painting fragments at the site of a mysterious Egyptian palace
Researchers found a preserved mortar pit at Egypt's Qantir-Piramesse site. In the preserved mortar they found children's footprints and painting fragments. The team have previously used magnetic imaging to find that the Qantir-Piramesse site was once an Egyptian pharaoh's palace-temple complex.

Archaeologists in Egypt unearth pharaonic structures

Archaeologists have unearthed several Pharaonic structures in Egypt's Nile Delta, the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry announced Tuesday. According to a ministry statement, an Egyptian-German archaeological mission discovered the buildings - one of which they believe is a palace temple - in the village of Qantir, located some 60 miles northeast of Cairo.

Professing Faith: Egyptian cow goddess sheds light on biblical stories

If I were to call one of my colleagues at the college a cow — not that I have ever been thus tempted, of course — doubtless it would be a great insult and would involve an angry phone call for the Human Resources office.

But in ancient times, this would be taken as a high compliment, particularly in the Egypt of the pharaohs. And the cow goddess may shed some light on more than one famous story in the Bible.

Gas Chromatography Reveals the Owner of Ancient Mummified Legs

An international team of archaeologists have identified a pair of mummified legs as belonging to Queen Nefertari, the royal wife of Pharaoh Ramses II — possibly the most powerful pharaoh in Egypt’s history. Nefertari’s opulent tomb was discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Queens in 1904 by Italian archaeologists, with the remains being kept in a museum in Turin.

For Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, Life Was a Banquet, But the Afterlife Was the Greatest Feast of All

In Ancient Egypt, inanimate objects—particularly images created for tombs or temples—were believed to contain latent magical powers. What was drawn or etched on stone could later come into being in another cosmos. That is why so many pharaonic works of art show tables piled high with food. Nobody wanted to go hungry in the afterlife. On the contrary, the ancient Egyptians hoped they would enjoy the greatest feast of all in that other realm.

Girl, 17 going on 2,300, visits Fort Lauderdale

It’s been a hard-knock life for “Annie,” a 2,300-year-old ancient Egyptian mummy that’s the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale.

Ancient Egyptian's Baboon Obsession Laid Hidden Within Luxor Tomb

A secret chamber inside a royal scribe's tomb shows that his muse was, apparently, a primate.

For Jiro Kondo and his team from Waseda University, it began as just another day of excavating at Luxor, an Egyptian city famous for its temples and other ancient monuments. The researchers were taking care of mundane tasks at an area to the east of the forecourt of the known tomb of Userhat, who was a royal scribe.

The complex nature of the Ancient Egyptian funeral

The Egyptians had some of the most elaborate funeral practices of any other great civilisation. However, it is important to understand that these customs evolved continuously throughout history, and therefore we cannot generalise them.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Ancient Egypt for the last two weeks - Part 1

So here are some of the stories I'm catching up on after my sojourn in Egypt. I think this blog post could have easily been called, Burial, Bones, and Crocodiles.

Royal scribe tomb discovered in Luxor
The discovered tomb is Ramesside tomb belong to a person called "Khonsu" who held the title of "Royal Scribe".

The T-shaped tomb located in El Khokha area on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor, to the east of the front court of TT47 (Tomb of Userhat) while the Japanese mission of Waseda University directed by Dr. Jiro Kondo.

The Secret Beneath the Square of Egypt's The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the most established of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one remains to a great extent in the place.

Egypt retrieves 2 artifacts from London

Egypt's embassy in London received on Tuesday two artifacts that had been put for sale at a London auction house.

The director general of the Retrieved Antiquities Department of the Antiquities Ministry, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, said on Wednesday that the two artifacts were stolen from archaeological sites during the security void that followed the January 25 Revolution six years ago.

Ushabti figurine to be recovered from London

The Egyptian embassy in London received a wooden Ushabti figurine that was stolen in 2013 from an Aswan storehouse and illegally smuggled out of the country.
The figurine is to be returned to Egypt soon.

Why scan a crocodile?

The Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden unveiled its new Egyptian galleries in late 2016. Lara Weiss, curator of the Egyptian collection, talks to Apollo about the redisplay of the collection ‑ and making some surprising new discoveries.

Seeking eternity: 5,000 years of ancient Egyptian burial

While the ancient Egyptians’ hope for eternal life remained constant, their burial practices were ever-changing. Dr Margaret Maitland, senior curator at National Museums Scotland, charts the remarkable changes in Egyptian tombs and the extraordinary objects that filled them.

Evidence of ancient Egyptian belief in life after death emerged as early as c4500 BC. Over the following millennia, the Egyptians’ preparations for eternal life changed significantly, with different styles of tombs, evolving mummification practices, and a wide variety of funerary objects.

Before the bling of Tutankhamun
A History of Ancient Egypt: From the Great Pyramid to the Fall of the Middle Kingdom - John Romer
If you read the first volume of John Romer’s A History of Egypt, which traces events along the Nile from prehistory to the pyramid age, you will understand why he thinks Egyptology is not a science.

Bones Offer Clues to Health of Ancient Egypt’s Children

WARSAW, POLAND—Science & Scholarship in Poland reports that a team of scientists from the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw examined the bones of 29 children whose remains were recovered from shallow graves in the sand at the Saqqara necropolis. Most of them were three to five years of age, and had probably been weaned from breast milk.

Secrets of ancient Egypt REVEALED: New tombs unearthed with bones of babies and CROCODILES

An archeological expedition unearthed the lost treasures at Gebel el Silsila, roughly 430 miles south of Cairo, following a dig in a ancient sandstone quarry.

Located on the banks of the river Nile, the tombs are thought to date back 3,600 years to the reign of Pharaohs Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, with the former considered to be one of greatest leaders in Egypt’s ancient history.

Ancient Egyptian “pot burials” are not what they seem

Around 3,500 BCE, the ancient Egyptians began to practice a ritual that has long perplexed archaeologists. They buried their dead in recycled ceramic food jars similar to Greek amphorae.

For decades, scholars believed that only the poor used these large storage containers, and they did so out of necessity. But in a recent article for the journal Antiquity, Ronika Power and Yann Tristant debunk that idea. They offer a new perspective on pot burial.

Researchers Solve Mysteries of 3,500-Year-Old Egyptian Necropolis

The mysteries presented by the discovery of a 3,500-year-old Egyptian necropolis, including the identity of those buried within, may have been finally solved according to a new archaeology report.

According to a recent article in Haaretz, new finds at the Gebel el Silsila necropolis in the form of lavish grave goods show that the individuals buried within were not slaves or menial workers as was first thought. In fact, grave offerings such as crocodiles and cats indicate these individuals, who were likely miners that helped quarry sandstone for construction during the early Eighteenth Dynasty, might have worked hard but were held in high regard.

Ancient Egypt agriculture and the Nile from Storyboard That

Other than the Nile, Egypt is surrounded by tons of sand. The Nile River was a geographic feature that had a huge role on Ancient Egypt.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Perfume, Restoration, and Repatriation

Ptah-Sokar-Osiris and Treating Painted Surfaces

As a conservation intern working in the Artifact Lab, I was able to go shopping through shelves of Egyptian objects and scope out interesting treatment projects. A painted wood statue, depicting the composite god Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, immediately caught my eye. The figure has intricate painted designs decorating the mummiform figure and its base, as well as gilded details in the face and headdress.

Tut comes to Downton Abbey

Well, really to Highclere Castle, which is where Downton was filmed. Highclere was the home of Lord Carnarvon. Yes, THAT Lord Carnarvon was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The 8th Earl and Countess have opened a new Egyptian Exhibition throughout the cellars of the Castle to celebrate the 5th Earl’s achievements.

Egypt Welcomes Archeological Conservation, Exhibition With China
Photo: Akwe

Excavation works and artifact discoveries have recently flourished in Egypt and China, Tarek Tawfik, general director and head supervisor of the still under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The Middle East perfume that dates back 5,000 years
Photo by Irene de Rosen

If Paris is the capital of modern perfume then the Middle East, notably Mesopotamia and Egypt, were the hub in ancient times, stretching back 5,000 years.

Le Grand Musée du Parfum in Paris charts some of that period with maps showing the sources and routes of myrrh, olibanum (frankincense), cinnamon, saffron and

Ministry of Antiquities January Newsletter

Click on the link in the title to read it.

Teaching Egyptians to read ancient plants: Pioneering the field of archaeobotany in Egypt

Sherief Abdellatif Elshafaey Attia sits alone in a lab surrounded by cupboards filled with desiccated plants in the herbarium at Helwan University’s Department of Botany and Microbiology. He is currently the only Egyptian botanist in Egypt who examines millennia-old plant remains to understand the ancient Egyptian environment, its diets and food economies.

National Museum cracks Egyptian treasure riddle after 160 years

Missing fragments of an ancient Egyptian treasure have been reunited with the rest of the remains – 160 years after the item was donated to a Scottish museum. Experts said they have been able to shed new light on the origins of a perfume box believed to be around 3,400 years old thanks to the recovery of two lost pieces.

Five ancient Egyptian artefacts smuggled to US repatriated

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs repatriated on Monday five late pharaonic-era artefacts which had been smuggled to, and recently recovered in the US, General Supervisor of the Antiquities Repatriation Department Shabaan Abdel-Gawad told Ahram Online.

Swedish Mission discovers 12 new tombs

The Swedish mission from Lund University at Gebelel Silsila, south of Luxor, in Upper Egypt led by Dr. Maria Nilsson and John Ward, discovered 12 rock cut tombs from the reign of the New Kingdom kings Thutmose III and Amenhotep II.

Also Three crypts cut into the rock, two niches possibly used for offering, one tomb containing
multiple animal burials, and three individual infant burials, along with other associated material.

Son of  Sekhmet?