Search This Blog

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How collapsing civilizations have helped the world

How collapsing civilizations have helped the world

Luke Kemp
The collapse of          civilization as we know it. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats          living together, mass hysteria!
June 29, 2019

Is the collapse of a civilization necessarily calamitous? The failure of the Egyptian Old Kingdom towards the end of the 2nd millennium, B.C., was accompanied by riots, tomb raids, and even cannibalism. "The whole of Upper Egypt died of hunger and each individual had reached such a state of hunger that he ate his own children," runs an account from 2120 BCE about the life of Ankhtifi, a southern provincial governor of Ancient Egypt.

Many of us are familiar with this historical narrative of how cultures can rapidly — and violently — decline and fall. Recent history appears to bear it out, too. Post-invasion Iraq witnessed 100,000 deaths in the first year and a half, followed by the emergence of ISIS. And the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011 produced a power vacuum, leading to the re-emergence of the slave trade.

However, there's a more complicated reality behind this view of collapse. In fact, the end of civilizations rarely involved a sudden cataclysm or apocalypse. Often the process is protracted, mild, and leaves people and culture continuing for many years.

The collapse of the Maya civilization in Mesoamerica, for example, took place over three centuries in what's known as the "Terminal Classic period," between 750-1050 AD. While it was marked by a 10-15 percent increased mortality rate and the abandonment of some cities, other areas flourished, and writing, trade and urban living remained until after the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s.

Even the autobiography of Ankhtifi was likely an exaggeration. During the First Intermediate Period of Egypt that followed on the heels of the Old Kingdom, non-elite tombs became richer and more common. There's also little convincing evidence of mass starvation and death. Ankhtifi had a vested interest in portraying it as a time of catastrophe, too: He'd recently ascended to the status of governor, and the account glorifies his great feats in this time of crisis.

Some collapses didn't even happen in the first place. Easter Island was not a case of self-inflicted "ecocide," as Jared Diamond has contended in Collapse (2005). Instead, the locals of Rapa Nui lived sustainably until the 19th century, when they were devastated by colonialism and disease. By 1877, they numbered just 111.

Civilizational demise can also provide space for renewal. The emergence of the nation-state in Europe wouldn't have happened without the end of the Western Roman Empire many centuries before. This has led some scholars to speculate that collapse is part of the "adaptive cycle" of growth and decline of systems. Like a forest fire, the creative destruction of collapse provides resources and space for evolution and reorganization.

One reason we rarely appreciate these nuances is that archaeology mainly depicts what happened to the lives of the elites — a view of history through the eyes of the 1 percent. Until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, writing and other forms of documentation were largely the preserve of government bureaucrats and aristocrats. Meanwhile, the footprint of the masses — such as non-state hunter-gatherers, foragers, and pastoralists — was biodegradable.

Because of this hierarchy, our visions of past collapses are typically seen through the eyes of its most privileged victims. Dark Ages are called "dark" due to a gap in our records, but that doesn't mean that culture or society stopped. Yes, it might mean more wars, less culture, and less trade — but the archaeological record is often too scarce to draw settled conclusions. And there are powerful counterexamples: In the time of disorder between the Western Chou (1046-771 BCE) and the Qin (221-206 BCE) dynasties in China, Confucian and other philosophy flourished.

For the peasantry of Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia, the political collapse that took place by the start of the 2nd millennium, B.C., was the best thing that could have happened. James C. Scott, a political scientist and anthropologist at Yale University, notes in Against the Grain (2017) that early states "had to capture and hold much of their population by forms of bondage." The end of the Sumerian state apparatus and the flight of elite rulers from cities meant an escape from long hours in the field, heavy taxation, rampant disease, and slavery. The skeletal remains of hunter-gatherers from this time suggest a more leisurely, healthy life with a more varied diet and active lifestyle. The ruin of the state was likely a relief to these people.

But none of this means that we should be complacent about the prospects for a future fall. Why?

For one, we are more dependent than ever on state infrastructure — which means the loss of it is more likely to lead to disruption or even chaos. Take the near-total blackout that affected New York City in July, 1977. Arson and crime surged; 550 police officers were injured, and 4,500 looters were arrested. This was the outcome of both the financial downturns in the 1970s, as well as a simple loss of electricity. By contrast, a loss of electricity in 1877 in New York City probably wouldn't have registered with most citizens.

Modern civilizations might also be less capable of recovering from deep collapse than their predecessors. Individual hunter-gatherers might have had the knowledge to live from the land — yet people in industrial society lack not only basic survival skills, but even knowledge of how "basic" items such as zippers work. Knowledge is increasingly held not by individuals, but by groups and institutions. It's not clear that we could pick up the pieces if industrial society collapsed.

Thirdly, the proliferation of weapons has ratcheted up the stakes of collapse. When the Soviet Union fell, it had 39,000 nuclear weapons and 3.3 million pounds of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Not all of this has been contained or controlled. Diplomatic cables released via Wikileaks in 2010 suggested that Egypt was offered cheap nuclear materials, scientists, and even weapons. Worse still, Russian scientists recruited during the 1990s might have underpinned North Korea's successful weapons program. As humanity's technological capabilities grow, the threat of collapse cascading into a darker outcome and widespread weaponization can only grow.

Finally, it's significant that the world has become more networked and complex. This enhances our capabilities, but makes systemic failures more likely. A mathematical-systems study in Nature in 2010 found that interconnected networks are more prone to random failure than isolated ones. Similarly, while interconnectedness in financial systems can initially be a buffer, it appears to reach a tipping point where the system becomes more fragile, and failures spread more readily. Historically, this is what happened to Bronze Age societies in the Aegean and Mediterranean, according to the historian and archaeologist Erin Cline in his book 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed (2014). The interconnectedness of these people made for a prospering region, but also set up a row of dominoes that could be knocked down by a potent combination of earthquakes, warfare, climate change, and revolts.

Collapse, then, is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it's a boon for subjects and a chance to restart decaying institutions. Yet it can also lead to the loss of population, culture, and hard-won political structures. What comes from collapse depends, in part, on how people navigate the ensuing tumult, and how easily and safely citizens can return to alternative forms of society. Unfortunately, these features suggest that while collapse has a mixed track record, in the modern world it might have only a dark future.

This article was originally published by Aeon, a digital magazine for ideas and culture. Follow them on Twitter at @aeonmag.

Aeon counter – do not remove

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Inauguration of Lahun pyramid and Khond Aslabay Mosque after years of restorations in Fayoum - Ancient Egypt - Heritage - Ahram Online

Inauguration of Lahun pyramid and Khond Aslabay Mosque after years of restorations in Fayoum

The inauguration of Khond Aslabay mosque and Lahun pyramid as well as the announcement of a new discovery are the major events in Fayoum on Friday.

Nevine El-Aref , Friday 28 Jun 2019
Egypt's minister of antiquities Khalid Anani in the inauguration of Lahun Pyramid on Friday after its restoration. (Photo: Ministry of antiquities)
Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, members of parliament, Egyptian and international media have embarked on a trip on Friday to Fayoum Governorate to inaugurate Al-Lahun pyramid of King Senusert II for visitors after the completion of its conservation. The ceremony also comes with the announcement of a new discovery at the northern corner of the pyramid and the inauguration of Khond Aslabay mosque.


The events were attended by Major-General Essam Saad Governor of Fayoum, General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa Waziri, along with members of parliament and top officials

El-Enany told attendees that he kept his promise to Fayoum inhabitants as both Lahun pyramid and Khond Aslabay mosque were restored and inaugurated for the first time. He called people to protect and preserve the mosque and the pyramid and not to use them inappropriately. "The restoration of the mosque has revealed the beauty of the minbar and mihrab and the inhabitants should preserve it not only because it is a religious edifice, but a part of Egyptian heritage as well," El-Enany pointed out.



He explains that the conservation work of the pyramid includes the removal of debris found inside the pyramid's corridors and burial chamber, installing wooden stairs to facilitate its entrance, re-installing the fallen stones in the hall and corridor to its original location, as well as restoring the deteriorated stones of its floor and installing a new lighting system. Guiding panels and signboards were also provided to the site

The pyramid of Lahun is made of mud brick. It had a length of 106 m, a slope of 42 35 and a height of 48.6 m. The structure of the pyramid is supported with a natural rocky core that was cut to accept a pyramid top, large limestone cross walls which provided support for the brick sections, after being cased in limestone.



New discovery 

Excavation works carried out on the southern side of Lahun pyramid by an Egyptian archaeological mission headed by Waziri uncovered several artifacts from a Middle Kingdom tomb.

Waziri explains that the uncovered objects were found inside one of the Middle Kingdom tombs which consists of three shrines and a front court.


The tomb was filled with rubble, a collection of pot fragments, remains of wooden coffins and cartonage dating back to different ages, were unearthed after the tomb's removal.

Inside the tomb, a collection of wooden coffins for men, women and children, were found. Some of them were badly carved, and the others were skillfully carved and showing the facial features of the deceased.

Warizi said that the mission also succeeded to unearth a wooden statue, a collection of amulets made of faience, as well as clay vessels of different sizes and shapes, remains of human bones, and wooden boxes filled with a collection of ushabti statuettes made of clay.

Khond Aslabay mosque 

The mosque was closed for almost six years and the restoration work started last April.


Gharib Sonbol Head of the restoration department said that the walls and the pillars of the mosque were consolidated and deteriorated tiles of the floor were repaired and reinstalled to its original location. The minbar and mihrab were cleaned and its detailed decoration motives appeared.

Search Keywords:

--   Sent from my Linux system.

The incredible story of Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art

The incredible story of Egypt's Museum of Islamic Art

1 / 3
There are halls containing coins and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lived throughout history. (Supplied)
2 / 3
There are halls containing coins and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lived throughout history. (Supplied)
3 / 3
There are halls containing coins and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lived throughout history. (Supplied)
Updated 26 June 2019
  • The museum has a library that contains collections of rare books and manuscripts in ancient and modern languages
  • The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums of Islamic archaeology in the world

CAIRO: With more than 100,000 antiquities from India, China, Iran, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Andalusia, the Museum of Islamic Art in Egypt is the largest institution of its kind in world.

The museum, located in the Bab Al-Khalk area in the heart of Cairo, is also the largest educational institute in the world in the fields of Islamic archaeology and Islamic art. It is renowned for its diverse collection, which includes works in metals, wood and textiles, among other mediums.

The idea of a museum in Egypt dedicated to Islamic art and archaeology began during the rule of Ismail Pasha (the grandson of Mohammed Ali Pasha), who was khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879. In 1869, court
architect Julius Franz Pasha installed a collection of Islamic archaeological artifacts in the courtyard of the then-abandoned Al-Hakem Mosque.

The collection grew when the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Antiquities was established in 1881 and was adopted by the Governor's Mosque. Space was limited however, and a decision was made to construct the current purpose-built museum building in Bab Al-Khalq, which was initially named the House of Arab Antiquities. The foundation stone was laid in 1899, construction was completed in 1902 and the museum opened on Dec. 28, 1903. The number of items in the collection had grown by them from about 111 in 1882 to about 3,000.

The name was changed to the Museum of Islamic Art in 1952 at the start of the July 23 Revolution. The artifacts were displayed in 25 halls, divided up according to their age and materials. On Aug. 14, 2010, former President Hosni Mubarak officially reopened the museum following an eight-year project to develop and renovate it. The work was supported by the Aga Khan Foundation and carried out with the assistance of specialists from France.

On the morning of Jan. 24, 2014, the residents of Cairo felt the shock waves from a large explosion. A car bomb had exploded close to the city's Security Directorate. Four people were killed and many buildings were badly damaged, including the Museum of Islamic Art. Many of the exhibits were damaged or destroyed, especially fragile glass pieces.

On Jan. 18, 2017, President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khalid Al-Anani reopened the museum after three years of repairs and restoration work. New exhibits were added to replace those damaged or destroyed.

"The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the largest museums of Islamic archaeology in the world thanks to its rare archaeological artifacts related to Egypt's Islamic heritage," said Elham Salah, head of the museum department at the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

A tour of the museum is a hugely rewarding experience. The right side of the museum is dedicated to artifacts from the Umayyad era through to the end of the Ottoman era. The left side includes galleries dedicated to Islamic art from Turkey and Iran (Persia). It also includes halls devoted to science and engineering, along with tombstones from different eras and countries.

There are halls containing coins and weapons, and another section devoted to items used by Egyptians in their daily lived throughout history. There is also a displays of artifacts from the era of Mohammed Ali Pasha, which marked time of major transformation for the country.

Museum tour guide Aya Ahmed said that the museum also has a library on the upper floor that contains collections of rare books and manuscripts in ancient and modern languages, as well as a collection of books about Islamic and historical monuments. She added that there are also calligraphic works, including copies of the Holy Qur'an from the Ottoman era, which were written in a very precise way using brushes made of hair from a horse's tail.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Racism in science: the taint that lingers

Racism in science: the taint that lingers

Angela Saini's book indicts a destructive bias in research, writes Robin G. Nelson.

In her latest book, Superior, Angela Saini investigates how the history and preservation of dubious science has justified and normalized the idea of hierarchies between 'racial' groups.

In a reflection on power and conquest, Superior opens in the halls of London's British Museum, among collections from Lower Nubia and ancient Egypt. This overture to imperialism sets the stage for an eminently readable history lesson on the origins, rise, disavowal and resurgence of race research in Western science. That story spans the survival of German doctor Johann Blumenbach's eighteenth-century regionally based characterization of five human 'races' (Caucasians, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans and Malays), and modern discussions about presumed correlations between race and intelligence.

Saini's celebrated 2017 Inferior investigated the troubling relationship between sexism and scientific research. Pivoting deftly from personal reflection to technical exposition, she now explores a similarly persistent taint: the search by some scientists for measurable biological differences between 'races', despite decades of studies yielding no supporting evidence.

Research has repeatedly shown that race is not a scientifically valid concept. Across the world, humans share 99.9% of their DNA. The characteristics that have come to define our popular understanding of race — hair texture, skin colour, facial features — represent only a few of the thousands of traits that define us as a species. Visible traits tell us something about population histories and gene–environment interactions. But we cannot consistently divide humans into discrete groups.

Yet, despite its lack of scientific rigour or reproducibility, this reliance on race as a biological concept persists in fields from genetics to medicine. The consequences of that reliance have ranged from justifications for school and housing segregation, to support for the Atlantic slave trade of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, genocidal policies against Indigenous communities around the world, and the Holocaust.

Saini reminds us that in early-nineteenth-century Europe, the dehumanization of people of colour allowed for the caging and public exhibition of a South African Khoikhoi woman. Sara Baartman (her birth name is unknown) was insultingly dubbed "the Hottentot Venus" owing to a fascination with her genitalia. A century later, early-twentieth-century eugenic pseudoscience came to influence US policy. The US Immigration Act of 1924 was consciously designed to discourage southern and Eastern Europeans from entering the United States, and barred Asian immigrants outright.

In Superior, one cannot help but see similarities between the twentieth-century movement of race-making ideologies from laboratories to political stages, and the current rise of xenophobic politics around the world.

Long history

The book, Saini tells us, reflects her childhood dream to understand and speak about the history and social context of the race concept. She does so accessibly and cogently, tracing the trajectory from that history to knotty topics such as research on the emergence of Homo sapiens, or the production of pharmaceuticals targeting people of colour. (For instance, the heart-failure medication BiDil (isosorbide dinitrate/hydralazine), approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2005, was marketed solely to African Americans.) The durability of the race concept transcends disciplines, colouring everything from data collection to policy recommendations regarding immigration.

In a chapter entitled 'Race Realists', Saini paints a vivid picture of the palpable fear that Barry Mehler, a Jewish historian of eugenics and genocide, felt in the 1980s on discovering an active network of 'race scientists' working long after the end of the Second World War. She points to shadow financing by the extremist US non-profit Pioneer Fund, which supports studies on eugenics, race and intelligence, and outlets such as the pro-eugenics so-called science journal Mankind Quarterly. She also notes that in the 1980s, the academic Ralph Scott, a contributor to that outlet, was appointed by the administration of US President Ronald Reagan to serve on the Iowa Advisory Commission on Civil Rights.

Aside from a brief discussion of the slave trade and profits in the pharmaceuticals industry, the role of capitalist and colonialist expansion in propping up the race concept is not given much analysis here. Yet Saini does show that our current moment is part of a broader and longer span of social experience. She posits that the racial categories that many perceive as immutable could be transformed, as they have been in the past. These categories shift and align with the social 'needs' of the moment and have ranged, for example, from Celtic, to Hispanic, to the current US census categorization of people from the Middle East as white.

That mutability might make racial categories seem random and purposeless. However, they have long served as the scaffolding for the creation and maintenance of empires.

I wondered whom Saini imagines her primary audience to be. She uses the royal 'we', perhaps as a way of creating community with readers, whom I sense she sees as scientifically literate white people. This is perhaps due to the lack of diversity in science and science writing. At the same time, she reminds us that she is a Briton of Indian origin, and so would be a subject in race-based inquiries. In her discussion of Mankind Quarterly, she earnestly uses the term "political correctness" — which has been levelled disparagingly at those calling for more inclusive dialogue. And in a reflection on the Human Genome Diversity Project, which aimed to collect DNA from Indigenous communities around the world, she references the 1990s as the dawn of "identity politics" — a term often used to denigrate the perspectives of minoritized individuals. She does not question these tropes.

In this way, Saini seems surprisingly willing to couch her critical analysis of race science in language often used by those more interested in silencing such critiques. A generous reading of her approach might be that it is a subversive attempt to appeal to sceptical readers. However, I am unsure that that is her intent.

It is less clear what Saini makes of contemporary practitioners of race science. For her, it seems, there is a difference between past scientists who used financing from the Pioneer Fund to support eugenics research, and current researchers, those "race realists", who continue to search for a biological component of race. She does explore the shortcomings of current research and openly questions why people persist with this field of fruitless inquiry.

This tension between the deadly legacy of historical race science and the ethically troubling reification of racial frameworks in current research emerges in a lengthy interview with David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, known for his work on ancient DNA and human evolution. Reich tells her: "There are real ancestry differences across populations that correlate to the social constructions we have." He adds: "We have to deal with that." But, as Saini notes, when racism is embedded in society's core structures, such research is born of the same social relations.

Collective denial

In my view, too many scholarly voices provide this kind of cover for their peers. This unwillingness to reckon with the possibility that racism actually underpins research that has been proved to have demonstrably deleterious outcomes left me longing for a stronger take-away message.

Ultimately, Superior is most impactful in describing the persistence of support for ideas of hierarchal differences from the Enlightenment onwards, in the face of political backlash and researchers' inability to even define the primary variable at play: race. Saini rightly calls out the denial that runs through so much of our public dialogue. She reveals how shame about an unreconciled past affects our ability to engage in tough conversations about its long shadows.

Superior is perhaps best understood as continuing in a tradition of groundbreaking work that contextualizes the deep and problematic history of race science. These include the 2011 Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts and The Social Life of DNA (2016) by Alondra Nelson (see F. L. C. Jackson Nature 529, 279–280; 2016). Saini contributes to this conversation by linking the desire to make race real, particularly with regards to measurable health disparities, to society's underlying desire to let itself off the hook for these very inequalities.

She closes by arguing that researchers must at least know what it is they are measuring when they use race as a proxy. I would add that they should have to contend with what it isn't — and what they have created instead.

Nature 570, 440-441 (2019)

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Dozens of mummies dating back 2,000 years found next to world’s oldest pyramid – The First News

Dozens of mummies dating back 2,000 years found next to world's oldest pyramid

In contrast to the ornate sarcophagi and burial chambers associated with the Pharaohs, the majority of the mummies discovered were laid to rest with only modest arrangements. J. Dąbrowski / PCMA

Polish archaeologists working in Egypt have discovered several dozen mummies from around 2000 years ago.

The mummies were discovered during excavations near the world's oldest pyramid in the Saqqara ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

Most of the burials were poorly preserved and the coffins decayed.J. Dąbrowski / PCMA

The Polish team has been working there for over twenty years as part of a concession granted to the University of Warsaw's Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology.

Its discoveries include showing that there were two necropolises to the to the west of the mortuary complex of the Pyramid of Djoser, which with its characteristic step form, built in the 27th Century BC, is the world's oldest pyramid.

Blue Anubis, believed to be a protector of graves, was found on the base of the coffins.J. Dąbrowski / PCMA

Its most recent research, conducted last September, focused on the area between the Pyramid of Djoser and the western part of the so-called "dry moat", a deep ditch surrounding the pyramid's sacred area.

In contrast to the ornate sarcophagi and burial chambers associated with the Pharaohs, the majority of the mummies they discovered were laid to rest with only modest arrangements.

Excavation leader, Dr Kamil Kuraszkiewicz of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Warsaw's Faculty of Oriental Studies, said that the location of the mummies may have reflected the ancient Egyptians beliefs about life after death.Maciej Jawornicki/ Samorząd Studentów Wydziału Orientalistycznego UW/Facebook

"Most of the mummies we discovered in the past season were very modest, they were only subjected to basic balming treatments and then wrapped in bandages and placed directly in hollows dug in the sand," said Dr Kamil Kuraszkiewicz of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Warsaw's Faculty of Oriental Studies, who is leading the excavations.

Most of the burials were poorly preserved – the wood of the coffins of those in the "dry moat" decayed.

The mummies were discovered during excavations near the world's oldest pyramid in the Saqqara ancient burial ground that served as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.Charles J. Sharp

Kuraszkiewicz drew attention to the decorations on one of the wooden coffins, which features markings resembling a hieroglyphic inscription, but is in fact an imitation.

"The artisan who painted it apparently could not read and perhaps tried to reproduce something that he had seen before. In any case, some of the painted characters are not hieroglyphic signs of the hieroglyphic writing and the whole does not create an intelligible text," he explained.

The trench surrounding the Pyramid of Djoser could have been 'a path to the afterlife'.K. Kuraszkiewicz / PCMA

According to the Egyptologist, the ditch surrounding the pyramid may have reflected the ancient Egyptians beliefs about life after death.

"The dry moat could have been a model of a path, which the pharaoh had to cross to reach eternal life, a path with obstacles such as walls with passages located near the top, perhaps guarded by dangerous creatures," he said.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Tell Edfu | American Research Center In Egypt

Tell Edfu

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
Learn more about the archaeological mission led by The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute at Tell Edfu in Upper Egypt.

Video here:

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Ancient Egyptian mummy linens seized at Blue Water Bridge near border

Ancient Egyptian mummy linens seized at US-Canada border

Liz Shepard, Port Huron Times Herald Published 5:24 p.m. ET June 26, 2019 | Updated 7:30 p.m. ET June 26, 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized ancient Egyptian mummy linens during enforcement operations May 25 at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Mich. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized ancient Egyptian mummy linens during enforcement operations May 25 at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Michigan.  

A Canadian mail truck was selected for an enforcement examination at the Customs and Border Protection station in Michigan. During the inspection a package included five jars of ancient Egyptian mummy linen, according to a Customs and Border Protection news release.

CBP began to coordinate with a Washington, D.C.-based archaeological organization in determining the admissibility of the presumed antiquities.

The seized artifacts are believed to be from the Ptolemaic Dynasty 305-30 B.C. and the importer was unable to prove that the artifacts were removed from Egypt prior to April 2016, which is in violation of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

"This seizure of historical importance highlights the wide variety of federal laws that CBP is responsible for enforcing. I am extremely proud of our officers' hard work during and after the discovery of these ancient artifacts," Port Director Michael Fox said in the statement.

Federal agencies, including the Department of State, will be focusing on repatriation of these artifacts in the near future.

CBP is the nation's lead border security agency, and is charged with enforcing hundreds of laws at and between our nation's international ports of entry. As part of that mission, CBP enforces bilateral agreements and import restrictions on certain foreign cultural property and archaeological materials to prevent the illegal trade and trafficking of cultural antiquities and artifacts, according to the statement.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Four Ecolodges in Egypt Worth Exploring to Escape the Busy City Life | Egyptian Streets

Four Ecolodges in Egypt Worth Exploring to Escape the Busy City Life

Basata – Photo credit: Basata

As the summer approaches, everyone is looking to ditch the capital and go to Egypt's stable beach destinations – Ain Sokhna, North Coast and Hurghada being among the most popular. However, if you are looking for a more relaxed "chilled out" holiday by the water, the country is also home to many ecolodges that will allow for an alternative kind of accommodation.

A quick Google search defines ecolodges as "a type of tourist accommodation designed to have the minimum possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated." These accommodations are often secluded and offer a great relaxing experience for those looking for a place to de-stress from work, personal life and the busy city culture.

In recent years, ecolodges have become more popular in Egypt as the country increasingly moves towards more environmentally sustainable solutions. While their environmentally sustainable approach might deter some people from viewing them as ideal vacation spots, others find them attractive, especially now that being an environmentally conscious citizen is growing in popularity in Egypt.

Here are a few ecolodges across Egypt for those looking to go on an adventure and try something new.

Basata Ecolodge

Photo credit: Basata

We start the list with Basata Ecolodge because it is Egypt's first ecolodge. Their very first unit was built in Sinai in 1986 between South Sinai, Taba and Nuweiba.

Overlooking one of the best beaches in the world, this ecolodge is a great option for campers as it allows its visitors to pin up their own tents. You can also rent out a small chalet or a hut on the beachside.

What is lovely about this accommodation is that it is self-served. All residents are expected to clean up after themselves even after using the shared kitchen. While this might not be for everyone, especially those looking for a luxurious experience, it can feel quite like home.

El Hamra Ecolodge

Located around 110 thousand kilometers northwest of the capital Cairo, El Hamra Ecolodge is in Wadi El Natrun depression, a place that is know for its Coptic monasteries. This provides a great opportunity to escape and discover the ancient monuments located in the area.

It is halfway between Egypt's largest cities, Cairo and Alexandria and perfect for a getaway. Nearby is El Hamra Salt Lake with a captivating green landscape.

Talist Ecolodge and Farm

Photo credit:

Owned by a small family, Talist Ecolodge and Farm is situated in Siwa Oasis, an urban oasis located between the Qattara Depression and the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert, around 560 kilometers from Cairo.

This ecolodge is surrounded by mountains, and all its food is produced in-house on its farm. Although the lodge is quite isolated and disconnected, residents are still able to charge their phone from a generator for an hour a day. At night, the ecolodge looks beautiful as the interior lights up in candles and glass lamps.

Sands Bahariya

Photo credit: Sands Bahariya

Like all the other ecolodges on this list, Sands Bahariya is located in yet another depression, the Bahariya Oasis, which is 370 kilometers away from Cairo in the Western Desert. But unlike all the other ecolodges, this is the only one with an air conditioning unit for those who are not a fan of the heat.

Surrounded by enchanting greenery, Sands Bahari is built on 37 archers of land deriving inspiration for its architecture and interior decoration from the desert.

The accommodation is built with indigenous materials found in the surrounding area. This is a great place to stay while adventuring off to the White Desert.

*Cover photo credit: Talist Ecolodge and Farm –

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Adventures of a space archaeologist

Adventures of a space archaeologist

A personal take on panning out to see the past both grips and frustrates Jo Marchant.
Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past Sarah Parcak Henry Holt (2019)

The ancient city of Tanis was Egypt's capital for more than 350 years before the centre of power shifted, and the city was eventually lost under centuries of silt. In 1939, archaeologists working there uncovered temples and tombs containing treasures to rival Tutankhamun's. But Tanis was largely forgotten amid the horrors of the Second World War, until a fictional version featured in Steven Spielberg's 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. In one scene, archaeologist Indiana Jones sneaks into a map room in which the entire city is laid out, and discovers that the Nazis seeking the titular ark are digging in the wrong place.

In 2010, space archaeologist Sarah Parcak had her own map-room moment at Tanis. Most of the city remains buried beneath the desert, a huge area that would take centuries to excavate by conventional means. So, she chose two satellite images of the site — one low resolution and multispectral, the other higher resolution but black and white — and combined them. As she writes, "I thought I was hallucinating: an entire ancient city leapt off the screen." With details of houses, streets and suburbs, this was a trove indeed: the layout of the largest, most continuously occupied capital city in ancient Egypt.

Since then, Parcak has become famous — winner of a National Geographic Explorer grant and the US$1-million TED Prize (given for innovative, world-changing ideas), with multiple agents and high-profile media appearances. In Archaeology from Space, she sets out the story of the field for which she is the most recognizable face.

Parcak defines space archaeology (named after a 2008 NASA funding programme) as using "any form of air or space-based data" to look for ancient features or sites. An early practitioner was Antoine Poidebard, the 'Flying Priest', who spent much of the 1920s photographing archaeological sites in Syria and Lebanon from a biplane. From the 1960s, NASA missions such as the Landsat satellites began to provide a view from orbit, although archaeologists failed to catch on for two decades. US spy-satellite images from the cold war were declassified by then-president Bill Clinton in the 1990s; the field hit "warp speed", says Parcak, a few years later. Today, commercial projects such as Google Earth provide space-based images with ever-higher resolution, and drones scan landscapes from closer to Earth.

Interpreting the resulting flood of data is "part science and part art", Parcak explains. Researchers glean subtle clues about what might lie beneath the surface, as well as how specific features relate to the landscape. Different bands in the electromagnetic spectrum enable researchers to go beyond visual appearances and detect thermal or chemical cues. Elevation maps identify mounds or ditches that could hide archaeological remains. Particularly useful are crop marks, small differences in vegetation growth caused by the presence of buried structures.

Global frontiers

Parcak gives a whirlwind global tour of recent findings, from Central America to the Middle East to Africa (which she calls "the greatest frontier for archaeological discovery in the world"), and even under water. The sheer scale of what could be found is dizzying: she estimates that there are more than 50 million unidentified archaeological sites globally. She also imagines a future in which various types of artificial-intelligence-assisted drone, able to sequence DNA and virtually unwrap buried scrolls, will map, probe and analyse entire sites in an hour. Although this might sound extreme, she bases each aspect on existing technologies. Eventually, there might even be the potential to extend techniques to other planets. If we ever do find remains of alien civilizations, says Parcak, we'll need, not astronauts and engineers, but archaeologists.

Archaeologist Sarah Parcak at Innovation Depot in              Birmingham, AL

Sarah Parcak identifies archaeological sites and monitors looting using aerial and satellite photography.Credit: Melissa Golden/Redux/eyevine

This is a fascinating glimpse into a young field just as its technological possibilities are exploding. Yet the book is less about space archaeology than about Parcak herself. She details projects she has conducted for television specials, including the identification of a possible Roman amphitheatre at the site of Portus, an ancient harbour of imperial Rome, and a failed attempt to find evidence of Vikings in Canada. There is also a long discussion of Parcak's specialist area, the process through which, around 2000 bc, Egypt's Old Kingdom gave way to the Middle Kingdom (complete with fictional interludes). And there is a chapter on her concerns about her field, from high journal prices charged by "corporate publishing superpowers" to the lack of ethnic and gender diversity.

This personal approach allows Parcak to recount enchanting details — such as the Egyptian goat that ate a third of the team's site plans in Sinai, or Newfoundland's 'wreckhouse winds', which nearly blew a team member off a cliff as he searched for Viking remains. We learn, too, what drives Parcak: she sees archaeology as "a hope machine for humanity". Ancient Egypt's repeated reinvention, for instance, reveals human resilience in the face of adversity.

Pet projects

At times, however, the book becomes more a list of pet interests than a coherent story. It's a shame that the key topic of remote sensing often fades into the background, with frustratingly little detail given about some of the imaging technologies. There are mere paragraphs on the recent rise of lidar, for example; yet the technology, which takes readings by measuring reflected pulses of laser light, has peered through Central American and southeast Asian jungle to reveal ancient urban landscapes, revolutionizing our understanding of the Mayan and Khmer civilizations. Many breathtaking findings by other researchers are mentioned only briefly, such as the 2017 rediscovery of the city of Qalatga Darband in Iraqi Kurdistan, using US spy-satellite images and drone data.

In the final two chapters, Parcak's vision comes into its own. She describes how, after the Egyptian revolution in 2011, she "parachuted out of the ivory tower", pioneering the use of satellite imagery to monitor the rise in thefts from unguarded archaeological sites. Funded by the National Geographic Society, she mapped more than 200,000 looting pits across Egypt. The evidence spurred political action against the illegal antiquities trade, as well as debunking simplistic explanations for it. She found that rates of looting actually jumped in 2009, after the financial crash: "It is not who holds the local political reins, but the global economy, that does the driving."

And then there's that TED Prize. She used the money to raise an "army of global explorers". Her team developed an online game enabling the public to check satellite images for signs of looting or archaeological remains. Since its 2017 launch, more than 80,000 users from around 100 countries have flagged some 19,000 new sites, which specialists are beginning to confirm on the ground.

Parcak wants to give citizen scientists the gift of wonder. Space archaeology, she says, allows us "to see a world without borders, full of possibility, past, present and future". By panning out, we perceive what's invisible on the ground: features that relate not just to the physical landscape, but to the history of humanity, and our relationship with Earth.

Nature 570, 444-445 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01972-3
--   Sent from my Linux system.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Exclusive: Controversial King Tut Statue Has Sketchy Origins. And Now Christie's Is Selling it.

Exclusive: Controversial King Tut Statue Has Sketchy Origins. Now Christie's Is Selling it.

Exclusive: Controversial King Tut Statue Has Sketchy              Origins. Now Christie's Is Selling it.
This life-size ancient sculpture depicting the head of King Tut is set to be auctioned by Christie's on July 4.
Credit: Christie's

As a diplomatic dispute rages between Egypt and the auction house Christie's in London over a sculpture depicting the head of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, set to be auctioned on July 4, a Live Science investigation reveals several clues as to where this sculpture comes from.

The sculpture, being auctioned off by an anonymous owner through Christie's, is made of quartzite (a type of stone). Estimates for how much the sculpture will fetch vary around $5.1 million (4 million pounds).

However, Egypt believes that it was looted from the Karnak temple sometime after 1970, and the country's embassy in the U.K. has demanded that the sculpture be repatriated to Egypt. Christie's claims that the sculpture was owned by Prinz (Prince) Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis (who lived from 1919 to 2004) in the 1960s and that he sold it in 1973 or 1974 to Josef Messina, the owner of Galerie Kokorian & Co, Vienna. Egypt has threatened court action if the sculpture is not returned, with the dispute garnering news headlines around the world. [In Photos: The Life and Death of King Tut]

To discover its origins, Live Science researched Wilhelm's life, talking to surviving family and friends and gathering documents on the prince's life.

Family raises doubts

Both Viktor von Thurn und Taxis (Wilhelm's son) and Daria von Thurn und Taxis (Wilhelm's niece) told Live Science that Wilhelm never owned the sculpture. Furthermore, Daria said in an interview that Wilhelm had no interest in ancient artifacts, or art in general. He was "not a very art-interested person" she told Live Science.

Daria believes that the sculpture may have been owned by Wilhelm's cousin Prince Raimondo Torre e Tasso who "lived in the castel of Duino [a castle in Italy], which was known for its antiquities," Daria said. [Reclaimed History: 9 Repatriated Egyptian Antiquities]

Prince Raimondo is dead, but his surviving family members currently live in the castle for part of the year. A spokesperson for the family told Live Science that Raimondo and his family never owned the Tutankhamun sculpture.

Gudula Walterskirchen, a historian and journalist who knew Wilhelm well, said that Wilhelm didn't have an artifact collection. Further evidence that Wilhelm never owned the sculpture comes from Egyptologist Sylvia Schoske, who is the director of the State Museum of Egyptian Art in Munich. She studied and published an article in the book "Konzeption der Ausstellung und Katalog Heinz Herzer, Ägyptische und moderne Skulptur Aufbruch und Dauer" (Ausstellung Museum Morsbroich, 1986) about the sculpture when it was owned by an antiquities dealer named Heinz Herzer. She told Live Science that until recently she had never heard of Wilhelm owning the sculpture. She cautioned, however, that "questions concerning the provenance of objects were not so much in the focus 30 or 40 years ago as they are today."

Catherine Manson, the global head of corporate affairs at Christie's, said that the auction house has done extensive provenance research into the sculpture, and members of their provenance research team have talked to the two surviving family members (Daria and Viktor). They "were young at the time and do not precisely recall the head but equally they do not, and have not, excluded the possibility either," Manson wrote in an email to Live Science.

"We have verified that provenance with all previous owners of the head back to that time, including with Mr. Josef Messina, who confirmed the Head [King Tut statue] was already in the Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis Collection in Vienna in the 1960s," Manson wrote.

Live Science was unable to get in touch with Josef Messina. Galerie Kokorian & Co. is now run by Michael Antolini, who declined comment when reached by Live Science.

Documents about Wilhelm's life show no signs that Wilhelm ever owned the sculpture, supporting the claims of his surviving family. He is an interesting person in other ways: The documents show that in 1941, he joined the Austrian resistance against the Nazis, becoming a senior member of the resistance group "O5," which performed acts of sabotage against the Germans. Wilhelm's duties included making contact with other resistance groups operating in Czechoslovakia and Germany, including a group that almost killed Hitler on July 20 1944 when a bomb exploded in Hitler's "Wolf's Lair,"according to those documents. [7 Amazing Archaeological Discoveries from Egypt]After the war, Wilhelm lived in Morocco for a time before moving back to Europe. In his postwar life, he held a variety of jobs in public relations and tour organizing and guiding. Although Wilhelm was his formal name, the documents show that he often preferred to call himself "Willy."

The family members of Thurn und Taxis were granted the right to use the titles "prince" and "princess" in the 17th century by Leopold I Emperor of the "Holy Roman Empire" — a kingdom that ruled territory in central Europe. Today, many members of the Thurn und Taxis family are spread throughout Europe and North America. Some are quite wealthy; but Wilhelm himself was not particularly rich, and in 1970 (when he supposedly owned the sculpture) he was living and working in a "small bachelor apartment" in Vienna, according to a 1970 New York Times article. His senior role in the Austrian resistance meant that historians often wanted to talk to him, and he granted many interviews on the subject.

The only artifact found byLive Science that was mentioned in the documents as belonging to Wilhelm's family is a Chinese snuff bottle that dates back to sometime between the 18th century and early 20th century. It was sold after Wilhelm died in 2004, with the sale information indicating it had belonged to Wilhelm's grandfather Alexander Thurn und Taxis.

Christie's said that they have also been gathering documents related to the statue's provenance. "We have this week been given access to his unpublished memoirs. We have found specific mention of antiquities and are currently reviewing all materials in case there is a more specific reference to the object," Manson told Live Science. Live Science was unable to obtain the unpublished memoirs.

Passed down in the family?

Manson said that Christie's research into the family history suggests that the sculpture could have been inherited by Wilhelm from ancestors. "His grandfather, Prince Alexander Thurn und Taxis, traveled extensively to Africa and brought back objects; and great grandfather, Count Hans Wilczek, is also known to have had a large collection which included antiquities," Manson said. [Family Ties: 8 Truly Dysfunctional Royal Families]

However, the documents collected by Live Science suggest that it is unlikely that a sculpture of Tutankhamun could have been passed down to Wilhelm from his ancestors.

The 1970 New York Times article, for instance, notes that Wilhelm's parents had lost many of their holdings by the end of World War I, a war which saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire defeated. Additionally, Wilhelm was the youngest of nine children and his father, Erich von Thurn und Taxis, was one of three. The loss of many family possessions by 1919 and the many children any inheritance would have to be shared with suggest that few of the artifacts collected by his grandparents and great-grandparents are likely to have been passed down to Wilhelm. In an interview, Daria said that what items she recalls Wilhelm having were European and not ancient Egyptian.

Another problem with the idea Wilhelm inherited the statue is that Tutankhamun became globally famous in 1922 after his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter, something that could have made a sculpture of the boy-king valuable. This means that for Wilhelm to possess it through inheritance, his parents would have had to resist selling the sculpture, despite financial difficulties, and many older family members would have had to pass up the chance to own the sculpture when Wilhelm's parents died.

Wilhelm was not a wealthy individual. Estimates vary for how much the sculpture is currently worth, but they hover around $5 million. While the sculpture may not have been worth as much in 1973 or 1974, when Wilhelm supposedly sold it, documents and interviews suggest that Wilhelm enjoyed no sizable wealth that would have come with the sale of a lucrative sculpture. [The Curse of King Tut: Facts and Fable]

On the contrary, the documents show that Wilhelm kept working in public relations and tour organizing until near the end of his life. And the job didn't seem overly rewarding: A 1985 United Press International article tells of a 17-year-old girl who was unhappy with one of his tours and threw wine at Wilhelm's face. Additionally, Walterskirchen told Live Science that Wilhelm did not appear to be wealthy. "He possessed quite nothing," she said.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former minister of antiquities, thinks that the sculpture was looted from the Karnak temple sometime after 1970. He said that the sculpture cannot be from the tomb of Tutankhamun, since the only artifact made of stone found in the tomb is the pharaoh's sarcophagus.

"I think for Christie's to put this head on sale, they have no ethics at all," Hawass told Live Science. "They [Christie's] do not have any evidence that this head left Egypt legally at all," he added. "Egypt will not let this go, we are going to stop the sale and we are going to take Christie's and the owner of this head to court."

In a statement, Christie's said "ancient objects by their nature cannot be traced over millennia. It is hugely important to establish recent ownership and legal right to sell, which we have clearly done. We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export."

Originally published on Live Science.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Northern California ARCE Upcoming Egyptology Lectures 2019

American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE)

Northern California Chapter

Upcoming Lectures 2019

ARCE's Northern California Chapter is pleased to present the following lectures by renowned
Egyptologists. All lectures take place on the University of California Berkeley campus.

June-July No Meeting

One Tomb, Two Kings: Unlocking the Sequence of Construction & Decoration in Theban Tomb 110

August 11, 2019 - 3:00 PM - Room 20 Barrows Hall

Dr. J. J. Shirley, University of Pennsylvania

Ouch! Pain, Emotion and Foreigners in Ancient Egyptian Art

September 15, 2019 - 3:00 PM - Room 20 Barrows Hall

Dr. Tara Prakash, Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art, CSU-San Bernardino

Topic: Russian Expedition to Memphis

October 13, 2019 - 3:00 PM - Room 20 Barrows Hall

Dr. Galina Belova, Director, Russian Archaeological Mission at Memphis, Fayoum and Luxor

For more information, please visit or

--   Sent from my Linux system.