Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An art of drawing

A trail-blazing exhibition at the Louvre in Paris focuses on ancient Egyptian drawing, writes David Tresilian

Now in its final days at the Louvre museum in Paris, but due to reopen at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire in Brussels in September, L’Art du contour, le dessin dans l’Egypte ancienne focuses on one of the foundations of art in ancient Egypt, the art of drawing.
Presented in a small temporary exhibition space in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, the exhibition could almost be overlooked by visitors hurrying through to the museum’s main collections. However, the exhibition’s small size belies its importance, since this is apparently the first time that the subject has been dealt with in a dedicated exhibition, and it has benefitted from the kind of scholarly treatment that perhaps the Louvre almost alone of all international museums is still able to devote to it.

There is an impressive catalogue containing specially commissioned essays on various aspects of ancient Egyptian drawing by recognised specialists. These consider topics such as the formal and technical aspects of ancient Egyptian drawing, as well as the material conditions of its production, including the training, remuneration and professional status of ancient Egyptian artists. The aim has been to explore how western-trained art historians might make sense of ancient Egyptian drawing, the curator, Guillemette Andreu-Lanoe, says in her introduction to the catalogue, before going on to quote the opinion of Giorgio Vasari, the Italian Renaissance artist, for whom drawing was “the father of the arts of architecture, painting and sculpture.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lost Tombs - In search of history's greatest rulers

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The improbable discovery last year of Richard III’s skeleton under a parking lot in Leicester, England, is a reminder that while some burials of great historical figures are lost to posterity, careful archaeological sleuthing could still bring them to light. The debate over where to rebury the notorious English king illustrates how important finding the physical remains of these lost rulers can be. And study of Richard III’s remains promises to add to our understanding of both the man himself and the time he lived in. Finding a ruler’s lost tomb may be the most romantic discovery possible in archaeology, but it can also be an opportunity to create a richer picture of ancient life.

Here are the stories behind the lost final resting places of seven great royal figures, which, if found, could give us exciting insights into our collective past.

Nefertiti, Great Royal Wife and Queen of Egypt

Ruled ca. 1348-1330 B.C.

In the 1880s, residents living near the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna discovered a large multichambered rock-cut tomb. It was one of many such tombs at Amarna, but its impressive size distinguished it from the others. Unfortunately, the tomb, called Amarna 26, has been badly damaged by looters, weather, and time, and many of the most significant artifacts were removed at some point, either in antiquity or more recently. Relatively little of the tomb’s fragile decoration is intact. Nevertheless, enough inscribed artifacts do survive—including more than 200 shabti figurines, an alabaster chest, and two large granite sarcophagi—that archaeologists are reasonably certain the tomb, also called the Royal Tomb, belonged to the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten and his daughter Meketaten.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Museum Pieces - Fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx

Length: 78.700 cm - Gift of Giovanni Battista Caviglia - EA 58
Fragment of the beard of the Great Sphinx
From Giza, Egypt
Perhaps New Kingdom, 14th century BC
Together with the nearby pyramids, the Great Sphinx at Giza is one of the great symbols of ancient Egypt. It is generally attributed to Khafre, the king who built the second pyramid. It was carved out of local limestone, which was probably left over from rock used for construction of the 'Great Pyramid' of Khufu (Greek: Kheops), Khafre's father.
The British Museum has this small fragment - about one-thirtieth in total - of the Great Sphinx's beard. It was presented by Giovanni Battista Caviglia, who excavated at Giza in 1817 and cleared parts of the Sphinx, which was then buried in sand up to the neck. His expenses were covered by Henry Salt (British Consul-General) and other British businessmen, with an agreement that finds be presented to The British Museum. This was done according to a directive of Mohammed Ali Pasha, who was at that time virtually the ruler of Egypt.
Caviglia found a number of fragments of the beard and the tip of the uraeus between the paws of the Sphinx, and left other parts of the beard in the sand. When the Sphinx was cleared in 1925-26 some other fragments were removed to the Cairo Museum.
The sphinx takes the form of a lion's body with a royal head, symbolizing the immense power of the king. The fragment shows the beard to have been of the plaited, 'divine' type, depicted on gods and the dead, rather than kings and the living (see an example on the sarcophagus of Sasobek, also in The British Museum). However, it is doubtful whether it would have had a beard when first carved in about 2550 BC; it was probably added during restoration work in the Eighteenth Dynasty (about 1550-1295 BC), and fell off in antiquity. It has sometimes been suggested that damage to the face was caused during the late eighteenth century by Napoleon's troops. In fact an early fifteenth-century Arab historian reported that the face had been disfigured in his time. Seventeenth- and mid-eighteenth-century drawings, made before the French expedition to Egypt, appear to support his report.
M. Lehner, The complete pyramids (London, Thames and Hudson, 1998)
Z. Hawas, The secrets of the Sphinx (Cairo, 1998)
G. Hart, Pharaohs and pyramids (London, Dorling Kindersley in association with the British Museum, 1991)
Source: http://www.britishmuseum.org/

Polish archaeologists in Egypt uncovered the remains of a 4.5 thousand years old settlement

Remains of a settlements from the period of the builders of the great pyramids (Dynasty III-VI) have been uncovered at Tell el-Murra in the Nile Delta by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University.

Polish archaeologists have been working at Tell el-Murra since 2008. The settlement is located in the north-eastern part of the Nile Delta, in the vicinity of another site from the same period - Tell el-Farkha, studied by archaeologists from Poznań and Kraków.

Tell el-Murra is a small hill, covering the remains of an ancient settlement, founded more than 5500 years ago. As a result of the settlement ongoing here for over 1,300 years, as a consequence of constructing buildings made of dried bricks on the same site, an elevation (tell) formed, which now reaches a few meters above the level of fields.

Excavations at Tell el-Murra in April and May of this year were conducted mainly in the north-eastern part of the site, occupied by the settlement. The objective was to confirm the hypothesis based on earlier work, relating to the period in which the settlement had been inhabited.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Its Reign Was Long, With Nine Lives to Start

‘Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt’ at the Brooklyn Museum

Published: July 25, 2013

(Photocredit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)
At left, “Face of Sakhmet,’ from around 1390-1292 B.C.; right, “Recumbent Lion,” in limestone, from 305-30 B.C.

If your dream of heaven is eternity spent with the pets you love, “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” at the Brooklyn Museum is your exhibition. All of its 30 objects, sifted from the museum’s Egyptian collection, are of cats, big and little, feral and tame, celestial and not. Whether cast in bronze or carved in stone, their forms were to outlast time, and so they have.

Although it’s often assumed that the domestication of cats began in Egypt, archaeology suggests that Mesopotamia was the place. And despite the feline presence in religious contexts, Egyptians didn’t worship cats per se, but created gods that had their physical features, their expressive moods and their near-supernatural intelligence.

Ancient Egyptians took the supernatural seriously.

It was, for them, reality. The path between life on earth and life in an earthlike place beyond was continuous. The sun traveled it every day, moving across the sky from east to west, dropping from sight to continue its circuit through the netherworld, then turning up on earth again.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Grisly Egyptian mummy mysteries unraveled

by Dan Vergano USA TODAY

Mummy myths and modern science battle it out in today's studies of the ancient dead of the Kingdom on the Nile.

Mummies and myths go together, with a touch of ghoulish interest in ancient tombs for added interest, but modern science is shedding a little light on some of our more musty ideas about ancient Egypt's dead.

Even as modern-day Egypt seethes with political turmoil, scholarship into the mortuary practices of that ancient land is enjoying a renaissance.

"Mummification went on in Egypt for more than 3,000 years, and the practice changed at different times and places," says anthropologist Andrew Wade of Canada's University of Western Ontario. "In the past, we would look at one or two mummies and make conclusions, but now we have a lot more non-destructive technology and medical information we can bring to bear on them."

In an upcoming Journal of Archaeological Science analysis, Wade and his colleague Andrew Nelson look at radiological scans of 84 ancient mummies from museums worldwide. Their goal: seeking to prove or disprove some of the hoariest (and creepiest), accounts of ancient mummification. Among those ideas was the notion that embalmers removed the brains of dead rulers through the nose and that the practice was limited to royalty and their loyal followers. Another is that the internal organs of the wealthy were removed from mummies. The study and a series of related reports show all of those ideas, long staples of scary mummy stories good for grossing out schoolkids and adults, look a little more complicated when viewed under the X-ray.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When Lettuce Was a Sacred Sex Symbol

Lettuce has been harvested for millenia—it was depicted by ancient Egyptians on the walls of tombs dating back to at least 2,700 B.C. The earliest version of the greens resembled two modern lettuces: romaine, from the French word “romaine” (from Rome), and cos lettuce, believed to have been found on the island of Kos, located along the coast of modern day Turkey.  

But in Ancient Egypt around 2,000 B.C., lettuce was not a popular appetizer, it was an aphrodisiac, a phallic symbol that represented the celebrated food of the Egyptian god of fertility, Min. (It is unclear whether the lettuce’s development in Egypt predates its appearance on the island of Kos.) The god, often pictured with an erect penis in wall paintings and reliefs was also known as the “great of love” as he is called in a text from Edfu Temple. The plant was believed to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.”

Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo who specializes in Ancient Egyptian food explains Min’s part in lettuce history. “Over 3,000 years, [Min's] role did change, but he was constantly associated with lettuce,” she says.

The first of these depictions appeared around 1970-80 B.C. in the The White Chapel of Senusret I, though there may be earlier examples, Ikram says.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mummy Teeth Tell of Ancient Egypt's Drought

By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer   |   July 16, 2013

The link between drought and the rise and fall of Egypt's ancient cultures, including the pyramid builders, has long fascinated scientists and historians. Now, they're looking into an unexpected source to find connections: mummy teeth.

A chemical analysis of teeth enamel from Egyptian mummies reveals the Nile Valley grew increasingly arid from 5,500 to 1,500 B.C., the period including the growth and flourishing of ancient Egyptian civilization.

"Egyptian civilization was remarkable in its long-term stability despite a strong environmental pressure — increasing aridity — that most likely put constraints on the development of resources linked to agriculture and cattle breeding," said senior study author Christophe Lecuyer, a geochemist at the University of Lyon in France.

Many studies have linked dramatic droughts to crises near the end of the Old Kingdom (the Age of the Pyramids) in the third millennium B.C. But Lecuyer and his colleagues also found a jump in aridity before the downfall of Egypt in the 6th century B.C. during the Late Period, when it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

However, the new study can't resolve the occasional drops in annual Nile River floods or short-term droughts that often caused widespread famine and upsets in Egyptian history.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Museum Pieces - Papyrus from the office of Cleopatra VII

Document from the office of Cleopatra VII
Papyrus / documentary (document)
Cleopatra VII Philopator (Queen) 
More: 23 Feb. 33 BC
Egypt (country) 
excavation site: Abusir el-Meleq
Objektmaß: 24.2 x 21 x 0.02 inches 
Frame: 28 x 24 x 0.4 cm
Ident.Nr. 25239 P
Collection:  Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection | Papyri
© Photo:  Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Prussian Cultural Heritage
Photographer / in:  Sandra rump

More about the papyrus:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wooden sheets of 1st Dynasty funerary boat found at Egypt's Abu Rawash

French archaeological mission discovers remains of two funeral boats of King Den – dating from roughly 3000 BC – northeast of Egypt's Giza Plateau

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 9 Jul 2013

During excavations near the Archaic-era necropolis located at Abu Rawash northeast of the Giza Plateau, a French archaeological mission from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO) has unearthed wooden sheets of two funerary boats of First Dynasty King Den (dating from around 3000 BC).

The first sheet is 390 centimetres tall, while the second is 70 centimetres in height. A third 120-centimetre-tall sheet was also found, but initial studies suggest that this belonged to a first boat, discovered last year in the same area.

Mostafa Amin, secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the wooden sheets, found in very bad condition, were transported to laboratories in the planned Grand Egyptian Museum for restoration.

The IFAO started its excavation works at Abu Rawash in the early 1900s, where several archaeological complexes have since been found.

At the complex of King Djedefre, son of the Great Pyramid King Khufu, archaeologist Emile Chassinat discovered the remains of a funerary settlement, a boat pit and numerous statue fragments bearing the name of Fourth Dynasty King Djedefre.

Under the direction of Pierre Lacau, the IFAO continued its excavation work, discovering new structures to the east of the Djedefre Pyramid. However, objects bearing the names of First Dynasty Kings Aha and Den found near the pyramid suggest an earlier presence at Abu Rawash.

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/76106/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Wooden-sheets-of-st-Dynasty-funerary-boat-found-at.aspx

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Part of Egyptian Sphinx found in Northern Israel

Artifact bears the name of Mycerinus, the king who was one of the builders of the Giza pyramids.

By Arutz Sheva

First Publish: 7/9/2013

As modern Egypt searches for a new leader, Israeli archaeologists have found evidence of an ancient Egyptian leader in northern Israel.

At a site in Tel Hazor National Park, north of the Sea of Galilee, archeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have unearthed part of a unique Sphinx belonging to one of the ancient pyramid-building pharaohs.
Photocredit: Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman
The Hazor Excavations are headed by Prof. Amnon Ben-Tor, the Yigael Yadin Professor in the Archaeology of Eretz Israel at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, and Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, a lecturer at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

Working with a team from the Institute of Archaeology, they discovered part of a Sphinx brought over from Egypt, with a hieroglyphic inscription between its front legs. The inscription bears the name of the Egyptian king Mycerinus, who ruled in the third millennium BCE, more than 4,000 years ago. The king was one of the builders of the famous Giza pyramids.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mysterious Toe Rings Found on Ancient Egyptian Skeletons

by Owen Jarus, LiveScience ContributorDate: 05 July 2013

Archaeologists have discovered two ancient Egyptian skeletons, dating back more than 3,300 years, which were each buried with a toe ring made of copper alloy, the first time such rings have been found in ancient Egypt.

The toe rings were likely worn while the individuals were still alive, and the discovery leaves open the question of whether they were worn for fashion or magical reasons.

Supporting the magical interpretation, one of the rings was found on the right toe of a male, age 35-40, whose foot had suffered a fracture along with a broken femur above it.

Unique rings in a unique ancient city

Both skeletons were found in a cemetery just south of the ancient city of Akhetaten, whose name means "Horizon of the Aten." Now called Amarna, the city of Akhetaten was a short-lived Egyptian capital built by Akhenaten a pharaoh who tried to focus Egypt's religion around the worship of the sun disc, the "Aten." He was also likely the father of Tutankhamun.

After Akhenaten's death, this attempt to change Egyptian religion unraveled, as his successors denounced him and the city became abandoned. Even so, Anna Stevens, the assistant director of the Amarna Project, said the newly discovered rings are unlikely to be related to the religious changes Akhenaten introduced.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hathor Temple at Mit Rahina was not set on fire

After Sunday's mass rallies in Egypt, Hathor Temple stays intact despite rumours of destruction; antiquities minister says all historical sites secured, welcomed visitors

by Nevine El-Aref , Monday 1 Jul 2013

Egypt's archaeological sites, museums and monuments have been secured and protection measures have increased by the Tourism and Antiquities Police, in collaboration with the army, to prevent theft or destruction, following nationwide protests on Sunday against President Mohamed Morsi.

Minister of State for Antiquities Ahmed Eissa asserted that all archaeological sites in Egypt are unharmed and welcomed its visitors. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square received 219 visitors of different nationalities while 585 people visited the Giza Plateau on Sunday and Monday, he stated.

Ministry of State for Antiquities archaeology consultant Mohamed Hamada confirmed to Ahram Online that nothing happened to Hathor Temple at Mit Rahina archaeological site, located about 24kilometres south of Cairo. He also denied rumours that it had been set on fire during.

The temple is very far of the burned grass and plants, Hamada said.

Mit Rahina, known in Ancient Egypt by Memphis, was the capital of Ancient Egypt for over eight consecutive dynasties in the Old Kingdom.

The city reached its peak during the 6th dynasty and became the core of worshiping god Ptah, the god of creation and artworks.

Memphis declined briefly after the 18th dynasty with the rise of Thebes and the New Kingdom, but it remained the second city of Egypt until 641 CE.

It was abandoned and became a source of stone for the surrounding settlements. It includes ruins of Ancient Egyptian, Ptolemaic and Graeco-Roman temples and chapels.

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/75421/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Hathor-Temple-at-Mit-Rahina-was-not-set-on-fire-.aspx