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Friday, December 8, 2017

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis
By Ethan Shaw December 08 2017

A critically endangered wading bird revered in ancient Egypt has an officially greater headcount on the heels of its most recent breeding season.
We're talking here about the northern bald ibis (aka hermit ibis or waldrapp), which – with its raw featherless head and dark bristly ruff – looks something like a long-billed vulture (or, for those Jim Henson fans among you, a little like one of those scratchy-voiced Skeksis from The Dark Crystal).
Northern bald ibis_2017_12_08.gif
Northern bald ibis preening in the sun at Sous-Massa National Park. Image: Brian Stone/YouTube
In late November, BirdLife International announced that two new rookeries of the northern bald ibis have been documented along the Atlantic coast of western Morocco, boosting the number of known breeding pairs to 122.
Biologists and conservationists are cheering the news, which suggests that the protection afforded the bird in the country by the Moroccan government and BirdLife has facilitated ibis dispersal from established, closely monitored breeding colonies – in Souss-Massa National Park and the small town of Tamri – to settle new ones. The recently discovered coastal rookeries lie north of Tamri.
Morocco_northen-bald-ibis-map_2017_12_09.jpg
Today, nearly all wild northern bald ibises are found in Morocco, mostly in closely monitored breeding colonies: one in Souss-Massa National Park and the other in nearby Tamri. The newly discovered colonies lie to the north. 
"The importance of this news is that, with a steady population increase, northern bald ibis are now exiting their 'comfort zone' of the guarded sites, giving us a lot of hope for more similar discoveries," said Jorge F. Orueta of SEO/BirdLife.
Today, nearly all wild northern bald ibises call Morocco home. But the species once ranged continuously from North Africa to Central Europe and the Middle East. The birds' arresting looks, elegant flight and predilection for mythic and desolate landscapes – seaside cliffs, desert wilderness, high-country moors, ruins – seemed to guarantee they would specially resonate in human consciousness across that realm.
The ancient Egyptians honoured the black bird as a "psychopomp" (a guide to the afterlife for souls of the recently dead); its image can be recognised in a 4,500-year-old hieroglyph in the Temple of Horus in Edfu. In the Old Testament, Noah sent out the ibis from the Ark early on to herald fertility. And south-bound ibis migration over the Arabian Peninsula came to be associated with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj.
Reverence and symbolism didn't save the ibis from a multi-headed anthropogenic onslaught in the modern era: overhunting, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and other threats have made it among the most endangered birds in the world. Since at least the early 1900s its domain has been cleaved into distinct western and eastern populations.
4944715543_1c89102b5c_o.jpg
Northern bald ibises in Ethiopia. Image: Gianluca Serra, used with permission)
The Moroccan birds belong to the western population, which doesn't migrate. The eastern population, meanwhile, annually journeyed between breeding sites in Western Asia and wintering grounds in the Ethiopian Highlands, but was thought to have effectively gone extinct in the wild by 1989. That's when scientists converted the last ibises of a dwindled Euphrates River colony in Birecik, Turkey, to a managed, non-migratory, semi-captive existence in order to safeguard them.
In 2002, however, a tiny free-ranging holdover of the eastern stock – just seven birds – was located in the Syrian Desert at Palmyra. As Dr Gianluca Serra, a conservation biologist who studied that relic flock, noted in The Last Flight of the Ancient Guide of Hajj, the discovery was likened to "the 'Tutankhamun's tomb' of Arabian ornithology".
ibis syria_2017_12_08.jpg
Northern bald ibises in Syria. Sadly, the Palmyra flock is no longer in existence. Image: Gianluca Serra, used with permission 
Satellite tags allowed scientists to track these ibises to wintering quarters in Ethiopia – confirming the ancient migration geography – but also revealed the vulnerability (especially of juveniles) to bullets and power lines along the route on the Arabian Peninsula.
Sadly, the Palmyra flock – minuscule to begin with, highly vulnerable to mortality along the migration corridor, and eventually caught up in the multi-year Syrian Civil War – now appears to be lost. "We can safely say that breeding of the Palmyra colony finished in 2013 and the last bird seen [there] did not come back in 2015," Serra told me in an email. He said a few ibises have since been seen in Ethiopia. "[They're] possibly immature birds who do not know the migratory route back to Palmyra."
More than 1,000 northern bald ibis exist in captivity, and – as the recent news out of Morocco represents – there's hope the wild population could both grow in number and expand in territory. Someday, the Birecik ibis colony may again be able to migrate rather than shelter in aviaries for the winter, and meanwhile, ambitious reintroduction programmes are aiming to restore the bird in Europe after centuries of absenceProyecto Eremita has already founded a wild population in southern Spain, while the Waldrappteam conservation project and its partners are working to establish a migratory flock between the Alps of Germany and Austria and wintering refuge in Tuscany – with the birds learning the route, à la whooping cranes, by following an ultralight aircraft.
Keep up with this super-rare, super-cool bird's status via BirdLife and the International Advisory Group for the Northern Bald Ibis. You can also download Dr Serra's photo-book "The Last Flight", chronicling the both miraculous and doomed Syrian ibis colony, right here.
great-auk_related_09_10_17.jpg
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Top header image: MS Abdallah, used with permission

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis | Endangered | Earth Touch News


https://www.earthtouchnews.com/conservation/endangered/new-hope-for-the-critically-endangered-northern-bald-ibis/

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis

New hope for the critically endangered northern bald ibis
By Ethan Shaw December 08 2017

A critically endangered wading bird revered in ancient Egypt has an officially greater headcount on the heels of its most recent breeding season.

We're talking here about the northern bald ibis (aka hermit ibis or waldrapp), which – with its raw featherless head and dark bristly ruff – looks something like a long-billed vulture (or, for those Jim Henson fans among you, a little like one of those scratchy-voiced Skeksis from The Dark Crystal).

Northern bald ibis_2017_12_08.gif
Northern bald ibis preening in the sun at Sous-Massa National Park. Image: Brian Stone/YouTube

In late November, BirdLife International announced that two new rookeries of the northern bald ibis have been documented along the Atlantic coast of western Morocco, boosting the number of known breeding pairs to 122.

Biologists and conservationists are cheering the news, which suggests that the protection afforded the bird in the country by the Moroccan government and BirdLife has facilitated ibis dispersal from established, closely monitored breeding colonies – in Souss-Massa National Park and the small town of Tamri – to settle new ones. The recently discovered coastal rookeries lie north of Tamri.

Morocco_northen-bald-ibis-map_2017_12_09.jpg
Today, nearly all wild northern bald ibises are found in Morocco, mostly in closely monitored breeding colonies: one in Souss-Massa National Park and the other in nearby Tamri. The newly discovered colonies lie to the north. 

"The importance of this news is that, with a steady population increase, northern bald ibis are now exiting their 'comfort zone' of the guarded sites, giving us a lot of hope for more similar discoveries," said Jorge F. Orueta of SEO/BirdLife.

Today, nearly all wild northern bald ibises call Morocco home. But the species once ranged continuously from North Africa to Central Europe and the Middle East. The birds' arresting looks, elegant flight and predilection for mythic and desolate landscapes – seaside cliffs, desert wilderness, high-country moors, ruins – seemed to guarantee they would specially resonate in human consciousness across that realm.

The ancient Egyptians honoured the black bird as a "psychopomp" (a guide to the afterlife for souls of the recently dead); its image can be recognised in a 4,500-year-old hieroglyph in the Temple of Horus in Edfu. In the Old Testament, Noah sent out the ibis from the Ark early on to herald fertility. And south-bound ibis migration over the Arabian Peninsula came to be associated with the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj.

Reverence and symbolism didn't save the ibis from a multi-headed anthropogenic onslaught in the modern era: overhunting, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and other threats have made it among the most endangered birds in the world. Since at least the early 1900s its domain has been cleaved into distinct western and eastern populations.

4944715543_1c89102b5c_o.jpg
Northern bald ibises in Ethiopia. Image: Gianluca Serra, used with permission)

The Moroccan birds belong to the western population, which doesn't migrate. The eastern population, meanwhile, annually journeyed between breeding sites in Western Asia and wintering grounds in the Ethiopian Highlands, but was thought to have effectively gone extinct in the wild by 1989. That's when scientists converted the last ibises of a dwindled Euphrates River colony in Birecik, Turkey, to a managed, non-migratory, semi-captive existence in order to safeguard them.

In 2002, however, a tiny free-ranging holdover of the eastern stock – just seven birds – was located in the Syrian Desert at Palmyra. As Dr Gianluca Serra, a conservation biologist who studied that relic flock, noted in The Last Flight of the Ancient Guide of Hajj, the discovery was likened to "the 'Tutankhamun's tomb' of Arabian ornithology".

ibis syria_2017_12_08.jpg
Northern bald ibises in Syria. Sadly, the Palmyra flock is no longer in existence. Image: Gianluca Serra, used with permission 

Satellite tags allowed scientists to track these ibises to wintering quarters in Ethiopia – confirming the ancient migration geography – but also revealed the vulnerability (especially of juveniles) to bullets and power lines along the route on the Arabian Peninsula.

Sadly, the Palmyra flock – minuscule to begin with, highly vulnerable to mortality along the migration corridor, and eventually caught up in the multi-year Syrian Civil War – now appears to be lost. "We can safely say that breeding of the Palmyra colony finished in 2013 and the last bird seen [there] did not come back in 2015," Serra told me in an email. He said a few ibises have since been seen in Ethiopia. "[They're] possibly immature birds who do not know the migratory route back to Palmyra."

More than 1,000 northern bald ibis exist in captivity, and – as the recent news out of Morocco represents – there's hope the wild population could both grow in number and expand in territory. Someday, the Birecik ibis colony may again be able to migrate rather than shelter in aviaries for the winter, and meanwhile, ambitious reintroduction programmes are aiming to restore the bird in Europe after centuries of absenceProyecto Eremita has already founded a wild population in southern Spain, while the Waldrappteam conservation project and its partners are working to establish a migratory flock between the Alps of Germany and Austria and wintering refuge in Tuscany – with the birds learning the route, à la whooping cranes, by following an ultralight aircraft. 

Keep up with this super-rare, super-cool bird's status via BirdLife and the International Advisory Group for the Northern Bald Ibis. You can also download Dr Serra's photo-book "The Last Flight", chronicling the both miraculous and doomed Syrian ibis colony, right here.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

BBC - Culture - The ancient symbol that spanned millennia


http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20171204-the-ancient-symbol-that-spanned-millennia

The ancient symbol that spanned millennia

As a new exhibition looks at the concept of the loop, Joobin Bekhrad discovers how one symbol had different meanings in ancient Egypt, Hindu mythology and Renaissance alchemy.

It is perhaps fitting that the ancient ouroboros marks the beginning – and end – of Never Ending Stories, a major exhibition currently showing at Germany's Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Spanning multiple mediums, time periods, and fields, the exhibition explores the concept of the loop on a hitherto unseen scale. "The loop is very telling for our times," says curator Ralf Beil, "and the concept of the loop has never been presented in a larger consideration of time and space." Organised into 14 thematic sections, Never Ending Stories looks at loops in not only religion and philosophy, but also modern and contemporary art, film, music and literature.

(Credit: LIMA, Amsterdam)

For Breathing In Breathing Out (1977), Marina Abramović and Ulay blocked their nostrils with cigarette filters and pressed their mouths together (Credit: LIMA, Amsterdam)

 

And the ouroboros is one of the most compelling, a symbol that has been the subject of awe and wonder for millennia. Literally meaning 'tail-devourer' in Greek, it has appeared in numerous forms in a wide array of contexts and geographies. In its original and most common variation, it depicts a snake eating its own tail in a closed circle. The ouroboros, however, isn't Greek, and certainly isn't a celebration of self-cannibalism. What, then, are its origins, and what does it signify?

Here comes the sun

The oldest-known ouroboros appeared on a golden shrine in the tomb of Tutankhamen – 'King Tut' – in Egypt in the 13th Century BC, after a brief lull in traditional religion brought about by his predecessor, Akhenaten. According to leading Egyptologist Jan Assmann, the symbol "refers to the mystery of cyclical time, which flows back into itself". The ancient Egyptians understood time as a series of repetitive cycles, instead of something linear and constantly evolving; and central to this idea was the flooding of the Nile and the journey of the sun.

(Credit: Zentralbibliothek Zürich)

Aurora Consurgens, a 15th-Century alchemical manuscript, features the ouroboros, linked with the symbols of the sun, moon, and mercury (Credit: Zentralbibliothek Zürich)

The flooding of the Nile in summer marked the beginning of the year, and served as a metaphor of cyclical time, flowing "back into itself like a circle … [enabling] renewal, repetition, and regeneration," as Assmann says. Similarly, the sun was believed to be the source of cyclical time, undertaking a nightly journey to the waters of Nun (a sort of primordial void), fraught with all sorts of obstacles, whence it would find its way back to the sky. As such, the ouroboros in its original Egyptian context symbolised repetition, renewal, and the eternal cycle of time.

Known as the oldest allegorical symbol in alchemy, the ouroboros represented the concept of eternity and endless return

Like the sun, the ouroboros underwent a journey of its own. From Egypt, it found its way to the Greek alchemists of Hellenistic Alexandria. In the Chrysopoeia (transmutation into gold) of Cleopatra, the ouroboros appears slightly differently. A pictorial alchemical papyrus from the 3rd-Century AD, it dealt with the creation of gold, and the ouroboros appears among the mysterious symbols and images encircling the Greek words 'One is All'.

Known as the oldest allegorical symbol in alchemy, the ouroboros in this context represented the concept of eternity and endless return, as well as the unity of time's beginning and end, rather than the Egypt-specific journeys of the sun and the Nile. Elsewhere on the papyrus, in a double ring, appears the complete maxim, of which 'One is All' is only a part: 'One is All, and by it All, and for it All', it reads, 'and if it does not contain All, then All is Nothing'.

(Credit: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)

The ouroboros appears in the classic alchemical study, Atalanta Fugiens (1617), by the physician to Emperor Rudolf II, Michael Maier (Credit: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)

The ouroboros was also of significance to the Gnostics. From a Gnostic viewpoint, the opposing ends of the ouroboros were interpreted as the divine and earthly in man, which, despite being at odds with one another, existed in unison nonetheless. In this sense, it is comparable to the Chinese yin and yang, depicting the harmony of contrary forces, as well as the cosmic dichotomy of light and darkness in Manichaeism and the Zoroastrian philosophy of the farvahar, which first posited that each soul was composed of a pure, divine component, as well as a human one.

The ouroboros also appears in other ancient traditions. In Norse mythology, the serpent Jörmungandr encircles the world with its tail in its mouth, while in Hinduism, the ouroboros forms part of the foundation upon which the Earth rests. In the more widespread Roman variant of Iranian Mithraism, Zurvan, symbolising 'boundless time', is depicted with an ouroboros entwined around his body, while the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl is often seen in the form of an ouroboros.

(Credit: Alamy)

The ouroboros is part of Hindu iconography, as in this drawing of a tortoise supporting elephants upon which the Earth rests, enclosed by the serpent, Asootee (Credit: Alamy)

As if this weren't enough, the ouroboros went on to enjoy much popularity among Renaissance alchemists. Again representing the infinite nature of time and the eternal, it was seen in the eyes of the alchemists as the ultimate obstacle to be overcome in the Magnum Opus, their incessant struggle; for to become immortal – their chief aim – meant to break the incessant cycle of the ouroboros once and for all. That they would also come to possess, through their experiments, the prized 'philosopher's stone' that would bring them all the bling in the world, was mere icing on the cake.

Around and around

Never Ending Stories begins and ends with the ouroboros because it is a symbol that has resonated throughout so many different eras. "Its fascination derives from the archaic preciseness of the image," explains Beil, "instantly understandable by every culture, and thus used by a majority of them for two-thousand years". The exhibition looks at other ways in which the loop has been represented, creating a multi-sensory experience with myriad elements – visual, aural, and physical – repeating ad infinitum.

(Credit: Bridget Riley)

Other loops in Never Ending Stories include hypnotic works like Blaze 4 (1964) by Bridget Riley, which mesmerises with its optical effects (Credit: Bridget Riley)

Beil has placed the loops on display into five categories: continuous circles and squares (like the ouroboros); Möbius strips; infinite cycles produced by the Droste Effect (or, as André Gide called it, mise en abyme); Penrose stairs, never-ending staircases partly inspired by the works of MC Escher (and which, in turn, inspired the works of Escher); and permanent, identical loops of all kinds, irrespective of their elements.

Aside from delving into the nature of loops and their various forms, the exhibition highlights their ubiquity in esoteric and historical, as well as more popular contexts. Take, for instance, the well-known Greek myth of Sisyphus, forever condemned to roll a boulder up a hill in Tartarus, which rolls back down again before it can surpass it. Or, Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra: "Behold, we know what you teach," says the author to his protagonist (the antithesis, in fact, of the historical Iranian prophet), "that all things occur eternally and we ourselves along with them, and that we have already been here times eternal and all things along with us."

(Credit: 2017 The MC              Escher Company – The Netherlands)

Works by MC Escher, such as Drawing Hands (1948), contain visual paradoxes, creating spirals that have no end and no beginning (Credit: 2017 The MC Escher Company)

In the same setting can be seen the drawings of Escher, Yayoi Kusama's glittering Infinity Mirrored Roominstallation – "a trance-like, four-by-four-metre infinity of light: a highly cyclical eternity", according to Beil – Marcel Duchamp's spiralling Rotoreliefs from the 30s and 60s and architectural proposals by Le Corbusier, while songs like Donna Summer's I Feel Love and Kraftwerk's Autobahn form part of the soundtrack.

From the ancient Egyptian journey of the sun to Donna Summer, the loop – so often represented by the ouroboros – has been inextricably bound to our concept of time. The Renaissance-era alchemists saw the ouroboros as something to break out of in pursuit of a linear, rather than cyclical, eternity – and today, it might make us reconsider how we view each moment that passes.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

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Ancient Egypt VI: Ancient Egyptian cuisine - Egypt Today


https://www.egypttoday.com/Article/4/35945/Ancient-Egypt-VI-Ancient-Egyptian-cuisine
Ancient Egyptian Kitchen Model - Photo Courtesy: Andreas        Praefcke Ancient Egyptian Kitchen Model - Photo Courtesy: Andreas Praefcke

Ancient Egypt VI: Ancient Egyptian cuisine

Thu, Dec. 7, 2017

CAIRO – 7 December 2017: Even today, Ancient Egyptians captivate the minds of people around the globe because of their extraordinary contributions to civilization. Egypt Today presents the top facts about Ancient Egyptian cuisine.

Bread as main element on the table
The strong presence of bread in Egyptian cuisine nowadays is in fact inherited from our ancient Egyptian ancestors. Ancient Egyptians baked bread from different kinds of flour, mainly with barley or wheat.Bread was a staple for both the poor and the rich; bread was often sweetened with honey or dates, or flavored with sesame, aniseed or fruit, according to "Ancient Egyptian Food" article published on Tour Egypt website and written by researchers Jimmy Dunn and Sarah Phillips.

Wine in ancient Egypt
Due to the fertility of the Nile Delta's soil, Egypt witnessed an impressive diversity in crops. They also managed to extract different juices and syrups from fruits.
Evidence shows that they made beer from barley, and beer was mainly drunk by the lower classes while grape wine was produced for the higher social classes.

Vegetables and fruits
According to the iconic Greek historian Herodotus, ancient Egyptians made use of the lands of Kemet, the ancient name for Egypt's lands. Ancient Egyptians planted many kinds of vegetables to use them in different cooking processes like beans, chickpeas, lentils, green peas, garlic, lettuce and onions. Many Egyptians used onions and garlic as treatments for many diseases.

Moreover, the different social classes counted on dates as a sweetener; whereas noble classes sometimes had additional sources like honey, according to "Life of the Ancient Egyptians" book by Czech author Eugen Strouhal.

Meat, fish and poultry
Unfortunately, meat was only available for the tables of the higher classes; they would get it from different sources like cows, goats, and sheep. They also ate certain kinds of fish like perch, catfish, and mullet. In terms of poultry, they would often cook ducks. While most of the time lower classes counted on fish and poultry, ancient Egyptians are considered one of the first civilizations that managed to make salted fish especially during the spring fest, "Sham Al Nasim."
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The Map That Revealed How Ancient Egyptians Pictured the Afterlife


https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-map-revealed-ancient-egyptians-pictured-afterlife
Art
The Map That Revealed How Ancient Egyptians Pictured the Afterlife
Hunefer's Book of the Dead. Photo by                    Steven Zucker via Flickr.

Hunefer's Book of the Dead. Photo by Steven Zucker via Flickr.

In the spring of 1915, in the dry, heavy heat of the Egyptian desert, an expedition of archaeologists unearthed the final resting place of a man and his wife.

The team—made jointly of representatives from Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—made their discovery in a place called Deir el-Bersha, on the east bank of the river Nile and far south of the pyramids of Giza. The deceased man, as it turned out, was a former administrative official. At the time of the couple's death, during Egypt's Middle Kingdom (ca. 2040–1640 BCE), the tomb had been resplendent with grave goods. But throughout the following centuries, it fell victim to the ravages of looters. Anything that appeared valuable (jewelry and gold, mostly likely) was spirited away.

What remained—and what the archaeologists found millennia later—were the coffins that had housed the remains of the couple, both named Djehutynakht. Made of imported cedar, and nested (the male Djehutynakht had two progressively smaller coffins, and his wife had three), the coffins proved one of the most valuable finds of Egyptian archaeological history.

Back side panel of the outer coffin of                    Djehutynakht, 2010–1961 B.C. Harvard University—Boston                    Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. © Museum of Fine Arts,                    Boston.

Back side panel of the outer coffin of Djehutynakht, 2010–1961 B.C. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Today, this ancient burial chamber is known as Tomb 10A. Several of the wooden coffins found within were covered with writing and painted iterations of food, clothing, and funerary objects—almost all of it on the interior, on the surfaces closest to the deceased. The scope and content of the decoration astounded archaeologists and revealed much about how the Egyptians manifested visual representations of death, the afterlife, and funerary practices.  

For the ancient Egyptians, death was not a conclusion, but rather an act of revival: With the proper assistance, the deceased could reach the afterlife and enjoy existence in that realm. But it wouldn't be easy. "They believed reaching the afterlife would be a challenge," explains Denise Doxey, curator of ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and near Eastern art at the MFA Boston. The writing on the coffins' interior—dubbed the Coffin Texts—"were thought to protect [the Egyptians] against the dangers they would face en route to the afterlife," Doxey continues. "Scenes in tombs and on coffins were intended to magically produce food, clothing and other provisions for use in the afterlife."

In Tomb 10A, for example, images of jewelry, weapons, pillows, and even shoes find their way onto the wood. In addition, Doxey notes, the burial chamber contained the most wooden funerary models ever found in a single tomb—sculptural representations of real-life objects that would provide sustenance and more in the afterlife. As Tomb 10A revealed, the Egyptians believed a painted set of sandals would be as much help in the afterlife as actual woven ones.  

But before the food and the sandals and the weapons could be used, the deceased first had to find his or her way to the afterlife—a journey rife with trials and dangers. Prior to the Middle Kingdom, Doxey says, Egyptians relied on either written texts or verbal descriptions to find their way. But in Tomb 10A, painted on the interior of one of the coffins, was one of the first known maps to the underworld: a visual diagram detailing how best to get to the afterlife. Known as the Book of Two Ways, the map was visualized as two undulating paths, replete with gatekeepers and demons one would encounter on the way to the afterlife.

Head of the inner coffin of Governor                    Djehutynakht, 2010–1961 B.C. Harvard University—Boston                    Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. © Museum of Fine Arts,                    Boston.

Head of the inner coffin of Governor Djehutynakht, 2010–1961 B.C. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition. © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In a 1950 article penned by Wilhelm Bonacker, the Book of Two Ways is classified as the oldest example of the "Guides to the Beyond." There are six of these Guides, including the Book of Two Ways, and all but one are illustrated. "Pictures," Bonacker writes, "are essential supplements to the inscriptions, the sense of which cannot be grasped without them."  

Although the exteriors of the coffins at Deir el-Bersha are only sparsely decorated when compared to their interiors, they do feature several sets of painted eyes. As was the practice in the Middle Kingdom, the body would be laid on its side, allowing the deceased to peer out through the eyes at any visitors to the burial chamber.

Today, we have the opportunity to rest our own eyes on the coffins from Tomb 10A. To see them is to see the objects that accompanied Djehutynakht and his wife into the afterlife. And to see the Book of Two Ways, painted underfoot, is to see the route they took to get there.

Gabrielle Hick
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‘Egypt Uncovered: Belzoni and the Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I’ at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London | BLOUIN ARTINFO


http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/2708900/egypt-uncovered-belzoni-and-the-tomb-of-pharaoh-seti-i-at-sir

'Egypt Uncovered: Belzoni and the Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I' at Sir John Soane's Museum, London

Giovanni Belzoni / Alessandro Ricci, Seti I before Isis and Anubis, c. 1821
(©Bristol Culture: Bristol Museums and Art Gallery. By permission of the trustees of Sir John Soane's Museum)

To coincide with the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I by the Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823), Sir John Soane's Museum in London will present Egypt Uncovered: Belzoni and the Tomb of Pharaoh Seti I – a new exhibition revealing the story behind the Museum's most treasured possession. 

Known as 'The Great Belzoni', Giovanni Battista Belzoni was one of the most famous and pioneering explorers of his age, and played a crucial role in the development of Egyptology as a scientific discipline. A former circus strongman based in London, in 1815 Belzoni took up the role of engineer in Egypt, charged with the removal of large and heavy antiquities. This included the seven-ton bust of Pharaoh Ramesses II, taken from the king's memorial temple at Luxor that now sits in the British Museum. On 17 October 1817, Belzoni made his finest discovery: he found the tomb of Ramesses' father, Seti I comprising ten vividly painted chambers decorated with thousands of hieroglyphs, and Seti's elaborately carved white alabaster sarcophagus.  

Seti reigned for 13 years (BC 1291–1278), and was a great military pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, pursuing campaigns in Syria and Lebanon. Seti's reign marked a period of re-birth for Egypt, during which art and culture reached a sophistication rarely equalled in subsequent centuries.  

This exhibition runs through April 15, 2018 at Soane Gallery, Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3BP.

For details, visit: www.soane.org

Click on the slideshow for a sneak peek at the exhibition. 

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How Thomas Hoving Created the Museum Blockbuster


http://www.vulture.com/2017/12/how-tom-hoving-created-the-museum-blockbuster.html

The Director and the Pharaoh: How Thomas Hoving Created the Museum Blockbuster

When King Tut became a celebrity.

By
Hoving (left) brought razzle-dazzle to a sleepy              institution.

Photo from Bettmann Archive

In celebration of New York Magazine's 50th anniversary, this weekly series, which will continue through October 2018, tells the stories behind key moments that shaped the city's culture.

The "Treasures of Tutankhamun," which landed at the Metropolitan Museum in 1978 at the end of a six-city American tour, abounded in riches of every kind. The 55 antiquities, excavated in Egypt's Valley of the Kings a half-century earlier, included a 22-pound gold-and-lapis death mask, which had covered the Egyptian boy king's body for 3,300 years, and the sinuous gilt-wood goddess Selket, who had guarded his intestines. Spotlit photos and text narrated Howard Carter's dramatic 1920s unearthing of coffins layered like priceless nesting dolls — a narrative of swashbuckling archaeology that set the stage for the Indiana Jones epics. But the most impressive feature of the "King Tut" exhibition, the part that changed history, wasn't even in the museum. It was the mile-long line to get in.

People stand in line to see the boy king. Photo: Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images

The first blockbuster museum show to be so labeled, a traveling loan of funerary objects that brought in 8 million visitors nationwide and filled Egypt's coffers with gift-shop profits, was unprecedented. It was an ancient-art exhibit that was also a pop-culture moment, fodder for — among other memorabilia — a Steve Martin sketch and million-selling single ("He gave his life for tourism!"). The enormous attendance shocked museums along its route — big institutions like LACMA and Chicago's Field Museum — into to revamping their systems and dispensing separate exhibit tickets for the first time. And over the much longer term, it set museums on an irreversible path to an era ruled by populism, commercialism, and fierce competition for treasures and visitors.

"King Tut" had many fathers, including Richard Nixon and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who saw the show as a step toward détente; the British Museum and the Soviets, who had staged earlier Tut shows; and Carter Brown, the ambitious head of Washington D.C.'s National Gallery. But no one did more to bring Tut to the States, or indeed to bring museums into the larger world of marketing and commerce, than the Metropolitan Museum's director, Thomas P.F. Hoving. It was Hoving who worked his way through Egypt's labyrinthine bureaucracy and shaky infrastructure to secure those precious objects, paying off functionaries, electricians, and even an Egyptian critic along the way. And it was Hoving who did the most to create a culture that made blockbusters conceivable in the first place.

Back in 1966, the year before Hoving became Met director, curator Morrison Heckscher had begun a lifelong career at the museum — and was, he recalls, immediately struck by how boring it was. Still half-built after nearly a century, its 5,000-year purview omitting entire civilizations, the institution chartered to advance "popular instruction and recreations" had become a warren of "incredibly dusty, static exhibits," Heckscher says, serving its donors and curators but not the city around it. "You'd come in during the week and there'd never be anyone in the gallery. The place was empty, and the labels were incomprehensible."

Dropped into that sleepy environment, Hoving acted fast but also systematically. Fresh off a colorful year as New York's Parks commissioner, with a Ph.D. in art and a father who ran Tiffany & Co., Hoving was a politician with the instincts of a scholar (or was it the other way around?). His middle initials were said to stand for "Publicity Forever." Much later, in a scathing, dubious, and incredibly fun memoir, Making the Mummies Dance, he made much of the museum's formerly sorry state. At his first meeting with the curators, he asked to see the special-exhibit schedule — there was none — and then to meet with the exhibition committee, which didn't exist. He thought up a show on the spot, "In the Presence of Kings," a gathering of royal objects already in the museum's diverse collections. To build it, he hired the museum's first dedicated exhibition designer, who repainted and restaged existing space in what would turn out to be a dry run for "Tut" and every blockbuster thereafter.

Next, he decided to turn the Met's 1970 centennial into an 18-month cavalcade of exhibitions and concerts — Nina Simone! "Harlem on My Mind"! Original fanfares by Bernstein and Copland! He also hired an architecture firm to come up with a master plan, filling out the footprint and opening up the façade. "I want a new attitude," he told the architects. "The 'new' Met must proclaim in a very loud voice, 'Welcome.'"

Eight years later, more than a million King Tut visitors poured into a museum Hoving had utterly transformed. First there was the exhibit itself, a feat of storytelling. Objects were arranged in order of their excavation, to give a sense of the archaeologists' own discovery, accompanied by contemporaneous photographs and crisp wall text. Some exhibit windows opened onto the brand-new Sackler wing, a hangar-sized jewel box built to house the newly installed Temple of Dendur. Beyond these capstones of Hoving's renewal were acres of flashy new wings, departments, acquisitions, and exhibits. As Hoving's long-serving successor, Philippe de Montebello, would recall at the former's memorial in 2009, this was the beginning of "what I am convinced will someday be called the Hoving era," a time when, "if Coleridge will forgive me, the caverns heretofore largely measureless to man were transformed into stately pleasure domes, now accessible to all."

By the time "Tut" came to town, Hoving was gone from the museum. After a relatively short run of ten years, he'd resigned under growing pressure from the board. The pace of his changes, disruptive in every sense, had turned out to be unsustainable; he couldn't go on steamrolling his internal critics indefinitely. "He alienated a great many of the curators by storming through a lot of his decisions," de Montebello says now. "But in the end, I think that what he did was a very good thing for the museum world."

Much of that involved normalizing the concept of the international loan exhibition. Hoving, who'd previously run the Met's Cloisters, was an avid and skilled raider of the world's art, exploiting government connections and "smugglers and fixers" to beg, borrow, and buy what others might have stolen. As director he aggressively pursued loans in the aftermath of world events: after a Soviet thaw, he wangled rare Scythian gold from the Hermitage; after a devastating Florentine flood, he nabbed frescoes rescued from cathedrals. He also lobbied Congress to pass a bill guaranteeing government indemnification of loaned art, making it affordable for the first time. "Tut" was the first U.S. exhibit covered under the new law.

Hoving was, in his way, a forerunner of today's Über-collectors, those heads of modern museums who troll the global art-fair circuit for the hottest properties. He operated under the idea that it's better to have one pricey masterpiece than ten minor masterworks. He'd likely have disdained the recent payout of $450 million for a mediocre Leonardo, but he set a record of $5.5 million for Velásquez's Juan de Pareja after selling off several second-tier Impressionist paintings (to the collective outcry of the art Establishment).

Grasping the celebrity power (and tourist pull) of international icons, Hoving used their showpiece works to anchor the collections. To boost the American Wing, he traveled with Heckscher to buy an entire Frank Lloyd Wright house and reinstall much of it inside the museum. "He was after the big picture," says Heckscher, "making the museum in reality the kind of encyclopedic institution it had always claimed it was." His biggest get, in every way, was the Temple of Dendur. It was a late and relatively unimportant example of its kind, one that he himself called a white elephant. But it was an entire Egyptian temple — a hell of a draw. To secure the gift — and get it away from the Smithsonian, which also wanted it — he sprung for the gift-wrap, a giant skylit room built into the master plan. "So what if it looked like a two-foot-long glass case blown up?" he wrote in his memoir. "I knew the drawings would sell. And I was willing to bet no other city or institution would come up with anything like it. This was sheer theatrics."

The "Temple of Dinner," as some later called it, became home to parties like the revenue-generating Met Gala. It was perfect for a museum in transition, changing from a repository of objects to a stage for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Carrie Barratt, a deputy director at the Met who is currently planning the 150th anniversary, sees the long-term value in short-term events. "When you ask people, 'What's the principal reason you go to museums,' the number one reason is 'to have fun,'" she says. "That's what makes people come back."

The Temple of Dendur as it was built for the second time, 1978. Photo: Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sometimes, after a revolutionary cracks open a hidebound institution, the next leader tilts back toward caution. After Hoving's departure in 1977, the Met was led for 34 years by de Montebello, a director skeptical of the razzle-dazzle blockbuster. "I used to say, 'You see these banners on the façade?' It's not the glow of health but the flush of fever," says de Montebello. As in any other field — publishing, movies — blockbusters don't always earn out. "Once you're on that treadmill, in terms of budgetary matters and visitorship, it's extremely difficult to pull back."

But after Tut there was really no going back, not for the Met or any other institution. Hoving's once-revolutionary ethos rapidly became the dominant one. Thomas Krens took over the Guggenheim in 1988, and rapidly his museum began expanding around the world and hosting exhibitions in which controversy and pop appeal trumped connoisseurship and scholarship. ("The Art of the Motorcycle," in 1998, was no King Tut, and Krens was excoriated for it — but he also didn't lose his job, staying on as director until 2008.)

While the Guggenheim employed starchitects to build global franchises, MoMA and the Whitney built their own glass-and-steel flagships, prioritizing event spaces. Even the Louvre sprouted a glass I.M. Pei pyramid. The museum building frenzy eventually boomeranged back to the Met. This year's forced resignation of Thomas Campbell, de Montebello's short-tenured successor, stemmed in large part from his overambitious plan to build a new wing for modern and contemporary art, which threatened to strain the museum's finances. Contributing to the problem was another Hoving holdover: a big exhibition schedule.

It's no small irony that the Southwest Wing, where Campbell got ahead of himself, is the same corner of the museum that brought Hoving down. In his final year as director, Hoving had proposed to build the "Fine Arts Center of the Annenberg School of Communications," a library of art images and video lectures  intended "to record all the works of art in the world," as he put it. "The problem," says de Montebello, "was that while many of the ideas behind the Annenberg were good, they were gobbling up extremely valuable real estate."

If King Tut and Dendur were the peaks of Hoving's tenure, de Montebello thinks the Annenberg fiasco represents both his greatest strength and greatest weakness — his immense foresight and his incurable haste. When assessing a piece of art, says de Montebello, "Tom would look at one thing and there was an immediate flash of 'this is right' and 'this is wrong.' And much more often than not, he was right. But perhaps he acted a little too much on his first impressions."

Then again, Hoving's final idea has come to pass without taking up any real estate at all. "The idea of spreading the word on art, and the whole of idea of detailed reproductions—that happens with social media," says de Montebello. "Google's Art Project is the Annenberg Center, using the technology of today." Maybe the forefather of the blockbuster, who brought marketing and fun and, yes, money into art at the highest levels, was not in tune with the times but decades ahead of them.

--   Sent from my Linux system.