Sunday, August 19, 2018

Restoring the aqueduct - Al Ahram Weekly

Restoring the aqueduct

Stretching from the River Nile to the Salaheddin Citadel, the Magra Al-Oyoun Aqueduct has many stories to tell, many of them highlighted in its current development, writes Nevine El-Aref 

Magra Al-Oyoun Aqueduct
Magra Al-Oyoun Aqueduct
Magra Al-Oyoun Aqueduct

When the mediaeval Egyptian Sultan Salaheddin Al-Ayoubi, known in the West as Saladin, built the Cairo Citadel and new city walls from close to the former capital at Fustat, he also ordered the construction of a canal on top of them to carry water from the Nile to the citadel where it could be used for drinking and irrigation. The water was carried up to the walls by waterwheels. 

Following a population boom during the reign of the Mameluke Sultan Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoun at the beginning of the 14th century, the need for more water became imperative, and a plan was drafted to construct waterwheels linking up with the great Al-Qanatir Barrages north of Cairo that would then channel water to the citadel. 

The sultan built a great tower, the Borg Al-Saqiya, to contain the wheels and a large cistern in Fumm Al-Khalig, now Qasr Al-Aini Street, on the banks of the Nile. The waterwheels were operated by oxen to raise the water up to a canal system on raised arches supported by large stone piers. The whole was designed to form a slope that could be connected to the older aqueduct built by Salaheddin Al-Ayoubi.

Later still, the Mameluke Sultan Qaytbay undertook renovation work of the aqueduct, as did the sultan Qansuh Al-Ghouri who brought the system up to date. The water was now pooled in the square at the foot of the citadel before being raised by waterwheels to cisterns inside. The aqueduct was functional until the Ottoman period, but it fell into disuse during the French Expedition to Egypt at the end of the 18th century, when it was used for military purposes. The French blocked some of the arches supporting the canal and turned them into fortifications.

In 1810, Mohamed Ali ordered the renovation of the aqueduct and a new branch was added to service the Southern Cemetery, ending near the Mosque of Al-Imam Al-Shafei. The aqueduct remained in use until 1827, when a more modern system was introduced.

"Today, the aqueduct runs from Fumm Al-Khalig on the banks of the Nile to the Sayeda Aisha area of Cairo, with its remaining section being about 3km long. It is one of the most beautiful examples of aqueduct architecture not only in Egypt but also in the entire Islamic world," said Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, head of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project. 

Abdel-Aziz said that in the early 2000s the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of Antiquities, had begun restoration work on the aqueduct, with the aim of turning it into a tourist destination. The work involved cleaning the stonework, replacing stones that were damaged, restoring the waterwheel tower, demolishing workshops that had encroached on the structure, and clearing away refuse in the surrounding area. 

The project was then halted, but today, more than a decade later, the Ministry of Antiquities has decided to revive the aqueduct restoration and development project to turn it into an open-air museum. The project is within the framework of a strategy to restore Cairo as a city of heritage and the arts. Leather tanneries in the area will be removed to Al-Robeiky near Badr City in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and the relevant professional association.

The aqueduct passes through a heavy populated area, and it has been encroached on by residents and leather tanneries, causing significant damage. Environmental pollution ranging from exhaust fumes to a rising underground water table, outdated sewage system and weak infrastructure has undermined the aqueduct's foundations and an earthquake in 1992 left visible cracks in the structure. 

Abdel-Aziz said that after the removal of the tanneries the area surrounding the aqueduct would be converted into a tourist destination. "Although the urban texture that surrounds the aqueduct does not have as long a history as that in Historic Cairo and Fustat, it is worthy of preservation because of its social and economic importance and the aesthetic value arising from the relationship between the houses and the walls of the structure, these having often been built without the help of architects," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. 

He said the façades of the buildings located in front of the aqueduct would be improved to suit the historical environment and the informal housing area would continue to be used as houses for craftsmen. Two museums will also be established in the area to show visitors the water system that was used in mediaeval Cairo and its architectural designs, he said.

A pedestrian esplanade will also be created along the aqueduct to provide a walking area for visitors.

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AWOL - The Ancient World Online: HELL-ON-LINE
On 08/19/2018 06:01 AM, Charles Jones wrote:
HELL-ON-LINE [First posted in AWOL on 13 November 2014, updated 19 August 2018]

Eileen Gardiner
HELL-ON-LINE is developing as a comprehensive on-line collection of over 100 visions, tours and descriptions of the infernal otherworld from the cultures of the world: principally from the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Zoroastrian, Islamic and Jewish traditions from 2000 BCE to the present. These texts reveal the development of hell and its relationship to ideas of judgment, reincarnation, salvation, the apocalypse, and cyclic time. Visionaries and voyagers describe the geography of the underworld. Much like any other travelers, they lay out locations and distances, compass points, and physical characteristics, especially the surface features: oceans, mountains, rivers, roads, bridges and ditches. They also describe the inhabitants — both human souls and evil spirits — and the relationships between them, as they fulfill their particular doom, engendered by sins committed in this life, according to the laws and norms of the next life.

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A Reader's Guide to Egyptian Religion - Nile Scribes

A Reader's Guide to Egyptian Religion

Visitors to Egyptian temples feel an instant connection with the ancient Egyptian religion due to rich imagery we see depicted on every wall and column, from the names of gods to their varied human- and animal-headed depictions. However, our own view of what constitutes 'religion' is much different from what the Egyptians' associated with the spiritual realm – living persons appealed to the deceased through letters, annual cultic festivals gave the ordinary populace a temporary and sensuous interaction with the divine, and after death, the body of the deceased was preserved as an essential vessel for the soul to leave and return to. This week, the Nile Scribes present a 5-book Reader's Guide to introduce you to the bright and diversely populated world of Egyptian religion.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

by Richard H. Wilkinson

Find it on Goodreads | Amazon

Nile Scribes: It makes sense that your first step into the world of Egyptian religion is meeting the inhabitants of the divine realm, the cosmic creators, healers, and trouble-makers who populate Egyptian mythological stories. This book has maintained an excellent reputation as a concise encyclopedia of Egyptian deities, from Amun-Re to Shed, and Anukis to Waset, introducing the reader to their names, attributes, and cult centres. Wilkinson also contextualises the worship of these deities by explaining modern terminologies, ancient philosophies, and temple rituals intended to care for the gods in their temple houses.

Magic in Ancient Egypt

by Geraldine Pinch

Find it on Goodreads | Amazon

NS: Magic is often not something we associate with religion in the western world, but employed through prayers, amulets, letters, and icons, it was an inseparable element of Egyptian religious beliefs for thousands of years. This book connects us with the practical magic that helped the ancient Egyptians navigate the dangers of childhood, pregnancy and childbirth, illness and disease, and even achieving life after death. As Pinch shows, magic was a means of protecting your loved ones, living or dead, of communicating with the gods, or ensuring a positive outcome in a situation, such as the healthy birth of your calf. Pinch's other summary book, Egyptian Myth: A Very Short Introduction, is a perfect companion to this illustrated introduction to magic in ancient Egypt.

Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt

by Emily Teeter

Find it on Goodreads | Amazon

NS: Emily Teeter is a curator at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and has previously written an important contribution on the significance of ma'at (a central tenet in the Egyptian worldview, which we translate as justice, order, or perfection). This book presents a wide window into Egyptian religion, from a thorough chapter on Egyptian priests to joining a procession during a festival, for example. Illustrated with many colour plates and figures, Teeter investigates the mind of the Egyptians and how they practiced their religious beliefs by drawing from a large variety of sources. The reader will come up close with the religious writings of the ancient Egyptians through the accessible translations provided by the author.

Gifts for the Gods: Images from Ancient Egyptian Temples

Edited by Marsha Hill and Deborah Schorsch

Find it on Goodreads | Amazon

NS: With the added benefit of being available for free online, Gifts for the Gods is an exhibition catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art centred around metal statuary from ancient Egyptian temple contexts. Accompanying the essays on the technical skill achieved by ancient Egyptian metalworkers are over a hundred beautiful images of bronze, gold, and silver statues that were created to be presented to the gods in their temples, and left there as eternal gifts. For conceptual exercises such as understanding an ancient religion, having tangible objects like these ones helps us envision the individuals who practiced their personal beliefs through dedications like these statues, instead of becoming mired in the abstract.

Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt

by Stephen Quirke

Find it on Goodreads | Amazon

NS: In this broad overview for the more serious scholar, Stephen Quirke lets the ancient texts speak for themselves as he takes the reader on a journey through the various themes of Egyptian religion. He is particularly careful about the terms we use as specialists today to speak about ancient Egypt. He not only discusses the various viewpoints on such topics, but explains their opportunities and challenges in a very convincing, objective fashion (e.g. reasons for using the name Kemet over Egypt). The result is a very Egypto-centric approach towards their religion. In approaching the important topic of myth, Quirke expertly lays out modern concepts and approaches to reading Egyptian myths and deconstructs them with concrete examples of the ancient evidence, e.g. in examining snippets of myth, he also draws from a wide variety of material culture.

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Egypt internet: Sisi ratifies law tightening control over websites - BBC News

Egypt internet: Sisi ratifies law tightening control over websites

  • 18 August 2018
Image copyright Getty Images
President Sisi's supporters say he has brought stability while critics say he has stifled democracy

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has signed a new law that tightens controls over the internet.

The legislation on "cybercrime" means websites can be blocked in Egypt if deemed to constitute a threat to national security or the economy.

Anyone found guilty of running, or just visiting, such sites could face prison or a fine.

Authorities say the new measures are needed to tackle instability and terrorism.

But human rights groups accuse the government of trying to crush all political dissent in the country.

The Cairo-based Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression said more than 500 websites had already been blocked in Egypt prior to the new law being signed.

Last month another bill was passed by parliament, yet to be approved by President Sisi, that would allow any social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers to be placed under supervision.

Correspondents says that with street protests in Egypt all but banned, the internet has been one of the last forums left for Egyptians to express dissent.

Human Rights Watch issued a warning last month that Egyptian authorities were increasingly using counterterrorism and state-of-emergency laws and courts to unjustly prosecute journalists, activists, and critics for peaceful criticism.

Those recently arrested include the well-known blogger and rights defender Wael Abbas; Amal Fathy, a political activist and the wife of the head of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms; and the comic Shady Abu Zaid.

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Oldest Cheese In The World Discovered, Now People Want to Eat it - Thrillist

The Oldest Cheese In The World Was Found. Now People Are Dying to Eat It

Published On 08/18/2018
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In Pics: Dronka Monastery; historical eyewitness of the Holy Family journey - Egypt Today
A woman at an icon of Mary and Christ in Muharraq Monastery,        Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar        A woman at an icon of Mary and Christ in Muharraq Monastery, Asyut Oct. 15, 2017 – Maher Eskandar

In Pics: Dronka Monastery; historical eyewitness of the Holy Family journey

Sun, Aug. 19, 2018
CAIRO – 19 August 2018: Thousands of Christian and Muslim visitors continue to flock to Virgin Mary's Monastery, the Dronka convent located Western the Assiut Mountain, to celebrate the Virgin's fast which begins on August 7 and ends on August 22.

Church clergy and Copts celebrate at Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

Reverend Luka who served as the monastery secretary for years told Egypt Today that the Virgin's cave goes back to the time of the Pharaohs, who carved it to hide from the flood 4,500 years ago and when the Holy Family arrived, they lived in the cave. Back then, Assiut, where the Holy family took the boat to return to Palestine, was the capital.

Egyptian Coptic Christians lighting candles before a Virgin Mary icon at Dronka Monastery in Assiut, Egypt, in September 2017 – Egypt Today/Hazem Abdel Samar

"The Holy Family's time in Dronka was a time of extraordinary phenomena and miracles," said Reverend Luka, adding: "When the Holy Family left, the first church, the Cave Church, was built here in the 1st century AD. It was not like today's churches, but one in the spiritual sense – where prayers are held and supplications are raised."
The reverend told Egypt Today that the monastery welcomes a million visitors annually during the Virgin's fast mid-August.

The reverend said, "When monasticism emerged in the 4th century in Egypt, this place became a monastery. Many monasteries were built, but Dronka Monastery survived, unlike them. They were, however, chronicled in Coptic history." He further explained that the Dronka Monastery used to be called the "Monastery of Writing Monks" as monks were active in copying books.

Assiut officials said that the government provided sufficient services for the Coptic holy sites in Assiut and that they have recently added new extensions to the place as well as direction signs on the main desert roads to reach the monasteries.

The Holy Family in Egypt - Wikimedia commons/Edwin Long
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Initial analysis shows skeletons from huge Egyptian sarcophagus are two men, one woman - Ancient Egypt - Heritage - Ahram Online

Initial analysis shows skeletons from huge Egyptian sarcophagus are two men, one woman

Intricate gold panels were also found alongside the three skeletons

Nevine El-Aref , Sunday 19 Aug 2018
Alexandria Sarcophagus
Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.
The three skeletons found inside a massive granite sarcophagus unearthed in Alexandria last month have been analysed and found to be a young woman and two men, Egyptian antiquities officials have said, and intricate gold panels have also been discovered inside the coffin.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that preliminary studies on the remains were carried out by a team of researchers headed by Zeinab Hashish, director of the Department of Skeleton Remains Studies at the Ministry of Antiquities, who determined the gender and age of the skeletons by looking at the anatomy of the skulls, pelvises and longitudinal bones.

Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.

He added that the team had also found several square intricately decorated panels made of gold, measuring approximately 5cm by 3cm. Waziri said that the delicate artwork depicted on the panels may refer to military rankings.

Gold panels found inside a granite sarcophagus.

Nadia Kheider, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Lower Egypt, said that according to the studies, the first skeleton belonged to a woman between the age of 20 to 25, with a height of around 160 to 164 cm.

The first skeleton

The second one belonged to a man between the age of 35 to 39, with a height ranging between 160 to 165.5 cm, while the third skeleton is also male, aged between 40 and 44 years old and with a height of 179 to 184.5 cm.

The second skeleton found inside the granite sarcophagus.

She said that analysis of the third skeleton's skull show a 17cm-wide round cavity, which the man had sustained a considerable amount of time before death.

"This means that the cavity might be a result of a trepanation," Hashish told Ahram Online. She explained that trepanation is the scraping or drilling of a hole in the skull, and is the oldest surgical intervention in history, found in prehistoric human remains.

This form of surgery was rare in ancient Egypt, however, and few skulls with this injury have been found. The Qasr Al-Eini Hospital Museum holds some examples, however, and some skulls found in the tomb of 18th-dynasty treasurer Maya and his wife Merit also show marks of trepanation.

Waziri suggested that most probably the burying processes inside the sarcophagus were carried out in two consecutive phases, as the skeletons were found one on top of the other.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the ministry, said that the researchers have cleaned all the remains found inside the sarcophagus and archaeologically documented all the bones and skulls, as well as the gold panels.

Antiquities experts examine remains found inside the granite sarcophagus.

He explained that the strange colour of the liquid found inside the sarcophagus was probably a result of the contamination from sewage water, which caused the remains of the skeleton's wrappings to decompose.

Several analyses are being carried out on the water to uncover more about its components, Ashmawy said.

Waziri said that more research and studies are being carried out, including DNA tests and CT scans on the bones, to find out more about the skeletons and determine if the three people were genetically related.

The sarcophagus was found in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria during the digging of foundations for a new residential building.

Officials have previously said it probably dates to the Ptolemaic (332–30 BC) or Roman (30 BC–642 AD) eras.

The initial discovery of the massive black granite coffin caused a stir; some speculated that it might contain the long-vanished remains of Alexander the Great, whose tomb was said to have been located in Alexandria. Others raised concerns about a curse; according to the BBC, Waziri assuaged fears, saying: "We've opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness.

The discovery of the red liquid inside the sarcophagus when it was opened also prompted a reaction; an international petition demanding that the Egyptian government let people drink the liquid garnered thousands of signatures.

Short link:


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Saturday, August 18, 2018

EATAD announces 'Seven Wonders of Ancient Egypt' - Egypt Independent

EATAD announces 'Seven Wonders of Ancient Egypt'

The Egyptian Association for Tourism and Archaeological Development (EATAD) has compiled its official "Seven Wonders of Ancient Egypt", with the Giza pyramids at the top of the list.

In order, the pyramids were followed by Abu Simbel temple in Aswan, Valley of the Kings in West Luxor, Karnak Temple in Luxor, Qena's Dandara Temple, King Citi the First's Temple in historic Abydos, Sohag, and finally, the Tomb of Petosiris in El-Menyia.

In press statements on Thursday, EATAD President Ayman Abu Zeid told press that the list was chosen by the board and a team of tourism and antiquities experts. Moreover, a questionnaire was distributed to tourist groups and foreign travel agents, sourcing their opinions on the artistic and architectural value of each monument, as well as its rare qualities.

Abu Zeid further outlined the criteria for a wonder to be listed. Each had to represent an architectural and artistic feat, and retain its most valuable architectural components to this day. In addition, he stressed that each wonder needed to be complemented by "an amazing story".

The list will be "updated on an annual basis" to reflect the newest archaeological finds in Egypt.

Egyptian monuments and Pharaonic temples have long captured the world. The Great Pyramids are the only remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was also chosen as one of the wonders, athough it collapsed in 1323 due to an earthquake.

Egypt has attempted to boost its tourism after the sector took a tumble following the 2011 revolution. Its efforts to boost its image have included international stars to visit Egypt such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Zahi Hawass - Adventures in archaeology -Al Ahram Weekly

Accompanying this article is a photo of Dr. Hawass looking at one of the artifacts from KV 63, discovered by Otto Schaden's team around 2006. The late Dr. Schaden is shown in the background of this photo. Glenn

Adventures in archaeology

Egyptology is not only a search for knowledge — it can also be great fun, writes Zahi Hawass.

Zahi Hawass adventures
I have had countless adventures in archaeology in my life that have made it much more fun. One of the greatest moments was when I entered the queen's subsidiary Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pharaoh who was the builder of the Third Pyramid at Giza. This pyramid had never been entered by anyone since 1902. After I had descended about 30 metres underground, I began to return to the surface but realised I could not because the entrance was sloping. When I moved up, I found myself going down. It was a very difficult task.  
I also recall incidents that occurred when I was working at the Temple of Taposiris Magna in Alexandria some 35km west of the city. The head of the mission excavating there, Kathleen Martinez from the Dominican Republic, believed that Cleopatra and Mark Antony were buried inside the temple, which was connected with the worship of the Ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. We have been cooperating with her for the last eight years, and major discoveries have been made. 
Two accidents happened to me at this site, almost as if Cleopatra did not like me. In the first, I was clearing a statue found inside the temple and was leaning over it when a huge stone weighing 20kg suddenly fell on my head. Fortunately, the stone was not too high above my head because it would have killed me if had been. However, I felt dizzy and went to my office in Cairo, telling my assistant Nashwa Gaber that there was something wrong with one of my eyes. We went to see a doctor who told me I had macular hole in one eye and would have to fly to the United States for surgery. 
The second incident also happened at the temple. I had found a tunnel and thought that the entrance of a tomb was at the end of the shaft. I went down five metres and began to see that the tunnel narrowed. Later, the team prepared a machine connected to a basket in order to lower me down until I had reached 20 metres in depth. Then, I looked down and realised that the space was filled with water. I asked the team to haul me back up, but the machine broke down for an hour. It was the most difficult adventure of all. 
However, I would like to recount another escapade here that I undertook with former students. While I was teaching at the American University in Cairo, I told my students that I was taking them on an adventure. We were going inside a pyramid that only a few Egyptologists had ever been inside. In fact, some archeologists who specialise in pyramids had never entered this pyramid, I said.
We met in front of the Bent Pyramid at Dahshour, and I explained its history and archaeology. My class also had the wonderful surprise of meeting Rainer Stadelmann, former director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo. Rainer has dedicated his life to excavating Senefru's Pyramid, and he has discovered many interesting monuments and is believed to be among the best German scholars. He has also made solid friendships with many Egyptians.
 I told my students that Rainer was one of the few archaeologists who know a lot about the pyramids and that he had discovered the oldest capstone, belonging to the North or Red Pyramid of Senefru. I send him my greetings in his old age and hope he enjoys ankh-wadj-seneb, or prosperity and health as the Ancient Egyptians used to say. 
Leslie Warden, one of my former students who is now an Egyptology professor, asked me why Senefru had four pyramids. "We do not know, but this great man, Rainer, will give you the answer," I said. Rainer explained that Senefru had built a pyramid in Sila in Fayoum. However, this does not have a burial chamber, and so most scholars believe that it represents a primeval mound and was built behind the king's palace. Senefru started building a second pyramid in Meidum as a step pyramid, but he did not finish it for unknown reasons. Many tour guides still believe that this pyramid belonged to Huni, the last king of the Third Dynasty. 
Senefru then went to Dahshour and built the Bent Pyramid. Its original angle of inclination was 54° 31¢, later changed to 43° 21¢. It is for this reason that it has its famous "bent" shape. Senefru then moved north and built the first true pyramid in Egypt. Finally, he returned to Meidum and completed that pyramid as a true pyramid. We now believe that Senefru ruled for more than 54 years. 
We eagerly awaited our adventure with the 12 young students who would enter the Bent Pyramid for the first time. We reached the entrance at a height of 11.8 metres. I climbed up first, with my famous hat on my head, and I could hear Leslie laughing and talking to her colleagues while some of the students were silent. Photographer Marli Pope was ready to take photographs with her digital camera for my website. 
We entered a tunnel that was about 80 metres long and only 1.1 metres high. Feeling hot and sweaty, we had to hunch over as we made our way to the corbelled room inside. Once there, I began to think of the first engineer who had cleared and worked inside this pyramid, Abdel-Salam Hussein. He believed that secret chambers had yet to be discovered. I warned the students in advance that we would have to climb 6.25 metres up the south wall on wooden stairs that were very difficult to climb in order to reach the floor at about 12 metres. This led to another tunnel, heading to the east and west. 
We went to the east and found a portcullis in the room of another burial chamber. We were also surprised to find cedar wooden beams, which was something a mystery. Leslie observed that "this wood may be from that which Senefru brought from Byblos in ancient Lebanon."
Our last surprise was when we found what the 19th-century explorers Vyse and Perring had detected when they visited the site on 15 October 1839. We could feel that cold air was coming from the interior of the pyramid and going outside. This might be evidence that one of the rooms connects to the exterior, as was seen by the late great archaeologist Ahmed Fakhri.
It may be that part of the interior of the pyramid has yet to be discovered. The interior is also very different from others we had entered before. It was all very exciting and something of a thrill. "We will all return to the States and think back on our adventures inside the Bent Pyramid," said one of the students, Kristin Eakins. 
I had another problem, however. As a result of my exertions I could not move my legs for three days.
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The 5th Season of SECRETS on Smithsonian Channel Includes 3 Shows on Ancient Egypt.\

The 5th Season Premiere of SECRETS on Smithsonian Channel Reveals Insights on 'Jonah and the Whale' Story

Aug. 16, 2018  

The 5th Season Premiere of SECRETS on Smithsonian              Channel Reveals Insights on 'Jonah and the Whale' Story

Archaeologists investigating a site in Iraq destroyed by ISIS have discovered a 2,700-year-old temple that reveals new insights into one of the Bible's most famous stories, "Jonah and the Whale." That's just one of the revelations explored in the new season of Smithsonian Channel's popular series SECRETS, which follows the world's leading archaeologists as they use modern technologies to solve some of history's oldest riddles. A mysterious tomb from the final days of the Vikings, a forgotten princess of Egypt and the true origin of King Solomon's mines are among other startling finds revealed in season five of SECRETS, which premieres Monday, September 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.

JONAH AND THE WHALE kicks off the fifth season with a modern-day disaster. In war-torn Iraq, ISIS fighters in Iraq detonate explosives under the shrine of "Nebi Yunus" - the Tomb of Jonah - destroying a site sacred to three religions. But when ISIS flees, archaeologists discover that beneath the rubble lies a 2,700-year-old temple complex, an ancient Assyrian palace previously unknown to history. Dr. Katharyn Hanson is an archaeologist with the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Conservation Institute. She was relieved to discover that ISIS' destruction wasn't complete: "The archaeological artifacts are still there," she explains in the film. "That's the part that gives me hope." Massive sculptures, cryptic inscriptions and mysterious figures reveal the story of a cruel despot, a dark fertility cult and a character who may have inspired one of the Bible's best-known tales.

Subsequent episodes of SECRETS are:


Premieres Monday, October 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT

The 2012 discovery of a Viking tomb in suburban Denmark caught the archaeological world by surprise. Inside the vast UNDERGROUND chamber was a Viking lord's weapons, his gold-encrusted jewelry and even the body of his horse ... but no Viking. The empty grave unlocks the mysteries of the final days of the Age of the Vikings. Cutting-edge archaeology reveals how this war-like culture successfully competed with the finest armies of Europe. New revelations uncover the shocking force that caused the Viking Age to collapse and what made Viking corpses disappear from their tombs.


Premieres Monday, October 8 at 8 p.m. ET/PT

In March 2017, construction work in Cairo's urban outskirts is called to a halt, as the colossal stone head of an ancient pharaoh is UNCOVERED by a forklift. The "Pharaoh in a Slum" makes international headlines, but the REAL NEWS is that the massive statue represents a ruler lost to history. Researchers combine hieroglyphic research and ancient documents to put together the real story of this "Lost Pharaoh" who brought Egypt back from the brink of collapse and ushered in an artistic renaissance - before his name and memory were wiped out.


Premieres Monday, October 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT

In 2011, archaeologists in the Valley of the Kings discover a sealed entrance to a previously undiscovered tomb - the first sealed tomb found in 100 years. Inside are the remains of a dismembered mummy, a pile of rubble and a coffin that is apparently 500 years younger than the tomb it resides in. Scientists identify the dismembered body as a female from the royal court who lived during the golden age of Egypt. Further investigation reveals a tale of ancient Egyptian grave robbing and desecration, as well the RISE of the new elite that would eventually overthrow the Pharaohs.


Premieres Monday, October 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT

In the cemetery of Egypt's earliest rulers, archaeologists were shocked to find the carefully buried corpses of baboons, jackals, leopards and even a hippopotamus. Forensic evidence shows these animals were not native to Egypt, and were captured at faraway locations. Why did these ancient Egyptians treat these animals like honored guests, even burying them with the royal family? New revelations show that this "world's first zoo" may have been the foundation for the ancient Egyptian religion - and the source of Egypt's mysterious animal-headed gods.


Premieres Monday, October 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT

For centuries, scholars, adventurers, saints and thieves have searched for the wealthiest treasure mentioned in the Bible: King Solomon's mines. Though scripture calls Solomon "richer than any other king," ancient Israel seems to have no silver or gold mines that could explain the gold-covered Temple and palaces of Jerusalem. But startling new discoveries in the remote Israeli desert finally reveal the truth behind the legend: a long forgotten mine, an ancient metal-working encampment, and traces of a metal far more precious than gold.

SECRETS is produced by Blink Films for Smithsonian Channel. Dan Chambers is producer for Blink Films. Tim Evans and David Royle are executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.

Smithsonian Channel™, owned by Smithsonian Networks™, a joint venture between Showtime Networks Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution, is where CURIOSITY lives, inspiration strikes and wonders never cease. This is the place for awe-inspiring stories, powerful documentaries and amazing factual entertainment, available in HD and 4K Ultra HD across multiple platforms. Smithsonian Channel, winner of Emmy® and Peabody awards for its programming, combines the storytelling prowess of SHOWTIME® with the unmatched resources and rich traditions of the Smithsonian, to create programming that shines new light on popular genres such as air and space, history, science, nature and pop culture. Among the network's offerings are series including Aerial America, America in Color, The Lost Tapes, Mighty Ships, Million Dollar American Princesses, The Pacific War in Color and Air Disasters, as well as critically-acclaimed specials that include The Coronation, The Mountain Lion and Me, Earth from Outer Space and Titanoboa: Monster Snake. Smithsonian Networks also operates Smithsonian Earth™, through SN Digital LLC., a subscription video streaming service delivering spectacular 4K original nature and wildlife content. Smithsonian Channel is also available internationally in Canada, Singapore and Latin America. To learn more, go to, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Ancient Egyptian method for revealing baby gender: Pee on barley - CNET

Ancient Egyptians predicted a baby's gender with pee and barley

Papyrus manuscripts from thousands of years ago reveal some very unusual parenting advice.

The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection/University of Copenhagen

People have been trying to guess whether a pregnant woman will have a boy or a girl for as long as women have been getting pregnant, it seems. 

Some think that if a woman can eat a lot of garlic but not smell it, she's carrying a girl. Or if a mother-to-be sleeps predominately on her left side, it's a boy.

Researchers translating Egyptian papyrus manuscripts dating back 3,500 years have found some ancient -- and unusual -- advice on the subject. 

The unpublished documents known as The Papyrus Carlsberg Collection stored at the University of Copenhagen cover medicine, botany, astronomy and other sciences practiced in ancient Egypt. 

Researchers have discovered that ancient Egyptians considered astrology a serious science.

"Today, astrology is seen as a pseudoscience, but in antiquity it was different. It was an important tool for predicting the future and it was considered a very central science," Egyptologist Kim Ryholt, Head of the Carlsberg Papyrus Collection, told Science Nordic.

"For example, a king needed to check when was a good day to go to war," he added.  

The manuscripts also showed how the Egyptians treated eye diseases and that they knew about the existence of kidneys.  

But one of the more unusual passages describes a prenatal test.

According to the preserved texts, a pregnant woman would pee into a bag of barley and a bag of wheat. The bag that sprouted first indicated the sex of her child. If neither bag sprouted... well, she wasn't pregnant.

The same pregnancy test used by Egyptians is apparently also mentioned in German folklore from 1699.

"That really puts things into perspective, as it shows that the Egyptian ideas have left traces thousands of years later," University of Copenhagen Ph.D. student Sofie Schiødt told Science Nordic.

Schiødt is working with other students to translate the ancient texts.

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Probably the most ancient archeological solid residue of cheese ever found - Analytical Chemistry (ACS Publications)

Proteomic Analyses on an Ancient Egyptian Cheese and Biomolecular Evidence of Brucellosis

Department of Chemical Sciences, University of Catania, Viale A. Doria 6-I, 95125 Catania, Italy
Head of the Cairo University Excavation Mission, Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University 12613 Giza, Egypt
§ Head of Conservation Department, Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University, 12613 Giza, Egypt
Anal. Chem., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b02535
Publication Date (Web): July 25, 2018
Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society


Abstract                  Image

The material analyzed in this study is probably the most ancient archeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date. The sample was collected during the Saqqara Cairo University excavations in the tomb of Ptahmes dated to XIX dynasty (El-Aguizy, O. Bulletin de l'Institut Française d'Archéologie Orientale (BIFAO) 2010, 110, 13−34 (ref (1)); Staring, N. Bulletin de Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale (BIFAO) 2015, 114, 455–518 (ref (2))). Our biomolecular proteomic characterization of this archeological sample shows that the constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep/goat and cow milk. The interactions for thousands of years with the strong alkaline environment of the incorporating soil rich in sodium carbonate and the desertic conditions did not prevent the identification of specific peptide markers which showed high stability under these stressing conditions. Moreover, the presence of Brucella melitensis has been attested by specific peptide providing a reasonable direct biomolecular evidence of the presence of this infection in the Ramesside period for which only indirect paleopathological evidence has been so far provided (Pappas, G.; Papadimitriou P. Int. J. Antimicrob. Agents 2007, 30, 29−31 (ref (3)); Bourke, J. B. Medical History 1971, 15 (4), 363–375 (ref (4))). Finally, it is worth noting that, although proteomic approaches are successfully and regularly used to characterize modern biological samples (D'Ambrosio, C.; Arena, S.; Salzano, A. M.; Renzone, G.; Ledda, L.; and Scaloni, A. Proteomics 2008 8, 3657−3666 (ref (5)), their application in ancient materials is still at an early stage of progress, only few results being reported about ancient food samples (Yang, Y.; Shevchenko, A.; Knaust, A.; Abuduresule, I.; Li, W.; Hu, X.; Wang, C.; Shevchenko, A. J. Archaeol. Sci. 2014, 45, 178−186 (ref (6)). In the absence of previous relevant evidence of cheese production and/or use, this study, undoubtedly has a clear added value in different fields of knowledge ranging from archaeometry, anthropology, archeology, medicine history to the forensic sciences.

The tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of Memphis and high-ranking official under the Pharaohs Sethi I and Ramses II (1290–1213 B.C.) of the XIX dynasty was rediscovered in 2010 after a part of it was revealed in 1885 and lost under the sands at the end of the 19th century.(7−17) Now the site is just partially excavated and published.(1,2,18,19) It is located in the south of the Causeway of the Pharaoh Unas which yields a number of tombs dated to the New Kingdom. The sample in this study was discovered during the excavation procedures of Cairo University in the season 2013–2014. While cleaning the sand around the southern outer wall of the tomb, in a corner formed from the difference in width between the forecourt and the second court, in an area corresponding to one of the lateral storehouses, a big number of broken jars were found. One of these contained a solidified whitish mass, while a canvas fabric which might have covered it or used for its preservation was found in one of the fragments of the jar. (Figure 1). The characteristic of the canvas made it unsuitable for containing liquid or, in general, non solid-materials. The sample (PTAH_1) was accurately collected in order to avoid any kind of contamination.


Figure 1. Jar and canvas discovered inside the tomb of Ptahmes, Mayor of Memphis during the XIX dynasty (photos by the authors).

A first investigation was performed in order to study the microscopic structure of the sample. In Figure 2 the SEM (FEDSEM LEO Supra 55VP with Zeiss GEMINI column) image shows the heterogeneity of the material that contains both crystalline and amorphous species. The crystals were analyzed by Bruker D5005 X-ray diffractometer, and the primary compound was sodium carbonate in the trona phase.(20,21) The origin of this specie is clearly driven by the extensive presence of this salt in the surrounding area where the rare but present rainfalls induce periodic cycles of solubilization, diffusion, and recrystallization of the sodium carbonate. Such a highly alkaline environment reacted with almost all the fats present in the solid residue causing saponification. For this reason, a proteomic analysis was found to be more suitable for the recognition of the nature of the sample.


Figure 2. SEM image and XRD of the sample PTAH_1 and PDF reference of the trona phase.(20,21)

In order to analyze the amorphous components, the samples were dissolved in aqueous 0.1% trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) at a concentration of 1 mg/mL (pH 2.6). The protein concentration, determined using the fluorometric assay, was 170 μg/mL. The sample was desalted and purified from nonprotein contaminants using the PlusOne 2-D Clean-Up kit (GE Healthcare Life Sciences) according to the manufacturer's recommendations and dissolved in 20 mM ammonium bicarbonate (pH 8.3) at a concentration of 1 mg/mL and then reduced, alkylated, and digested with porcine trypsin as previously reported.(22) The resulting solution was diluted 1:2 in 5% aqueous formic acid (FA) and analyzed by UHPLC/high-resolution nanoESI-MS/MS.

Mass spectrometry data were acquired on an Orbitrap Fusion Tribrid (Q-OT-qIT) mass spectrometer (ThermoFisher Scientific, Bremen, Germany) equipped with a ThermoFisher Scientific Dionex UltiMate 3000 RSLC nano system (Sunnyvale, CA), as previously described.(23) LC/MS/MS data were analyzed and searched against the comprehensive (all species) UniProt protein sequences database (April 2017 release, containing 554 241 entries)(24) using integrated PEAKS de novo sequencing software (v. 7.0, Bioinformatics Solutions Inc., Waterloo, ON, Canada) and Mascot algorithm (Matrix Science, London, U.K., version 2.5.1), as previously reported.(22) Peptide spectral matches (PSM) were validated using a Target Decoy PSM Validator node based on q-values at a 0.1% false discovery rate (FDR). Proteins that contained the same peptides and could not be differentiated based on MS/MS analysis alone were grouped to satisfy the principles of parsimony.

Proteomic analysis allowed the characterization of about 500 peptides coming from more than 90 proteins with different organism origin. Most of them were from human and represented a background that comprised keratins, skin, and saliva-associated proteins probably due to contamination. Taking into account that sample PTAH_1 was supposed to be an ancient dairy product, it is important to note that nine peptides were from Bovidae milk proteins (cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo). Six of them were from caseins (αs1-, β-, and κ-), whereas the remaining three peptides belong to two proteins (i.e., lysozyme and serum albumin) typically present in the whey fraction of milk and milk-derived foods(25−27) (Table 1). In detail, four peptides, FVVAPFPEVFR, YIQKEDVPSER, YLGYLEQLLR, and YNVPQLEIVPK allowed the identification of an αs1-casein; all these peptides are common to the ovine (UniProt Accession No. P18626) and caprine (Accession No. P04653) αs1-casein. On the other hand, the sequence YLGYLEQLLR is also related to the cow (Accession No. P02662) and water buffalo (Accession No. 062823) species. β-casein was identified by the characterization of the peptide YPVEPFTESQSLTLTDVEK, a sequence trait common to sheep (Accession No. P11839) and goat (Accession No. P33048) species. Finally, the peptide YIPIQYVLSR, shared between sheep (Accession No. P02669), goat (Accession No. P02670), cow (Accession No. P02668), and water buffalo (Accession No. P11840) species, allowed the identification of a κ-casein. As above-reported, three peptides were markers of two cow proteins normally present in milk and dairy products. In detail, cow milk lysozyme (Accession No. Q6B411) was identified by the characterization of the peptide STDYGIFQINSR; cow serum albumin (Accession No. P02769) was identified by the characterization of peptides KVPQVSTPTLVEVSR and LFTFHADICTLPDTEK.

Table 1. Selected proteins present in the sample PTAH_1 and identified by database search of MS data (details in the text)
          monoisotopic m/z (z)  
proteins protein coverage (%) protein score (%) peptide scorea (%) supporting peptides (species) measured calculated Δm (ppm)
αs1- casein 20 98.8 99.9 FVVAPFPEVFR (sheep; goat) 654.3610 (2+) 654.3610 0
99.9 YLGYLEQLLR (sheep; goat; cow; buffalo) 634.3561 (2+) 634.3559 0.3
88.8 YIQKEDVPSER (sheep; goat) 455.2332 (3+) 455.2333 –0.2
99.1 YNVPQLEIVPK (sheep; goat) 650.3688 (3+) 650.3690 –0.3
β-casein 9 59.5 97.5 YPVEPFTESQSLTLTDVEK (sheep; goat) 1092.0400 (2+) 1092.0414 –1.3
κ-casein 5 61.6 99.8 YIPIQYVLSR (sheep; goat; cow; buffalo) 626.3585 (2+) 626.3584 0.2
lysozyme 8 61.7 99.9 STDYGIFQINSR (cow) 700.8441 (2+) 700.8439 0.3
serum albumin 5 81.7 98.0 KVPQVSTPTLVEVSR (cow) 547.3174 (3+) 547.3174 0
89.4 LFTFHADICTLPDTEKb (cow) 636.6456 (3+) 636.6451 0.8
protein RecA 2 55.6 94.5 IGSIKER (Brucella melitensis biotype 1) 401.7428 (2+) 401.7427 0.2

Percentage confidence score is used to reflect the probability that this peptide-spectrum match is correct. The percentage score is calculated in accordance with the empirical calculation used in PeptideProphet.(28)


Cysteine residue is carbamidometilated.

Albumin, which occurs in many body tissues and secretions, is not synthesized in the mammary gland but it is presumed to enter the milk by leaky junctions between the mammary epithelial cells or by uptake with other components such as immunoglobulins. Lysozyme, another protein that is typically found in milk whey fraction, is an enzyme belonging to the glycoside hydrolases and it is known to be a natural antimicrobial agent.

Altogether, these data confidently suggested that the investigated archeological organic sample represents a cheese-like product obtained using bovine milk mixed with milk from ovine (goat or sheep).

Among the hundreds peptides identified in the ancient sample, no proteins or peptides from Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens and other lactic acid bacteria (usual microbial signature characteristic for kefir or kefir-like fermentation(6)) were found. Moreover, the sequence IGSIKER (see Table 1) allowed the identification of a protein (Accession No. P65975) from Brucella melitensis biotype 1. It is interesting to note that Brucella melitensis is the main cause of brucellosis in human and represents a natural pathogen for sheep and goats.(29)

It should be noted that this amino acid trait is common to proteins from other bacteria, such as a hypothetical protein from Coxiella burnetii (e.g., NCBI Accession No. WP_098953193) another Gram-negative bacterium that mostly affect ruminants.(30) On the light of this evidence it is not possible to exclude a priori that this peptide could be related to Coxiella burnetii. However, it should be noted that if the peptide IGSIKER arises from the protein RecA of Brucella melitensis, it represents a theoretical tryptic fragment generated by two specific cleavages at the level of the Arg238-Ile239 and Arg245-Asp246 bonds. On the contrary, the peptide IGSIKER may be generated from a hypothetical protein of Coxiella burnetii if we hypothesized an unspecific tryptic cleavage at the Thr292-Ile293 bond. Taking into account that less of 5% (corresponding to about 25 peptides) of all the identified peptides was generated by unspecific tryptic cleavages and in order to satisfy the principles of parsimony (i.e., Occam's razor), the sequence IGSIKER may be reasonably related to the Brucella melitensis.

In conclusion, even if very ancient kefir or milk or dairy residues, coming from North African,(31) Chinese,(6,27) and European(32) excavations have been found and analyzed, the present sample represent the oldest solid cheese so far discovered (3200 BP).

The results here obtained show how proteomic investigation of ancient materials may provide valuable contributions for their characterization. In particular, the present work evidences the capability of these approaches in order to identify not only the milk components preserved in the ancient dairy material but also the unambiguous detection of different milk species employed in ancient cheese manufacturing.

Moreover, up until now, only indirect signs of Brucellosis have been discovered on Egyptian archeological pelvic and hip bones such as sacroiliitis, spondylitis, and osteoarticular lesions dated 750 B.C.(3,33,34) Therefore, the identification of a peptide sequence which may be related to the Brucella melitensis in our investigation could represent the first biomolecular direct evidence of this disease during the pharaonic period, even if it requires additional investigations in order to be exhaustively and conclusively confirmed.

Author Present Address

E.G.: Peking University, College of Environmental Science and Engineering, 5 Yiheyuan Rd, Haidian Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100080.

Author Contributions

E.C. conceived and planned the project. E.C. and E.G. wrote the paper. E.G., S.F., V.C., and R.S. performed the analytical work and data analysis, and O.E.-A. and M.A. directed the excavations procedures and sampling of archeological materials. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

The authors declare no competing financial interest.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the Bio-Nanotech Research and Innovation Tower (BRIT; PON project financed by the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research, MIUR), the Ministry of State for Antiquities of Egypt, and Mr. Aurélien Tafani and Ms. Allison Wu for the article revision. This research was partly supported by "Piano della Ricerca di Ateneo 2016-2018" of the University of Catania, Italy.


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