Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Heb Sed, The Ritual Jubilee


Off all the many ancient Egyptian festivals, local as well as nationwide, there was one which differed quite a bit from the rest. While they all were aimed at the relationship between the gods, the king and the people, the Heb Sed was more directly focussed around the kingship as such and its complete renewal.

The name Heb Sed, also known as The Sed festival or Feast of the Tail, derives from the name of an Egyptian wolf god, one of whose names was Wepwawet or Sed. The less formal feast name, the Feast of the Tail, is derived from the name of the animal's tail that typically was attached to the back of the pharaoh's garment in the early periods of Egyptian history. This suggests that the tail was the vestige of a previous ceremonial robe made out of a complete animal skin.

A Heb Sed was first held during the 30th regnal year of a pharaoh, and from then on, every three years, but several pharaohs however, held their first Heb Sed at a much earlier date: Hatshepsut held her first jubilee during her 16th regnal year, while Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten chose to dedicate his festival to his solar-god Aten at the early beginnings of his reign. Ramesses II often left two instead of three years between his Heb Seds, he was able to celebrate 14 such jubilees during his 67 years of reign.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The mysteries of the pyramids

by Anwaar Abdalla

Cairo, 14 September 2011 - The Giza Pyramids are among the most famous monuments in the world. They also raise endless questions by their visitors. Part of their mystery is the fact that there are no definite answers to questions such as: Why they were built? How they were built? Who built them? What do they symbolize? In our attempt to find answers, we find many theories.

Approximately 90 percent of the theories in Egyptology are based on hypothesis, and only 10 percent are proven ones. Bearing in mind that there are 3 mysteries connected to the pyramids, namely the mystery of the tools used, the mystery of the colors and the mystery of mummification, the pyramids are a challenge to all the technologies that we have in the 21st century.

Even the name ‘Pyramid’ is a mystery. Historians believe the word is derived from the Greek word ‘pyramos’-which means a type of bread that takes the shape of a triangle. Interestingly enough, the original hieroglyphic “MER”, which means an instrument used to ascend to the sun, has no connection with the Greek word that might help answer the question about the pyramid. Several researchers reject the traditional theory that a pyramid is a tomb for a king.

K .Mendelssohn believes that, ”While the funerary function of the pyramids cannot be doubted, it is rather more difficult to prove that the pharaohs were ever buried inside them...”. In fact, more than 118 pyramids in Egypt were found empty! A possible answer to this particular puzzle could be that grave robbers who plundered the pyramids a long time ago removed the mummified remains of kings.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Did Queen Hatshepsut Moisturize Herself to Death?

Hatshepsut's tiny flask of lotion contained a cancer-causing tar residue. credit: Barbara Frommann/University of Bonn
Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt's greatest female pharaoh, might have moisturized herself to death, according to controversial new research into the dried up contents of a cosmetic vial.

Researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany, found a highly carcinogenic substance in a flask of lotion housed at the University's Egyptian Museum.

The vessel, which featured an inscription saying it belonged to Hatshepsut, was long believed to have held perfume.

"After two years of research, it is now clear that the flacon was a kind of skin care lotion or even medication for a monarch suffering from eczema," the University of Bonn said in a statement.