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 Bryan
Kraemer, Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of
Art, CSU-San Bernardino
Revelation of the Mystery of Osiris, Lord of Abydos:
The Sacred Rituals of Reviving a Murdered God
Room 20 Barrows Hall
UC Berkeley Campus
(Near the intersection
of Bancroft Way
and Barrow Lane)
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Italian Archaeologists Discover Graeco-Roman Rock-Cut Tomb in Aswan
The Egyptian-Italian archaeological mission working at the Aga Khan Mausoleum area, on Aswan West Bank, discovered a rock-cut tomb of a person named Tjt, that dated back to the Late Pharaonic to the Graeco-Roman Period.
Dr. Mostafa Waziri General Secretary of the Supreme council of Antiquities announced Today.
He explains that inside the tomb the mission found parts of a painted wooden coffin, and fragments of another presenting a complete text including the name of the owner and invocation to the gods of the First Cataract Khnum, Satet and Anuket, as well as Hapy, the Nile-god.
Dr. Ayman Ashmawy head of the Egyptian ancient sector said that the tomb consist of a stair partly flanked by sculpted blocks leading to the funerary chambers. The entrance was closed by a stone wall found in the original place that had been erected over the stair.
On her part Dr. Patrizia Piacentini Head of the mission said that the mission found also many amphorae and offering vases, funerary structure inside it 4 mummies were deposed accompanied by vessels still containing food. As well as Two mummies superimposed, probably of a mother and her child, were still covered by painted cartonnage. A round-topped coffin was excavated directly in the rock floor. In the main room lied around 30 mummies, among which some of young children who were deposited in a long lateral niche.
She pointed out that leaning against the north wall of the room, an amazing intact stretcher made with palm wood and linen strips, used by the people who deposited the mummies in the tomb, has been discovered. At the entrance of the room, vessels containing bitumen for mummification, white cartonnage ready to be painted and a lamp have been discovered. On the right and left sides of the door, many beautiful colored and gilded cartonnages, fragments of funerary masks painted with gold and a well preserved statuette of the Ba-bird, representing the soul of the deceased, still presenting all the details of the decoration have been found.
She continue that the mission has mapped around 300 tombs dating back from the 6th Century BC to the 4th Century AD, located in the area surrounding the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan, on the Aswan West Bank. The Egyptian archaeologists had already excavated 25 tombs in the area from 2015 to 2018.
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250 archaeological missions from 25 countries work in Egypt: Minister - Ancient Egypt - Heritage - Ahram Online
250 archaeological missions from 25 countries work in Egypt: Minister
During the inauguration of the fourth forum of archaeological missions in Egypt, the minister said that some 250 missions from 25 countries, including 80 Egyptian missions, are working at many archaeological sites across the country.
The minister said that the forum gives a chance for all missions to exchange expertise in the field of excavation, pointing out that a total of 23 researches had been exchanged.
Experts from France, Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, the United States, Switzerland and other countries attended the forum.
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Better labor practices could improve archaeological output
- April 22, 2019
- Lehigh University
- Archaeological excavation has, historically, operated in a very hierarchical structure, according to archaeologist. The history of the enterprise is deeply entangled with Western colonial and imperial pursuits, she says. Excavations have been, and often still are, led by foreigners from the West, while dependent on the labor of scores of people from the local community to perform the manual labor of the dig.
Archaeological excavation has, historically, operated in a very hierarchical structure, according to archaeologist Allison Mickel. The history of the enterprise is deeply entangled with Western colonial and imperial pursuits, she says. Excavations have been, and often still are, according to Mickel, led by foreigners from the West, while dependent on the labor of scores of people from the local community to perform the manual labor of the dig.
In a recently published paper examining some of this history specifically in the context archaeological excavations undertaken in the Middle East, Mickel writes: "Even well into the 20th century, locally hired excavation workers continued to benefit little from working on archaeological projects, still predominantly directed by European and American researchers who paid extremely low wages and did not share their purpose, progress, hypotheses, or conclusions with local community members."
Over time, the teams have gotten smaller in size, but hiring and labor practices remain the same, explains Mickel, an assistant professor of anthropology at Lehigh University, who specializes in the Middle East.
"We haven't really changed the hierarchy of how we hire or the fact that workers are paid minimum wage -- sometimes as little as a few dollars a day, which is not very much to spend even in their own context, for work that is dangerous and has a lot of risk to it," she says.
In a new paper, "Essential Excavation Experts: Alienation and Agency in the History of Archaeological Labor," published in Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, Mickel illuminates the ways that nineteenth century archaeologists working in the Middle East managed local labor in ways that reflected capitalist labor management models. She focuses on two case studies from early Middle Eastern archaeology by examining the memoirs of two 19th century archaeologists: Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni, known for his work in Egypt, and British archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard, best known for his work in Nimrud, an ancient Assyrian city about 20 miles south of Mosul, Iraq.
Mickel's analysis reveals the different ways local laborers responded to similar conditions. Her examination ultimately reveals how much archaeological knowledge has fundamentally relied upon the active choices made by the local laborers who do the digging.
Divergent responses to exploitative labor practices
Mickel argues that the framework established by the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx of the capitalist mode of production can be seen in 19th century archaeological work in the Middle East?and, in many ways, in archaeological projects today. This includes Marx's assertion that, she writes, ." ..the capitalist mode of production leads to workers experiencing a sense of powerlessness and an inability to fulfill the potential of their own skills, expertise, and abilities."
In Mickel's analysis, Belzoni's approach to securing and retaining local laborers for his work in Egypt, which began in 1816, exemplified the conditions of modes of production that lead to his workers' ." ..alienation in the Marxist sense," beginning with how little he paid them.
She writes: "Monetarily devaluing the archaeological work of native Egyptians in this way engenders an understanding that archaeological labor is quite literally of little worth -- one that in Marx's view deeply impacts the self-image of the workers in a production process. Not only were the workers paid next to nothing for performing the manual labor of Belzoni's endeavors, they were also not involved in the conceptualization of the project. In the end, the antiquities were subsequently shipped thousands of miles away, challenging both ideologically and spatially any relationship between the workers and the archaeological objects being unearthed through excavation, as well as the knowledge gleaned from them."
Mickel also writes about Belzoni's use of strongarm tactics to maintain the workforce he employed. These include resorting to physical violence and bribery?strategies Belzoni used, in one example, on a foreman to force laborers to return to work during a strike.
During his famed excavation of the Memnon Head in 1816, Belzoni had to leave the site for an extended period of time in order to raise funds. He believed, writes Mickel, ." ..that the workers and their families were too lazy to dig on their own..."
"Indeed," she continues, "no substantial digging proceeded in Belzoni's absence by the time he returned. The reasons for this surely have nothing to with any indolence on the part of the native Egyptian workforce, but rather can be explained in terms of alienation."
In examining Layard's memoir, Mickel finds that although Layard worked in the same region and during the same time period as Belzoni, his workers' responded to similar working conditions very differently.
"Operating under extremely similar circumstances," writes Mickel, "the groups of workers examined here made very divergent decisions about how best to respond to an exploitative labor system, whether to rise up demonstratively against it or to resist the devaluation of their work by establishing themselves as essential to the production of artifacts and historical knowledge."
Layard's strategies for hiring and managing a local labor force had much in common with Belzoni's, including elements of capitalist labor relations modes such as low wages. Additionally, Layard's memoirs suggest ." ..that he viewed the total excavation endeavor as metaphorically signifying the superiority of Western civilization over Oriental peoples and cultures."
And yet Layard's workmen, explains Mickel, often appear in his writing as trusted experts in the excavation process: "These men developed impressive excavation abilities that Layard himself recognized, repeatedly hiring the same groups of people for season after season and site after site. One native Assyrian man whom he hired again and again, Hormuzd Rassam, ultimately went on to lead his own excavations on behalf of the British Museum at places like Nimrud and Nineveh; Rassam even published his own archaeological memoirs for popular distribution like Layard and other archaeologists of the time"
Mickel compares these two contexts and concludes: "Operating under extremely similar circumstances, the groups of workers examined here made very divergent decisions about how best to respond to an exploitative labor system, whether to rise up demonstratively against it or to resist the devaluation of their work by establishing themselves as essential to the production of artifacts and historical knowledge."
Focusing attention on the divergent decision these two groups of laborers made reveals how much is owed to archaeological workers' localized responses to a structure designed to maximize benefit to the archaeologists and minimize workers' control within the project, asserts Mickel.
She writes: "What would the archaeological record look like if this was not the case? How would archaeological knowledge be transformed if the means of its production were not controlled by archaeologists alone but shared with local stakeholders?"
Digging and questioning
As part of her work, Mickel supervises and participates in excavations in regions such as Petra, Jordan and Catalhoyuk, Turkey, while researching the history of archaeology and its contemporary practice.
Mickel has spent two to three months each summer in Turkey and Jordan, and between 2011 and 2015 spent a year at both sites, conducting dissertation fieldwork on a Fulbright grant.
"What I find in [Petra and Catalhoyuk] is relevant to a lot of other contexts because archaeology is fairly regional in its practice," she says.
Beyond digging, Mickel examines records of archaeological excavations for the individuals listed as site workers. She visits their homes and asks questions about the site workers' experiences on the excavations.
"I found that this system has led to one in which workers are doing this dance all the time in archaeology where they are integral to carrying out an excavation, they work for almost nothing, they are good at what they do, they have decades of experience in addition to generational knowledge that's been handed down. ... Most of these people, for context, their fathers worked in archaeology, their grandfathers worked in archaeology -- it's almost like a family business for them to be there. So they have a ton of knowledge, but if I tell them how much I admire their expertise, they react really negatively to that label of expertise."
Mickel believes that an improvement of labor practices would benefit not just workers, but archaeology as a whole. She argues for ways in which the field could be producing better science if archaeologists were to change their labor practices.
"This isn't charity work," says Mickel. "If we want to have better archaeology, if we want to know more about the past, then we need to find ways to benefit from the knowledge that local people have been hiding for decades and decades and decades from us."
Read more about this story in Lehigh's newsroom: Allison Mickel Examines the Limiting Labor Practices of Modern Archaeological Excavations.
Materials provided by Lehigh University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Allison Mickel. Essential Excavation Experts: Alienation and Agency in the History of Archaeological Labor. Archaeologies, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s11759-019-09356-9
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'Indiana Jones' of fungi helps save Egyptian artifacts
Bob Blanchette has a distinct title: archaeological mycologist. His work guides the remains of a death god to immortality.
Two hundred miles south of Cairo, in an old part of Egypt west of the river Nile, there is life in the city of the dead.
Wood-decaying fungi have been feasting in the tombs of Abydos for millennia, leaving the ornate caskets and hand-carved statues so weak they disintegrate at the touch.
There is little research on how to conserve the archaeological relics looted by these fungal bandits. But what little research there is has mostly been done by Bob Blanchette.
Blanchette, a wood pathologist at the University of Minnesota, has been at the forefront of the study of wood decay fungi for over four decades. His work has taken him to far-flung corners of the world and positioned him as the bridge between archaeology and mycology.
Blanchette's ability to assess the biodegradation of wood in ancient objects has often been the key to saving them. It's earned him international renown, said Jim Bradeen, head of the Department of Plant Pathology. "Bob really has an Indiana Jones quality to him," he said.
Abundant, strong and lightweight, wood has been a building material of choice as long as humans have been around. From the tombs of ancient Egypt to the roof of Notre Dame, wood is culture. And it's a part of culture perpetually under siege. Human heritage is irresistible to decomposers like fungi.
"We need them," Blanchette said, "but they're going to attack everything. Even our priceless oldest wooden objects. If you put wood in any environment, something is going to attack it."
That includes a cemetery in the ruins of Abydos, burial place of Osiris, god of the underworld. Entombed under the desert, hundreds of Egyptians lie in painted coffins of cedar, juniper and acacia — woods naturally resistant to decay, but not infinitely so.
A team led by researchers at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology were excavating the site with permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, but something got to the graves first.
Each group of fungi leaves a signature, and Blanchette had seen this one before. The wood cells were filled with holes, as if riddled by bullets from a microscopic machine gun.
"When you go to excavate it, the whole thing just disintegrates into powder. It's a horrible thing when you have some of the world's oldest objects just poof, gone," Blanchette said.
This was the work of a particularly pernicious group of fungi known as the soft rots.
They are well adapted to extreme environments, able to go dormant until conditions are right. They can wait for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Abydos is lucky to get more than a millimeter of rain a year, but the fungi reactivate at the slightest moisture, forming cavities in the wood with their tendril-like hypha and degrading artifacts from the inside out.
"It's just like Swiss cheese what this fungus does," Blanchette said.
Blanchette has encountered soft rots at all ends of the Earth. He found the fungus aboard the USS Monitor, a Civil War-era battleship 230 feet under the Atlantic.They thrive in Antarctica, where they're feeding on the shacks built by Ernest Shackleton, an early pioneer of polar exploration.
The soft rots thoroughly colonized the tomb of King Midas, who ruled western Turkey around 700 B.C. The tomb held no gold, but lots of wood. Embedded in what was left of the king's furniture, floorboards and coffin, Blanchette identified traces of fungi absolutely loaded with nitrogen. There was only one place they could've gotten that many nutrients — the fungi had been feeding on King Midas himself.
"He works in a field that not many other people work in. He's established an incredible niche," said Mike Wingfield, a forest pathologist at the University of Pretoria and Blanchette's first Ph.D. student. "Nobody else has done this stuff."
He's become the person to call in an archaeological field that is increasingly multidisciplinary, said Janet Richards, who led the Abydos project. The level of decay in some archaeological woods makes excavating them impossible.
"When you find the wood, it often looks like what it used to be," said Suzanne Davis, head of conservation for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. "But you're just looking at a shell of paint. You can't really pick it up."
The team's analysis detailing the decay was published last month. After mapping an artifact's decay, conservators can use chemical consolidants to fill voids in the wood. "You can actually save these objects that would have disintegrated," said Blanchette. "It used to be that you would just lose this stuff."
The strengthened objects can then be excavated, studied and displayed in a museum — moving treasures crafted by humans thousands of years ago to honor the god of death one step closer to immortality.
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Monday, April 22, 2019
Exclusive Footage: 20 Years of Kom el-Hettan dedicated to Prof. Rainer Stadelmann
A photo exhibition dedicated to the late Prof. Rainer Stadelmann featuring 20 years of excavation and conservation work at the temple of millions of years of Amenhotep III, was officially opened by Dr. Khalid El-Enany, minister of Antiquities accompanied by Rania Al Mashat, minister of Tourism and Dr. Mostafa Waziri at the mummification museum in Luxor on Friday, 19thof April and it will be on till 16thof May 2019.
Dr. Hourig Sourouzian talks about the exhibition in the video below.
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Sunday, April 21, 2019
Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anany on Friday opened the newly-restored Opet Temple in Luxor, one of the few temples in Egypt to contain clear images of Egyptian royalty, providing a glimpse into Ancient Egyptian lifestyles.
The temple's inauguration ceremony was attended by Minister of Tourism Raniaa al-Mashat and Head of Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa Waziri.
The Ministry explained that the temple is located on an area of about 60 m x 40 m.
They added that ancient Egyptians celebrated the Opet Festival in Thebes annually during the era of New Kingdom of Egypt in which the statues of the Theban Triad, Amun, Mut and their son Khonsu, were escorted in holy boats from Amun Temple in Karnak to Luxor Temple.
The Ministry of Antiquities said that tourists would likely visit the Opet Temple and the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor.
Mashat said that the Opet Temple illustrates human geniality from various eras.
She praised the opening of the temple, saying that "We witnessed the opening of the Opet Temple in Luxor, which was restored by the Egyptians to emphasize greatness of Egypt and the Egyptians."
Edited translation from al-Masry al-Youm
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Every two months the Nile Scribes update our readers on the most recent Egyptological publications. From popular reads to peer-reviewed scholarship, we hope to illustrate the wide variety of topics discussed in Egyptology, and perhaps introduce you to your next read! Below are eight books scheduled for release in early 2019 (March to April).
Edited by Marie-Lys Arnette
IFAO (ISBN: 9782724707397) – Cost: EUR€ 42
"Religion and food are intrinsically linked. Religion, especially in Antiquity, requires food to form the rite: food as offerings permits the circulation between this world and hereafter, from the living making offerings to the gods and the dead and then in return, the gods – and sometimes the dead – through the abundance of harvests offer food to the living. At the heart of food practices, religion imposes its mark by contributing to the manufacture of a standardized framework, which is also a vector of identity. It designates what is edible, therefore considered pure, and what is not; it creates the rules for preparing food, from the field to the kitchen, and sets standards of conduct at the time of consumption. It is precisely because the notion of norm is at the heart of both, that religion and food are privileged means to question societies, to compare them, and to underline the specificities of each. The present work, which is collective and multidisciplinary, aims to clarify the place of food in myths and ritual practices, and to define the nature and importance of the religious mark in food practices. Based on a comparative approach, it brings together 17 articles, both case studies and synthesis works on Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the Levant, from the 3rd millennium to late Antiquity."
Nathalie Beaux, Alain Arnaudiès and Antoine Chéné
Centre Franco-Égyptien d'Étude des Temples de Karnak (ISBN: 9782918157236) – Cost: EUR€ 9.49
"The White Chapel of Sesostris I is one of the masterworks of ancient Egyptian architecture and sculpture, but it remains unknown. Nevertheless, its bas-reliefs rank among the most remarkable in the Theban region. Its classical architecture and above all the finesse of its engravings make this monument an exceptional work in the history of art. This electronic publication owes much to the talent of Antoine Chéné. The effort taken in image recording and digital processing has produced images of an unequalled quality. The architraves and pillars can thus be seen in their entirety without deformation or shadow. In her palaeography, Nathalie Beaux brings together and studies all the variants of inscribed hieroglyphs on the chapel. Various indexes made by Alain Arnaudiès complete this work. This tablet version gives an unprecedented access to a monument at Karnak and allows for the first time to touch, literally as well as figuratively, the beauty of the Egyptian world." (1)
Peter Brand, Rosa E. Feleg, and William J. Murnane†
Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (ISBN: 9781614910275) – Cost: US$ 99.95
"Standing at the heart of Karnak Temple, the Great Hypostyle Hall is a forest of 134 giant sandstone columns enclosed by massive walls. Sety I built the Great Hypostyle Hall ca. 1300 BCE and decorated the northern wing with exquisite bas reliefs. After his death, his successor Ramesses II completed the southern wing mostly in sunk relief. This volume provides full translation, epigraphic analysis, and photographic documentation of the elaborate wall reliefs inside the Hall. This vast trove of ritual art and texts attest to the richness and vitality of Egyptian civilization at the height of its imperial power. The present volume builds upon and serves as a companion to an earlier volume of drawings of the wall scenes made by Harold H. Nelson in the 1950s and edited for publication by William J. Murnane in 1981."
Michael van Elsbergen
Harrassowitz (ISBN: 9783447110976) – Cost: EUR€ 68
"The high-lying tomb N13.1 in the western necropolis of Asyut (Middle Egypt) was built for Iti-ibi(-iqer), a nomarch of the 11th Dynasty. Its well-preserved original decoration as well as its numerous secondary texts and drawings, which were left in New Kingdom and Islamic times by tomb visitors on the walls, provide a rich source of information for various aspects of the history and function of the limestone massif Gebel Asyut al-Gharbi.
Following the discovery of the tomb by the German-Egyptian long-term project "The Asyut Project" in 2005, the heavily buried grave and its three deep shafts were cleared step-by-step. All 900 discovered vessel sealings of Nile clay (as well as a sealing of limestone) are discussed in a comprehensive manner by Michael van Elsbergen and investigated for their informative value. Although the heavily disturbed find contexts as well as missing inscriptions do not permit an accurate dating, the distribution of finds, the sizes and forms as well as the available reference material from the First Intermediate Period to the 13th Dynasty and later periods until Byzantine times give indications for their chronological classification and possible functional relationships." (2)
Centre Franco-Égyptien d'Étude des Temples de Karnak – Cost: Open Access
"Built as a royal temple at the beginning of the second millennium BCE, Karnak was renovated five centuries earlier by Amenhotep I. Destined to receive the bark of Amun, a large chapel was set-up in the middle of a complex which Thutmose I completed by building shops and a limestone fence linked to the new 5th pylon. As a result of the modifications made by Thutmose I, Thutmose II, and Hatshepsut, Amenhotep I's blocks were scattered. Rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century, their splendid reliefs have been forgotten until 1986. Their anastylosis of the blocks was undertaken in 1997 in parallel with their storage and restoration. This interactive publication presents a photographic coverage of the unknown monuments and takes into account the latest archaeological discoveries." (1)
IFAO (ISBN: 9782724707373) – Cost: EUR€ 62
"The Ramesseum papyri were composed in the late Middle Kingdom and discovered in a wooden box at the bottom of a tomb shaft during British excavations carried out in 1895-1896 on the west bank of Thebes. Half of them, i.e. one cursive and twelve hieratic documents, comprise the earliest collection of magical papyri known to this day. Often compared to the other two famous magical libraries known (the Chester-Beatty papyri for the New Kingdom and the Wilbour papyri for the Late Period), the magical papyri from the Ramesseum, today preserved at the British Museum, were published in 1955 by Sir Alan H. Gardiner in a volume of plates, and are here studied systematically for the first time. Due to their poor state of conservation, the deciphering of these very fragile and fragmentary documents often represents a conundrum. Although most of the spells are apparently unique to these papyri, several parallels could be identified in earlier or later sources. New hypotheses are also proposed on the user of these documents and on their geographic origin."
de Gruyter (ISBN: 978-3-11-050105-6) – Cost: EUR€ 275
"Egypt's southern border consisted for many thousands of years of the greater area around the island settlement of Elephantine. Further south, the Aswan dam project led to large-scale destruction of Nubian cultural heritage. Thanks to archeological excavations on Elephantine and ceramic artefacts, it is now possible to trace Elephantine's cultural contacts and diverse history from the 4th to the 2nd millennium BCE."
Sidestone Press (ISBN: 9789088907326) – Cost: GB£ 55
"The Ancient Egyptian Footwear Project (AEFP) is a multidisciplinary, ongoing research of footwear in ancient Egypt from the Predynastic through the Ottoman Periods. It consists of the study of actual examples of footwear, augmented by pictorial and textual evidence. This volume evaluates, summarises and discusses the results of the study of footwear carried out by the AEFP for the last 10 years (which includes the objects in the major collections in the world, such as the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as well as from various excavations, such as Amarna, Elephantine and Dra Abu el-Naga). All published material is depicted and some previously unpublished material is added here. The work on physical examples of footwear has brought to light exciting new insights into ancient Egyptian technology and craftsmanship (including its development but also in the relationships of various footwear categories and their origin), establishing and refining the dating of technologies and styles of footwear, the diversity of footwear, provided a means of identification of provenance for unprovenanced examples, and the relationship between footwear and socio-economic status. The archaeometrical research has lead to the reinterpretation of ancient Egyptian words for various vegetal materials, such as papyrus."
- Translated from the French by Nile Scribes.
- Translated from the German by Nile Scribes.
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