Monday, February 12, 2018

Ancient Egypt February 12


With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, today’s post takes a look behind the scenes, delving into the archives to tell the story of an unlikely couple, whose tireless work shaped Manchester Museum’s Egyptology collection, and proving that you can find love in the most unexpected places … and that sometimes, opposites really do attract!

Egyptian ibis mummy holds clues to crooks behind ancient clothing caper

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has discovered an ancient Egyptian scroll hidden inside a vessel containing a mummified ibis. In the lengthy text, which are business notes, the scribe names three men he accuses of theft. It dates from around 1100BC.

Janet May Buchanan Scotland's forgotten heroine of Egyptology
Cover of the catalogue put together by Janet May Buchanan, 1912. ©CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Women in Victorian and Edwardian times made a considerable contribution to British Egyptology. The accolades and academic positions, however, were dominated by men. It was a time when female emancipation was the largest domestic issue in Britain and the politics of most Egyptologists in Britain still mirrored the anti-suffrage views of the majority of contemporary society. Although the contributions to the subject by a few women of this period have received the credit they rightfully deserve, most still remain unsung heroines.

All You Need Is Love: Modern Themes in Ancient Egyptian Love Poems
The site of Deir el-Medina; its unusual location has led to a very good rate of preservation(photograph by Kingtut, distributed under a CC A-SA 3.0 license).

It is easy to get distracted by the largest and most obvious material from ancient Egypt – vast tombs, colossal statues and beautiful jewellery. This can lead to a disconnect in our understanding of what ancient Egyptian life was really like – how ‘normal’ people felt, behaved, and acted. One of the ways that scholars try to connect with ancient Egypt at a personal, individual level is through the translation and understanding of literature written by ancient Egyptians themselves; and on Valentine’s Day, what better way is there to do that than to read some ancient Egyptian love poetry?

Edwardian aristocrats went to Egypt hoping for glamour — but they got dysentery instead
The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, 1910 CREDIT: BUYENLARGE 
Was Egypt the first place ever to have been mourned by the seasoned traveller as “ruined”? At the close of the 1900s, a leisured clergyman and Oxford Professor of Assyriology called the Rev Archibald Sayce, who had spent the previous 18 winters cruising the Nile, sold his beloved “dahabiya” – a kind of houseboat, later incarnations of which will be familiar from Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile – and left Egypt, as “life on the Nile had ceased to be the ideal existence it once was... The smoke of the steamer [had usurped] the sights and scents of the fields”.

Artistic Licence: I was here… in Ancient Egypt
Hieroglyphic graffito of the scribe Ashakhet in the Ptah temple at Karnak. Photograph: CNRS-CFEETK/Pauline Batard

Names, dates, bad jokes, life advice: we find graffiti almost everywhere in modern life.

But not many people realise that scrawling on walls isn’t anything new. At least three thousand years ago, in the dusty heat of Ancient Egyptian temples, people did the very same thing.

Pyramids of the Kingdom of Kush – Map

Image Credit : Valerian Guillo

The Kingdom of Kush was an ancient African kingdom located in Nubia, a region along the Nile rivers encompassing the areas between what is today central Sudan and southern Egypt.

The region was home to three periods of Kushite development through antiquity. The first had its capital based at Kerma (2600–1520 BCE) which was Nubia’s first centralised state with an indigenous form of architecture and burial customs.

Newly discovered buildings reveal clues to ancient Egyptian dynasties (video)

Photo by

G. Marouard

The archaeological excavation of an ancient Egyptian city at Tell Edfu in southern Egypt, led by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, has discovered well-preserved settlement remains dating to an important turning point in ancient Egyptian history, when the pharaohs began to renew interest in the provincial regions in the far south of their kingdom.

For more on this story, see: Ancient Egyptian beer-making facilities found by archaeologists (video).

Scans to shed light on identity of mummified Egyptian baby on display at Maidstone Museum

Scans are to shed more light on the identity of a mummified Egyptian baby – one of the youngest ever discovered – which for centuries was believed to be the remains of a bird.

The rare relic, part of the collection at Maidstone Museum, underwent more tests after it was found to be the body of a miscarried foetus, and not a 2,300-year-old hawk as originally thought.

Picture of the Week

A picture showing some workers weaving linen from the Egyptian Textile Museum.