Saturday, November 10, 2018

"Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs" at the Royal BC Museum - Nile Scribes

"Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs" at the Royal BC Museum

It has been over 14 years since the British Museum's Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum was displayed on the Canadian West Coast. Now, ancient Egypt returns to Victoria, BC with Egypt: the Time of the Pharaohs at the Royal BC Museum. On display until December 31, 2018, it features over 300 artefacts drawn from several European institutions. Full of ambition, the exhibition introduces the visitor to the main characteristics of thousands of years of ancient Egyptian history. The Nile Scribes were pleased to visit Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs this summer and present our thoughts in this week's blog.

A large exhibition board is centre stage on the street corner near the museum (photo: Nile Scribes)

The Time of the Pharaohs

The objects in Egypt: the Time of the Pharaohs are mainly drawn from the collections of the University of Aberdeen Museum in Scotland and the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, Germany, with a few contributions from the Museum of Vancouver, Canada. Further international objects come from the Gustav Lübcke Museum in Hamm and the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, both in Germany. As a collaborative effort with the German company Museumspartner, main curator Christian Tietze also integrated interactive installations and several substantial reconstructed models of temples and dwellings.

Assuming no prior knowledge on the part of the visitor (all you need to bring is your excitement and curiosity for ancient Egypt), the exhibition rightly begins by highlighting the unique landscape of the Nile Valley and its importance to the ancient Egyptian world.

Digital animations depicting a recreation of                      the inundation of the Nilotic landscape in ancient                      Egypt (photo: Nile Scribes)
Digital animations depicting a recreation of the inundation of the Nilotic landscape in ancient Egypt (photo: Nile Scribes)

A thematic approach takes the visitor through Egyptian religion. In one case, a monumental head of Sekhmet sits on the left with smaller objects next to her with only minor labelling identifying the object. The range of objects appear to date from the Late Period, and in the majority of cases, names are given with their Greek instead of Egyptian names (e.g. Thoeris for Taweret). Is it an attempt to emphasise the multi-cultural setting of the Late Period with its increased number of Greek inhabitants? As for the dark environment of the room, it make us think of the darkness before creation, the darkness that also surrounds the holy of holies in an Egyptian temple.

A large head of Sekhmet dominates the dark-lit                      display with other religious objects on the right                      (photo: Nile Scribes)
A large head of Sekhmet dominates the dark-lit display with other religious objects on the right (photo: Nile Scribes)

Egyptian Pharaohs

A grand part of the exhibit on Egyptian kings awaits the visitor next. Familiar figures such as Thutmose III, Akhenaten, and Ramesses II were the highlights here – their names written in large letters above objects from their reigns. Six pharaohs are featured this way, including Khufu as the great pyramid builder, Hatshepsut as the famous woman king, and Amenhotep III from Egypt's Golden Age. We would have liked to see major figures from the Middle Kingdom or the Late Period represented as well.

As for the information on the kings in this part, some information left more to be desired for the viewer. For example, the viewer learns about Akhenaten, the "Rebel Pharaoh", for he unleashed his monotheistic revolution on Egypt. By adopting this stereotypical view of his reign, this approach was very simplified and did not incorporate much of recent interpretations which emphasise more henotheistic tendencies that were prevalent in his reign.

The exhibition explains nicely the overemphasis                      usually placed on Tutankhamun in Egyptological                      publications (Photo: Nile Scribes)
The exhibition explains nicely the overemphasis usually placed on Tutankhamun in Egyptological publications (Photo: Nile Scribes)

A display panel near the end of this part poses the question as to why Tutankhamun and Cleopatra were not included: Tutankhamun because of his apparent unimportance, and Cleopatra because her life 'fall[s] just outside the period of our story.' It is curious, however, that objects from her time period (that is the Ptolemaic Period) are also found throughout the exhibition such as a wooden statue of Ptah-Soker-Osiris dating to the Ptolemaic Period.

The reconstructed workshop of the sculptor                      Thutmose preserves evidence for many technological                      processes (Photo: Nile Scribes)
The reconstructed workshop of the sculptor Thutmose preserves evidence for many technological processes (Photo: Nile Scribes)

Reconstructing the Past

The exhibition benefits from some excellent models which are used at several points throughout. In one example, a bust from the Aberdeen Museum collection shows the head of a Ptolemaic ruler and its accompanying grid emphasises the conventions the original artist used. Wooden models of a carpenter's square and a plummet are shown as tools and a lovely reconstruction provides direct insight into the famous workshop of Thutmose at Amarna – the place of discovery of Nefertiti's bust. In the section on Egyptian temples, the Small Aten Temple from Amarna dominates as a scaled reconstruction and animated lighting is used to bring alive a ritual of presenting offerings to the hungry sun-god.


Reconstructing a ritual at the Small Temple of the Aten at Amarna (Video: Nile Scribes)

Objects of Daily Life

A major section explored the wide range of objects Egyptians would have used in their day-to-day activities. Of course, most of the finds discussed here come from a funerary context which shows the objects' importance to be carried into the afterlife. The section also contains a note about the "discovery" of ancient Egypt and attributes the majority of it to the Napoleonic expedition. While this event marks the birth of Egyptology as a professional discipline, this approach ignores centuries of Arab interest and studies into ancient Egypt prior to Napoleon. This celebration of Napoleon is somewhat typical in our field and more attention should be turned to the many contributions earlier scholars made.

Display pillars with statues from persons of                      different statuses and periods dominates the room,                      while more mundane objects are on display in the                      shelves on the wall to the right (Photo: Nile                      Scribes)
Display pillars with statues from persons of different statuses and periods dominates the room, while more mundane objects are on display in the shelves on the wall to the right (Photo: Nile Scribes)

At the back wall is an Egyptian social pyramid which shows the king at the top, the administrators beneath, and the general populace further below. In the tier on the priesthood, the term "first prophet" is mentioned. The term "prophet" was first used by the Greeks to refer to the Egyptian priestly office of the "servant of the god" (hem-netjer). However, the term is also found often in older Egyptological publications and brings forth all sorts of Christian connotations – a usage perhaps best avoided by using the Egyptian term instead. Throughout this section, many statues of private individuals are showcased in central pillars and provide direct insight into various parts of Egyptian society.

Neferihi's statue is made of Aswan's famous                      granite with his hair painted in black (Photo: Nile                      Scribes)
Neferihi's statue is made of Aswan's famous granite with his hair painted in black (Photo: Nile Scribes)

While many minor statues were included, a personal highlight was seeing the lovely statue of Neferihi. Found in his mastaba at Giza, the stone was sourced from the famous granite quarry at Aswan in southern Egypt. While no paint is visible anywhere on the body of the statue, the deceased had his hair painted in vivid black colour. The dominating radiance of granite surely was a good choice by Neferihi. Along the wall, the visitor meets the multi-faceted material culture of Egyptians from ceramic vessels, headrests, and even a small clay figure of a man holding a giant phallus.

From miniature pottery vessels imitating their                      larger counterparts to the famous Meydum bowl, the                      diversity of Egyptian material culture is showcased                      here (Photo: Nile Scribes)
From miniature pottery vessels imitating their larger counterparts to the famous Meydum bowl, the diversity of Egyptian material culture is showcased here (Photo: Nile Scribes)

From Personal Items to the Afterlife

The last section takes the visitor through the exquisite and well-known icons of Egyptian jewellery and the afterlife, from fragments of the books of the underworld to several outstanding coffins which are decorated in elaborate detail. Curiously, the museum decided to forego any display of mummies though no exact explanation for this has been given (whether in the display or in the exhibition catalogue). In this part of the exhibit, the dim and dark lighting seemed appropriate as we dove into the afterlife.

A wonderful excerpt from the Ptolemaic papyrus of Padiherupakhered shows a seated Osiris before the well-known judgment scene. The Four Sons of Horus who are associated with protecting the entrails of the deceased sit in front of the god of the underworld and the monster Ammit is shown ready to pounce on the heart of the deceased were it not to pass the judgment.

A Ptolemaic papyrus shows Osiris on the left                      with the judgment scene in full swing before him                      (Photo: Nile Scribes)
A Ptolemaic papyrus shows Osiris on the left with the judgment scene in full swing before him (Photo: Nile Scribes)

Introducing the Public to Ancient Egypt

The theme of an introduction reverberates throughout the exhibition. The ambitions of Egypt: Time in the Pharaohs, as noted in the introduction to the catalogue, reveal a desire to tell "the story of the whole span of Egyptian history". Clear influences as already noted were the larger-than-life exhibitions of Eternal Egypt and the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition which were on display at the museum previously. In taking these various aspects together, the exhibition succeeds in introducing the visitor to the wonders of ancient Egypt through a myriad of approaches.

Nevertheless, some of the information as well as the choices in displaying the objects reinforce some outdated, challenged stories of pharaonic Egypt; we noted in several parts the simplification of many Egyptological topics. From a simplified look at the reign of Akhenaten to reproducing a complex ritual at Amarna, the exhibition nevertheless succeeded in espousing greater interest in Egypt with the diverse range of subjects handled.

The museum also produced an exhibition catalogue to accompany the exhibition: Egypt: the Time of the Pharaohs, which is available through the Museum's website.

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Seven new tomb discoveries in Saqqara: Egypt's minister of Antiquities - Ancient Egypt - Heritage - Ahram Online

Seven new tomb discoveries in Saqqara: Egypt's minister of Antiquities

Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 10 Nov 2018
Egypt's Antiquities minister Khaled El-Anany announcing on Saturday during a press conference the discovery of seven tombs in Egypt's Saqqara (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced on Saturday a new discovery made by an Egyptian archaeological mission during excavation work carried out since April at the area located on the stony edge of King Userkaf pyramid complex in the Saqqara Necropolis.

Cairo governor Ahmed Rashid attended the announcement, along with members of parliament and 30 ambassadors from all over the globe to highlight the role that antiquities play in promoting the country and its unique heritage.

El-Enany explained that the mission uncovered three plain New Kingdom tombs that had been used during the Late Period as a cat necropolis, along with four other Old Kingdom tombs, the most important of which belongs to Khufu-Imhat, the overseer of the buildings in the royal palace.

Delegations inside one of the discovered tombs on Saturday November 10, 2018 in Saqqara (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

This tomb can be dated to the late fifth and the early sixth dynasties.

He also pointed out that the Egyptian mission selected the site to excavate because there was a high probability that a collection of Old Kingdom tombs could be uncovered around the ramp of King Userkaf pyramid complex.

Egypt's minister of Antiquities inside a tomb on Saturday November 10, 2018 (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

In 2008, the mission stopped digging and instead devoted all of its work to the studying, documenting and restoration of some of the discovered tombs, though all projects completely stopped after 2013.

"This will be the first of three upcoming new discoveries in other governorates in Egypt to be announced before the end of 2018," said El-Enany.

Artifacts showcased during the presser on Saturday, November 10, 2018 in Saqqara (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

Mostafa Waziri, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that the Egyptian mission succeeded in unearthing the first ever scarab mummies in the Memphis necropolis, as two large mummies of scarabs were found inside a rectangular limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted lid decorated with three scarabs painted in black.

Studies on these scarabs show that they are wrapped in linen and in a very good preservation condition. Another collection of scarab mummies was also found inside a smaller and squared limestone sarcophagus decorated with one painted black scarab.

Tens of cat mummies were also unearthed, along with 100 wooden statues of cats and a bronze one dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. A collection of wooden gilded statues depicting the physical features of a lion, a cow, and a falcon was also unearthed.

Painted wooden sarcophagi of cobras with mummies found inside them were also discovered along with two wooden sarcophagi of crocodiles.


Within the debris, the mission succeeded to unearth around 1000 amulets made of faience dedicated to different deities, including Tawesert, Apis, Anubis, Djehuty, Horus, Isis, Ptah Patek, and Khnum, as well as other faience amulets in the shape of the Udjat eye, the white and red crowns, and the Wadjat column.


Three alabaster canopic jars and writing tools, such as ink pots with pens, were found along with several papyri featuring chapters from the Book of the Dead. Names of two ladies, Subek Sekt and Mafy, were also found engraved on a false door for the first time ever.

Sabri Farag, the Director General of the Saqqara Necropolis, said that a collection of baskets and ropes made of papyrus was also found along with 30 clay pots, a headrest, and alabaster and bronze jars inside a wooden sarcophagus.

Attendees from different countries at the presser on Saturday November 10, 2018 (Photo: Nevine El-Aref)

A large number of decorated stone reliefs and blocks, along with parts of false doors, were also found with two blocks representing a part of the lintel of the tomb of Ankh Mahur, one of the Old Kingdom viziers.

Orascom Investment Holding (OIH) is the sponsor of the event, in accordance with the newly launched commercial sponsorship regulation, according to the request it submitted to the ministry of antiquities.

Engineer Naguib Sawiris, the Executive Chairman of OIH, affirmed the company's interest to develop archaeological sites to show the exceptional richness of Egyptian civilization and to attract the attention of the world towards its magnificent monuments and great civilization so that it becomes the focus of the world.

Among the attendees are ambassadors of Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Cyprus, Mexico, Italy, Malta, Hungary, France, Ireland, Armenia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Japan, Austria, and Bella Russia. Saudi Arabia and Georgia's vice-ambassadors have also attended, as well as Denmark's general councilor and the cultural attachés of the Czech Republic, Georgia and USA. The heads of the American Research Centre in Cairo and UNESCO were also among the attendees.

Multiple ambassadors have participated in several archaeological events over the last month, including the Abu Simbel Temple solar alignment phenomenon and tours around the archaeological sites in the New Valley and Saint Catherine in South Sinai.


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A sign welcoming visitors to Djedefre's water-mountain, an ancient Stock Photo: 27855641 - Alamy

A sign welcoming visitors to Djedefre's water-mountain, an ancient Egyptian archaeological site in the Western Desert, near Dakhla Oasis, Egypt.

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The consensus among Egyptologists is that the Egyptians did not penetrate the desert any further than the area around Djedefre's Water Mountain, a sandstone hill about 80 kilometres south west of the Dakhla Oasis that contains hieroglyphic inscriptions. Its discovery in 2003 by the German explorer Carlo Bergmann caused a sensation as it extended the activities of the Pharaonic administrations an unprecedented 80 kilometres further out into the unknown and waterless Western Desert.
Date taken: 17 January 2009
Location: Near Dakhla Oasis, Egypt

This image can't be licensed for personal use (e.g. personal prints).

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Iraqi police claim to have confiscated 'pharaonic artifacts' worth $5 million - NOT

Iraqi police claim to have confiscated 'pharaonic artifacts' worth $5 million

November 09-2018     06:49 PM

Iraqi police claim to have confiscated 'pharaonic          artifacts' worth $5 million
The alleged artifacts appear to be miniature versions of the iconic statue of the Sphinx, the pharaonic coffins, and one which resembles the famous Mask of Tutankhamun. (Photo: Iraqi Federal Police)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's federal police announced on Friday its arrest of two individuals in Baghdad purportedly attempting to sell ancient Egyptian "artifacts" with the authorities claiming the value of the items was up to five million dollars.

Police officials did not clarify which experts established the authenticity of the items, which resemble tourist souvenirs commonly sold throughout Egypt. 

The country's police on occasion confiscate stolen historical artifacts, with the regularity of such cases increasing after the Islamic State (IS) invasion of large swathes of Iraq and Syria. The group would often overrun museums and archeological sites to either destroy or sell valuable items found, to the dismay of historical experts and enthusiasts. Instances of artifacts from abroad being smuggled into Iraq, instead of plundered from within the country's borders, are far rarer.

"The police were able to arrest two people who were trying to sell pharaonic artifacts in the al-Saydiya neighborhood of west Baghdad," federal police chief Major-General Shaker Jawdat said in a statement.

He added that "the arrest of the two persons came during an [undercover operation] while they were bargaining with the buyer to complete the sale."

The police also released pictures of the captured individuals and confiscated the items being sold without giving further details on the artifacts.

The three items seen in the pictures are all golden and dark blue-colored and have similar styling. The alleged artifacts are miniature versions of the iconic statue of the Sphinx, the pharaonic coffins, and the Mask of Tutankhamun.

Among the objects were also pottery and a piece of rock.

"The value of these effects is estimated at 5 million dollars," Jawdat said, adding that "the suspects were handed over to the competent authorities to complete the legal proceedings against them."

Editing by John J. Catherine

UpdatedNovember 09-2018     08:29 PM

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Scholar speaks at Harvard on how images helped shaped legend of King Tut – Harvard Gazette

Arts & Humanities

How Tut became Tut

The golden death mask of Tutankhamun.

The golden death mask of Tutankhamun.

Photos by Harry Burton; courtesy of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Scholar explains role of photography in raising legend from the tomb

High tech has made ours an era of ubiquitous images — they flash on our phones, computer screens, and TVs, transmitted from around the world with the tap of a finger or the press of a button.

But in the early 20th century, the newspaper was the visual information superhighway, and the pictures displayed in London papers in January 1923 exposed the world to long-unseen wonders.

A few months earlier, when Howard Carter first peered into the dark antechamber of the millennia-old tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, his colleagues eagerly asked the English archaeologist if he could see anything. Dazzled by the sight, Carter stammered back, "Yes, wonderful things."

Images of some of those wonderful things appeared in print thanks to English photographer Harry Burton, who was working in Egypt on excavations for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By loaning to the dig the services of one of the best field photographers of the era, museum officials hoped to be rewarded with finds from the tomb, according to Christina Riggs, a professor of the history of art and archaeology at the University of East Anglia and author of the forthcoming "Photographing Tutankhamun: Archaeology, Ancient Egypt, and the Archive."

In a recent talk at the Geological Lecture Hall, Riggs explored connections among archaeology, photography, memory, identity, and scholarship. The lecture was presented by the Harvard Semitic Museum with support from the Marcella Tilles Memorial Fund.

Most archaeologists think that "photographs are fact, and that their main and only interest lies in what they show," Riggs told the crowd. "What interests me however, is what photographs do, and one of the things that photographs did for the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb was create that phenomenon that we now know as King Tut."

Riggs explained that newspapers quickly adopted the nickname "to describe this long-lost, little-known pharaoh with so many symbols in his name." Burton's evocative photos turned the tomb "into a triumph for British and American archaeology," she added.

King            Tut's tomb.

A gilded lion (left) was among the many objects discovered in the antechamber of King Tut's tomb by English archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

Howard Carter                looking into Tutankhamun's burial shrine in January,                1924.
Howard Carter                examines King Tut's coffin in January, 1924.

Carter peers in Tutankhamun's burial shrine and examines his coffin in 1924.

Christina Riggs at              Harvard's Semitic Museum.

Christina Riggs, author of "Photographing Tutankhamun: Archaeology, Ancient Egypt, and the Archive," at the Harvard Semitic Museum.

Photo by Olivia Falcigno

The tomb's pristine condition was a key factor in capturing the public imagination, said Riggs, as were its many splendors. But the discovery, she added, "also came at a crucial moment in time."

Many felt that the tomb of King Tut, who reigned from 1361 to 1352 B.C., represented some of the first good news to emerge from Egypt in generations. The country had long struggled to free itself from control by the Ottoman and British empires, and the boy king, part of a long line of pharaohs who had ruled for 3,000 years, became an important symbol of Egyptian self-government. Egyptian writers took up the topic; teachers taught Tut in schools.

Helping fuel interest were Burton's images of Tut's golden death mask "in just about every different angle," said Riggs. The photographs "arguably helped make [the mask] iconic. Burton helped create and perpetuate these interpretations."

A further inspection of the camera work, said Riggs, reveals much about the realities of colonialism. Photos by Burton that depicted Carter working alone in the tomb were often staged, she said, and failed to capture the scope of the effort. In particular, the important contributions of four Egyptian workers who helped Burton carry equipment, set up shoots, mix chemicals, and develop negatives went largely unnoticed by the wider world. These workers occasionally appear in pictures showing Burton at work or posing with his camera, but they are uncredited, unnamed. The grown men were simply referred to as the "camera boys," said Riggs, a label that highlighted "what assumptions and attitudes lay at the core of colonial-era archaeology."

Yet without their help, Burton may not have achieved such stunning results. The assignment required that he capture images of objects before they were moved, after they had been cleaned, and in the intervening stages. Burton's technique, including his choice to shoot the cleaned objects in front of a fabric screen and his use of glass-plate negatives, enabled him to eliminate shadows and capture the artifacts in the sharpest detail.

By 1933, the dig was over, and interest from newspapers had begun to wane. "Tutankhamun was no longer the top story," said Riggs. In the end, the Metropolitan Museum received no artifacts from the dig despite Burton's photographs having been the "star attractions" in the press. Still, as agreed, the institution was given a set of his images.

Today, copies of Burton's archive, a record of close to 1,500 negatives and prints, are housed at the Metropolitan Museum and at the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford, where they remain important sources of scholarship, exhibitions, and public fascination.

That enduring legacy might have surprised Burton. The self-critical, self-effacing photographer didn't consider himself an artist or a scientist, as many of those working on the dig saw themselves, said Riggs. He was just a man from a modest background, she said, and "the guy with the camera."

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1,700-year-old school in Ancient Egypt features Greek text on the wall · Greek City Times

1,700-year-old school in Ancient Egypt features Greek text on the wall

A 1,700-year-old school with its walls covered in Greek text referring to a passage from Homer's 'The Odyssey', is located in the ancient town of Trimithis, now called Amheida, in Egypt's western desert.

The house and school are located about 322 kilometers west of the Nile River in the ancient town of Trimithis, what is modern day Amheida, in the Dakhla Oasis.

According to archaeologists this building is definitely a schoolroom and features Greek writings on its walls, including a calming quotation from Homer's 'The Odyssey'.

What is most surprising is it bears striking resemblance to modern classrooms as there are benches for students to sit on and lessons written on walls in Greek, which was widely spoken.

In the past, archaeologists had found another ancient school in Egypt, however, this was a university in Alexandria. The finding of this school in Amheida is unique because of the texts on its walls.

It is thought that this school was only open for 20 years, before the room was amalgamated into a large house that belonged to a town councillor called Serenos and transformed with images of Greek gods.

Text on the wall includes quotations from 'The Odyssey', which tells a take of ancient drug use when Helen of Troy gives her dinner guests a drug which "takes away grief and anger and brings forgetfulness of every ill."

"Whoever should drink this down when it is mixed in the bowl would not let fall a tear down his cheek in the course of that day at least. Imitate," it says.

The word "imitate" is said to reveal that children would copy the passage, with ancient records saying this passage from the renowned text has calming qualities to it, which would be ideal in the classroom.

Another text written by a teacher was found in a different classroom encouraging pupils to work hard and to improve their rhetorical skills to a Greek god-like level.

The school was discovered in 1979 but it was not until 2001 that archaeologists unearthed the writing, which confirmed the building's purpose of a school. Excavations have been on-going since.

Researchers think the closure of the school might have occurred when the teacher either moved away or died.

Photo Credit: Eugene Ball

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Exhibit offers portraits of mummified ancient Egyptians - San Antonio Express-News offers portraits of mummified ancient Egyptians

Exhibit offers portraits of mummified ancient Egyptians


BALTIMORE (AP) — A team of researchers is giving the world a chance to see the faces of two Egyptian women who walked the earth about 2,300 years ago.

The Baltimore Sun reports that detailed portraits based on mummified remains form the core of "Who Am I? Remembering the Dead Through Facial Reconstruction," the newest exhibition on display at the Johns Hopkins University Museum of Archaeology at least until the end of next year.

Experts in fields ranging from fine art, osteology, computer tomology, and craniofacial reconstruction worked together to create the likenesses from two mummies acquired abroad and brought to Baltimore more than a century ago.

Sanchita Balachandran, the museum's associate director, sees the exhibit as an opportunity to say, "These people have been with us since the 1880s, and we're only now able to see them as real people."

The veteran of archaeological digs, was familiar with Western collectors' treatment of ancient artifacts, particularly Egyptian mummies. In the early to mid-1800s, Americans of means collected what they saw as exotica in Egypt, where the ceremonially preserved bodies were plentiful.

Mendes I. Cohen, A War of 1812 veteran, acquired a mummy in Egypt in 1834, brought it back to Baltimore, and left it to the university when he died in 1879. John F. Goucher, a local minister, missionary and educator, acquired a mummy in 1895 and brought it to Baltimore, where he donated it to the school he'd founded, the Baltimore Woman's College, later renamed Goucher College. It ended up at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"They were often seen as curiosities that belonged in sideshows, freak shows and dime museums," said Meg Swaney, a doctoral student in Near Eastern Studies at Hopkins and co-curator of the exhibit. "People weren't sure whether to display them in natural history museums, or in art museums for the artifacts they came with. But there was so much curiosity, every museum wanted one."

Balachandran's team, a group that included Swaney and six undergraduates, worked with Caroline Wilkinson, the director of Face Lab, a research group at Liverpool John Moores University in England that carries out forensic and archaeological research. Dr. Elliot K. Fishman, a professor of radiology and the director of diagnostic imaging at Johns Hopkins Hospital, performed a CT scan on the bodies, and those images provided information for three-dimensional representations.

Researchers contributed other details including pelvic marks that showed both were female and tooth conditions that suggested ages of about 45 or 50. Face Lab built its illustrations out over two years.

The team faced a range of ethical questions along the way, voting for two-dimensional portraits over three-dimensional busts.

"Everyone felt it would risk being too macabre or creating too much of a spectacle," said Swaney, who specializes in the ethics involved in displaying Egyptian remains. They also agreed to render the portraits in grays since no reliable evidence exists regarding skin tone.

For Balachandran, the exhibit is a new way of looking into the ancient past.

"These women look at you the moment you walk in the door; you're looking at them, and they're looking at you," she said. "It feels as though they're right here with us."


Information from: The Baltimore Sun,

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Ancient Egyptian tombs yield rare find of mummified scarab beetles

Ancient Egyptian tombs yield rare find of mummified scarab beetles

SAQQARA, Egypt (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Egypt said on Saturday they had discovered a rare collection of mummified scarab beetles, as well as an apparently pristine Fifth Dynasty tomb that they plan to open in the coming weeks.

A mummified scarab inside the tomb of Khufu-Imhat on display, at the Saqqara area near its necropolis, in Giza, Egypt November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The mummified beetles were among artifacts found in seven tombs discovered over the past six months on the edge of the King Userkaf pyramid complex at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo.

As they were preparing the site to present the latest discoveries, archaeologists found the door of another tomb that remains sealed, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters.

The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom and is unusual because the facade and door are intact, meaning its contents may still be untouched, said Mohamed Youssef, director of the Saqqara area. He said experts plan to open the tomb in the coming weeks.

The Fifth Dynasty ruled Egypt from about 2,500 BC to 2,350 BC, not long after the great pyramid of Giza was built.

The tombs lie in a buried ridge that has only partially been uncovered and could offer many more similar discoveries, Waziri said. Excavations in the area had halted in 2013 before resuming earlier this year.

Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings.

Two large scarabs wrapped in linen and in very good condition were found inside a limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted, decorated lid, the antiquities ministry said in a statement.

Another collection of scarab mummies was found inside a smaller sarcophagus.

"The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare," Waziri said.

"A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before."

Dozens of cat mummies and gilded statues of cats were unearthed, including a bronze statue dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet.

The team also found painted wooden cobra and crocodile sarcophagi, a collection of gilded statues depicting animal features, as well as objects including amulets, canopic jars, writing tools and papyri baskets.

Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Helen Popper

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reminder: Northern Cal. ARCE Egyptology Lecture Nov. 11 by Tom Hardwick: Mrs. Goodison & Friends

Please join us this coming Sunday for a lecture by Tom Hardwick, a speaker who never fails to inform as he amuses. You'll enjoy it!


The American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California Chapter, and the Near Eastern Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley, invite you to attend a lecture by
Tom Hardwick, Consulting Curator, Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Mrs. Goodison & Friends: Displaying 19th Century Egyptology

Sunday, November 11, 3 pm
Room 20 Barrows Hall
UC Berkeley Campus

(Near the intersection
of Bancroft Way
and Barrow Lane)

A photo of the exhibition "Adventures in Egypt: Mrs Goodison and Other Travellers" at the Southport UK Atkinson Museum.

About the Lecture:

The Egyptian collection of Anne Goodison, now in the The Atkinson Southport UK, is a rare survival of an intact, little studied, and largely unaltered Victorian Egyptian collection. Mrs Goodison and her husband travelled to Egypt twice, in 1886 and 1890, giving space on her dahabeya (houseboat) to the Revd. Greville Chester, an informal purchasing agent for the Ashmolean Museum, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and British Museum. She also corresponded with leading scholars of pharaohnic culture and language. She was part of a network of travellers, collectors, and scholars during a period when methods of collecting and studying Egyptian material were changing, moving from the amateur to the professional, the antiquarian to the aesthetic, and the private to the public.

In September 2017 the Atkinson opened an exhibition on the Goodison collection. The exhibition – the first to be dedicated exclusively to the history of collecting Egyptian objects – aims to show the context in which her collection was formed, and set it alongside pieces from contemporary collections and excavations. It brings together loans of objects and documentation from the UK and worldwide, and reunites objects that were dispersed by sale or division of archaeological finds over a hundred years ago.

-- From the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo Facebook site.

 About the Speaker:

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Tom Hardwick is Consulting Curator of the Hall of Ancient Egypt at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  He studied Egyptology as an undergraduate and postgraduate at the University of Oxford. He has worked as Keeper of Egyptology at Bolton Museum in the UK, as a researcher in the Wilbour Library of Egyptology in Brooklyn Museum, and as an Egyptologist in the Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, where he now lives. Tom is a specialist in Egyptian art, the history of collecting, and in the forgery of works of art

-- From the Houston Museum of Natural Science website.



Parking is available in U.C. lots after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends for a fee. Ticket dispensing machines accept either $5 bills or $1 bills, and debit or credit cards. The Underhill lot can be entered from Channing way off College Avenue. Parking is also available in lots along Bancroft, and on the circle drive in front of the Valley Life Sciences building.

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--   Sent from my Linux system.

Great Pyramid: how my research on ancient Egyptian poetry led to an amazing discovery

Great Pyramid: how my research on ancient Egyptian poetry led to an amazing discovery

What began as an expedition to record the inscriptions of ancient Egyptian quarry workers produced a remarkable discovery about the Great Pyramid at Giza. My colleagues and I in the Anglo-French joint archaeological mission to the ancient quarry site of Hatnub recently revealed the existence of a well-preserved haulage ramp dating to the time of the Great Pyramid, roughly 4,500 years ago.

We think this could significantly change the theories about how the workers who built the monument were able to transport such large blocks of stone to great heights. It could even provide evidence that pulleys were invented hundreds of years earlier than previously documented.

The rock-cut ramp is flanked by two flights of rock-cut stairs, into which are cut post holes that would originally have held wooden posts, now long perished. The pattern of post holes is well enough preserved that we can begin to reconstruct a pulley system that would have been used to lift large blocks of alabaster out of the open-cast quarry.

The ancient ramp. Roland Enmarch, Author provided

While some quarrymen would have been stationed above the blocks, hauling them upwards directly, others would have stood below the blocks, pulling downwards. Their ropes would have been lashed round the post holes and attached to the alabaster blocks, so that both groups were exerting force to pull the blocks up out of the quarry.

This stone haulage system makes efficient use of the limited available space on the ramp, and it is reasonable to speculate that this same pulley technology would also have been used in the construction of the Great Pyramid. While pulley systems are well known from Greek civilisation in the first millennium BC, the evidence from Hatnub pushes their use much further back in time, as it pre-dates the Greek evidence by some 2,000 years.

Steep incline. Roland Enmarch, Author provided

The Hatnub haulage ramp is also much steeper than most previous reconstructions of Egyptian haulage ramps. This is significant because one of the long-standing objections to the theory that the Great Pyramid was build using a single large ramp was the enormous volume of such a ramp (which would have had a greater volume than the Great Pyramid itself). With a much steeper gradient, the length and volume of such a haulage ramp would be much smaller, suggesting that this old theory needs to be re-evaluated more seriously.

Many other theories have previously been proposed for how the Great Pyramid was constructed. For example, a ramp might have coiled around the sides of the pyramid. There are also many suggestions involving levers and similar mechanisms. (And, of course, there are always those lacking in imagination who cannot accept a human explanation, and instead groundlessly evoke aliens or Atlanteans). The merit of our recent discoveries is that they give us solid archaeological evidence we can use to test previous theories.

Ancient graffiti

These discoveries have emerged from the work of the University of Liverpool's joint expedition with the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo to Hatnub, which is some 20km from the Nile in the eastern desert of Middle Egypt. This quarry was the most prestigious ancient source of Egyptian alabaster, the milky white banded translucent stone that was used by the Egyptians to make vessels, statues, and architectural items.

Our original aim was purely to record the surviving inscriptions left by quarrymen 4,500 to 4,000 years ago. I began my career studying Egyptian poetry, but it turns out quarrymen could on occasion get quite poetic when writing their graffiti in the quarry. And so I now study these texts, written in a cursive version of the Egyptian script known as hieratic.

We have so far identified more than 100 previously unrecorded texts, offering a wealth of information about the organisation and logistics of the expeditions that came to the quarry to extract alabaster. They mention royal patronage, the hundreds (and, on occasion, thousands) of expedition personnel, the numbers of blocks mined, and the time taken to ferry them to their ultimate destinations.

Stone inscriptions. Roland Enmarch, Author provided

Some of the inscriptions take a more long-term point of view, and seek to convince future visitors to the quarry that their predecessors were good people, and deserve to be treated with respect (and offerings) after their death. In the 21st century, we are accustomed to talk of "posting" to "walls". But at Hatnub we have an actual Bronze Age wall whose texts speak across the years, and create a solidarity among those who came to work in the quarry, generation after generation.

More recently we have expanded our work (and our team) to record the wider archaeological features of the extremely well-preserved Bronze Age industrial landscape around the quarry. We are collecting and analysing the stone tools that litter the site, offering insights into the process of extracting blocks from the bedrock. Through experimental archaeology we are learning just how rapidly alabaster needed to be worked before it dried and hardened after extraction.

We are also studying the ancient road connecting the quarry to the Nile Valley, which is flanked by hundreds of simple dry-stone shelters used by workmen for accommodation and stoneworking. We have simple dry-stone religious cairns and other structures of possible ritual function. The recent clearance of debris from the haulage ramp leading out of the quarry has been part of our study of this wider context.

Our ultimate goal is to study all aspects of stone extraction and transport at Hatnub, integrating the rich textual and archaeological evidence to provide a more holistic understanding of quarrying in ancient Egypt. Few sites offer the range and diversity of evidence that survives at Hatnub. We have many years of work ahead of us; the potential for further exciting discoveries is huge.

--   Sent from my Linux system.