Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Solved: Riddle of ancient Nile kingdom's longevity

(Phys.org) —Researchers have solved the riddle of how one of Africa's greatest civilisations survived a catastrophic drought which wiped out other famous dynasties. Geomorphologists and dating specialists from The Universities of Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Adelaide say that it was the River Nile which made life viable for the renowned Kerma kingdom, in what is now northern Sudan.

Kerma was the first Bronze Age kingdom in Africa outside Egypt.

Their analysis of three ancient river channels where the Nile once flowed shows, for the first time, that its floods weren't too low or too high to sustain life between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC, when Kerma flourished and was a major rival to its more famous neighbour downstream.

They also show that the thousand year civilisation came to end when the Nile's flood levels were not high enough and a major channel system dried out - though an invasion by resurgent Egyptians was the final cause of Kerma's demise.

Downstream in Egypt, a catastrophic 30 year drought 4,200 years ago, which produced low Nile floods, created chaos in the old kingdom for at least a century.

Other civilisations in the near east and Mesopotamia were also severely hit by this drought.
The team's findings, funded by the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (SARS) and the Australian Research Council, are published in the journal Geology.

Professor Mark Macklin from The University of Aberystwyth said: "This work is the most comprehensive and robustly dated archaeological and palaeoenvironmental dataset yet compiled for the desert Nile.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Photo Impression: Tutankhamun His Tomb And His Treasures Exhibition at Amsterdam Expo

Today I went to see the Dutch Exhibition "Tutankhamun His Tomb And His Treasures" at the Amsterdam Expo. The following photos give an impression of the exhibition. Although the pieces are all replicas it is still wonderful to see all the remarkable treasures. An exhibition like this gives you a chance to see Tut's treasures up close and personal. You can see every little detail and you don't have to travel to Egypt. The exhibition travels all over the world, so if you haven't seen it go out and see it, it is worth it! I enjoyed every minute of it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lost city of Heracleion gives up its secrets

A lost ancient Egyptian city submerged beneath the sea 1,200 years ago is starting to reveal what life was like in the legendary port of Thonis-Heracleion.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

For centuries it was thought to be a legend, a city of extraordinary wealth mentioned in Homer, visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her lover, but apparently buried under the sea.
In fact, Heracleion was true, and a decade after divers began uncovering its treasures, archaeologists have produced a picture of what life was like in the city in the era of the pharaohs.

The city, also called Thonis, disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago and was found during a survey of the Egyptian shore at the beginning of the last decade.
Now its life at the heart of trade routes in classical times are becoming clear, with researchers forming the view that the city was the main customs hub through which all trade from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean entered Egypt.

They have discovered the remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that now covers the sea bed. Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone have also been found, hinting at the trade that went on.

Giant 16 foot statues have been uncovered and brought to the surface while archaeologists have found hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods on the sea floor.

Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface.
Photocredit: Reuters
Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi were also recently uncovered by divers and are believed to have once contained mummified animals, put there to appease the gods.
Dr Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford, who is part of the team working on the site, said: “It is a major city we are excavating.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Roman industrial area uncovered in Egypt's Suez Canal

A fully furnished Graeco-Roman industrial area discovered on Thursday in Tell Abu-Seifi area, east of Egypt's Suez Canal

by Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 24 Apr 2013

An Egyptian Excavation mission from the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) uncovered on Thursday a complete industrial area that can be dated to the Graeco-Roman era.
The discovery was found during routine excavation work at the archaeological site of Tell Abu-Seifi, located east of the Suez Canal and south of Qantara East.

The industrial area includes of a number of workshops for clay and bronze statues, vessels, pots and pans as well as a collection of administrative buildings, store galleries and a whole residential area for labours. Amphora, imported from south of Italy, was also unearthed.

"It is a very important discovery that highlights Egypt’s economical and commercial relation with its neighbouring countries on the Mediterranean Sea," MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online. He added that it also gives a complete idea of the Egyptian labours’ daily life.

For his part, Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, supervisor of the excavation mission, pointed out that among the newly discovered objects is a very important Roman engraving that provides detailed information on the military importance of Tell Abu-Seifi and the army divisions in this area.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Giza Secret Revealed: How 10,000 Pyramid Builders Got Fed

by Owen Jarus, LiveScience ContributorDate: 23 April 2013

The builders of the famous Giza pyramids in Egypt feasted on food from a massive catering-type operation, the remains of which scientists have discovered at a workers' town near the pyramids.

The workers' town is located about 1,300 feet (400 meters) south of the Sphinx, and was used to house workers building the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure, the third and last pyramid on the Giza plateau. The site is also known by its Arabic name, Heit el-Ghurab, and is sometimes called "the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders."

So far, researchers have discovered a nearby cemetery with bodies of pyramid builders; a corral with possible slaughter areas on the southern edge of workers' town; and piles of animal bones.

Based on animal bone findings, nutritional data, and other discoveries at this workers' town site, the archaeologists estimate that more than 4,000 pounds of meat — from cattle, sheep and goats — were slaughtered every day, on average, to feed the pyramid builders.

This meat-rich diet, along with the availability of medical care (the skeletons of some workers show healed bones), would have been an additional lure for ancient Egyptians to work on the pyramids.

"People were taken care of, and they were well fed when they were down there working, so there would have been an attractiveness to that," said Richard Redding, chief research officer at Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), a group that has been excavating and studying the workers' town site for about 25 years.

"They probably got a much better diet than they got in their village," Redding told LiveScience.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uncovering the Origins of Ancient Egypt

Posted by Andrew Howley of NG Staff in Explorers Journal on April 22, 2013

Ancient Egypt has stood out even among the impressive remains of other ancient civilizations for three main reasons: the pyramids are enormous, the cultural style and imagery remained consistent for ages, and it is really, really old. In fact, the pyramids were roughly as old to ancient tourists from classical Greece as the ruins of Athens and Delphi are to us today.

One of the biggest questions surrounding ancient Egypt then is “where did it come from?” Last week at the Dialogue of Civilizations in Guatemala, National Geographic grantee Renée Friedman of the British Museum, and Ramadan Hussein, recent recipient of a Humboldt Research Fellowship at the University of Tuebingen, set out to answer that question.

The Catfish

Friedman began by showing the “Narmer Palette,” which dates from 3100 BC, and features a ruler, triumphant over his enemies, seen with the crowns of both Upper and Lower Egypt. He is identified by two animal images: a falcon, symbol of the leader of gods, Horus; and a catfish his own personal symbol, since the ancient Egyptian word for catfish was “nar.”

According to Friedman, the iconography of forceful leadership and control over chaos illustrate that already at this early date, the role of kingship in Egypt fit a pattern that would continue for the next 3,000 years. But this is still not the beginning.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The real boats of King Khufu

The world’s oldest port has been discovered near the Red Sea town of Zaafarana and, as Nevine El-Aref shows, it reveals that contrary to common belief the ancient Egyptians were accomplished sailors

The long-held supposition that the ancient Egyptians avoided travelling by sea and had poor naval technology can be laid to rest. Early this week archaeologists discovered a port dating from the reign of the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid and owner of the Solar Boats at Giza, in the Wadi Al-Jarf area south of Zaafarana on the Red Sea.
Little was known about the Pharaohs’ seafaring ways until 2001, when a joint Italian-American archaeological mission from the universities of Naples and Boston unearthed timbers, rigging and cedar planks in the ancient Red Sea harbour of Marsa Gawasis, 23 kilometres south of Port Safaga. The harbour was used during the 12th Dynasty to mount naval expeditions to the land of Punt (now in southern Sudan or the Eritrean region of Ethiopia) to obtain gold, ebony, ivory, leopard skins and the frankincense necessary for religious rituals.

The hides of giraffe, leopard and cheetah, which were worn by temple priests, were imported along with live exotic animals — either for the priests’ own menageries or as religious sacrifices — including the sacred cynocephalus or dog-faced baboon. Little wonder that Punt became known as the “Land of the Gods” and the personal pleasure garden of the great god Amun.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Museum Pieces - Apis carrying the mummy

Separated from the mummy-shaped coffin of which it once formed the footboard, the board now appears to have been created as an independent work of art: a lively depiction of a bull with black spots, carrying a mummy on its back. According to a myth, the sacred Apis bull carried the corpse of Osiris for Horus. It is a rare image which the priest of Montu Nes(er)-amun has utilized in order to achieve resurrection like Osiris.

Present location:   KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM [09/001] VIENNA
Inventory number:   912
Archaeological Site:   UNKNOWN
Material:   WOOD
Technique:   PAINTED
Height:   36.2 cm
Width:   27 cm
Depth:   2 cm


Speech by Osiris, the great god, and by Montu, the Lord of the West. Nes(er)-amun, the lord of veneration.


Bergmann, E. von, Inschriftliche Denkmäler, in: Recueil de Travaux rélatifs à la philologie et à l'archéologie égyptiennes et assyriennes (RecTrav) 9 (1887) 49: Nr. 22.

Katalog "5000 Jahre Aegyptische Kunst", Wien (1961/62) 86, Nr. 154.

Katalog: "Osiris, Kreuz und Halbmond", Stuttgart (1984), 100, 102, Nr. 78.

Satzinger, H., Das Kunsthistorische Museum in Wien. Die Ägyptisch-Orientalische Sammlung. Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäologie 14. Mainz. 1994.

Source: http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org/detail.aspx?id=5822

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Alexandria, Egypt's 'Pearl of the Mediterranean'

by Rick Steves

Most tourists in Egypt visit only Cairo and Luxor. Few visit Alexandria, just a three-hour drive away -- the country's second city, and one of the great cities of the Mediterranean. Egypt's historical capital for almost a millennium, today the "Pearl of the Mediterranean" is a favorite summer getaway for locals who appreciate its cosmopolitan flavor and cooler climate. It's like Cairo in its mega-millions intensity, but cleaner and quieter, and facing the Mediterranean instead of the Nile.

Alexandria, founded in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great, is a fabled place. Queen Cleopatra ruled from here, back when the city was, along with Rome, one of two in the ancient world with a million people. Back then, it rivaled Rome as a cultural and intellectual capital. Alexandria's awe-inspiring lighthouse (or Pharos) -- one of the seven wonders of the ancient world -- marked its harbor, and its legendary library was the world's largest. No ship could dock here without giving up its books to be copied for this, the ultimate repository of knowledge. Tragically for all of civilization, the library burned (likely around 48 B.C.), and today only its legend -- and a fragment of a single scroll (now kept in Vienna) -- survives.

History has been harsh: No trace of Alexander's day survives, Cleopatra's city is now under the sea, the library is long gone, and the lighthouse has tumbled (the only surviving image of it is engraved on a coin). Of its ancient wonders, only a hint of Alexandria's street plan, a few archaeological digs, and the towering Pompey's Pillar survive today.

The nearly 90-foot-tall Pompey's Pillar, carved out of a single mighty piece of granite, was shipped 500 miles from Aswan down the Nile to this spot 1,700 years ago. It stands like an exclamation mark, reminding all who visit that today's city sits upon what was a mighty urban center of a million ancient Egyptians.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Egypt’s priceless artefacts disappear to the black market

by Abdel-Rahman Sherief  /   April 14, 2013

“Stop the heritage drain” campaign fights to preserve Egypt’s inheritance by highlighting the theft of culturally significant objects

One of the statues that was stolen from the Egyptian Museum
( Photo courtesy of Stop the heritage drain Facebook page)
Antiquity smuggling has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the two years since the 25 January Revolution since it is an easy way to make immediate money, even if it is on the account of Egypt’s heritage and history.

The fragile security situation in the country and the financial and economic ordeals the population is suffering from are considered the main reasons behind this phenomenon. Given that a small, wooden, carved Pharaonic statue or a marble bust can be sold for a large sum of US dollars, there are many who take advantage of this immediate influx of cash that can immediately improve their standard of living.

Consequently many historic antiquities are found missing from museums throughout Egypt and sealed historic areas are subjected to random excavations carried out by inhabitants looking for any hidden or unknown antiquities.

The Egyptian Council for Culture and Arts mentioned in its report last year that the amount of stolen Egyptian antiquities reached about 3,000 artefacts, probably now residing outside Egypt in the hands of private collectors.

The Ministry of Interior and the security forces have proven to be incapable to stand against and stop this heritage drain in Egypt and the Ministry of Antiquities refuses to publicise which parts of Egypt’s heritage are missing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Egyptian mummies yield genetic secrets

Next-generation sequencing finds DNA preserved in hot climates.

by Jo Marchant

The ancient Egyptians could soon be getting their genomes sequenced as a matter of routine. That’s the view, at least, of the first researchers to use next-generation techniques to analyse DNA from Egyptian mummies.

In a preliminary study that the authors describe as “a first step”, they detected hints of one of the mummies’ ancestral origins, as well as pathogens and a range of plant materials presumably used in the embalming process. The researchers, led by Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, published their findings last week in the Journal of Applied Genetics[1].

Previous studies of DNA from Egyptian mummies have used a technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify specific segments of DNA. But these studies have been controversial. The PCR method is susceptible to contamination with modern DNA, especially when amplifying genes from humans or bacteria that are likely to be present in the environment.

DNA degrades relatively quickly in warm conditions, leading to doubts that it would survive for long in the Egyptian desert. For example, a high-profile DNA analysis of 3,300-year-old royal mummies[2] published by Pusch and his colleagues in 2010 attracted scepticism. But the authors stood by their results, arguing that the embalming process must have preserved the DNA despite the heat.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Egypt's King Khufu's harbour in Suez discovered

French-Egyptian archaeological mission discover the oldest commercial harbour from fourth dynasty Egyptian King Khufu at Wadi Al-Jarf area, 180 km south of Suez

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 11 Apr 2013

On the Red Sea shore at Wadi Al-Jarf area along the Suez-Zaafarana road, a French-Egyptian archaeological mission from the French Institute for Archaeological Studies (IFAO) stumbled upon what it believed to be the most ancient harbour ever found in Egypt.

The harbour goes back to the reign of the fourth dynasty King Khufu, the owner of the Great Pyramid in Giza Plateau. The harbour is considered one of the most important commercial harbours where trading trips to export copper and other minerals from Sinai were launched.

A collection of vessel anchors carved in stone was also discovered as well as the harbours different docks.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced that a collection of 40 papyri, showing details of daily life of ancient Egyptians during the 27th year of King Khufu’s reign, was also unearthed during excavation work carried out.
Photocredit: MSAA

“These are the oldest papyri ever found in Egypt,” asserted Ibrahim.

He also stated that these papyri are very important because it reveals more information on the ancient Egyptians’ daily life, as it includes monthly reports of the number of labours working in the harbour and details of their lives.

The papyri have been transferred to the Suez Museum for study and documentation.

French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet, director of the archaeological mission, pointed out that it is very important to carefully study the information in these papyri because it will introduce plenty of information about this period. The papyri will also show the nature of life that the ancient Egyptians once lived, their rights and duties, which we know little about, Tallet added.

The mission has also succeeded in discovering remains of workers’ houses, which reveals the importance of this harbour and area commercially whether among the different cities of Egypt or abroad, said Adel Hussein, head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector at the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

A collection of 30 caves were also discovered along with the stone blocks used to block their entrances, inscribed with King Khufu’s cartouche written in red ink. Ship ropes and stone tools used to cut ropes and wooden remains were discovered as well.

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/69024/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Egypts-King-Khufus-harbour-in-Suez-discovered.aspx

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Roman ruins in Old Cairo

by Abdel-Rahman Sherief  /   April 9, 2013

The remnants of a historic city hidden in Coptic Cairo

The remnants of Fort Babylon, a colossal round building located near the Coptic Museum and the Greek Orthodox St. George Church, are often overlooked by tourists and neglected by tour guides when they visit the old Coptic area of Cairo.

The fort was built by the Romans northeast of the old capital Memphis and overlooked the Nile, meant to secure transportation along the river between Upper and Lower Egypt. In the present day there is little left of its former glory.

The fort was built on the southern end of the old Pharaonic town Per-Hapi-On, or ‘The river house of On’. According to some historians the mispronunciation of the name by the Romans led to the name Fort Babylon but others claim it was named after a number of captives brought there from Babylonia during the time of Sesostris.

Roman Emperor Diocletian built the fort in 300 C.E. as the stronghold of three legions in charge of securing Egypt. The garrison of Fort Babylon vowed to secure ships on the Nile and a canal that passed through the town connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. This canal was first established by the Pharaohs, and was restored and enlarged by the Roman Emperor Trajan. The fort was renovated and fortified by the Roman Emperor Arcadius.

The harbour flourished, hosting ships from the Red and Mediterranean Seas, and the city thrived and became Egypt’s centre of commerce. This prompted the Roman emperors and governors to enlarge the garrison and dedicate resources to the city.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Truth Behind Gospel of Judas Revealed in Ancient Inks

By: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer 
Published: 04/08/2013 11:37 AM EDT on LiveScience

A long-lost gospel that casts Judas as a co-conspirator of Jesus, rather than a betrayer, was ruled most likely authentic in 2006. Now, scientists reveal they couldn't have made the call without a series of far more mundane documents, including Ancient Egyptian marriage licenses and property contracts.

The Gospel of Judas is a fragmented Coptic (Egyptian)-language text that portrays Judas in a far more sympathetic light than did the gospels that made it into the Bible. In this version of the story, Judas turns Jesus over to the authorities for execution upon Jesus' request, as part of a plan to release his spirit from his body. In the accepted biblical version of the tale, Judas betrays Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

As part of a 2006 National Geographic Society (the Society) investigation of the document, microscopist Joseph Barabe of McCrone Associates in Illinois and a team of researchers analyzed the ink on the tattered gospel to find out if it was real or forged.

Some of the chemicals in the ink raised red flags — until Barabe and his colleagues found, at the Louvre Museum, a study of Egyptian documents from the third century A.D., the same time period of the Gospal of Judas.

"What the French study told us is that ink technology was undergoing a transition," Barabe told LiveScience. The Gospel of Judas' odd ink suddenly fit into place.

Monday, April 8, 2013

'Echoes' may resonate with just about everyone

by Phyllis A.S. Boros
Published 1:49 pm, Thursday, April 4, 2013

Regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnic background, one thing unites most of the world: a fascination with Ancient Egypt. On both scholarly and popular levels, interest is an "almost universal phenomenon."

With that awareness, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History will embark on one of its most ambitious exhibits of recent years: "Echoes of Egypt: Conjuring the Land of the Pharaohs."

Incorporating more than 100 objects from various Yale University collections, as well as those on loan from other prestigious institutions around the country, "Echoes of Egypt" is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors during its run, Saturday, April 13, through Saturday, Jan. 4.

Curator of the landmark exhibition is Dr. Colleen Manassa, an associate professor of Egyptology at Yale's department of Near Eastern languages and civilizations. She is credited as author or co-author of five books and more than 20 articles and directs an on-going archaeological expedition at the Moalla Survey Project in Egypt.

The overall aim of the exhibition, Manassa said, is to help "merge interest in modern Egypt with interest in ancient Egypt ... and to look at how Egypt has been re-imagined through the millennia" influencing art, architecture and literature in a host of different periods and cultures.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Museum Pieces - A Middle Kingdom Pectoral

Photocredit: The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester
Accession Number5966
Object NamePectoral
DescriptionGold pectoral inlaid with precious stones, including carnelian and lapis lazuli. The pectoral depicts two falcons standing on hieroglyphs reading 'nub', or gold. In between and behind the falcons are papyrus plants, and at top are two Eyes of Horus (wedjat-eyes) flanking a sun disc. The falcons are symbols of the king and the god Horus; the eyes offer protection.
Width (cm)4.2
Primary MaterialsCarnelian
Lapis lazuli
Period/DynastyMiddle Kingdom (Dyn. 12)
Site NameAfrica, Egypt, Middle Egypt, el-Riqqa
AcquisitionHaworth, Mr Jesse (Donation)

This small (4.2cm wide) object has perhaps the most dramatic biography of any in the Manchester Egypt collection, and one which would not seem out of place in a Hollywood movie script. Known today as the Riqqeh Pectoral after the site at which it was discovered, this ornate chest ornament, with two loops for suspension indicating that it was worn on a necklace, is an undoubted highlight of the Manchester Museum. The piece was created using a technique termed cloisonné, in which separate gold sections are filled with semi-precious stones. Lapis lazuli (dark blue), carnelian (red) and turquoise (blue/green) give the pectoral its colourful appearance and gem-like lustre. The reverse is chased in gold with details of the figures: two wedjat eyes (or ‘eyes of Horus’) flank a sun disk above two falcons (sometimes described as ‘crows’) on symbols for ‘gold’. The composition is arranged symmetrically around a stylised papyrus umbel suggesting a sekhem sceptre – a symbol of power. Two inward turned papyrus stalks frame the group.

The pectoral was found in association with two other items, each in the form of a king’s name: Senuseret II (Khakheperre) and Senuseret III (Khakaure). It can therefore be reliably dated to the second half of the Twelfth Dynasty (c. 1900-1840 BC). It is a fine example of delicate jewellery on a small scale, typical of the best Middle Kingdom royal pieces.

But it was the archaeological context of the pectoral that is most remarkable. Between 1911-12 English Egyptologist Reginald Engelbach was excavating in a cemetery at el-Riqqeh, near the entrance to the Faiyum lake region. At the bottom of a deep tomb shaft (no. 124), Engelbach discovered an apparently-intact chamber, the roof of which had collapsed in antiquity. At the centre of the chamber was a coffin containing a mummy – but with the arm-bones of another body lying on top of it. The remaining bones of this second individual lay nearby. According to the excavator, “it appeared as if it had been suddenly crushed while in a standing, or at least crouching position when the fall occurred.”

Within the mummy wrappings several items of jewellery, including the pectoral, had apparently been partially dislodged. All the evidence suggests that a robber must have been crushed in the act of rifling for valuables when the roof collapsed. Tomb robbery was a well-known fact of life in ancient as well as post-Pharaonic Egypt. Many objects are likely to have been stolen not long after they were interred. Yet it is exceptional to have the circumstances of a robbery preserved in such a fashion: a gruesome snapshot of the “mummy’s curse” in action.

The pectoral is one of the most often-illustrated items in the Manchester collection, and the most popular – judging by considerable postcard sales for this image. Few people, however, know the story behind its discovery. To put the pectoral into its proper – albeit unusual – archaeological context, the group of jewellery from Riqqeh tomb 124 will feature in Gallery 1 of our Ancient Worlds redisplay, as part of a narrative told from the point of view of a tomb robber – one of several guides to the exploration of archaeological finds.

Source: The Manchester Museum & http://egyptmanchester.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/object-biography-4-the-riqqeh-pectoral-acc-no-5966/

Djehuty Project discovers significant evidences of the 17th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt

The Djehuty Project, led by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), has discovered on the hill of Dra Abu el-Naga in Luxor (ancient Thebes), the burials of four personages belonging to the elite of the 17th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, who lived about 3.550 years ago. These findings, discovered during the 12th campaign of archeological excavations of the project, shed light on a little-known historical period in which Thebes becomes the capital of the kingdom and the empire's foundations become established with the dominance of Egypt over Palestine and Syria to the north, and over Nubia to the south.

The project is led by the CSIC researcher José Manuel Galán, from the Institute of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (ILC), and funded by Unión Fenosa Gas and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. 

The 17th Dynasty belongs to the historical period called Second Intermediate Period of Egypt (between 1800 and 1550 BC), characterized by the hegemony of rulers of Syrian-Palestinian origin settled in the eastern Delta. This is a period of great political complexity in which the monarchy did not control all the territory and the real power was in the hands of local rulers. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Icons of Power – Revelations though ancient Egyptian art

Press Release: University of Auckland
5 April 2013

Icons of Power – Revelations though ancient Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptians depicted races from other lands as ‘alien’; weaker enemies as inferior, and more respected ones elevated in portrayals, according to a recent book Icons of power by Anthony Spalinger, University of Auckland Professor of Ancient History.

Published by Charles University in Prague the 228 page study explores the Egyptian narrative art and the ancient Egyptian concept of foreigners as ‘other.’

Icons of Power is a major contribution to Art History as well as Egyptology, with presentation and discussion of the ancient art and techniques used in wall reliefs from the Egyptian New Kingdom during the Empire Period (18th to 20th Dynasties). It promises to hold wide appeal for Egyptologists, scholars, historians and those interested in ancient art.

Content covers the entire stone wall reliefs of the temples found in Thebes, the Egyptian religious capital of the New Kingdom period, and the centre of worship of Amun-Ra, the Egyptian Sun god. It includes original colour photographs and extensive diagrams.

“The wall reliefs are arranged in registers, which are sequences of scenes very much like a series of photos. These registers are created in rows. Viewing them is almost like walking with a tour guide. All scenes are idealised images – They didn’t need to be real, but they did need to show the power of the Pharoah,” says Professor Spalinger.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Archaeologists Uncover Rare Leather from Ancient Egyptian Chariot

Nearly 300 leather fragments from an ancient Egyptian chariot, believed to date back to the New Kingdom, have been recently uncovered from the depths of the Egyptian Museum by a team of renowned archaeologists. Studying the technology and resources utilized in the building of such chariots, the team aims to reconstruct an ancient Egyptian royal chariot in 2014, using the same technology as that used by the ancient Egyptians.

“The discovery of such leather fragments is extremely rare and unusual,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology, who is among the team of archaeologists working to unravel the mysteries behind these recently uncovered leather portions. “Only a handful of complete chariots are known from ancient Egypt, and of these, only one heavily restored in Florence, and that of Yuya and Tjuiu in the Egyptian Museum, have any significant amount of leather. Even then, they are largely unembellished and not as well-preserved as the fragments we found.”

Although horse-drawn chariots are often illustrated in ancient Egyptian artwork, archaeological evidence that goes beyond wooden frames is scarce. Due to their organic nature, leather fragments seldom survive. “The pieces were in a much better shape than we originally anticipated, and we were able to achieve a sense of how the leather unfolds,” said Ikram. “The fine condition that the leather was in suggests that it may have been preserved in a tomb. Leather finds from urban contexts such as Amarna, although still relatively good compared to those from many sites elsewhere in the world, usually show signs of disintegration, are brittle and, overall, in far worse condition.”

In constructing an exact replica of the chariot, Ikram and the team aim to gain an understanding of the construction technology and the leather used in its fabrication, as well as to test hypotheses about the uses of the different pieces of leather, which may prove to be a challenging endeavor. “Some leather pieces are folded over in a crumpled state, and the reconstruction of certain portions while trying to maintain accuracy in reproducing the technologies used might be more difficult than we anticipate,” said Ikram. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The drama of Ancient Egypt’s 19th dynasty

by Thoraia Abou Bakr  /   April 4, 2013

Lecture explores the drama of Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom and the convoluted schemes for the throne

Most people are aware of Ancient Egypt’s rich, compelling history and culture, but have no knowledge of the period’s fascinating political dramas. On Tuesday 2 April, Dr Aidan Dodson gave a lecture at the American University in Cairo on the royal family after the death of Ramses II. Therein lies a drama worthy of an Emmy and better than any soap opera.

Dr Dodson points out that before the 19th Dynasty little focus was put on members of the royal family other than the king and queen. Even their offspring did not appear on tomb and temple carvings. However, starting from the 19th Dynasty, Ramses II appeared with his sons in battle on the walls of Beit-Al-Wali.

After the death of Ramses II, his thirteenth son Merneptah ruled briefly, as all his elder brothers had died. He was followed by his son Seti II, who reportedly had two wives, Takhat and Twosret, whom he married before being overthrown.  It was then that particularly intense competition over the throne began. The competition was between Seti II and Amenmesse, believed to be the son of Merneptah and Takhat.

The only existing statue, a bust of Amenmesse, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The rest of the statue is believed to be at Karnak. The name of Takhat is engraved on it, accompanied by a symbol of a vulture, meaning mother. It is believed that Amenmesse was the viceroy of Nubia. The symbol was then altered to read “wife” when Seti II reinstated himself as king.