Friday, March 31, 2017

March Reads

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Synopsis:  The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman—or child.

As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.

My take: I am a BIG Margaret George fan. I have been a fan since reading The Autobiography of Henry VII with Notes by His Fool, Will Somers. She might be my favorite living writer. For sure, I acted like a fan girl when I met her (in the airport shuttle) at a Historical Novel Society conference. I squealed "YOU'RE MARGARET GEORGE!" as if she were unaware of the fact. It was then I first heard about this book, and I have been chomping at the bit. It was released the day after my birthday, the perfect present.

First things first: This story is going to be a two-part experience. Sigh. I have no idea when the second book will be coming out, but I'm already anticipating it. IF you buy this novel hoping to get some juicy, but prurient details about the second most hated Roman Emperor, don't hit the Buy with one Click button; this novel is more nuanced than that.

Yes, I said nuanced! George's Nero is a nuanced character. Her interpretation of Nero, the one we remember as fiddling as Rome burns, will make your head spin.  While you might not agree with her, this novel gets inside the head of Nero, which the historical facts can never do; it is historical fiction at its best as it fills in the details of what might have been.

In many respects this novel reminds of the Henry VIII novel. An unlikely member of a royal family moves into the lead position; initial idealism gives way to the realities of ruling; and then things get REALLY bad.

George sets up some interesting conflicts in Nero: a child separated from his mother at a young age, and then reunited under deadly circumstances with a hint of nepotism that both attracts and repulses him; the burden of SO many distinguished ancestors that might be impossible to live up;  a desire to be an artist, a charioteer, almost anything but Emperor, but well, destiny calls. Then, ask yourself if you would have been any different than Nero in the same situation.

Her attention to details of the Roman world are awe-inspiring. Read the afterword for a list of the sources for this book and be impressed.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed was George writing about Nero as a writer. It might give  us an insight into some of her own views on the subject. I particularly enjoyed a scene in which Nero puts together a writing critique group so that they can all improve their writing skills. Hmm. It's giving me ideas.

The scenes involving the birth and death of a child are remarkably tender and captures the experience of any parent, imperial or not. And finally, his obsession with his wife Poppea is a remarkable insight into the nature of obsession.

So, treat yourself to a trip to first century imperial Rome and keep an open mind. You might learn something about the human condition.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Synopsis:  A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero's quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will?

In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge.

My take: If you're going to retell a classic, this is the way to do it. I am a fan of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart series, but haven't been big on her other works. This novel changes my perception, and I will be looking at some of her other books.

First of all, let's get this out of the way: you don't need to know Shakespeare's Tempest to understand this book. I've had a spotty relation with the play since I took the world's most frantic Shakespeare course in which we read 20 of the 37 plays attributed to him, including Titus Andronicus.  The professor promised that we would understand everything we needed to know about Shakespeare after we read The Tempest. AND we ran out of time and didn't read it.

As I said, Miranda and Caliban can stand alone. The character development and world building are marvelous. For the first time, I can actually visualize the island and the spirits, although Carey doesn't pound the descriptions to death. The novel is told from two points of view, and each has a distinctive voice. Although it is clearly marked when Caliban is speaking and when Miranda is, you will know just by reading what they have to say. I found this to be particularly adept in the early pages when Miranda is still a little girl and Caliban a nonspeaking, illiterate "beast."

At it's heart, Shakespeare's play is a study of what it means to be human and what is the nature of revenge. Carey picks up this theme and explores it in loving and lyrical detail for 350 pages, giving voice to characters who are blank slates in Shakespeare. It also is a love story that builds to the tragic conclusion worthy of Romeo and Juliet,.

Midnight Star (Vampire Girl 2) by Karpov Kinrade

Synopsis:  I was an ordinary girl, living an ordinary life, until I sold my soul to save my mother. Now, I am forced to choose between my heart and my conscience.
Either way, someone I love will die.

My take: And. . . I'm done with this series. Last month, I was pleasantly surprised by the freshness of this tale. This month, not so much. This really feels like a kitchen sink kind of book. The authors throw in a lot of stuff that seems to be there for no other purpose than to keep the reader interested. Naturally, the lovers, Ari and Fen, need to be separated.  . . again, but it seems contrived. I saw the gay plot twist coming a mile away. The pacing dragged with lots of unnecessary (and trite) descriptions. The plot revisited a lot of characters from the first book, presumably to remind us that they still existed, because the visits often didn't move the story forward. And finally, the cute little dragon named Yami was a little too saccharine for my taste and showed up predictably on time as a big, bad dragon. Clearly, I am alone in this opinion, because the second book is still rating five stars on Amazon.

The Gender Game (Volume 1) by Bella Forrest

Synopsis:  For fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent
comes a story like no other...

A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates's world by gender.
Women rule the East. Men rule the West.

Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus.

Ever since the disappearance of her beloved younger brother, Violet's life has been consumed by an anger she struggles to control. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now she has been sentenced to death for her crimes.

My take: I'm doing a really poor job in keeping my vow to not start series. An ad appeared in my Facebook feed compared this book to  The Hunger Game, and it was on sale. It was a good, quick weekend read, but it wasn't The Hunger Games and suffers from the comparison. If you have a lazy weekend coming up and you have $3.99 to spend on the Kindle edition, you could do much worse.

The main character Violet suffers from what is becoming a stereotype in this genre: the hot-headed, kick-ass female protagonist. The plot hits the major points for showing her anger and call to action, but you don't exactly feel it. Then, she goes to Patrus to save her own life and to win the opportunity to see the "beloved" brother. The main problem with this novel, I think, is that the three main characters, Violet, her husband and partner in bringing down the patriarchy, and a hunk named Viggo that she falls in love with (of course) seem to live in a world not occupied by very many people. When you're in Matrus, you don't see any male characters and in Patrus you see almost no women. But to be perfectly clear, there aren't that many women you meet in Matrus and almost no other non-stereotypical males in Patrus. Therefore, it becomes almost impossible to determine whether the characters are acting in accordance with societies's rules or not. There seems to be a lot of wandering around in both lands. And like all not-so-great dystopian novels, there is a disconnect between super-technology and somewhat primitive conditions.

The ending, however, was a complete and total plot twist that I didn't see it coming at all. I'm not sure if it was a good thing (I think so), a bad thing (as several other reviewers said), or just a thing.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Synopsis:  On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, a series that has become part of the canon of classic literature, drawing readers of all ages into a magical land with unforgettable characters for over fifty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

My take: I'm reading this book for the Pardon my Youth, a book club for adults who like reading YA.
While I have been a big fan of the many Narnia films (particularly the spectacular BBC series from the late 80's), I'm not so enthusiastic about C.S. Lewis in print form. Suffice it to say, I did not approach this book with unmitigated enthusiasm. Although the writing and style are probably not going to win over a lot of contemporary readers, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Synopsis:  Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

My take: Alice in Wonderland for the 21st Century! I was expecting a take on Shakepeare's Tempest (for no particular reason except my own twisted logic), so I was pleasantly surprised at the freshness of the plot (as in notTempest). The Scarlett character's journey was very satisfying; and I, for one, was happy that she wasn't the typical kick-ass female hero who has become so de rigueur lately. The plot kept twisting and didn't telegraph the ending. The characters were intriguing and fresh. The world building was solid. I particularly enjoyed how Scarlett experienced emotions as colors.

Apparently there was a lot of hype about this book, which I missed. I'm glad, because I might not have enjoyed it as much if I'd built up a bunch of expectations. Coming on it fresh with no expectations, I can honestly say it was one of the best reads of the year so far.

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Synopsis:  In brilliant poetic prose Bright Air Black brings us aboard the ship Argo for its epic return journey across the Black Sea from Persia’s Colchis—where Medea flees her home and father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. Vann’s reimagining of this ancient tale offers a thrilling, realist alternative to the long held notions of Medea as monster or sorceress. We witness with dramatic urgency Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

Atmospheric and spellbinding, Bright Air Black is an indispensable, fresh and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea’s story ever told.

My take: Oh, PUH-leeze. I. Just. Could. Not. Finish. This. Book. 

Just as Miranda and Caliban is the way to retell a classic, this novel is an object lesson in how not to do it.

Medea is one of my favorite stories in Greek mythology. The tale is so rich, compelling, and full of psychological Sturm und Drang. I have happily sat through really bad college productions of  Euripides's play and even worse Hollywood versions of it. So, the fact that I could only read about a third of this novel before throwing my Kindle across the room says something.

First of all, the prose is the most deadly shade of purple that I've read in many a long year. I think it's supposed to poetic. Or as one reviewer put "it starts off lyrical but quickly grows repetitive.

Then, there's the mixing in of Egyptian mythology for no apparent reason. Me, I think the world turns around Egyptian mythology, and even I couldn't make it relate.

Finally, the novel is psychologically shallow with all the emotional resonance of a snow pea. Medea is stereotyped as a rather shallow barbarian, or in Jason's monotonously repetitive words, “bitter woman, butcher, [and] barbarian.”  In the laborious third of it that I read, Medea constantly (and I do mean constantly) reflects on how she is wallowing in blood and how much it stinks. This in no way create  insight, and one almost wishes that Medea turned her witch craft on Mr. Vann for creating this monstrosity of a portrait. She deserves better.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Mummy makeover

Sudan claims their pyramids are 2,000 years older than Egypt's

The Sudanese Minister of Information, Ahmed Bilal Othman, claimed on Sunday that the Meroƫ Pyramids of Sudan are 2,000 years older than Egypt's pyramids. The Sudanese government is working to prove this to the entire world, he added.

These claims stirred up outrage among Egyptians, particularly history experts. Zahi Hawas, the former minister of antiquities, said the Egyptian pyramids are the oldest, especially the pyramid of Djoser which dates back more than 5,000 years.

Secrets of what ancient mummies look like under their wrappings are finally being revealed

A special exhibit that's on display at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York allows people to see 18 mummies in person, some of which have not been seen since Chicago's World Fair over 100 years ago.

The Grand Egyptian Museum – A Bridge between Ages

The Grand Egyptian Museum will be situated adjacent to the Giza Plateau within two kilometres of the Giza pyramids. The GEM project is one of the largest and most significant in process globally. Its total land area extends to 491,000 square metres, with theGrand Egyptian Museum Waleed Abdel-Fattah buildings taking up 168,000 square metres. Once completed it will be a world-leading scientific, historical and archaeological study centre. The museum is set to open in May 2018.

$100M in ancient artifacts shipped from Egypt and Turkey to the U.S. in 2016

The artifacts, totaling about $100 million between the two countries, were imported “for consumption” and not for temporary display in a museum, the documents say. Most of the artifacts were shipped to New York City, where numerous antiquities dealers, auction houses and art galleries are based. It can be difficult to determine whether a shipment of artifacts was recently looted, law-enforcement officials told Live Science.


An ancient Egyptian mummy stored in Aberdeen has been given a makeover for an exhibition abroad.

Mistress of the House Ta Khar will be going on show near Munich on Friday after being shipped out from the University of Aberdeen’s museum collection.

But before facing the public, the embalmed body was put through a makeover to make sure she looked her best.

Little-known but greatly feared, the Sea People raided ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age

The Sea Peoples were a mixed group of raiders of unknown origin who raided the ancient Egyptian coastline and the eastern Mediterranean Sea from 1276 to 1178 BCE.

Even today, we don’t know much about this group of ancient seafaring people, other than what is found in records of the places they visited and attacked. It has often been theorized that they came from Anatolia or Southern Europe, and it is thought that they invaded Canaan, Syria, Anatolia, Cyprus, and Egypt at the end of the Bronze Age. The names given to these people are Lukka, Sherden, Sheklesh, Akawasha, and Tursha.

Spanish archaeologists discover an intact 4000 years old tomb in Aswan

Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, Head of Ancient Egyptian Department announced the discovery of an intact burial in Aswan.

The Spanish Archaeological Mission in Qubbet el-Hawa, West Aswan, has discovered an intact burial chamber. The discovered burial belongs to the brother of one of the most important governors of the 12th Dynasty (middle Kingdom), Sarenput II.

Can a long-lost Egyptian colossus save ancient Heliopolis?

The colossus was discovered in Matariya, a northeast suburb of Cairo. Now a densely packed area of apartment buildings, for thousands of years it was part of one of ancient Egypt’s greatest cities, better known today by its Greek name: Heliopolis, ‘City of the Sun’ (not to be confused with modern Heliopolis, a couple of kilometres to its east). From the beginning of Egyptian history, ancient Heliopolis was the main centre of Egypt’s sun cult, where priests worshipped the god Re, and developed myths proclaiming his temple to be built on the first land that rose from the floodwaters after creation.

Barnsley debut three original exhibitions by Joann Fletcher that unlock the hidden stories of Egypt’s captivating past

Barnsley Museums will celebrate the history of ancient Egypt this autumn as three of its five attractions host exhibitions on the theme, each designed and guest curated by Professor Joann Fletcher, award-winning Egyptologist.

Egyptian ritual images from the Neolithic period
 Credit: David Sabel

Egyptologists at the University of Bonn discovered rock art from the 4th millennium BC during an excavation at a necropolis near Aswan in Egypt. The paintings were engraved into the rock in the form of small dots and depict hunting scenes like those found in shamanic depictions. They may represent a link between the Neolithic period and Ancient Egyptian culture. The discovery earned the scientists the award for one of the current ten most important archeological discoveries in Egypt from the Minister of Antiquities in Cairo.

Unraveling the Mystery of Who Lies Beneath the Cloth

Mummy No. 30007, currently residing at the American Museum of Natural History, is a showstopper. She’s known as the Gilded Lady, for good reason: Her coffin, intricately decorated with linen, a golden headdress and facial features, has an air of divinity. She’s so well preserved that she looks exactly how the people of her time hoped she would appear for eternity. To contemporary scientists, however, it’s what they don’t see that is equally fascinating: Who was this ancient woman, and what did she look like when she was alive?

Mummies’ Review: Using Science to Unwrap History

Of all that has been imagined of the afterlife, probably nothing comes close to the scene at a new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, in which unburied dead of the past 7,000 years keep posthumous company with each other, laid out in display cases, coffined or wrapped or half unwrapped, accompanied by vessels of preserved organs or relics like a sewing bobbin. One body is bundled in coarse cloth and held together with rope, another is encased in gilt magnificence; one woman is bound with two children, another corpse is left with only a head after ancient grave robbers hastily tore it apart looking for jewelry; and these remains share space with a preserved ibis, crocodile and cat.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week Part II: Weevils, Mummies, Sinuhe, & Textiles

There's a lot of news coming in the past couple of weeks, so I'm doing a bonus edition this week to keep up.

Giving a voice to ancient Egyptian poetry
Ostracon with the final lines of The Tale of Sinuhe. Thebes, 19th Dynasty.

How do you capture the ancient resonances of phrases that mean nothing to modern audiences? How do you invest them with meaning and emotion without a set of explanatory footnotes that kill all spontaneity? Oxford University professor Richard Bruce Parkinson worked with actress and writer Barbara Ewing to record a dramatic reading of one of the finest works of Egyptian poetry The Tale of Sinuhe.

Gilded Lady' and Other Exquisite Mummies on Display in NYC
Photographer John Weinstein, Copyright 2015 the Field Museum, A115214d_035B

An Egyptian mummy named the Gilded Lady may be more than 2,000 years old, but visitors can gaze into her brown eyes and admire her dark, curly hair at "Mummies," an exhibit opening Monday (March 20) at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City.

Patrons can't see the Gilded Lady's actual face, of course, but they can look at her exquisitely preserved mummy, including a gleaming gold-painted mask. Nearby is a life-size plastic replica of her skull, created from 3D-printed images of a computed tomography (CT) scan of the mummy's head.

Uncovering a colourful past
A colour reconstruction by illustrator Claire Thorne of the mummy and jars scene found on the outer coffin of Nestawedjat (EA22813A), based on the information provided by multispectral imaging and analysis.

The hidden colours of an ancient Egyptian coffin are revealed through a combination of analysis and non-invasive multispectral imaging techniques. Here Joanne Dyer and Nicola Newman shed light on the process.


The newly inaugurated National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) was added to Egypt's long list of exceptional museums last week. The museum is located in the ancient Fustat city, the location of the original city of Cairo, behind the famous Amr Ibn El Aas Mosque, according to the Museum's recently launched Facebook page.


Dynastic Egypt united in approximately 3100 BCE. It remained an independent land for much of its 3000 year history, before being absorbed into the Roman Empire in 30 BCE.

During this Dynastic Period, Egypt was able to recover from repeated civil wars and occasional foreign rule, and develop its military power to control a vast empire stretching from Sudan to Syria. The military success shows that Egypt understood the value of an efficient fighting force. Propaganda showing Pharaoh riding into battle standing atop a chariot while his defeated enemies flee before him is one of Egypt’s most enduring images. But how accurate is it? What do we know about the realities of weapons and warfare in ancient Egypt?

Unravel Egypt's history anew at the Textile Museum
Ancient Egyptian patterns (Photo courtsey of the Egyptian Textile museum)

As you walk along Islamic Cairo's famous El-Muezz Street, you will come across a grand Ottoman-era sabil, or building housing a public water fountain.

The sabil of Mohamed Ali is now host to the Egyptian Textile Museum, which narrates the history of the textile industry from the Pharaonic era until today.

New Kingdom mummy mask recovered from France
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities

After four years out of Egypt, a stolen and illegally smuggled mummy mask has been returned from France.

Shabaan Abdel Gawad, the general supervisor of the Antiquities Repatriation Sector of the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the mask dates to the New Kingdsom and is carved in wood and depicts human facial features. It was stolen in 2013 along with other artefacts from the Elephantine Antiquities Galleries in Aswan, when it was subject to looting.

Ancient Egyptian bronze cat salvaged from bin

A rare artefact from ancient Egypt nearly ended up in the bin, as its owners cleared out a relative's house in Cornwall thinking it was junk.
Luckily, local auctioneer David Hay salvaged the 2,500 year-old Egyptian cat bronze cat from the bin realising its significance.
Jon Kay explains how the cat made its way to Penzance.

If It's Saint Patrick's Day, It's Time for My Annual Post on the Links between Coptic Egypt and Early Irish Christianity

Every year since 2009, I have reposted or linked to my original 2009 post on the faint but apparently real links between the Coptic Church of Egypt, where monasticism was invented, and the early Irish church.

It's the sort of thing you do when you're a specialist on Egyptian history also named Michael Collins Dunn, but it's also been a popular post. Herewith, with some added illustrations, corrections and updates, the original text:

Watch: 3D tomb of Egyptian treasures set up under Marischal College

Did you know there’s an ancient Egyptian tomb hidden beneath Marischal College?

Well, that’s not strictly true.

But digital artists have created a virtual tomb which shows off objects from the University of Aberdeen Museums collection.

Photograph of the week

British Museum scientists found beetles in 3,000-year-old Egyptian bread! Here’s a 75 x magnification from a scanning electron microscope.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ancient Egypt this Week: The statue, the Titanic, and the photographs

Egypt’s Oldest Papyri Detail Great Pyramid Construction

The oldest-known examples of Egyptian writing, which describe the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in ancient hieroglyphics, have been placed on public display as part of a new exhibition at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

Bolton Museum has released new designs as part of its multi-million pound transformation to house its Egyptian treasures

NEW images have been released showing how visitors will enjoy a virtual journey through Ancient Egypt to discover the hidden treasures of Bolton Museum.

Fresh designs, created from feedback from the public, show how people will be transported to the ancient land through modern technology — as well as a striking installation of Egyptian artefacts suspended form the ceiling.

Festival of Drunkenness: A Unique Ancient Egypt Tradition

Once upon a time, Egyptians lived together with their gods, but sadly, the people fell out with Ra, their greatest ruler, who then instructed his goddess Hathor to destroy all mankind.

Hathor transformed herself into a lion and started killing human beings, who had escaped to the desert, and drank their blood.

"In Egypt: Travellers and Photographers 1850-1900" opens at Huis Marseille
Francis Frith (1822-1898), The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, 1856-1859. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-FF80272.

AMSTERDAM.- This spring, Huis Marseille will host a major exhibition about 19th century photography in Egypt. Join us for a trip along the Nile in the footsteps of the many travellers and photographers who rediscovered the country in the 19th century. The exhibition consists entirely of objects from Dutch collections and offers a diverse portrayal of both the country and photography. From the lively streets and monumental mosques of Cairo to the impressive monuments in faroff Nubia, long before they were ‘evacuated’ by UNESCO during the building of the Aswan dam (1958-1970). From the serene early photos taken by Maxime Du Camp during his trip through the Orient with Gustave Flaubert, to the spontaneous, unembellished amateur photos that Jan Herman Insinger took during his travels in ‘the land of the Nile cataracts’, in what is now the far south of Egypt and northern Sudan.

The Search for Senenmut

The supposed success with finding King Hatshepsut has brought to light many new questions about the location of the mummy of her foremost courtier Senenmut. The thought that he may be among the unidentified royal mummies is intriguing. Though the finding of Hatshepsut was made by the presence of a tooth there is still a lot of faith being placed in DNA perhaps not with mummified tissue but with bone or teeth.

Pharaonic relics submerged with Titanic must be recovered: Egyptologist

Egyptologist Bassam al-Shammaa has called for pharaonic antiquities that sank with the Titanic to be recovered.

At a symposium entitled “Egypt: the Future of the Past”, held during events of the Damanhour second book fair, Shammaa explained that a woman called Margaret Touban, who survived the sinking, possessed a small Egyptian statue as well as a container of pharaonic statues that sank with the ship.


Don't even pretend you don't know what statue. This has been one hot and fast-changing story. I've gathered a gazillion links so  you can see how we went from Ramses to Psamtik.
(Photo: Nevine Al-Aref)

Newly discovered Matariya colossus is probably of King Psammetich 

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany said on Thursday that the royal colossus discovered last week in Matariya district, Cairo is probably a statue of 26 dynasty king Psammetich I not King Ramses II as believed earlier.

Hieroglyphic signs and initial studies carried out on fragments of the colossus suggest that it belongs to king Psammetich I(664-610 BC)-26 Dynasty, El-Enany said.

The discovered colossus belongs to Psamtik I (with two videos)
After many speculations of the owner of the colossus, The discovered colossus belongs to Psamtik I of 26th Dynasty.

It was thought it would belong to Ramses II as it was unearthed from the site of the temple of Ramses II in Mataria.

Newly discovered Matariya statue is not Ramsis II, identity to be announced

Initial studies on the colossus lifted from a muddy pit in Matariya and transferred to the Egyptian Museum today reveal that it is not of King Ramses II as originally thought, the Ministry of Antiquities told Ahram Online.

New discovery reveals grandeur of Oun temple in ancient Heliopolis
The newly discovered statue suggested to be for King Ramses II. Photo by Magdi Abdel Sayed

A quartzite colossus possibly of Ramses II and limestone bust of Seti II were discovered at the ancient Heliopolis archaeological site in Cairo

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany witnessed on Thursday the lifting of two newly discovered 19th dynasty royal statues from a pit at the Souq Al-Khamis district in the Al-Matariya area of greater Cairo.

The statues were found in parts in the vicinity of the King Ramses II temple in the temple precinct of ancient Heliopolis, also known as “Oun,” by a German-Egyptian archaeological mission.

The following graphic of the broken statue provides some facts. from the Papyrus Museum Facebook page.  And just a few more links if you haven't had enough yet.

Several of the articles have videos showing the exacavation of the site. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad about the use of a backhoe loader (as some have), you might want to read Zahi Hawass fires back at criticism of colossus' salvation.

Photo of the week

A lovely photo from the  Facebook page of the t3.way Projects, showing XX during the building of the Cairo Museum.

Here is the same piece today.

And a closer view.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Books about Ancient Egypt: Chaos of the Stars

YA romantic suspense via Neil Gaiman's American Gods 
(with Isis and Osiris content)

First, let's set the boundaries. . . .

I read almost anything about ancient Egypt and everything that even remotely touches on Isis and Osiris. I call it research for my own novel.       :-)

That being said, I'm remarkably picky. A whiff of a camel plodding by the Pyramids or a description of those tombs baking in the sand under the hot Egyptian sun as cool and shady (ok, they ARE shady), and you've lost me. And need I mention there are so many ways to go horribly wrong with Egyptian mythology?

That being said, Kiersten White's The Chaos of Stars delighted me!

Like Gaiman's American Gods, it satisfies our prurient interest on what happens to the protagonists of the world's first great love story (Isis and Osiris) 6000 years after the fact. From the POV of a teenage girl who just happens to be one of their many human offspring. All born to keep their worship alive. Kiersten White had me at hello!

Because really, how do you cope when the Great Mother is your mother? Set alternately in Abydos, Egypt and San Diego, CA, Isadora, their human daughter struggles with life, love, the modern world, and ancient enemies in a way that kept me turning the pages into the wee hours of the morning.

White's mythological research is top-notch. I had no quibble with her using the stereotype of Isis as the interfering Mother and the usual depiction of Osiris as the feckless Father. What teenager doesn't think of her parents like that, and it worked for the character arc of this novel. I didn't figure out the bad guy until the very end, which always pleases me. There was a "surprise" twist about the love interest that wasn't that surprising, but it gave me hope this novel actually might be the beginning of a series.

I highly recommend this book.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ancient Egypt this week: Sir Wallis Budge's Curtains

Study, conservation and display of a rare pair of curtains from Late Antique Egypt

An exceptionally well preserved pair of curtains is amongst the remarkable objects displayed in the exhibition, Egypt: faith after the pharaohs. They are said to be from Akhmim in Upper Egypt and date from the 6th–7th centuries AD. Acquired for the British Museum by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge in 1897, they are displayed here for only the second time in the Museum’s history. Made of fine linen and colourful wool, the curtains measure more than 2.7m in height by 2.1m in width, and provide a unique example of complete large scale furnishings from Late Antique Egypt.

Mummy shroud found after 80 years in museum collection
Photo National Museum of Scotland

A unique, full-length mummy shroud which is over 2,000 years old has been discovered after about 80 years in a museum collection. It will be displayed for the first time in The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland on 31 March.
The shroud, which dates to about 9BC, was found during "an in-depth assessment" of Egyptian collections.

Grand Egyptian Museum to open in mid-2018: Antiquities Minister

The Grand Egyptian Museum will be opened by mid-2018, Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anany declared, adding the ministry needs LE2 billion to open 20 museums that are closed in several governorates.

The Grand Egyptian museum, which is under construction, will be one of the most important museums in Egypt, housing more than 100,000 artifacts from all pharaonic periods.

Recovering Egyptian artefacts from overseas is not in Egypt's favour, says its former antiquities minister
Photo credit Studio Sebert ©

Egypt’s former antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty has called for a change of policy relating to Egyptian artefacts traded abroad.

Egyptian embassies and The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities have challenged the sale of many artefacts, that had been in collections for decades, often without providing evidence to show that they were stolen.

The minister, speaking at a seminar in Alexandria, said artefacts abroad can benefit the country as they serve as marketing and advertising and in most cases their ownership should not be contested.

Brooklyn Museum Dig Diary for March 3

We arrived in Luxor on March 1 for a short study season at the Mut Precinct – and were just in time to catch a parade celebrating youth from all Egypt’s provinces. This group is performing a traditional stick-dance called “Tahtib” that began as a martial art form and dates back to the Old Kingdom.

Office Hours: A feminist Egyptologist talks ancient, current female political power
(Photo courtesy of Mikel Healey)

Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptian art and architecture, and serves as the chair of the Department of Near Eastern Language and Cultures. Her accomplishments include producing the archaeology television series “Out of Egypt” on the Discovery Channel, serving as the co-curator of “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and writing “The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt.” She has a verified Facebook page, on which she regularly shares articles on a variety of subjects, not limited to only Egyptology.

(Image: University of Manchester)

Artificial toes from ancient Egypt may have been functional prosthetics.

Sixty-six statues of Sekhmet 'THE POWERFUL ONE'

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have discovered 66 statues of an Egyptian war goddess believed to have been warding off evil from Amenhotep III’s temple in Luxor, Egypt..

Amenhotep III’s reign, believed to have been between 1386 to 1349 BC, is regarded as the peak of Egypt’s prosperity, power and splendour.
Photo of the week

Whoa. The colors are almost psychedelic or maybe a rock and roll poster.

Part of Ancient Egyptian Glass Mosaic Wadjet eye inlay, made from two halves, Ptolemaic period, c. 1st century, B.C.E; Now in the Corning Museum of Glass, NY (via Dean Krafft/Flickr).

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