Monday, February 18, 2019

Brooklyn Museum
On 02/17/2019 06:00 AM, Brooklyn Museum wrote:
Dig Diary, February 17, 2019:Jaap van Dijk and Julia Harvey were...

Dig Diary, February 17, 2019:

Jaap van Dijk and Julia Harvey were not able to join us for the season, but they arrived for a short visit on February 14. While they talk about what is happening on the south side of the court, work on the columns continues behind them.

How to build a round column base using rectangular bricks. It takes careful measuring and placement. This is the new base for the column whose original base we discovered last week and had to cover again.

By February 9 the new base was finished, but it had to cure for another day.

The first column drum is moved onto the new base. We are using a new and better siba (support and winches) this year, one that allows the column to be lifted and moved horizontally in one operation. It's a big improvement on the old tripod siba we used in the past, which had to be repositioned constantly to move blocks.

On February 12 the third column drum was lifted and lowered into place.

Using a crowbar Salah and Anwar gently shimmy the column drum into its final position. It takes both skill and patience to move the block that last few centimeters without damaging the stone.

Only half of the fourth column drum was left and it broke in two pieces while being moved. Salah perches on top of the column while waiting for the upper piece of the last drum (being carried by the three guys in the foreground – sandstone is heavy!) to be winched into place.

By the end of work on Thursday, both columns were back in place. Next week we will tackle the heap of column drums in front of them, in the hopes of being able to rebuild a third column.

People sometimes ask how ancient sites can disappear. One answer is wind, as these two statues demonstrate. Maurice Pillet, the French archaeologist who excavated Temple A in the 1920s, repaired the left statue and set both up on paving in front of the second Pylon. In the intervening 90-odd years, almost 50 cm of windblown dirt accumulated over them and over the whole court, including the column base Richard wrote about last week. Imagine what 1,000 years of blowing sand and dirt can do, particularly when combined with pillaging by people looking for useable materials like brick and stone.

Once we had the bases fully exposed, we realized that the statues are both too heavy and too fragile to be moved safely, so we will have to leave them where they are.

It's not totally hopeless, though. We can at least put the upper half on a small platform (called a mastaba), under construction at the left of this photo. We have also built a baked brick wall around the area of the two lower halves in hopes of preventing them from being reburied.

In the foreground is the rear part of the sphinx we moved last week. Its broken pieces have been reattached and await their final restoration.

While the conservation work was going on, we continued excavating the south side of the court. Shergawi Abbas, another Qufti, joined us this week and immediately began work on the Nitocris chapel.

By the end of the week the chapel had been completely cleared and we were able to see the paving in its front room for the first time.

In the meantime, we finished up in the central area. Here you are looking west to the second Pylon from the Nitocris chapel. The north (front) edges of the limestone rectangles clearly appear to line up, suggesting that they are indeed the bases of sphinxes that were dismantled down to their foundations at some point. The foundations then served as the floor for the other structures built in the area.

With work in the central area done, Ayman began to clear the windblown earth off the western area, where we first found limestone rectangles/sphinx bases in 1996. We have no idea what kind of a structure the blocks forming the north border of the area came from. All have round holes with channels. Perhaps they were originally the foundations for a temporary structure and were re-used when that structure was no longer needed. We will probably never know.

I'm afraid there won't be any pictures of birds in the sacred lake this year. The reeds have taken over almost completely, and there are only a few spots now where you can even glimpse the water.

Posted by Mary McKercher

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Bag It and Tag It | iMalqata - A Joint Expedition
On 02/18/2019 05:19 AM, zwangdm wrote:
Bag It and Tag It

Bag It and Tag It

Danielle Zwang

Archaeology requires the systematic collection of objects that were either made, modified, or used by people. By studying these material remains in relation to the environment in which they were produced, archaeologists attempt to understand the lives of those who used them. The process of collecting artifacts may appear somewhat tedious, but it is anything but that. Processing is a crucial part of an archaeological excavation.

This season as the archaeological assistant for the Industrial Site, I am working alongside Diana and Jan to help process all of the objects that are uncovered. As we continue to look for the production center of the glass and faience industry, we are finding manufacturing byproducts including molds, crucible fragments, and vitreous material, which are fragments of glass and faience. Our team follows a very specific method for processing these discoveries.

Senior excavator, Azib, working in the Industrial Site

As our workmen excavate methodically by layer or level depending on the context, they set aside all of the finds onto a tray. These artifacts are then sorted by type. At the Industrial Site, all of the material can be divided into two major categories, manufacturing debris and objects. All of the material that has been worked or used by ancient craftsmen gets bagged. However, the process for the two types of finds varies slightly.

Left: An unsorted tray of finds from the Industrial Site.
Right: The same tray from the left, after being sorted by object type.

The manufacturing debris, or the excess raw material and product from production, is further divided by type. Remains of the same kind are put together in one bag with its contextual data written on the exterior. Every bag lists the site name; the year; the square number; the level, feature or locus number; the object type, and finally the date found. This process is duplicated for the objects, like beads, molds, and tools. These objects are also assigned a unique number. This number is very similar to the accession numbering system that is used at a museum like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These artifacts are tracked separately from the manufacturing debris because they are recorded differently as they often tell us a lot more information.

Left: An example of a bag for diagnostic pottery along with its matching tag.
Right: Fragment of a mold found during the 2019 season with its bag and tag.

Afterwards, a tag is created with the same data found the bags. These cards are then placed inside with the sorted material. Creating a tag may seem like an unnecessary and repetitive step, however, it is crucial. The material remains that are found during the excavation are only one aspect of the archaeological record. In order to properly interpret our finds, we need to evaluate them within the context in which they were found. It is therefore extremely important that we keep the findspot information with objects, as well as in our notes. Writing the information on the tag provides insurance that the provenance information will stay with the material in perpetuity. This is essential not only for the JEM's research, but also for any future scholars who may work at Malqata.

Once the objects are bagged and tagged, they are sent to Diana and Jan for processing. At this stage, they write initial descriptions about each find, as well as their thoughts about any correlation to glass and faience production. In addition, they record the weight of carnelian debris and take record photographs of the manufacturing waste. Subsequently, all of the objects are sent to Iver for photography.

Right: Diana and Jan writing descriptions of the objects from the Industrial Site.
Left: Iver photographing objects.

Processing archaeological finds does not stop there. At the end of the season, we will continue to analyze and record information about each piece. In the secondary phase, Diana, Jan and I will draw objects in preparation for the final report and for future publications. Furthermore, all of the data collected will be transferred into a FileMaker database that was designed by Janice specifically for the work at JEM. Having a digital record of this data preserves an additional copy of our work for the season. It will also allow Diana and Jan to continue working on the material for publication outside of Egypt.

Diana and Danielle processing finds at the Industrial Site

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The Forgotten Temple | Philip Jenkins

The Forgotten Temple

I have written a lot through the years about Christian origins and their Jewish background, mainly in my 2017 book Crucible of Faith. In writing that work I came across what seems to me a really intriguing aspect of the history, and one that rarely gets the attention it deserves.

Not just once in history, but twice, Jewish temples stood in the land of Egypt. One was at Elephantine, in the fifth century BC, and quite a bit has been written about it because it seems to record a community that knew a female deity besides YHWH. That is often discussed in surveys of the Old Testament world, and the emergence of monotheism. Far less frequently noted is another Jewish Temple that stood at Leontopolis, in the Nile Delta, from roughly the 160s BC through to 70 AD – at least 230 years. Both those temples, of course, contradict our normal assumptions because of the theory that just one Temple could exist, and that was in Jerusalem. But the Leontopolis one raises plenty of other questions, especially in terms of what might have been written or created there.

In the early second century BC, the Jewish religious/political elite was starkly divided between two warring family factions, the Oniads (descendants of Onias) and the Tobiads. During the lethal feuds in Jerusalem in the 170s BC, Onias, son of the high priest, was defeated and sought refuge in Egypt. The then king, Ptolemy VI Philometor, received him warmly. He granted him permission to build at Leontopolis a new temple, supposedly an imitation of the main Jerusalem sanctuary. As Josephus records,

Here Onias erected a fortress and built his temple (which was not like that in Jerusalem, but resembled a tower) of huge stones and sixty cubits in altitude. The altar, however, he designed on the model of that in the home country, and adorned the building with similar offerings, the fashion of the lampstand excepted; for, instead of making a stand, he had a lamp wrought of gold which shed a brilliant light and was suspended by a golden chain. The sacred precincts were wholly surrounded by a wall of baked brick, the doorways being of stone. The king, moreover, assigned him an extensive territory as a source of revenue, to yield both abundance for the priests and a large provision for the service of God. In all this, however, Onias was not actuated by honest motives; his aim was rather to rival the Jews at Jerusalem, against whom he harbored resentment for his exile, and he hoped by erecting this temple to attract the multitude away from them to it. There had, moreover, been an ancient prediction made some six hundred years before by one named Esaias, who had foretold the erection of this temple in Egypt by a man of Jewish birth. Such, then, was the origin of this temple.

Like Jerusalem, this temple was staffed by priests of the proper lineage and maintained all the forms of the sacrificial cult. Later Jewish scholars were remarkably mild about this rival enterprise, presumably because by the time they were writing, it had long ceased to exist. Also, the sense was always that this Temple was an adjunct to the real institution at Jerusalem, not a replacement.

The Temple attracted Jewish settlers into this Land of Onias, adding still further to Egypt's role in Jewish history.

As it would have had the requisite complement of scribes, the Leontopolis Temple might well have been yet another center of Jewish literary activity, over and above Jerusalem and Alexandria. We know that the years from roughly 200 BC through 70 AD were a phenomenally productive era in Jewish and proto-Christian texts, commonly pseudepigrapha – that is credited to some famous name, such as Enoch or Adam or Abraham. Many were certainly composed in Egypt. That includes many works about angels, and focused on apocalyptic speculation. Unfortunately, savage wars and massacres against the Jewish community in 115 AD mean that much of our detailed knowledge of this activity was subsequently lost.

It is intrinsically likely that Leontopolis should have been a prime creative center. As I said, it had the skilled literate people on staff and in the neighborhood, and moreover it was close to Alexandria. Can any of the texts we know have come from there?

One prime candidate is found among the so called Sibylline Oracles, works composed over a lengthy period and including Jewish and Jewish-Christian content. For present purposes, the most significant sections of the Oracles are found in book 3, most of which was written by an Egyptian Jew in the mid-second century BC. Conceivably, it might even be the work of that Onias who fled Jerusalem in order to establish the new Temple. Like the Book of Daniel, this oracle offers a description of the Hellenistic empire, and it shows how deeply Seleucid aggression had aroused eschatological hopes and fears. The oracle portrays an imminent crisis and the destruction of invading pagan forces. When God uttered judgment with a mighty voice, all creation would tremble; mountains would be split asunder. All would end "by fire and by overwhelming storm, and brimstone there shall be from heaven:"

And all the unholy shall be bathed in blood;
And earth herself shall also drink the blood
Of the perishing, and beasts be gorged with flesh.

I don't know the answer to this, but I ask: did this Temple have all the sects we know from Jerusalem, namely Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes? We know that an Essene-like sect called the Therapeutae existed in Egypt, at Lake Mareotis.

Let us move the story forward to the mid-first century AD, and imagine those scribes and priests as they existed at Leontopolis between (say) 30 and 70 AD, of whom we know next to nothing. Let me offer a speculation, and it is nothing more. Were any of them influenced by the Jesus Movement in any of its forms, including those trends that we call Gnostic, which were so common in Egypt? When the Leontopolis Temple fell, we know that it was closed rather than destroyed, so that its literate priestly staff survived. Did any of those people survive in new roles, either within Judaism or related movements? What did they do with the texts they would have possessed at the Temple?

Might any of those people actually have written some of the texts that we find in Egypt in later years, and which grew out of the larger Jewish universe – the Gnostic and Sethite tracts, even the earliest layers of early Christian documents? When we look at writings like the Gospel of John, we comment on its powerful roots in Jewish and Hellenistic thought and the world of the Temple, but it helps to recall that there was not just one Temple operating at the time. The Logos doctrine of course was best known from Philo, who had been based at Alexandria.

It's curious to think that this other temple stood and flourished throughout the lives of the apostles, and the literary career of Paul.

To take another interesting character, the Book of Acts tells us about "a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria … a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord … and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John." But the Western text of Acts presents a slightly different story about Apollos, who "had been instructed in his own country in the word of the Lord." I wonder where exactly in Egypt he might have picked up that somewhat variant understanding of the new faith?

All speculation, I know, and please don't quote me as stating a new theory about the origins of John's Gospel. But what we can say with confidence is that Leontopolis should by all rights have been an influential and widely connected center of Jewish thought, and we would dearly love to know more about it.

And if nothing else, it does give me an excuse to write blogs with titles like "The Forgotten Temple."


The scholarly literature on Leontopolis includes:

Robert Hayward, "The Jewish Temple at Leontopolis: a Reconsideration," Journal of Jewish Studies 33,1-2 (1982) 429-443.

Joan Taylor, "A Second Temple in Egypt: The Evidence for the Zadokite Temple of Onias," Journal for the Study of Judaism 28 (1998), 297-321.

I have not seen the story cited much in explorations of early Christianity in the region, but I am quite prepared to be corrected on that.

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Explosion leaves three dead, several injured in Egypt | Africanews

Explosion leaves three dead, several injured in Egypt

Explosion leaves three dead, several injured in Egypt


At least three people were killed and several injured when an explosive device carried by a militant exploded in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Monday, according to a statement from the interior ministry.

The dead include the militant and two policemen who were pursuing him when the device exploded.

The blast occurred in the city's historic centre close to the Al Azhar mosque and left several people wounded, two security sources said.

According to the ministry, security forces were pursuing the man as part of the search for the perpetrator of an attempted attack against a police patrol in western Cairo on Friday.

After catching the suspect in Cairo's ancient Islamic district close to the Al Azhar mosque, "one of the explosive devices in his possession exploded, causing the death of the terrorist and the martyrdom of a police officer from national security and an officer from Cairo investigations (department)", the statement said.

At least three civilians were also injured, security sources said.

Friday's attempted attack left two policemen and three civilians with minor injuries when a home-made bomb exploded during an attempt to defuse it, security sources said at the time.

Egyptian security forces have been waging a campaign against Islamist militants over the past year focused on Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

READ MORE: 15 troops killed, others injured in North Sinai

Attacks in the capital are relatively rare, though a roadside bomb in Giza killed three Vietnamese tourists and a Egyptian guide in December.

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ARCE-NC $1000 Student Grant for Egypt Research - Apply by March 1!

2019 Marie Buttery 
Student Grant
Call for Applications

The Board of Directors of the American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California chapter, is offering one $1,000 grant to a qualified student. The deadline for submission is March 1, 2019 with the grant to be awarded at our March 10 meeting in Berkeley.

To qualify for this grant, the applicant must be an undergraduate or graduate student who is enrolled at a Northern California college or university (Monterey to the Oregon border) or who has a home address in this area. Applicants must be pursuing a degree that incorporates Egyptian anthropology, archaeology, art, history, museum studies or language, or Coptic or Arabic studies in any period. Proof of enrollment may be required before the grant is presented.

Applicants are to submit 1) a brief summary (250-500 words) describing how they will use the grant and 2) a 1-2 page CV. The grant will be awarded by the Board based on merit. Possible uses include research, travel, or preparation of an exhibition. Note that previous applicants who did not receive a grant are welcome to resubmit their application, along with updates if any. 

Students may apply by email (Word or PDF file) to or by mail to Barbara Wilcox, President, ARCE-NC, 815 Roble Ave., Apt. 7, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

If possible, the winner will be expected to attend the March 10, 2019 ARCE meeting at the University of California, Berkeley to accept the grant in person.

ARCE Northern California also offers a $1,500 student grant each fall in memory of its former member Professor Eugene Cruz-Uribe. Call for applications for this grant will go out later in 2019.

Documenting Egypt’s Antiquities – Interview with Dr Hisham el-Leithy

Documenting Egypt's Antiquities – Interview with Dr Hisham el-Leithy

Dr Hisham el-Leithy serves as an Undersecretary of State for Documentation in the Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt. His lecture at the University of Warsaw concerned the activities of his institution: „The activities of the Documentation Centre. The past, the present, and the future". He also answered some questions regarding the Documentation Centre's work in a short interview.

What is the story behind the foundation of the Documentation Centre?

The Documentation Centre was founded in 1956 after the government decided to build a new dam on the Nile. It was clear that the rising waters of the dam lake would cause the flooding of many monuments, so the Centre's initial task was to document them. That's how the Centre began work on documenting temples south of Aswan. At first, there was no plan to move the temples, but after the first season of documentation, the Minister of Culture took the decision to work with UNESCO in order to salvage those monuments. So the great challenge was to document and then to move 17 temples to safety.

The Nubian salvage campaign was an enormous success – what were the Centre's next tasks?

After this effort, Documentation Centre moved to document all the monuments of Egypt, starting with the west bank of Luxor. To document the temples and tombs there was also a big and long-lasting task. A permanent office and rest-house for the Centre's staff was organized on barges moored on the banks of the Nile in Luxor. But the main offices have always been located in Cairo, nowadays in the Zamalek district. Then, in 2005 a whole new era began with the introduction of digital cameras for the documentation work of the Centre.

Digital photography must have made a great difference…

Yes, it was possible to work in many places at the same time, such as Minia, Assyut, Alexandria and many, many others. Earlier, in Luxor, photographs taken during a day's work were developed on the boat-office each evening to check, if they were OK – and if not, the same work needed to be repeated the following day. Now it takes just seconds. This allows us to work at many more sites, with great support from the Ministry, allowing us to get the equipment that we need.

Your documentation must be growing fast.

Yes, we have lots of pictures, but not just the newly obtained ones, but also those from our archives.  As you can imagine, from the foundation of the Center until now we have collected many thousands of pictures. But we are also lucky to have scores of glass negatives that are over a century old.

How do you manage the sorting and storing of all the data?

The old collections of paper and glass photographs, as well as old paper files are scanned and registered in a database. It assigns a unique number for each monument and each individual picture. So now, in one place, we can have the story behind each photograph, and ultimately, behind each monument, each temple or tomb. And it can be accessed with one click.

What is the purpose of this vast archive?

I believe, that knowledge has to be available for everybody, this is my idea as the Centre's director since 2015. So the next step, which the Ministry sees as the next era for Egyptian antiquities, is the publishing of the data on the internet, on special websites. We are working very hard on this.

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JOB OFFER: three positions for assistants, Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology

JOB OFFER: three positions for assistants

Three job positions for assistants are now available at the PCMA in two new labs: Bioarchaeological  and Advanced Documentation Methods. 

We are looking for researchers willing to participate in the creation and activities of the PCMA new labs that are being created with special funding from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Two positions – one for a physical anthropologist, the other for an archaeozoologist with a special interest in ichtiology are available at the Bioarchaeological Lab. One position for a specialist in producing and processing GIS data is open at the Advanced Documentation Methods Lab.

All offer full-time employment as research assistants at the University of Warsaw for the period of one year.

The deadline for submissions is 18 February 2019.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Technology once thought adopted by Egyptians may have been innovated by them instead - Archaeology Review

Technology once thought adopted by Egyptians may have been innovated by them instead

Medinet Habu
Drawing of the Medinet Habu bas relief depicting Ramesses III defeat of the Sea Peoples. Public Domain image courtesy of WikiCommons.

Russian archaeologist, Alexander Belov, has concluded that Ancient Egyptians may have actually invented certain sailing technologies on their own rather than adopting them from Mediterranean neighbors as previously thought.

medinet-habu sea peoples boat
Portion of the famous bas-relief at Medinet Habu showing a loose-footed sail with
four brails-the points where the sail is tied to the yard. Note the five furls.
Public domain image from Wikipedia before modification.

Specifically, he believes there is ample evidence of loose-footed sails and a system of brailing present during the Amarna period as represented on a set of fragments to a previously unknown bas relief. This relief shows a portion of a ship's yard with brailing and bunting lines configured to hold up a furled sail.

A yard on a ship is the horizontal arm that is fixed to the mast. The yard is what stretches the sail horizontally. The points where the sail is fixed to the yard are brailings and bunt lines, which pull the bunts, or foot, of the sail up. If these lines are pulled, the sail is raised much like a Venetian blind. A sail that has no boom, or additional horizontal bar at its base, is referred to as a loose-footed sail. With a boom it's a boom-footed sail.

Alexander Belov, a professor at the Centre for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted that until recently the oldest known Egyptian depiction of a boat with a sail was with a relief on a talatat from the temple of Aton in Karnak. In the sketch below of this relief, named PC-103, you can see the three crew members on a boat with a sail and a portion of its rigging. The red lines are an interpolation of what may have been on neighboring talatats.

Talatat PC-103 has been dated to about 1352-1336 BCE and shows a loose-footed sail with its foot shaped somewhat like a crescent. The sail in this relief also appears to have a line (about a 50° angle from the mast to the yard on the sail) that represents a brail. If so, then interpolating the rest of the ship gives this loose-footed sail four brails.

Brails were an important invention because it allowed for many configurations of the sail's shape to take better advantage of wind conditions and thus better control of the ship.

What is a talatat?
During the 18th Dynasty rule of Akhenaten, talatat were used in the construction of temples. These where small blocks of 1/2 by 1/2 by 1 cubit (27 cm x 27 cm x 54 cm) and decorated on one side with relief depictions and hieroglyphs. These sandstone blocks are thought to have been more efficient for construction but went out of style after the Amarna period.

For the ship depicted on PC-103, however, it wouldn't be possible to change the shape of the sail with only four brails. According to Belov, it would "just flutter."

Feagans drawing of PC103
Drawing of Amarna Period bas-relief, PC 103, with recreation of the
loose-footed sail. Drawing by Carl Feagans.

The same would probably be true for the ship depicted in another Amarna period talatat. When Akhenaten's reign ended, the temple of Aton in Karnak was destroyed and many of the materials, including the talatat, were used to fill a pylon in the temple of Amon. Over 12,000 blocks were recovered from the 9th pylon of this temple and cataloged. Belov used the database to locate 5 of them, from which he was able to puzzle together a portion of the image of another loose-footed ship with a furled sail.

These five blocks made up a portion of the relief (A0058) and from them he was able to interpolate a rough estimate of the remaining ship, giving some idea of the size and basic configuration. Belov concluded that the ship had no boom (thus loose-footed), did have a rudder stock attached to a tiller, and various lines stretching to the yard under which there were five furls.

At this point, you might be wondering what the difference is between a brail and a buntline. The difference is subtle and key to Belov's conclusion. Both are involved in furling the sail, but, unlike a buntline, a brail is used to change the shape of the sail itself, making it more effective when tacking upwind. A buntline will just be used for furling or dousing the sail.

These two Amarna period (1352-1336 BCE) depictions are important because, together, they show loose-footed sails of Egyptians at least 150 years before they're represented on the relief at Medinet Habu (1184-1153 BCE). And there are several other depictions of early sailing by Egyptians that Belov discusses, each dating to before the sea battle shown by Ramesses III at Medinet Habu.

Kyrenia II
Cypriot stamp of Kyrenia II, a recreation of
a Greek ship with a loose-footed sail very
similar to that shown on the Amarna Period

The loose-footed sails in the PC-103 and A0058 talatat blocks each have too few brails to be used for shaping the sail for efficiency, so this means that the brails were being used strictly as buntlines to furl the sails. Previously, the Medinet Habu relief was considered the earliest depiction of brailed sails, which were shown on the ships of the Sea Peoples.

With Belov's new observations, it seems likely that the Egyptians may have innovated the loose-footed sail and brailing, which began as as buntlines to furl the sail, on their own, rather than adopt it from their Mediterranean neighbors.

You can read Alexander Belov's forthcoming paper, "Loose-footed Sails of the Egyptian New Kingdom Ships," in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (2019), doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12335

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Authorities detain figures accused of smuggling Egyptian artefacts to Italy - Daily News Egypt

Authorities detain figures accused of smuggling Egyptian artefacts to Italy

Brother of former finance minister, former Italian consul accused of smuggling 195 artefacts, 21,660 coins

Following the case of the smuggled artefacts which Egypt retrieved last July, the Prosecutor General, Nabil Sadek, ordered the detaining of Raouf Botros Ghaly, the brother of the former Minister of Finance, Youssef Botros Ghaly, for 15 days pending investigations.

The Prosecutor General accused Ghaly, along with another diplomat, of illegally smuggling 195 artefacts, and 21,660 coins, which were not documented at the ministry of antiquities, in a diplomatic bag which was caught at Salerno Costa D'Amalfi Airport in May 2017.

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced last May that the Egyptian Embassy in Rome was informed by the Italian authorities of the seizure of a large number of artefacts, including 118 Egyptian pieces which belong to different historical eras from the ancient Egyptian civilisation to the Islamic era.

According to the BBC, the former Italian consul in Egypt was the diplomat involved in smuggling the artefacts. Sadek also ordered freezing the assets of the consul and his wife, as evidences prove their involvement in the case.   

The Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ayman Mesharafa, met at the time with the acting Italian ambassador to Egypt, Stefano Catani, and requested the name of the passenger whom the bag was seized with. Yet, the name was never announced to the public.

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously stated in a press release that the Italian authorities informed Egypt 10 months after the seize, which raised deep concerns from the Egyptian government toward the reasons.

Nonetheless, the situation was reversed when the Egyptian authorities retrieved the antiquities in July, as the ministry of antiquities expressed nothing but its deep gratitude for the help of the Italian authorities in assisting in returning the relics back to their home within a short period of time.

Moustafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told local media outlets at the time that the return of the antiquities in such a "short time period" is due to the support received from the Italian authorities, unlike the usual time spent in similar cases, which usually takes up to five years.

"The return of the artefacts was executed in an unprecedentedly short period after the Italian authorities reported the incident to the Egyptian counterparts," Waziri told Ahram Online.

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Why did an ancient Egyptian king erase all gods but Aten? | Aeon Essays first God

Out of the many gods of ancient Egypt an inspired Pharaoh created a monotheistic faith. What was Atenism and why did it fail?
A small stele, probably used as a home altar, depicts Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti with their three eldest daughters. Aten is represented as a sun-disc with the Sun's rays ending in hands proffering Ankh signs to the royal couple. Amarna period, c1340 BCE. Courtesy the Neues Museum, Berlin

James K Hoffmeier
is professor of Old Testament and ancient near Eastern history and archaeology at Trinity International University in Illinois. His latest book is Genesis: History, Fiction, Or Neither? Three Views on the Bible's Earliest Chapters (2015), co-authored with Gordon Wenham and Kenton L Sparks.

More than 3,000 years ago, ancient Egypt, with its myriad gods and goddesses, saw the founding of two monotheistic religions within a century of each other. One is associated with Moses, the Bible and ancient Israel's faith, which is the foundation of Judaism and Christianity. The other burst on to the scene around 1350 BCE, flourished for a moment, and was then eclipsed when its founder died in 1336 BCE. We call the religion Atenism. Where did it come from? And why didn't the world's first monotheism last?

In the 4th millennium BCE, there were two distinct cultures in Egypt: one in the Delta (north) region, the other in the south. This geographical and political dualism had its counterpart in religion. In the north, the most powerful god in the Egyptian pantheon was Re, the sun god. His cult centre was in a suburb of present-day Cairo, still known by the ancient Greek name Heliopolis, 'City of the Sun', and his principal icon was a pyramid-shaped stone called the benben. The pyramids and obelisks still familiar today owe their shape and symbolic significance to this ancient solar image. By his agency, Re created other gods, over which he was chief, as well as humans. Re's son was Horus the sky-god, represented as a falcon, and the Pharaohs were the incarnation of Horus. So their title was 'Son of Re'.

Meanwhile, in the southern town of Thebes (modern Luxor), the god Amen emerged as the most powerful religious force. As his name suggests in ancient Egyptian, Amen is the 'hidden one' and is often depicted in human form with blue skin, representing the blue sky or atmosphere. Amen's principal cult centre was Karnak Temple in Thebes. Around 2000 BCE, then, there were two dominant deities in Egypt: Re, who reigned in the north, and Amen, who ruled the south.

Northern and southern Egypt were embroiled in civil war between c2150 and 2000 BCE. Rival pharaohs ruled Egypt, resulting in parallel kingships based in Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south. It was left to a 11th-dynasty ruler, the Theban Mentuhotep II to unify the land through war around 2000 BCE. By around 1950 BCE, Amenemhet – meaning 'Amen is foremost' – founded another dynasty, the 12th. He was the first to incorporate Amen into his name. Amen's time had come. In a unifying gesture, Amenemhet moved the capital north, back to the Memphis area where Upper and Lower Egypt meet, with his devotion to Amen intact. He called his new capital Itj-tawy, 'Seizer of the Two-Lands', and likely here he fused together Amen and Re into a single, powerful deity: Amen-Re, who was called 'the king of the gods'. Amen-Re's influence spread through all Egypt, and for 600 years he had no rival atop the pantheon. Karnak mushroomed into the largest temple complex in ancient Egypt as ruler after ruler honoured this god, his consort, Mut, and Khonsu, their son.

The Karnak complex expanded significantly between 1500 and 1350 BCE when the 18th-dynasty monarchs ruled. While Memphis remained the political capital, Thebes was considered the imperial capital. From Karnak, divine oracles directed the kings to conquer neighbouring lands, and they duly obliged. Egypt's empire stretched north and east to beyond even the Euphrates River, and in the south, Nubia, the northern half of Sudan, was colonised. Tribute and booty poured into Egypt during this century and a half, with Karnak Temple and its powerful priesthood the major recipients. There is no greater testimony to the prosperity of this era than the colossal building projects of Amenhotep III (1390-1353 BCE) at Karnak and Luxor Temples, largely in the name of Amen-Re. Egypt and its god Amen-Re had reached the zenith of power. But no one could have foreseen how quickly things would change with the death of Amenhotep III.

The crown-prince Thutmose, eldest son of Amenhotep III, was set to follow his father to the throne. However, the prince died unexpectedly, leaving the succession to his younger brother. This prince, also called Amenhotep, might have been only in his mid-teens when his father died in the 38th year of kingship, around 1353 BCE, when he became Amenhotep IV. His youth is demonstrated in a carved scene in the tomb of a high-ranking official named Kheruef where the new king is shown making offerings to the gods under the watchful auspices of his mother, rather than standing alone or with his queen, the famous Nefertiti. The gods to which he is depicted making offers are Atum and Re-Horakhty (both solar deities). Atum is presented as a human with a kingly crown on his head, while Re-Horakhty is a human with the head of a falcon, a sun-disc upon the raptor's head. It appears that, from the outset, Amenhotep IV had an affinity for traditional sun-gods. He was not yet a monotheist.

Based on an inscription dated to regnal year 1 of Amenhotep IV at the sandstone quarry of Gebel el-Silsileh (south of Luxor), we learn that here the new king began his first building project. It records the hewing out of a large benben stone for 'Re-Horakhty who rejoices in his horizon in his name of Shu which (or who) is in the Aten in Karnak'. This lengthy name seems to be a theological creed, and is often called the 'didactic name' of Aten. No earlier form of the sun-god employed such a lengthy name. So this is new.

Little is known about this temple as it was destroyed after the king's death, and the blocks reused to build other edifices in the area. Only a handful of decorated and inscribed blocks have survived, and some remain partially visible in the 10th Pylon or gateway at Karnak. One of these blocks, which now graces the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, shows the new deity: 'Re-Horakhty who rejoices in his horizon in his name of Shu which is in the Aten'. Only the head of the falcon is preserved. A large sun-disc sits on its head, which has a cobra wrapped around the disc with its head flaring up just above the falcon's beak. This initial representation of the sun-god looks just like the solar deity, Re-Horakhty. On the right side of the scene, the king himself is depicted and above him the lower portion of a sun-disc is preserved. It has cobras on both sides, and hanging from their necks is an ankh-sign, the so-called key of life. Three more ankhs are connected to the underside of the Sun.

Something changed, and the king built at least four temples to Aten

Another block believed to be from this same temple preserves only a portion of a larger scene. It too contains the creedal name, but it depicts the image of the god Shu, whose name occurs in the creedal formula, along with his wife, Tefnut. Here, she is called 'the father of the gods', and the first god created by Atum is associated with atmospheric or cosmic light. It is clear from this early temple block that the introduction of this new form of the sun-god did not preclude mentioning primordial deities such as Shu and Tefnut. That means that Amenhotep had no aversion to 'the gods': at this stage, he could not even be called a henotheist, or one who worships one deity without rejecting the existence of others.

But something changed between the king's second and fourth regnal years. During this period, he built at least four temples to Aten in eastern Karnak. These sanctuaries were later dismantled, but thanks to the Egyptian penchant for recycling building material, the temple blocks were reused elsewhere. Over the past few decades, tens of thousands of inscribed blocks from these later edifices have been collected by Egyptologists. Over time, they have become dilapidated, thereby exposing the earlier stone. The sandstone blocks in question were of a different size than those used to construct previous temples (called talatat by Egyptologists). Because of their unique size, they are easily recognisable when reused.

Efforts to piece together this massive jigsaw puzzle (actually four puzzles!) have been a challenge, but some impressive scenes have been reconstructed on paper from drawings and photographs of the decorated blocks. From these scenes, the four original temples were identified. One key Egyptologist leading the effort to assemble the blocks was the historian Donald Redford (then of the University of Toronto), who sought to glean as much information as possible from the scenes about the formative years of Atenism.

In 1925, French Egyptologists working at Karnak Temple were summoned to examine some strange demolished statues that were uncovered outside the eastern wall of the temple complex during the excavation of a drainage canal. After exposing more of the statues, which turned out to represent Akhenaten and temple blocks, the work was abandoned, and the area largely forgotten. Fifty years elapsed before work resumed in 1975. As a graduate student, I had the privilege of working with Redford on these excavations between 1975 and 1977. We re-excavated the now-covered area exposed in 1925, and then moved north where we uncovered the southwest corner. Years later, the northwest corner was found too.

Between the corners, an entrance was cleared where the avenue of statues continued west, perhaps toward one or more of the other Aten temples. The telltale talatat blocks were used throughout. The western wall was 715 feet (220 metres) wide. Ongoing work has uncovered traces of talatat walls and statue fragments below the village farther to the east of our excavation area, showing that it was a square structure. This makes it the single largest temple built at Karnak up till that time. And the name of the temple, critical to understanding the origins of Atenism, is found on talatat blocks: Gemet Pa-Aten, 'The Aten is Found'.

By studying the carved reliefs and texts on the blocks, a number of conclusions could be reached about this new religion. Significantly, it was within the large, open courtyard that a royal jubilee was celebrated, and in fact this might have been the main function of Gemet Pa-Aten. Royal jubilees were normally celebrated on or around the 30th anniversary of the coronation (that's when Amenhotep III did his), and they rejuvenated the kingship. At around age 19-20, Akhenaten surely did not need such a boost!

At coronation, the throne name of the king was revealed. When construction on Gem Pa-Aten began, in the 2nd or 3rd regnal year, the king still used his birth name Amenhotep. But before the project was completed around his 4th or 5th year, without explanation he dropped that name and adopted the name by which he is known in history: Akhenaten. It means 'He who is beneficial to the Aten'. The blocks from early in the project that had 'Amenhotep' written on them were erased and replaced by his new name.

Images of other deities were expunged, and the plural writing for 'gods' scratched off

The iconography of the deity in this temple (and the others at Karnak) was altered to reflect the king's changing theology. The falcon image virtually disappears, only to be replaced by the ubiquitous sun-disc with extended Sun rays, and the extended name 'Re-Horakhty who rejoices in his horizon in his name of Shu which is in the Aten' is written in a cartouche, a device used to identify royal names. With the jubilee, Akhenaten seems to signal that the Aten was now the ultimate ruler, replacing Amen-Re.

This alteration of the king's name was the first step in a programme to exterminate Egypt's most powerful deity. What followed was a systematic programme of iconoclasm in which images of Amen and writings of his name throughout Egypt were desecrated and removed. Beyond Egypt's north Sinai border, in recent excavations I directed, limestone door lintels inscribed with the name of Amenhotep II (Akhenaten's great-grandfather) were uncovered. Here too, 'Amen' was obliterated from the cartouche, and so was Amen-Re's name. The zealots were careful, however to preserve the writing of Re, which is written with the sun-disc sign (the same hieroglyph used in Aten's name). The temples of his father, Amenhotep III, were not off-limits. 'Amen' is hacked out of the cartouches and images of Amen were erased, even in temples in distant Nubia (Sudan). In some instances, images of other deities were also expunged, and there are cases where the plural writing for 'gods' (netjeru) had been scratched off.

A decision was also reached around the 5th or 6th year to abandon Thebes and establish a new capital in middle Egypt called Akhet-Aten (also known by the modern Arabic name 'Amarna'), meaning 'the Horizon of Aten'. This pristine land had not been sacred to any deity before. No city or temples previously stood there. Only temples to Aten were built there, and the largest was called Gemet Pa-Aten. With the move of the royal family to Akhet-Aten, a third and final form of Aten's name is introduced: 'Living Re, Ruler of the Horizon, Rejoicing in the Horizon in His Name of "Re, the Father, who has come as the Aten"'. Gone are 'Horakhty' and 'Shu', two deities, and only Re the sun-god who manifests his power in or through the visible Aten or sun-disc remains. The king no longer tolerated any divine name or personification of a force of nature that could be construed as another deity.

The exclusivity of Aten and the campaign to exterminate Amen and other deities is proof positive of a movement from polytheism to monotheism. If doubt remains that Akhenaten was a monotheist, consider some elegant and touching lines in The Great Hymn to the Aten, inscribed on the wall of the tomb of the high official named Aye at Amarna:

O sole god beside who there is none …
You create the earth according to your desire, you alone:
People, all large and small animals, all things which are on earth, which walk on legs,
Which rise up and fly with their wings.
The foreign lands of Syria and Nubia, (and) the land of Egypt …
The lord of every land who rises for them, the Aten of daytime, whose awesomeness is great.
(Now concerning) all distant countries, you make their life …
(O you) who gives life to the son in his mother's womb, and calms him by stopping his tears;
Nurse in the womb, who gives breath to enliven all he makes …

The themes of universalism, divine oneness, the exclusivity of Aten and his tender care for all creation drive home the point that 'there is none' beside Aten. This is a monotheistic statement not unlike the Islamic confession 'there is no god but God'. And on the theme of divine oneness, the Jewish Shema comes to mind: 'Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.' The sun-god was a universal deity: wherever one went in the world, the Sun appears.

Atenism was a monotheistic experiment. But what instigated such a radical shift from the polytheistic orthodoxy that had flourished in Egypt for millennia, and what led to the demotion of Amen-Re from his preeminent status, a position he had held for centuries? Here, there is little agreement among Egyptologists. There are those who think that this religious move was designed to wrest power from the Amen priesthood's dominance that challenged the crown itself. Simply put, it was a political move. But this view does not adequately consider Akhenaten's genuine devotion to Aten as reflected in the incredible temples dedicated to him, not to mention the intimacy expressed towards Aten in the hymns.

Others consider Atenism to be simply the climax of an evolution that had been underway for more than a century, in which Re had been moving towards universal status. This interpretation, however, does not take into account the programme of iconoclasm towards Amen and other deities, and the disappearance of traditional images of the sun-god (human form, falcon head, pyramid images, etc). One could advance Aten without eradicating Amen in a polytheistic system.

My theory is that Akhenaten himself very early in his reign (or even just before) experienced a theophany – a dream or some sort of divine manifestation – in which he believed that Aten spoke to him. This encounter launched his movement which took seven to nine years to fully crystallise as exclusive monotheism. Great idea, but based on what evidence? Mention has already been made of the two major Aten Temples called Gemet Pa-Aten constructed at Karnak and Akhet-Aten. A third temple by the same name was built in Nubia. Three temples with the same name is unprecedented, and suggests that its meaning, 'The Aten is Found', was vitally important to the young king's religious programme. Could the name of the three sanctuaries memorialise the dramatic theophany that set off the revolution?

Akhenaten also uses the same language of discovery to explain how he found the land where he would establish the new city, Akhet-Aten. The aforementioned boundary inscription records Akhenaten's words when travelling through the area that would become his new capital:

Look, Aten! The Aten wishes to have [something] made for him as a monument … (namely) Akhet-Aten … It is Aten, my father, [who advised me] concerning it so it could be made for him as Akhet-Aten.

Later in the same inscription, the king again repeats the line: 'It is my father Aten who advised me concerning it.' These texts point to an initial phenomenological event in which the king discovered the new form of the sun-god and then, through a later revelation, Aten disclosed where his Holy See should be built.

With Atenism, the evolution from polytheism to monotheism occurred rapidly, in just a few years

Historians of religion over the past 150 years thought that such a shift to monotheism must have been a gradual development taking place over millennia. Just like every field of learning in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the academic study of religion was shaped by evolutionary philosophy, an extension of Darwinian thought. From this perspective, religion began in the hoary past from animism, where everything – trees, rivers, rocks, etc – was possessed by spirits; followed by totemism; then polytheism; henotheism; culminating finally in monotheism. This linear development took thousands of years, it is claimed, moving from simple to complex forms. Some thinkers maintain that monotheism was achieved in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE for the ancient Jews, a development mirrored among Greek philosophers, in Zoroastrianism and other Asian religions during the same general period. But with Atenism, as the evidence suggests, the evolution from polytheism to monotheism occurred rapidly, in just a few years, contrary to the traditional understanding that monotheism appeared eight centuries later.

Some have toyed with the idea that either Moses influenced Akhenaten or vice versa. Indeed, Sigmund Freud in his book Moses and Monotheism (1939) opined: 'I venture now to draw the following conclusion: if Moses was an Egyptian and if he transmitted to the Jews his own religion, then it was that of Ikhnaton, the Aton religion.' But there is simply no evidence for such a connection. As noted, Akhet-Aten was located in central Egypt, more than 200 miles away from the Land of Goshen in the northeastern delta where the Bible places the Hebrews. Based on an inscription made upon the stones that marked the city's boundaries, Akhenaten vows that he would never leave this sacred zone: 'I shall not pass beyond it.' This means that the kind of contact between Moses and the Pharaoh reported in the book of Exodus could not have occurred given the distance between the two.

The main reason I reject the theory of one religion impacting the other is that each one is based on its own theophany. The Lord God appeared to Moses at the burning bush in Sinai and revealed his name, Yahweh, according to Exodus. Akhenaten had his own divine encounter that gave rise to Atenism. Put another way, both religions stand on their own distinctive revelations.

Typically, what is needed for a religion to endure is that a leader or prophet who believes he or she received a divine message has a band of faithful followers to disseminate the tradition, and a set of authoritative writings is preserved for future generations. This is the case of Moses and the Torah (the Law). Similar is the case for Christianity with Jesus, his apostles and the New Testament Scriptures, and likewise Muhammad and the origins of Islam and the Quran, as well as Joseph Smith, the Latter Day Saints and the book of Mormon.

Akhenaten's movement lacked followers who shared his convictions so that, when he died, his family and the priests and officials who had served him jettisoned Atenism and restored Amen-Re atop the pantheon of deities and reopened closed temples. His daughters, whose birth names all included 'Aten', were renamed with Amen instead, and his eventual successor traded in his previous name: Tut-ankh-aten became Tut-ankh-amen. Aten's temples were demolished, the great city Akhetaten was deserted, and the various hymns to Aten that expressed the theology of his religion remained memories on the walls of tombs. Not one of these has been found in later writing to indicate that a scriptural tradition resulted.

If indeed Moses lived in the 13th century BCE as many scholars today believe, then it seems likely that Akhenaten was the first human in recorded history to embrace the exclusive worship of one god. But it is the teaching of one God expressed in the Hebrew Bible that has endured the test of time, and remains the longest lasting monotheistic religion. Atenism was an idea whose time hadn't yet come: a shade of the great monotheisms to be.

12 February, 2019
--   Sent from my Linux system.