Monday, May 28, 2018

Ancient Egypt May 28

Agatha Christie: world’s first historical whodunnit was inspired by 4,000 year-old letters

When the ancient Egyptian priest and landowner Heqanakhte wrote a series of rather acerbic letters to his extended family sometime during the 12th Dynasty (1991-1802BC), he could not have known that he was creating the framework around which the British crime writer Agatha Christie (1890-1976) would, some 4,000 years later, weave one of the world’s first historical crime novels.

Death Comes as the End (1944) is the only one of Christie’s novels not to be set in the 20th century and not to feature any European characters. The death of a priest’s concubine sets off a series of murders within the family and, as in Christie’s more familiar 20th-century whodunnits, the scene is soon littered with bodies. The book is due to be adapted for the screen by the BBC in 2019.

How did King Tutankhamun become a household name?

Out of all Ancient Egyptians, one Pharaoh remains a well-known figure today. And his continued prominence may be because of an an influential museum exhibition nearly fifty years ago. Treasures of Tutankhamun was an incredibly popular exhibition at the British Museum that promoted King Tut into public consciousness. ABC Overnights speaks to Secretary of the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society and Deputy Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine Sarah Griffiths who saw the exhibition when she was a young girl.

Graduate student unearths ancient Egyptian life stories from burial texts

A UCLA student discovered that ancient Egyptians used material objects to construct their social identities just as people do today.

Marissa Stevens, a graduate student in the department of Near Eastern languages and cultures, studied how ancient Egyptians used funerary papyri to convey social status and personalities by examining social documents buried with the dead. Stevens presented her research May 3 at the final round of the University of California Grad Slam, an annual contest in which UC graduate students present their research in just three minutes.

Collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts seized in Naples, Italy

The artefacts had been stolen from illegal excavation sites in Egypt.

Police in Naples, Italy have seized a number of parcels filled with artefacts from several countries, including ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Tel Al-Amarna Visitors' Centre in Minya to receive upgrade

The Ministry of Antiquities has begun a project to develop the Amarna Visitors' Centre in Minya in partnership with the University of Cambridge's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

The project is titled Delivering Sustainable Heritage Strategies for Rural Egypt: Community and Archaeology at Tel El-Amarna, and is funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund organised by the British Council and the Science and Technology Development Fund, according to Mostafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities at Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities.

Skeleton Found At Late Roman Fortress In Egypt Reveals Violent Death

At the Late Roman era fortress of Hisn al-Bab between ancient Egypt and Nubia, archaeologists recovered the skeleton of a young man who met a violent death and who was left exposed where he fell after the fort was destroyed. His remains may hold the key to understanding a previously undocumented battle.

Egypt: Old Kingdom by Clarus Victoria is now available on Steam!

Strategy simulator of the Great Pyramids construction period, where you take your path from the unification of Egyptian tribes to the foundation of The First Empire.

Deep historical research and stylized graphics - these two are the main features of Egypt Old Kingdom, the game made by Clarus Victoria Studio in cooperation with egyptologists from CESRAS (Center for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Science).

The player will lead a small group of Egyptians, who came to the Lower Egypt to found a new settlement. All he has is a minimal stock of food, a handful of people and a few soldiers as a protection from threats and wild animals.

Intriguing Gold Coin and Other Treasures Uncovered in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the remains of a huge, red, brick building — likely the remnants of a Roman bath — as well as a mountain of treasures, including a statue of a ram and a gold coin featuring King Ptolemy III, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Archaeologists discovered previously unknown hieroglyphic inscriptions in Egypt

Polish scientists discovered dozens of previously unknown hieroglyphic inscriptions on the rocks near the temple of Hathor at Gebelein, Southern Egypt. The inscriptions containing prayers to deities had been made by pilgrims or priests, the researchers say.

"The temple scribe Senebiu adores Hathor Lady of Gebelein" - reads one of the inscriptions discovered by a team of Polish scientists working at Gebelein. Like a few dozen others, it was engraved on a rock surface near the 3.5 thousand years old rock-cut chapel of the goddess Hathor.

Video of the week

Picture of the week

New Amenhotep III Statues at Kom El Hitan. Luxor's West Bank.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds

I recently saw this exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, the first city in America to host it. It will be in St. Louis through September 9. World-renowned underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team discovered  two lost cities of ancient Egypt, which were submerged under the Mediterranean Sea for over a thousand years.

The exhibit is quite well organized and provides ample room for a mass of people.  I went on one of the museum's free days, and every entrance time slot was full, yet, I never felt pushed or crowded. All in all, one of the best exhibits I've seen in some time.

I took several photos, and I hope you enjoy some of them.

While waiting to enter the exhibit, you can study a mural of what they believe the submerged city looked like. The temple looks a lot like Edfu to me, so it might just be their fantasy.

When I visited Egypt in 2006 and 2007, I saw some of artifacts in the exhibit. At the time, they were bringing them up and "stashing" them in a Roman amphitheater in Alexandria. I remember seeing statues resembling the ones shown here, although they were rather crusted in lichen so I can't be sure they were the same ones.

The first statue is of the goddess Isis, if memory serves.

The second statue is of Arsinoe II, which is a magnificent example of Graeco-Egyptian art. The drapery of her dress is amazing. This sculpture might have been a cult statue of Arsinoe in the Serapeum of Canopus

Now, let's get our steles on. It's almost impossible for me to say which one I liked best, although I'm tilted toward the young Horus standing on a crocodile (Set?) and holding snakes in each fist.

I found these statues, both of Osiris, remarkable because they are made of wood, not stone or marble. Only after I read the information and pressed my nose to the glass did I see the wood grain.

And speaking of Osiris. . . . the mysteries of Osiris supposedly became less mysterious based on these findings. I bought the exhibition catalog, which supposedly explains all this, but I have not yet read it. Nonetheless, there were plenty of Osirion pieces, and here are a few of them.

  1. This statue called the Awakening of Osiris has long been a favorite of mine and was not found in the Mediterranean.
  2. Osiris Vegetans Figure in a Falcon-headed Coffin (800-600 BC). This figure is also called a corn-mummy and was formed from earth, Nile flood water, and seeds and then swaddled in linen. They were sprinkled with water until the seeds grew, which symbolized both the rebirth of Osiris and the annual regeneration of Egypt. 
  3. Osiris on Funeral and Revival Bed (1773 -1650 BC) found at Abydos represents the moment when Isis in the form of a kite (bird of prey) revives him with the breath of her wings. The etching behind the statue shows the same story, which I believe is from a carving from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. 
  4. Osiris-Canopus (AD 100-200) is marble sculpture, which was produced after Egypt  became part of the Roman Empire. 

Horus, Taweret, and the Apis Bull represent the gods as sacred animals.

These beautiful fragments are the god Bes and a sacred ram of the god Amun.

And finally, the most whimsical piece in the exhibition, a commemorative column with a votive foot from the Temple of Ras el-Soda. The temple was dedicated to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The Greek inscription reads "Flung from his carriage by his horses at the spot, Isidoros, restored to health by divine intervention, in exchange for  his feet." Isidoros dedicated this sculpture to the "Blessed," which was a name frequently used to describe Isis.

For the most recent article on the exhibition, see Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds in Antiquities and the Arts Weekly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ancient Egypt May 14 & 21

Bob Brier and the Hunt for the New York Obelisk

Bob Brier is arguably the world's most famous Egyptologist. Professor at Long Island University in New York, where he has tenure, he teaches both philosophy and Egyptology. A popular host on Learning Channel's Great Egyptians series, he was the first person since ancient times to mummify a human in the ancient Egyptian style. National Geographic's television special, Mr Mummy, caused its creator to be instantly dubbed ''Mr Mummy'', a nickname which stuck.

Earliest Version of Our Alphabet Possibly Discovered

The earliest example of our alphabet — a possible mnemonic phrase that helped someone remember "ABCD" — has been discovered on a 3,400-year-old inscribed piece of limestone from ancient Egypt, a scholar believes.

Three of the words start with the ancient equivalent of B, C and D, creating what may be a mnemonic phrase.

Archaeologists find remains of second century Roman-era temple in Egypt

Egypt says archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a temple dating back to the second century.

The antiquities ministry said on Thursday that the temple, which dates back to the reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, was found near the Siwa Oasis in the western desert. It includes the foundations of a large limestone building.

New Book Chronicles America’s First Female Egyptologist

A Missouri University of Science and Technology historian is telling the seemingly forgotten story of America’s first female Egyptologist.

Dr. Kathleen Sheppard, associate professor of history and political science at Missouri S&T, wondered why there was so little mention of the scholarly work of Dr. Caroline Ransom Williams, America’s first university-trained female Egyptologist, in archaeology’s published history. After all, Ransom Williams was a former student and longtime colleague of Dr. James Henry Breasted, the first American Egyptologist and founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.


In a Tuesday statement by the Antiquities Ministry, the discovery of a 19th dynasty tomb belonging to Ramsis II's army general, named Iwrhya, was made public. The remains of who the Ministry referred to as a 'great army general' was dug up near the Saqarra burial complex on Cairo's outskirts.

The head of the excavation mission Ola Al-Aguizy said to Sky News Arabia that the tomb is relatively large, and contains material that indicate the general and his descendants maintained a rather high status in the Egyptian army then.

3,500-year-old bust of female pharaoh is centrepiece of RBCM Egyptian exhibit

Slowly and gingerly, a 3,500-year-old bust of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut was lifted into place with a pallet jack Monday at the Royal B.C. Museum. At 790 kilograms, the sandstone sculpture doesn’t leave much room for error.
How Millennia of Cleopatra Portrayals Reveal Evolving Perceptions of Sex, Women, and Race
Margaret Foley, Cleopatra, 1871-1876. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

Cleopatra’s death has captivated artists for reasons alternately sensual, solemn, and deeply suspect. For many painters and sculptors over the past few millennia, the subject matter has offered an opportunity to perpetuate myths about the dangers of powerful women and render the female nude in an anguished, dramatic state. In Giampietrino’s Death of Cleopatra (c. 1515), for example, a snake (a phallic figure if there ever was one) bites the naked woman’s nipple—the painter eroticizes female demise.

Yet many portrayals of the Egyptian queen offer more than mere images of morbid sexuality. Altogether, these depictions reveal more about the times in which they were made than about Cleopatra herself.

Soon You May Be Able to Text with 2,000 Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Collaborations among Egyptologists and digital linguistics promise global visualizations of what was written on inscriptions, papyri, wall paintings, and other sources of Hieroglyphs. It may also allow for more popular knowledge of Egyptian Hieroglyphs and encourage its assimilation into popular language-learning apps like Duolingo.

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds
March 25 - September 9, 2018

Note: I will post my photos from the exhibit later this week.

In 2018, the Saint Louis Art Museum will be the first North American art museum to tell the epic story of one of the greatest finds in the history of underwater archaeology, a story that revealed two lost cities of ancient Egypt submerged under the Mediterranean Sea for over a thousand years. World-renowned underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team discovered these submerged worlds and uncovered stunning ancient religious, ceremonial, and commercial artifacts, which has led to a greater understanding of life during the age of pharaohs.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Ancient Egypt May 7

New survey confirms no hidden Nefertiti chamber in Tutankhamun's tomb

After almost three months of study, a new geophysics survey has provided conclusive evidence that no hidden chambers exist adjacent to or inside Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced the results, adding that the head of the Italian scientific team carrying out the research,

Egypt moves last chariot of King Tutankhamun to new museum
Egyptians dressed in costumes walk past the Cairo Citadel during a ceremony for the transportation of Tutankhamun's chariot AFP/Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Egypt has moved the sixth and last chariot of pharaoh Tutankhamun to an under construction museum near the pyramids in Giza.

The priceless artefact, paraded through Cairo on Saturday with a military police escort, was relocated from the Egyptian National Military Museum to its final resting place at the Grand Egyptian Museum

Rome’s Flaminian Obelisk: an epic journey from divine Egyptian symbol to tourist attraction

It’s a great place to sit in the shade and enjoy a gelato. The base of the Flaminian Obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo on the northern end of Rome’s ancient quarter offers views of the twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Montesanto. But while enjoying the outlook, take a few minutes to marvel at how this 23-metre chunk of granite ended up where it has.

Beyond the Great Pyramid: 5 Lesser-Known Pyramids

The Great Pyramid at Giza, and its two cousins at the Giza pyramid complex, have long dominated popular understanding and discussion of the pyramids of Egypt. In some ways, this is deserved — the three structures are a testament to phenomenal human ingenuity and capability, as well as a demonstration of Ancient Egypt’s tremendous ability to mobilize thousands of workers across a considerable distance.

But they’re literally just one piece of the story of tomb-building and artwork in ancient Egypt, and one that occupies a relatively small slice of time.

Scotland Yard joins global crackdown on looted pharaonic antiquities

Scotland Yard is working with the British Museum and the governments of Egypt and Sudan to tackle the looting of pharaonic antiquities. The plan is to create a publicly available database of 80,000 objects that have been identified as having passed through the trade or have been in private collections since 1970, the year of the Unesco convention on cultural property. The scheme is being funded with a £1m grant from the British government’s Cultural Protection Fund, administered by the British Council.

Royal celebration hall from Ramses II era discovered

An ancient royal celebration hall dating back to the era of Ramses II was discovered at Matareya district, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Saturday.

The Royal Celebration Hall was revealed during excavation work performed by the Ain Shams University archaeological mission headed by Mamdouh al-Damati.

Ancient Egypt in 19th century poetry
Photo © Michalea Moore 2010

Every Egyptologist is probably familiar with the sonnet ‘Ozymandias’ written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1818:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… 
The poem recalls the greatness of king Ramesses II and the Egyptian empire, and its inevitable decline. It is likely that the torso just acquired by (but not yet arrived at) the British Museum from Belzoni’s wreaking havoc in the Ramesseum served as inspiration for the poem. ‘Ozymandias’ was a Greek rendering of the throne name of Ramesses II: User-maat-re Setep-en-re. The inscription on the base of the statue was rendered by the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus as “King of Kings am I, Ozymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works.”

The Latest Discoveries in Egyptology (March-April 2018)
New Meroitic inscriptions were discovered at Sedeinga (Photo: Sedeinga Archaeological Mission)
Every few months, the Nile Scribes bring you summaries of the latest news and discoveries in Egyptology, both from the field and the lab. We’ll introduce you to the newest archaeological finds, or recently undusted manuscripts being rediscovered in museum collections, plus other new theories stirring in the Egyptological Zeitgeist. From a relief of Hatshepsut identified after decades of hiding in storage, to thousands of fragments belonging to a Late Period king, the last two months have produced some phenomenal finds that we highlight in this week’s post.

The Ancient Egyptian Film Website

This site offers an elaborate overview of motion pictures and tv movies that prominently feature Egyptology and ancient Egypt, its monuments or sites. Looking for those magnificent mummy films, or films featuring pyramids or Cleopatra? This is the site to visit!

More than 950 movies, television films and episodes from television series are featured here.

Another dancing link

These girls are throwing shapes in honour of the goddess Hathor c. 1600 BC. The fragment of wallpainting is from 'The Tomb of the Dancers' in Western Thebes, Egypt. Click here to see them dance. 

Horus Humor

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