Thursday, May 31, 2012

The discovery of a new nomarch burial in Dayr al-Barshā

During its 2012 spring campaign, the archaeological mission of Leuven University in Dayr alBarshā, directed by Harco Willems, has discovered an important burial dating back to the beginning of the Middle Kingdom (approx. 2040 B.C.). Although the burial has been robbed at least twice, and has suffered extensive damage, a large amount of objects were still found in their original position, providing unique information on the scenario of the funerary ritual. The tomb must have belonged to a nomarch (i.e. a provincial governor) or to a person belonging to the close family of a nomarch. It is for the first time in over a century that a relatively well preserved burial of this kind has been found. 

The discovery was made in the tomb of the nomarch Ahanakht I, who was the first Middle Kingdom governor of the Hare nome (nome = province). This tomb is well known, as it has been investigated already    in 1891-1892, and was thoroughly excavated by the American archaeologist George Andrew Reisner in 1915. Reisner's work was crowned by the discovery of a nearly intact nomarch burial in a neighbouring tomb. The beautiful remains from this latter tomb are world famous.

However, Reisner did not finish the excavation of the southwestern burial shaft in Ahanakht's tomb. His diary makes clear that the American archaeologist was under the impression that this shaft had been robbed only a short while before he arrived on the scene. For this reason, he stopped the excavation. This has proved to be a rare chance, as Reisner has thoroughly emptied all other tombs in the area. Therefore, the Leuven mission had in the previous ten years only excavated and documented tombs that had already been thoroughly emptied before, and there is no chance that other tombs of this kind may still be discovered elsewhere.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First look at the face of a woman dead for 2000 years

by Rowan Hooper, news editor

IMAGINE how Egyptologists must struggle with temptation. Say you are a young archaeologist and you discover an intact mummy. You must yearn to unwrap it, to see what was buried with the body, to learn about who this person was.
For most Egyptologists of the golden era of discovery in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a temptation to which they succumbed. Not so Alexander Rhind, who in 1857, aged 24, discovered what became known as the Rhind mummy in a tomb dating to 10 BC in the ancient city of Thebes. He shipped it home and it resides, intact, at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, UK.
Now its secrets have been revealed thanks to CT scanning and 3D image generation carried out by Edwin van Beek and colleagues at the Clinical Research Imaging Centre in Edinburgh. The mummy was a woman, ethnically Egyptian, 157 centimetres tall and aged between 25 and 29. In her right hand she holds a papyrus scroll thought to contain details of her life. The bandages, daubed in beeswax and pistachio resin for preservation, are set with gold amulets. On her head is a metal cap in the shape of a flying scarab beetle.
(Image credit: CRIC/University of Edinburgh School of History and Archaeology/Holoxica)
Aren't they tempted to open the mummy and retrieve the scroll? No, says van Beek, it will remain intact. "Mummies deteriorate rapidly when opened. But we are looking at performing micro CT scans to see if we can reconstruct the hieroglyphs on the scroll."

We don't know how she died, but in life the mummy was a high-status individual. "Apart from the gold, she has good teeth, indicating that she had a high-quality diet. She was also entombed in a nice sarcophagus."
The Egyptians removed brains before mummification. So for readers puzzled by the apparent presence of a brain in the image of the skull, van Beek says his team reconstructed the brain volume from details found on the inside of the skull.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ancient tomb unearthed in Upper Egypt

Cairo, 28 May (AKI) - Archaeologists have discovered an 4,000-year-old tomb in Upper Egypt containing a sarcophagus inscribed with ancient funeral texts as well as ritual objects, Egypt's archaeological treasures minister said Monday.

"It is the first time in many years that such a well-preserved tomb has been unearthed, " said Muhammad Ibrahim.

The tomb dates from ancient Egypt's First Intermediate period (2181-2055 BC) and is an unusual find, as very little archaeological evidence survives from this period. 

Ritual objects made from alabaster copper, terracotta and other materials were found in the tomb, located in the Deir al-Barsha archaeological area, in al-Minya province, 245 kilometres south of Cairo. 

The dig was coordinated by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Antiquities Authority starts pumping out drainage water from under the Sphinx

The Ministry of State for Antiquities started a project to reduce the water table accumulated under the Sphinx at Giza plateau

by Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 26 May 2012

This week, Giza Inspectorate operated 18 water pump machines to pump out subterranean water that has accumulated under the Sphinx.

The machines are distributed over the Giza plateau according to a map showing the areas where the subterranean water has accumulated.

Mohamed Ibrahim Minister of State for Antiquities said that the machines will pump out 1100 cubic metres of water every hour, based on studies carried out previously by reputed Egyptian and American experts in subterranean water and ground mechanic and equilibrium factors.

He explains that the reasons behind the increase subterranean water-rates is because of the new drainage system installed in the neighbouring area of Nazlet Al-Seman.

Mohamed El-Sheikha, head of Projects Section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) said that the project is carried out in collaboration with USAID (US Agency for International Development), which also supported similar projects at Karnak and Luxor temples in Luxor eight years ago.

Pumping work will start in the area of King Khafre’s Valley Temple and the area surrounding the southern hill.

El-Sheikha explains that according to ecological and geophysical studies, the Sphinx and its bedrock are safe.

He told Ahram Online that the level of water under the ground level is 4.6 metres, similar to the level in ancient time. Such a level, El-Sheikha pointed out, is natural since one of the Nile branches had once reached the plateau when a harbour was dug to shelter boats transporting required blocks from quarries in Aswan and Tura in Helwan for the construction of the pyramids.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Police recover pharaonic artefacts stolen in wake of revolution

Objects found buried at Saqqara Necropolis include several ancient Egyptian statuettes carved from green faience

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 22 May 2012

A collection of 35 ancient Egyptian artefacts stolen in the wake of last year's Tahrir Square uprising was recovered on Monday by Tourism and Antiquities police.

The objects were found buried in sand close to the Horemhab funerary complex in the Saqqara Necropolis on the outskirts of Cairo.

According to police, the objects were stolen from neighbouring archaeological sites during the uprising. The thieves, police speculate, had been planning to smuggle the objects out of the country at a later date.

The collection consists of several ancient Egyptian statuettes carved from green faience and ranging in length from 5.8 to 6 centimetres.

The objects have been confiscated by the authorities and currently await examination by an archaeological committee to determine their authenticity and place of origin.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Egypt: The End of a Civilisation

By Dr Aidan Dodson

Defining the end point

The civilisation of ancient Egypt can be traced back in recognisable form to around 3000 BC. It was to endure for over three millennia and it is perhaps the most instantly recognisable of all ancient cultures today. The question of how it came to an end is a perennially popular one, but actually quite difficult to answer, as it is by no means agreed as to what constitutes 'the end' of Egypt as an ancient civilisation.
...the demise of the hieroglyphs was a manifestation of the decline and fall of the ancient religion...
Is it the definitive end of native Egyptian rule (at least until the 20th century)? In this case the answer would be the flight of King Nectanebo II in 342 BC. Is it Egypt's absorption into the Roman Empire in 30 BC? Or the last appearance of the ancient hieroglyphic script just before AD 400? Or the closure of the last pagan temples in the sixth century?
In many ways the last suggestion is perhaps the most appropriate, as in all the other cases, the core religious and artistic values of the country continued on, albeit increasingly debased and under pressure. However, the demise of the hieroglyphs was a manifestation of the decline and fall of the ancient religion in the face of Christianity, itself ultimately to be supplanted by Islam.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

From the Sands of Egypt

By Michael Gordon   Fri, Apr 13, 2012

The discovery of the world's largest trove of ancient writings has opened an unparalleled window on a vanished world.

El-Behnesa, Egypt, 1896. There was little to see. It was a landscape of windblown sand surrounding a sleepy arab village. But for Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, young English scholars of classicism from the Queen's College in Oxford, there was something about the place that screamed at them. Set astride a small river that anciently served as a canal of the Nile, they knew it was the location of two ancient cities, the more ancient called Per-Medjed, a capital of the Egyptian 19th Dynasty, and the younger called Oxyrhynchus Polis (meaning "City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish"), a Greco-Roman town initially under the Ptolemaic rulership of 3rd-1st century B.C. Egypt. Now, only a lone well-weathered Greek column, a few traces of stone and banks of sand hinted at an ancient presence. This place was nothing like the visual splendor that greeted explorers and adventurers at sites like Luxor, Giza, and Abu Simbel.
But Grenfell and Hunt were not interested in architecture. They were interested in researching ancient papyri, and having recently excavated in the Fayum area, the region surrounding the well-known ancient Egyptian site of Crocodilios, they had hopes that this new, relatively obscure site might yield something significant. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Divine King

In Ancient Egyptian times Pharaohs went to some measures to justify their claims to the throne. During the 18th Dynasty for example, kings legitimized their kingship through the myth of the birth of the divine king. They were fathered by a god, not by a man. Amun was the god to be fathered by. Pointing out the importance of the cult of Amun at Karnak during the 18th Dynasty, with a small downfall during the reign of Akhenaten.

So did Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) after he completed one of his additions to the Karnak temple in honour of Amun he placed the so called coronation inscription to prove his divinity:

I am his son, beloved of his majesty, whom his double desires to cause that I should present this land at the place, where he is. .. I requited his beauty with something greater than it by magnifying him more than the gods. The recompense of him who does excellent things is a reward for him of things more excellent than they. I have built his house as an eternal work. - my father caused that I should be divine, that I might extend the throne of him who made me; that I might supply with food his altars upon earth; that I might make to flourish for him the sacred slaughtering-block with great slaughters in his temple, consisting of oxen and calves without limit. .. -for this temple of my father Amun, at all feasts; of the sixth day satisfied with that which he desired should be. I know that it is forever; that Thebes is eternal. Amun, Lord of Karnak, Re of Heliopolis of the South, his glorious eye which is in this land. (Ancient Records Of Egypt - J.H. Breasted, Volume II, § 149)

Also Queen Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC) legitimized her kingship through the myth of divine conception and birth. According to inscriptions, Amun himself chose her to become the ruler of Egypt, even before she was born. One inscription tells the story about how Hatshepsut's mother Queen Ahmose became pregnant of her daughter. The god Amun took form of Hatshepsut's father Thutmose I and found Queen Ahmose asleep in her bedroom. She woke up by the fragrance of the god and recognized him as a god. They had intercourse and Hatshepsut was conceived. The inscription later tells:

Utterance of Amun, Lord of the Two Lands, before her: "Khnemet-Amun-Hatshepsut shall be the name of this my daughter, whom I have placed in thy body, this saying which comes out of thy mouth. She shall exercise the excellent kingship in this whole land. My soul is hers, my bounty is hers, my crown is hers, that she may rule the Two Lands, that she may lead all the living." (Ancient Records Of Egypt - J.H. Breasted, Volume II, § 198)

These are just two examples of two kings from the 18th dynasty, but the divine birth was easily adopted by later Pharaohs. Even in Ptolemaic times, and by Alexander the Great when he visited the Oracle of Amun at Siwa he was proclaimed as son of Amun. Alexander was simply using the old existing tradition. Nothing new there.

By Amun-Ra

Thanks Tommy from for your input!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Google pays tribute to Howard Carter

Google paid tribute to Howard Carter's 138th birthday today.
Click on the pic to enlarge.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Rare Find in Jerusalem Reflects Ancient Connections with Egypt

Discovery of a rare ancient Egyptian scarab during excavations in Jerusalem provides a glimpse into the Late Bronze Age city.

For archaeologists and students of archaeology, hearing the name "Jerusalem" conjures up images of ancient artifacts that can be found in few other places in the world. But recent archaeological excavations there have uncovered something that has not been commonly found.
Directed by Israeli archaeologists Eli Shukron and Joe Uziel under the sponsorship of the Israel Antiquities Authority, excavations have recovered an ancient Egyptian scarab dated to the 13th century B.C.E. (the Late Bronze Age). Found within the City of David National Park, which is situated within the most ancient part of Jerusalem, the scarab is attributed to Egypt's 19th Dynasty, a period of Egyptian hegemony over the city that was actually a Jebusite settlement at the time. The Jebusites were a tribe of Canaanites that built and developed Jerusalem before its conquest by King David during the 10th century, according to the Biblical account.  
Detail view of the scarab. Photo credit Vladimir Neihin
"This is the first time we've found a scarab of this kind in the City of David," said Shukron. "The seal is from the late Bronze period, during which time the land of Israel was under Egyptian rule. It's exciting and interesting to have discovered this unique artifact, and it gives us a glimpse into Jerusalem during that era." 
A scarab is a small, usually oval-shaped Egyptian gem-like amulet or miniature seal. The scarab found during these excavations served as a seal and was used to stamp documents. A centimeter and a half in length and made of soft gray stone, It bears the name, in Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, of the sun god Amon-Ra, one of Egypt's most important deities. It also bears the image of a duck, interpreted to be one of the sun god's symbols. 
The scarab is dated to a time that some scholars suggest corresponds to the time of the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. The 13th century was also a time when Egypt ruled or controlled most of the (present-day Israel, Gaza, and West Bank) land that was occupied by the ancient Canaanites. 
The find was reported in an April 6, 2012 article published in the news venue, Israel Hayom.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Much needed makeover for three goddesses

by Nevine El-Aref

The temples of the Karnak complex stand majestically on the east bank of the Nile at Luxor, their awe-inspiring architecture flaunting the great and noble civilisation of ancient Egypt. We know from historical records that Karnak's vast medley of temples, chapels, columns, pylons, obelisks and above all the sacred lake have fascinated visitors for at least 2,000 years.

To the south of the Amun-Re temple complex, beneath the tenth pylon, stands the ruined temple of the mother goddess Mut. Since its construction by Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1388-1360 BC) the temple became a centre of interest for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom up until the Ptolemies (310-30 BC), who built several temples associated with the original Mut temple and its crescent-shaped lake.

The Mut precinct preserved its importance even after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, but its decline began not long afterwards. Regrettably the temple has been devastated over time; it has lost some of its features completely, and most of its blocks were usurped in antiquity and reused to construct other structures at Karnak. Except for some walls, foundations and no less than 600 black granite statuettes of the lioness goddess Sekhmet found scattered at the courtyard. Some Theban residents even built residential houses within the precincts of the Mut temples.

The temple closed its doors to the public. In 1976 so that the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) and the Brooklyn Museum could tart excavation and conservation work at the Mut precinct. This was followed by another mission from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 led by American archaeologist Betsy Bryan.
According to ARCE's website, while work was carried out at the Mut temple from 2007 to 2009 Bryan and her team continued to support the project to conserve the foundations. They found that the intermittent rise and fall of the Nile-fed sacred lake over many centuries had caused subsidence on the west side of the temple, creating a slippage of more than 10 centimetres in some areas of the wall.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ancient Egyptians Recorded Algol's Variable Magnitude 3000 Years Before Western Astronomers

A statistical analysis of a 3000-year old calendar reveals that astronomers in ancient Egypt must have known the period of the eclipsing binary Algol

The Ancient Egyptians were meticulous astronomers and recorded the passage of the heavens in extraordinary detail. The goal was to mark the passage of time and  to understand the will of the Gods who kept the celestial machinery at work. 

Egyptian astronomers used what they learnt to make predictions about the future. They drew these up in the form of calendars showing lucky and unlucky days. 
The predictions were amazingly precise. Each day was divided into three or more segments, each of which was given a rating lying somewhere in the range from very favourable to highly adverse.
One of the best preserved of these papyrus documents is called the Cairo Calendar. Although the papyrus is badly damaged in places, scholars have been able to extract a complete list of ratings for days throughout an entire year somewhere around 1200 BC.
An interesting question is how the scribes arrived at their ratings. So various groups have studied the patterns that crop up in the predictions. Today, Lauri Jetsu and buddies at the University of Helsinki in Finland reveal the results of their detailed statistical analysis of the Cairo Calendar. Their conclusion is extraordinary.