Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lost and Found: Ancient Shoes Turn Up in Egypt Temple

by Owen Jarus, LiveScience ContributorDate: 26 February 2013

More than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, someone, perhaps a group of people, hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had — their shoes.

Seven shoes were deposited in a jar in an Egyptian temple in Luxor, three pairs and a single one. Two pairs were originally worn by children and were only about 7 inches (18 centimeters) long. Using palm fiber string, the child shoes were tied together within the single shoe (it was larger and meant for an adult) and put in the jar. Another pair of shoes, more than 9 inches (24 cm) long that had been worn by a limping adult, was also inserted in the jar.

The shoe-filled jar, along with two other jars, had been "deliberately placed in a small space between two mudbrick walls," writes archaeologist Angelo Sesana in a report published in the journal Memnonia.

Whoever deposited the shoes never returned to collect them, and they were forgotten, until now.

In 2004, an Italian archaeological expedition team, led by Sesana, rediscovered the shoes. The archaeologists gave André Veldmeijer, an expert in ancient Egyptian footwear, access to photographs that show the finds.

"The find is extraordinary as the shoes were in pristine condition and still supple upon discovery," writes Veldmeijer in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. Unfortunately after being unearthed the shoes became brittle and "extremely fragile," he added.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dynasties Of Egypt Part V: Late Period

Kushite Period, or Dynasty 25 (ca. 712–664 B.C.)

From ca. 728 to 656 B.C., the Nubian kings of Dynasty 25 dominated Egypt. Like the Libyans before them, they governed as Egyptian pharaohs. Their control was strongest in the south. In the north, Tefnakht's successor, Bakenrenef, ruled for four years (ca. 717–713 B.C.) at Sais until Piankhy's successor, Shabaqo (ca. 712–698 B.C.), overthrew him and established Nubian control over the entire country. The accession of Shabaqo can be considered the end of the Third Intermediate Period and the beginning of the Late Period in Egypt.

Nubian rule, which viewed itself as restoring the true traditions of Egypt, benefited Egypt economically and was accompanied by a revival in temple building and the arts that continued throughout the Late Period. At the same time, however, the country faced a growing threat from the Assyrian empire to its east. After forty years of relative security, Nubian control—and Egypt's peace—were broken by an Assyrian invasion in ca. 671 B.C. The current pharaoh, Taharqo (ca. 690–664 B.C.), retreated south and the Assyrians established a number of local vassals to rule in their stead in the Delta. One of them, Necho I of Sais (ca. 672–664 B.C.), is recognized as the founder of the separate Dynasty 26. For the next eight years, Egypt was the battleground between Nubia and Assyria. A brutal Assyrian invasion in 663 B.C. finally ended Nubian control of the country. The last pharaoh of Dynasty 25, Tanutamani (664–653 B.C.), retreated to Napata. There, in relative isolation, he and his descendants continued to rule Nubia, eventually becoming the Meroitic civilization, which flourished in Nubia until the fourth century A.D. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ancient “Egyptian blue” pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

“Nanoscience of an Ancient Pigment”
Journal of the American Chemical Society

A bright blue pigment used 5,000 years ago is giving modern scientists clues toward the development of new nanomaterials with potential uses in state-of-the-art medical imaging devices, remote controls for televisions, security inks and other technology. That’s the conclusion of an article on the pigment, Egyptian blue, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Tina T. Salguero and colleagues point out that Egyptian blue, regarded as humanity’s first artificial pigment, was used in paintings on tombs, statues and other objects throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. Remnants have been found, for instance, on the statue of the messenger goddess Iris on the Parthenon and in the famous Pond in a Garden fresco in the tomb of Egyptian “scribe and counter of grain” Nebamun in Thebes.

They describe surprise in discovering that the calcium copper silicate in Egyptian blue breaks apart into nanosheets so thin that thousands would fit across the width of a human hair. The sheets produce invisible infrared (IR) radiation similar to the beams that communicate between remote controls and TVs, car door locks and other telecommunications devices. “Calcium copper silicate provides a route to a new class of nanomaterials that are particularly interesting with respect to state-of-the-art pursuits like near-IR-based biomedical imaging, IR light-emitting devices (especially telecommunication platforms) and security ink formulations,” the report states. “In this way we can reimagine the applications of an ancient material through modern technochemical means.”

The authors acknowledge funding from the University of Georgia.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Museum Pieces - Vase with Three Handles

Vase with Three Handles

Some of the finest works of New Kingdom glass were made under Akhenaten, perhaps under the inspiration of Asiatic glassmakers living in Egypt. Vessels such as this example were shaped around a sandy core and decorated with glass threads that were manipulated with a thin stick before the vessel had dried. By carefully moving his stick, the craftsman created ornate, rippled designs.

Medium: Glass
Place Made: Saqqara, Egypt
Dates: ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E.
Dynasty: late XVIII Dynasty
Period: New Kingdom
Dimensions: 3 7/16 x Diam. 2 9/16 in. (8.7 x 6.5 cm)  (show scale)
Collections:Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Museum Location: This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Amarna Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
Accession Number: 37.340E
Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
Caption: Vase with Three Handles, ca. 1352-1336 B.C.E. Glass, 3 7/16 x Diam. 2 9/16 in. (8.7 x 6.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.340E. Creative Commons-BY
Image: overall, 37.340E_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
Catalogue Description: Small glass jar with broad foot, three upturned handles, tall neck, and wide flat rim. The body and neck are decorated with yellow and white dragged patterns. On the neck the pattern is a zigzag; on the body a festoon pattern. The outer edge of the rim is yellow; the remainder of the vessel is a dark blue. Condition: Large chip out of rim; two pieces glued back onto rim.

Photocredit: Brooklyn Museum


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ramses II vizier's tomb cover discovered

Remains of a mud-brick pyramid-shaped tomb cover belonging to vizier Khay found in Luxor

by Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 20 Feb 2013

A group of Belgian archaeologists uncovered the remains of a mud-brick pyramid-shaped tomb cover in Luxor belonging to Ramses II's vizier Khay.

The Belgian archaeological mission from the Free University of Brussels and Liege University uncovered the 15 metre-tall structure during their routine excavation work at Sheikh Abdul Gorna noblemen's necropolis on Luxor’s west bank.

The mission stumbled upon a pyramidion (a tiny pyramid) engraved with an ancient Egyptian scene depicting the god Ra-Hurakhti.

Khay's tomb has not yet been found, but excavation works are ongoing to uncover it.

In the era of Ramses II, all noblemen's tombs were topped with a pyramid-shamed cover.

“It is a very important discovery,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, minister of state for antiquities, explaining that archaeologists only know Khay from ancient Egyptian papyri, statues and documents; his tomb has never been identified before. Two statues of Khay are currently on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir.

Mansour Breik, supervisor of Luxor antiquities, said that Khay was Ramses II's vizier for 15 years and he used to supervise the construction of royal tombs in the valleys of the kings and queens.

He helped in the organisation of several festivals, among them the king’s coronation.

According to Abydos stele, said Breik, Khay came from a very important family.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Egypt’s ancient treasures being lost to looters

By Betsy Hiel 

Published: Saturday, February 16, 2013, 10:20 p.m.
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 

DAHSHOUR, Egypt — From a distance, it looks as though an animal has burrowed around the 4,000-year-old Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III.

But thieves dug these holes. And Egyptian archaeologist Monica Hanna calls that “a catastrophe.”

“See the ancient mud bricks?” says Hanna, 29, peering into a pit. “It is very well structured.”

She walks to another, followed by three pyramid custodians, and points into the 25-foot hole with a tunnel to one side. Here, she says, looters exposed what might be a burial shaft.

One custodian, Said Hussein, 32, tells her that as many as 30 armed men come nightly to dig for antiquities. They beat two custodians, broke an arm of one and “attacked the armed guards on the gate.”

“Do they find anything?” she asks.

“They only find pottery, stuff like that,” he replies. “A wooden coffin, that's what they take.”

These “massive looting pits,” Hanna says, have made “Swiss cheese” of a 2-mile-long field of five pyramids listed as a United Nations World Heritage Site.

“This should not happen here,” she declares. “I feel so sad … because it is history being lost forever.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the legacy of Howard Carter

By Dr Joanna Kyffin 
Sunday, 17 February 2013

Ninety years ago, Howard Carter and his patron, George Herbert, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, opened the first and only intact royal burial to ever have been discovered in Egypt. The tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings which was probably originally intended for a non-royal burial. In comparison to the tomb of Amenhotep III, who had been buried only some 20 years earlier in a large, complex and gorgeously decorated tomb, Tutankhamun’s tomb, consisting of just four small rooms, three of which were undecorated, is modest, even humble.

Nonetheless, no other royal mummy has ever been found in the tomb in which it was first laid to rest, with its grave goods almost undisturbed and Carter’s momentous discovery has shaped the field of Egyptology ever since.

Howard Carter was a self-made man, the son of a well-known portrait artist, and his first endeavours in Egyptology were as an artist and draughtsman rather than an excavator. At the tender age of 17 he undertook his first work in Egypt with Percy Newberry at the site of Beni Hasan, working for the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society).

Carter’s artistic skills were his passport into employment, along with his relatively humble origins – a letter from Francis Llewellyn Griffith, curator at the British Museum and head of the Archaeological Survey branch of the EEF, sets out the criteria for choosing the right man for the job: ‘it matters not whether the artist is a gentleman or not… A gentleman, unless of an economical turn of mind, would run into extra expenses very likely’.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Top Egypt archaeologist sees hope for future in past

By Tom Perry,

CAIRO - The keeper of Egypt's archaeological treasures sees hope for the nation's future in its pharaonic past.

Mohammed Ibrahim, head of the antiquities ministry, likens Egypt's turbulent emergence from autocracy to the periods of decline that afflicted the nation on the Nile between the fall and rise of its three ancient kingdoms.

"We have passed through similar periods like that, even in antiquity," said Ibrahim, custodian of the pyramids, tombs and temples that bare witness to one of the world's oldest civilizations. "Every time Egypt passes through this period, it recovers very quickly, very strongly."

But for now, Ibrahim's ministry, is suffering from the repercussions of unrest that has hit the economy hard, driving away the tourism which pays his ministry's bills.

Excavation work led by the ministry has ground to a halt because of the financial squeeze. The unrest has also stopped many foreign-financed digs by deterring the archaeologists.

But the 59-year-old Egyptologist is upbeat: foreign archaeologists are starting to come back. And while the periods of decline between the ancient kingdoms could last 200 years, he expects Egypt to bounce back much sooner this time around.

"Egypt will be something new," he told Reuters in an interview at his offices in the medieval citadel that towers over the mosques of Cairo's Islamic quarter.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A different take on Tut

Egyptian archaeologist shares theory on pharaoh’s lineage

By Alvin Powell

In recent years, DNA analysis has shed light on the parents of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, the boy king Tutankhamun, known to the world as King Tut. Genetic investigation identified his father as Akhenaten and his mother as Akhenaten’s sister, whose name was unknown.

French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde offered a different interpretation of the DNA evidence on Thursday. Speaking at Harvard’s Science Center, Gabolde said he’s convinced that Tut’s mother was not his father’s sister, but rather his father’s first cousin, Nefertiti.

Nefertiti was already known to be Akhenaten’s wife and in fact the two had six daughters. Gabolde believes they also had a son, Tutankhamun, and that the apparent genetic closeness revealed in the DNA tests was not a result of a single brother-to-sister mating, but rather due to three successive generations of marriage between first cousins.

“The consequence of that is that the DNA of the third generation between cousins looks like the DNA between a brother and sister,” said Gabolde, the director of the archaeological expedition of Université Paul Valery-Montpellier III in the Royal Necropolis at el-Amarna. “I believe that Tutankhamun is the son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, but that Akhenaten and Nefertiti were cousins.”

Gabolde’s talk, “Unknown Aspects of Tutankhamun’s Reign, Parentage, and Tomb Treasure,” was sponsored by Harvard’s Semitic Museum and the Harvard Department of Anthropology. It was hosted by Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Collection of Graeco-Roman tombs uncovered in Alexandria

By chance, a Graeco-Roman cemetery has been discovered in Al-Qabari district in Alexandria

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 14 Feb 2013

During routine archaeological survey at an area known as the "27 Bridge" in Al-Qabari district, one of Alexandria’s most densely populated slum areas, archaeologists stumbled upon a collection of Graeco-Roman tombs.
Each tomb is a two-storey building with a burial chamber on its first floor. The tombs are semi-immersed in subterranean water but are well preserved and still bear engravings.

Mohamed Abdel Meguid, head of Alexandria's Antiquities Department, explained that the tombs are part of a larger cemetery known as the “Necropolis” (or City of the Dead) as described by Greek historian Strabo when he visited Egypt in 30BC. According to Strabo, the cemetery included a network of tombs containing more than 80 inscriptions, while each tomb yielded information about burial rituals of the Hellenic period.

The newly discovered collection of tombs, Abdel Meguid pointed out, is a part of the western side of the cemetery that was dedicated to the public and not to royals or nobles. The tombs are empty of funerary collections or mummies, corpses, skeletons or even pottery.

“This is a very important discovery that adds more to the archaeological map of Alexandria,” Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said, adding that the discovery would allow scientists to decipher more about the history of ancient Alexandria and would also add another tourist destination to the city.

Ibrahim said that this and similar excavations were conducted as part of archaeological inspections routinely carried out at the request of constructors who purchased the land. According to Egyptian law, every piece of land should be subject to archaeological inspection before it can be claimed as a free zone for construction.

The area was previously subject to archaeological survey in 1998 when Alexandria governorate decided to build Al-Qabari Bridge over Abdel-Qader Hamza Street in the district.

Excavation at the time uncovered more than 37 tombs, among which a very distinguished tomb bearing a coffin in the shape of a bed, commonly known as the wedding bed. On top of it was a red sheet and two pillows.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The ancient city of On

On, known today as Heliopolis or Ain-Shams, was considered the first Egyptian capital during the predynastic period

By Abdel-Rahman Sherief

On, known today as Heliopolis or Ain-Shams, was considered the first Egyptian capital during the predynastic period and was the birthplace of the first ancient Egyptian mythology.

On was the place where creation itself was believed to take place, the spot where life began, according to Egyptian myths. On was the home of the first and the mightiest Egyptian god of all, Atum, who was believed to have risen from the Benben stone in the great temple of On to light up the dark and empty universe.

Atum was believed to be the source of all other gods, like Shu, the god of air, which he exhaled out of his nose and Tefnut, the god of moisture, which flew from his mouth, to name but a few.

According to the old beliefs people came from Atum’s tears when he cried as a result of his pain and exertions.

On’s priests and astronomers were believed, according to Herodotus and many other historians, to be the inventors of the annual calendar that we use today and the city was the centre of science, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. Students came from all over the world to study with its priests and scholars.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Luxor necropolis among new Egyptian finds

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

In an archaeological find Egyptian experts are calling very important, an Italian mission -- headed by Angelo Sesana and working in the mortuary temple of Amenhotep II on Luxor's west bank -- recently discovered a necropolis containing tombs dating back to the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (roughly 1075-664 BCE).

Amenhotep II, son of King Thutmose III and Merytre-Hatshepsut, was the seventh pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.

"The site of the discovery is located near the Ramesseum temple, one of the most important funerary temples not only in Egypt but in the world," said Niazi Ali, a professor of pharaonic antiquities at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology.

Mission members have found a number of burial chambers, with a well in front of each and remnants of wooden sarcophagi containing some skeletal remains, Ali said. The sarcophagi are believed to be made of decay-resistant wood.

A set of funereal articles commonly used during that period -- jewellery, toiletries and food left for the deceased to consume in his second life -- also were found at the site, along with a number of canopic jars containing the mummified internal organs of the deceased.

"Amenhotep II is known for his great interest in building funerary temples, and the tombs were likely built for athletes and warriors, whom he held in great esteem, particularly horse riders and archers," Ali said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Newly discovered colossi of Amenhotep III to be restored

Pair of Pharaoh Amenhotep III colossal statues to undergo intensive restoration as a part of Egypt's conservation project

by Nevine El-Aref , Monday 11 Feb 2013

The mortuary temple of the18th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III on Luxor's west bank was a hive of activity on Monday, as workers along with Egyptian and foreign archaeologists have packed a pair of colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in an attempt to transport it to an area almost 60 km far of the temple for restoration.
Horig Sourouzian, head of the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project (CMATCP), told Ahram Online that both statues once stood at the northern gate of the temple, 200 metres behind the Colossi of Memnon. However, the statues collapsed and broke into several pieces in 27 BC during a destructive earthquake. These were originally discovered in situ in 1933 but recovered by sand. In 2010, the CMATCP mission uncovered them in the passageway leading to the third pylon of the temple.

“The two colossi are the only ones of this size that have been preserved,” Sourouzian said. “They are estimated to have been about 14 metres tall and show Pharaoh Amenhotep III seated on his throne, wearing the royal beard, the nemes head dress and a pleated shendjyt kilt."

“In order to restore and conserve both statues carved in sand stone, they have been removed to a more dry area almost 60 metres far of the mortuary temple,” said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud deputy of head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA).

“The conservation project aims at returning both statues to their original condition through reassembling all their pieces and fragments as well as consolidating them. Scenes and hieroglyphic texts engraved on the statues bases will be also cleaned and restored,” he explained.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim described the statues as one of the most beautifully carved images of Pharaoh Amenhotep III known, and called it "a masterpiece of a royal portrait.”

The statues show the facial features of Pharaoh Amenhotep III with the almond eyes prolonged with cosmetic bands, a small nose and a large mouth with wide lips outlined with a sharp ridge.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Hatshepsut's limestone chapel at Karnak to open soon for public

After reconstruction, the limestone chapel of queen Hatshepsut will be put on display for the first time at Karnak Temples' open air museum

by Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 10 Feb 2013

At the end of February visitors to Karnak Temples will be able to admire the second chapel of the 18th dynasty Queen Hatshepsut after four years of restoration and reconstruction.

The chapel was constructed in limestone to worship Thebes ancient Egyptian god Amun-Re. It includes an open court and two inner halls embellished with blocks engraved with very distinguished religious scenes depicting Hatshepsut before Amun-Re, with her husband king Thutmose II, as well as their cartouches. Some of the blocks bear the name of Hatshepsut's predecessor king Thutmose III.  

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that the majority of blocks of this chapel were found scattered at the beginning of the 20th century in the Karnak courtyard cachette where a collection of gigantic colossi of different New Kingdom kings, queens, nobles and top officials as well as deities were discovered. Another batch of the blocks, Ibrahim added, was found in mid 1950's during excavation works carried out by Sheata Adam and Farid El-Shaboury at the cachette.

All blocks were stored in Karnak galleries until 2005 when the mission of the Centre Franco-Egyptian D'Etude des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK) restored the blocks, studied them and published their findings.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Museum Pieces - The Goddess Isis

© R.M.N./Les frères Chuzeville

The goddess Isis
Ptolemaic Period, 332-30 BC

Painted and coated wood
H. 60.50 cm; W. 12.30 cm; D. 31.50 cm

Liuke his sister Nephthys, she wears the hieroglyph for her name on her head. The statue was dedicated by a certain Irethorru.

Department of Egyptian Antiquities
N 4130

Photocredit: Louvre Museum


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Coptic Culture: Past, Present and Future - A Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.02.08 

Mariam F. Ayad, Coptic Culture: Past, Present and Future.   Stevenage:  Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, 2011.  Pp. xiii, 238.  ISBN 9781935488279.  $45.00.   

Reviewed by Heike Behlmer, Universität Göttingen

The present volume comprises papers from a conference held in May 2008 at the Coptic Orthodox Centre in Stevenage, UK. The conference brought together specialists in the history and culture of Egypt and the Coptic Orthodox Church from late antiquity to the present day and Coptic clergy and laypersons interested in the cultural and literary heritage of their church. This approach has led to fruitful discussions among the participants, the results of which are documented in this well-produced and accessible volume. 

“The Coptic Orthodox Church: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, the introductory remarks by Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK (p. 1-10) focus on the traditional pillars of the Coptic Orthodox faith in the modern context of a diaspora community. This introduction is followed by 19 contributions touching on four main areas of research: (1) continuities and discontinuities between Pharaonic and Christian Egypt, (2) sources for our knowledge about late antique and early medieval Egypt, (3) questions of heritage preservation and (4) the artistic tradition of the modern Coptic church. 

The first group of articles focuses on linguistic links between the Pharaonic and later periods and the survival of ritual practices. Mariam Ayad’s contribution “The Death of Coptic: A Reprisal” (p. 11-41) takes issue with the notion of Coptic as a “dead” language and makes some very valid points: in the past scholars have often shown little interest in the entire use-life of the Coptic language, neglecting the study of later, especially liturgical Coptic. While her concerns are shared by the vast majority of modern scholars, I am uncertain about her choice of a case study, a retranslation of the Paschal hymn into Ancient Egyptian, using hieroglyphs to render the words of Egyptian origin, intended to visualise the link between the modern liturgy and the ancient language. This link is well known and a translation from the Coptic into an Ancient Egyptian that never existed in the form set forth in the article seems to confuse the issue unnecessarily. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

35 Ancient Pyramids Discovered in Sudan Necropolis

by Owen Jarus

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into  roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or  slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom's people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

At Sedeinga, researchers say, pyramid building continued for centuries. "The density of the pyramids is huge," said researcher Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in an interview with LiveScience. "Because it lasted for hundreds of years they built more, more, more pyramids and after centuries they started to fill all the spaces that were still available in the necropolis."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

US museum unwrapping mummy's story with CT scan

Refined technology helps give a clearer picture of life in ancient Egypt, this time on Tjeby, a mummy estimated to be 4,000 years old

Using modern technology, a Virginia museum is working to unwrap the story behind one of the earliest surviving Egyptian mummies.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond partnered this week with a medical imaging center to complete a CT scan on Tjeby, its 4,000-year-old mummy, in hopes of piecing together more information about the mummy itself and better understanding the early history of the mummification process.

While it isn't the first time a mummy has gone under the digital knife, only a handful from the time period have been examined in this fashion. The information gathered will help provide greater detail of the body, create a 3-D digital model and even reconstruct the face of the mummy that has been on display off and on since being acquired by the museum in 1953.

Little is known about Tjeby, who was buried in a rock-cut tomb at a site known as Sheikh Farag in upper Egypt and excavated in 1923.

What museum officials do know is that he dates to between 2150 and 2030 BCE, a time of instability in Egypt, with the breakdown of central authority and economic decline. Previous research suggests Tjeby was 25 to 40 years old when he died.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Doctor to the mummies

By Faye Flam, Published: January 28

As a pathologist, Michael Zimmerman was familiar with dead bodies, but when he was asked to autopsy a mummy for the first time, he wasn’t sure what to expect. There were a dozen layers of wrapping, which he peeled off one at a time, “like Chinese boxes,” he said. When he finished, he found the body was dark brown and hard. “It smelled like old books.”

That was more than 30 years ago. Now, having dissected and CT-scanned mummies from all over the world — some ancient and some just two or three centuries old — Zimmerman has begun drawing conclusions about health and disease in past eras. His work and that of other so-called paleopathologists is starting to challenge assumptions about which diseases are caused by modern lifestyles and which ones are as ancient as the pharaohs.

“Studying mummies adds a crucial dimension of time to our understanding of diseases and their role in shaping human biology and history,” he said. “Mummies give us information about the evolution of disease. . . . It’s important that we don’t think of disease as a static thing.”

Zimmerman originally envisioned a more traditional medical career, but his plans changed in 1969, when he was working at what was then called the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There, he met a medical student who had a passion for mummies.

The student had once tried to dissect what he had been told was a 3,000-year-old mummy from Egypt, but it turned out to be a fake, Zimmerman said: “There was a 1898 copy of the Milwaukee Journal stuffed inside.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sudan’s Nubian pyramids: Gebel Barkal and Napata

Ancient Egyptians had their own version of 'Mount Olympus' in Gebel Barkal in Sudan which served as the house of god Amon

by Mohammed Elrazzaz, Thursday 31 Jan 2013

The Greeks were not the first to have a "Mount Olympus" where their pantheon of gods resided. Long before them, the Ancient Egyptians had their own version of Mount Olympus, but it was neither located in Greece nor Egypt. Named Gebel Barkal, the holy mountain in Sudan served as the place where the god Amon lived.

Old capital of Napata

The Kushite Kingdom is in fact two kingdoms: one that had its birth pangs around 2500 BC and underwent a serious downfall in the mid-second millennium BC when its political power alarmed its Egyptian neighbours, and a second kingdom that rose in the mid-eleventh century BC and lasted till the fourth century AD.

Crossing the Bayuda Desert, we slowly approached the first of five archaeological sites collectively known as Gebel Barkal and the Napata Region. Napata was the capital of Kush between the eighth and third centuries BC, lending its name to the flourishing Napata culture. This very same spot was the birthplace of the Black Pharaohs that ruled Egypt between the eighth and seventh centuries BC.