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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Shotgun once belonging to an infamous London socialite to be sold at auction  | Daily Mail Online

Banjo-playing prostitute who became Lady Meux and scandalised Victorian society by driving around London in a zebra-drawn carriage is thrust back into the spotlight as her shotgun goes up for auction

  • A shotgun which belonged to Valerie Susan Meux is going up for auction
  • The 28-bore shotgun, dating back to the late 1800s, is valued at £3,000-£5,000
  • Lady Meux was known to have travelled round London in a zebra-drawn carriage
  • Revamped husband's Hertfordshire estate with ice rink and swimming pool  

A shotgun which belonged to one of the most intriguing women of 19th century high society is set to sell at auction next month.

The 28-bore shotgun, which dates back to the late 1800s, belonged to Lady Valerie Susan Meux who was known as a banjo-playing prostitute before marrying the brewer and politician Sir Henry Bruce Meux.

Lady Meux was often seen driving herself round London in a zebra-drawn carriage and she sat three times for artist James Whistler in 1881.

After marrying and becoming Lady Meux, Valerie installed a museum of Egyptian antiquities, constructed an indoor swimming pool and even had an indoor roller-skating rink built at her husband's estate, Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire. 

However, she was never accepted by Sir Henry's family or by high society at the time and decided to live her life outlandishly to embrace being an outcast.

To this end, she persuaded her husband to purchase Temple Bar and have it transported brick by brick to their Hertfordshire estate so that she could have it installed as a grand entranceway.

Lady Meux was never accepted by Sir Henry's family or              by high-society, so she leant into her outsider position and              led a lavish, unorthodox lifestyle. Pictured: Sir Henry and              Lady Meux

Lady Meux was never accepted by Sir Henry's family or by high-society, so she leant into her outsider position and led a lavish, unorthodox lifestyle. Pictured: Sir Henry and Lady Meux

A shotgun (pictured) which once belonged to one of              London's most eccentric women, Lady Meux, is to be sold at              auction next month

A shotgun (pictured) which once belonged to one of London's most eccentric women, Lady Meux, is to be sold at auction next month

Born in 1847, American-born Valerie's obituary in the New York Times said that she  first met Sir Henry while performing as an actress in Brighton. 

However, later reports suggest a more salacious first encounter when she worked as a barmaid and prostitute at the Casino de Venise in Holborn.

She claimed at one point to be an actress, but it's believed her performing career was mainly confined to playing the banjo to entertain customers. 

Her husband, Sir Henry Bruce Meux, is a distant relative of Florence Brudenell-Bruce, who for a time dated Prince Harry. 

In 1881, she sat three times for Whistler, who had recently been left bankrupt by suing the art critic John Ruskin for condemning his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, describing the artist as possessing 'ill-educated conceit' and likening his work to 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face'.

Lady Valerie Susan Meux was rumoured to have been a              banjo-playing prostitute before marrying the brewer and              politician Sir Henry Bruce Meux. She sat for three portraits              for Whistler, including Harmony in Pink and Gray: Portrait              of Lady Meux (pictured)

Lady Valerie Susan Meux was rumoured to have been a banjo-playing prostitute before marrying the brewer and politician Sir Henry Bruce Meux. She sat for three portraits for Whistler, including Harmony in Pink and Gray: Portrait of Lady Meux (pictured)

The 28-bore shotgun is said to be incredibly rare, with              its style not popular during Lady Meux's day

The 28-bore shotgun is said to be incredibly rare, with its style not popular during Lady Meux's day

The Temple Bar stood at the junction of Fleet Street              and The Strand and marked the western boundary of the City              of London. The gate was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in              the 1670s but was moved to widen the road and put into              storage. It was then bought by Sir Henry Bruce Meux on the              advice of his wife, to create a grand entrace at their              Hertfordshire estate

The Temple Bar stood at the junction of Fleet Street and The Strand and marked the western boundary of the City of London. The gate was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1670s but was moved to widen the road and put into storage. It was then bought by Sir Henry Bruce Meux on the advice of his wife, to create a grand entrace at their Hertfordshire estate 

Who was Lady Valerie Susan Meux? 

Lady Valerie Susan Meux was the wife of Sir Henry Meux who was a brewer and politician.

Born Valerie Susan Langdon in 1847, she worked in entertainment in Holborn, London and it was rumoured that Lady Meux worked as a banjo-playing prostitute.

Her life changed when she married Sir Henry Meux and become a Lady, though the ceremony was held in secret in 1878.

She lived at Sir Meux's estate Theobalds, in Hertfordshire, and was responsible for making improvements to the property in the form of a museum of Egyptian antiquities, an indoor swimming pool and an indoor roller-skating rink.

She persuaded her husband to buy Temple Bar from the City of London and have it shipped to their estate brick by brick.

She also commissioned the painter James McNeil Whistler to paint three portraits of her, though the third was destroyed.

Her love for historical Egyptian artefacts was such that at one stage she offered her 1,700-tiem collection to the British Museum - though her offer was rejected.

Another offer she had seen rejected was that of purchasing field guns for British soldiers fighting in the Second Boer War. 

After the War Office refused her she decided to privately finance and ship the guns anyway.

After the war concluded, Lady Meux got to know Sir Hedworth Lambton, eventually leaving her fortune and estate to him, after her husband had died, as long as he agreed to change his name to Meux. 

Lady Meux was also known for having been taken around London in her phaeton carriage which was pulled by a team of zebras. 

Although the court found in Whistler's favour, he was awarded a farthing in nominal damages, and had to pay his share of legal costs, leaving him with no money. 

The portraits of Lady Mieux were the first full-scale commissions for the artist after his bankruptcy, and the works Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux and Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux survive today. 

However, it's believed a third painting Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs, was destroyed by the artist after becoming angry at a comment the socialite made to him during her sitting. 

Meanwhile, Lady Meux set about extending and adding her own touches to Theobalds, most significantly persuading her husband to buy the Temple Bar from the City Of London Corporation, which was currently in storage at the time. 

It was reconstructed to act as a new gateway to the estate, where she used an upper chamber for entertaining high society guests including Winston Churchill and the Prince of Wales. 

The couple didn't have children, leaving Lady Meux free to pursue a wide range of interests, including her collection of race horses, who she raced under the pseudonym Mr Theobalds, winning the Sussex Stakes in 1897. 

A noted collector of ancient Egyptian artefacts, her collection of 1,700 pieces - including 800 scarabs and amulets - was catalogued by the Egyptologist Wallis Budge who dedicated his Book of Paradise to her.  

Her interest also extended to Ethiopia, and when she died, she left five sacred illustrated Ethiopic manuscripts in her will to Emperor Menelik, although they were kept in Britain and later sold to William Randolph Hearst.

After Sir Henry died in 1900, leaving his estate and brewery to Lady Meux, she began to grow closer to Sir Hedworth Lambton who was the commander of the Naval Brigade at Ladysmith.

Lady Meux became close enough to Sir Lambton that she made him the sole beneficiary of her will, having no direct descendants herself.

However, in typical outlandish style, she set a single condition on the inheritance: Sir Lambton had to change his name to Meux.

She commissioned James Whistler to produce three                  portraits of her
The third was destroyed, it is thought, after                  Whistler became angry at a comment made by Lady Meux                  during her sitting

She commissioned James Whistler to produce three portraits of her, though the third was destroyed, it is thought, after Whistler became angry at a comment made by Lady Meux during her sitting. Pictured: Sketches of the final portraits of Lady Meux by James Whistler

Upon her death in 1910, ten years after that of Sir Henry, Sir Lambton legally changed his name using a Royal Warrant to inherit the Hertfordshire estate and a sizeable stake in the Meux brewery. 

Simon Reinhold of Holts Auctioneers, who will be auctioning the gun, said: 'She was a maverick of her time and her story, while not well known, is fascinating. 

'We often sell guns with an interesting provenance, but this piece and Lady Meux really stands out.'

Lady Meux financed six 12-pound naval cannons after becoming concerned about the welfare of british soldiers during the Siege of Ladysmith in the Second Boer War.

The home she shared with Sir Meux was heavily                renovated under her guidance. Theobalds Park had an indoor                pool and an indoor roller-skating rink installed

The home she shared with Sir Meux was heavily renovated under her guidance. Theobalds Park had an indoor pool and an indoor roller-skating rink installed

Simon Reinhold of Holts Auctioneers said the weapon                is 'very much usable today' and is in very good condition                given its age

Simon Reinhold of Holts Auctioneers said the weapon is 'very much usable today' and is in very good condition given its age

Simon said: 'The commander of the naval brigade at Ladysmith was so grateful he called on Lady Meux upon his return to England. 

'She was so taken with him she left him her entire estate - on condition that he change his name to Meux – which he did.' 

The shotgun has been valued at between £3,000 and £5,000 but is expected to fetch a higher price than that.

Simon said the gun itself is incredibly rare, having not been popular during Lady Meux's day.

He said that the weapon is in good condition and is 'very much usable today'. 


Thursday, November 26, 2020

The secrets of Ancient Egypt, as told by today's Egyptians - Archaeology -

The Secrets of Ancient Egypt, as Told by Today's Egyptians

After centuries in which archaeological research in Egypt was dominated by foreigners, local scientists are taking control

From the film Secrets of the Saqqara                  Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian

This has been a year of exciting finds, one after another, in Egypt. Almost every month brought news of the discovery of a pharaonic grave site, generally accompanied by splashy headlines in the local and international press declaring the most important find of recent decades, or a necropolis in an excellent state of preservation, the likes of which have never before been seen.

Only recently, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities held a public unveiling of 59 spectacular sarcophagi at a splendid event in the presence of foreign ambassadors and representatives of the media, which included, for the first time in 2,000 years, the opening of one of the coffins publicly. In October, Netflix began screening "Secrets of the Saqarra Tomb," a documentary about one such tomb that was completely unearthed in 2018.

The media assault in recent months is ostensibly telling us about the feverish spate of excavations in Egypt, and more generally about the importance of the research that has been conducted in the Nile Valley for more than 200 years. But a critical look shows that this is not the whole picture. Below the surface, Egypt is sending a strong, clear message to the nations of the world to the effect that it is assuming ownership of its cultural treasures and taking control of the research narrative. The country is thus signaling the empires that poked around in its archaeological sites that a long period of cultural appropriation has come to an end.

During the two centuries following Napoleon's research expedition in the Nile Valley in 1798, whose aim was to document and collect the remains of the pharaonic civilization, almost all of Egypt's great discoveries were taken away from it. The Rosetta Stone, which provided the key to deciphering hieroglyphics, was brought to London in 1802 and has been on exhibit in the British Museum ever since; the magnificent sarcophagus of Seti I was exhibited in London even before the hieroglyphics were deciphered; and visitors to the Neues Museum in Berlin can see the painted bust of Queen Nefertiti, among the most outstanding artworks of the ancient world, which was found by a German expedition in 1912.

Even the most important discovery in the history of Egyptology, the unearthing of the tomb of Tutankhamun, is credited to a British expedition headed by Howard Carter and underwritten by the Earl of Carnarvon, with both men achieving everlasting glory for the deed.

From the film Secrets of                the Saqqara Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix

Foreign-run digs

In practice, until 1952, the Egyptian Antiquities Service, whose task was to protect the heritage of ancient Egypt at the time, was managed by officials of the French government. They issued the excavation permits to foreign expeditionary teams and decided which findings they could take back to their respective lands. That role was subsequently taken over by the service's successor, the Supreme Council of Antiquities, but foreign expeditions continued to run most of the digs in Egypt, while research institutes in Europe and the United States effectively controlled the discipline of Egyptology.

From the film Secrets of                the Saqqara Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix

So it's not by chance that the new film about the Saqqara treasures opens with the statement: "In November 2018, a small team of Egyptian archaeologists hunting for tombs in an ancient graveyard unearthed the discovery of a lifetime."

Seemingly, the word "archaeologists" would have been enough. It's clear to the viewer that he is in Egypt, and there should be no need to note that the archaeologists are Egyptian. There would have been a point in mentioning it if they were foreign archaeologists, in order to inform the viewer that the scene before him contains multiple identities. This unnecessary addition presages what's to come.

Ten minutes into the two-hour-long documentary, field archaeologist Hamada Mansour notes that at the excavation site "the whole team is Egyptian." He describes the harsh conditions they are working under: digging by manual means amid clouds of dust and in unbearable heat. However, Hamada insists, "we are the people who can best give a voice to our ancestors, because they are our ancestors. We are closer to them than the foreigner."

From the film Secrets of                the Saqqara Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix
Pan-Arabism vs. paganism

A reference to the people of the pagan pharaonic culture as "our ancestors" is not self-evident in modern Egypt. In the second half of the 20th century, following the Free Officers revolt in 1952, Egypt preferred to promote – at least domestically – its pan-Arab and Islamist identity over its pharaonic heritage. The reason: The latter was perceived as an identity constructed by the West in the course of some two centuries of European research in the Nile Valley, rather than by the Egyptians themselves.

The glorification of the pharaonic culture served Egypt primarily for tourism purposes – the source of the main flow of the country's economy along with the Suez Canal – and as a means for making diplomatic gifts, such as the ibis statuette on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which Egyptian President Anwar Sadat presented to the archaeologist Yigael Yadin in the context of the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in 1979.

It's only in recent decades that the Egyptians have begun independently to delve into the question of their pharaonic heritage, in a way that is not bound up with the Western point of view, in a process that American historian Donald Reid called the "decolonization of Egyptology." This trend hasn't yet run its course, as even today a fledgling local Egyptologist is required to study and do an internship at a Western rather than an Egyptian research institute, and will thus adopt a dual approach that still resonates with the Romantic notions about ancient Egypt.

At the same time, this new generation of Egyptians is already sounding its voice in the Netflix movie by means of local experts who are the driving force of the story: the Egyptologists, the scientists, the linguists, the archaeologists, the foremen and the laborers. All of them are Egyptian, with the exception of the archaeo-zoologist Salima Ikram, who is of Pakistani origin. Some of them also speak Arabic in the interviews, in a kind of act of defiance against the colonial languages that rule the roost in studies of ancient Egypt: English, French and German.

In contrast, the ancient Egyptians are silent, their voice heard only through the excavations and research at Saqqara, a multi-period burial site close to the Step Pyramid, the world's oldest stone pyramid, south of Cairo. Among the many tombs uncovered before our eyes, the narrative focuses on one from the Fifth Dynasty (approximately 2400 B.C.E.), whose splendid entrance hall is the arena of the unfolding archaeological tale. The impressive sculptures and reliefs in this hall present the image of the tomb's owner, Wahtye, as a typical noble of the ancient kingdom: a stylized wig on his head, a pleated skirt around his waist and the scepter of power in his hand.

From the film Secrets of                the Saqqara Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix

The blocked shafts in the floor of the entrance hall are the likely sites of the remains of those buried within, and the film's dramatic power lies in the way it follows the complex excavations in these deep and dangerous shafts, and accompanies the moments of discovery of the rare remains. Experts on ancient script and organic materials explain the findings for the viewer and uncover, cautiously, layer after layer, the life stories of the entombed.

The archaeologists among us will squirm uncomfortably in our chair as we watch this documentary. Excavation of an archaeological site is fundamentally a destructive process, as the uncovering of a find unavoidably detaches it from the sediment in which it is embedded, which constitutes part of the history of the object itself. Accordingly, modern excavation has adopted certain principles that have the goal of controlling the context from which the find is removed by means of marking, demarcation, documentation and systematic unearthing, from the surface into the depths, of the site being excavated. Finds are never pulled out of their place in the earth in a manner that disconnects them from their original context; they are uncovered slowly, with every bit of the artifact being preserved.

Scenes in the film showing many workers crowding around the discovery of one statuette or another that has been pulled out of its place with no documentation of its original condition – and with organic wrapping materials left on the ground – may reflect the enthusiasm of the excavators, but they are a little unorthodox. It's possible, of course, to find an excuse in the extreme conditions of the Saqqara dig, with the blazing heat, a meager budget and a tight schedule. To do so, however, would be to commit the sin of colonial condescension in defiance of what the Egyptians themselves are asking of us in this movie: to treat them as researchers with equal rights and status in the science of Egyptology, and as such, amenable to some professional observations.

This is not the first time an important dig was conducted by an Egyptian team with no foreign involvement. But for the first time the event was documented in rich cinematic language that gains the immediate and extensive viewing accorded by Netflix's well-oiled distribution machine. The ongoing public interest in the history of ancient Egypt, juxtaposed to the current national ambitions of the Land of the Nile, promise us many more cinematic glimpses of the mysteries of the pharaohs.

From the film Secrets of                the Saqqara Tomb.
From the film Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.Credit: Netflix

Dr. Shirly Ben-Dor Evian is an Egyptologist and curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Egypt’s Supreme Committee for Museums Display Scenario completes placing Amun’s mummies in New Administrative Capital Museum - EgyptToday

Egypt's Supreme Committee for Museums Display Scenario completes placing Amun's mummies in New Administrative Capital Museum


Tue, 24 Nov 2020 - 10:58 GMT


CAIRO - 24 November 2020: The Supreme Committee for the Museums Display Scenario has completed placing the mummies of the priests and priestesses of the god Amun, in their show cases in the Museum of Egyptian Capitals in the New Administrative Capital.
Dr. Ali Omar, head of the Supreme Committee for the Museum Display Scenario at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, explained that these mummies arrived in the museum last week, coming from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, in order to enrich the display of the Museum of Egyptian Capitals in the new Administrative Capital. He added that their show cases were prepared and sterilized in a special way to preserve the mummies inside.
Mr. Moamen Othman, head of the museums sector at the ministry, said that these mummies were discovered in the royal cache in Deir el-Bahari in 1881, and belong to the mummy of Najm, the wife of Harihor, the chief priest of Amun, whose eyes were inlaid with white and black stones, which gives the feeling that they are still alive as well as wearing natural wigs and eyebrows.
As for the mummy of Nasi Khonsu, the second wife of the chief priest of Amun Banjum II, he said that it is considered a distinct example of the development of the mummification method of the 21st Family, where the eyes covered with stones and the dark yellow color of the skin gave a sense of vitality and freshness.  
As for the mummy of Banjum II, the high priest of Amun, Othman added that her skin was colored yellow and dark red, and the mummy was wrapped in thin linen with colored fringes.  
And the mummy of the grandfather of Ptah uf Ankh from Dynasty 21, fingers and toes are decorated with rings.  As for the mummy of Hanutawi, the wife of the chief priest of Amun, Banjum I, with a face Plump to show vitality.
Dr. Mona Raafat, the General Supervisor of the Museum of the Capitals of Egypt, explained that the museum received, during the past week, more than a hundred artifacts coming from a number of museums and archaeological storages; including the storages of the museums of Luxor, the royal carriages in Bulaq, Suez and the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, and the archaeological site of Mit Rahinah. She said that work in the museum is progressing in preparation for its opening.
She added that these artifacts have been selected carefully to enrich the museum display scenario to tell the history of the Egyptian capitals through different historical eras.
She pointed out that one of the most important pieces in the museum is a collection of Talatat stones depicting King Akhenaten and his wife Queen Nefertiti from the Luxor Museum storage, they are now being restored in preparation for their display; in addition to a Cuban carriage and a Kalash and a model of a war carriage which was a gift  to King Farouk.
The museum also received a number of mummies from the Egyptian Museum, mummies of priests and senior statesmen, in addition to a number of canopic jars and a wooden box inscribed with a picture of the god Anubis, to be displayed in the museum's funeral ritual hall.  This is in addition to a wonderful double statue of King Merenptah and the goddess Hathor from Mitt Rahman.
The Museum of the Capitals of Egypt tells the history of the Egyptian capitals through different eras. It consists of a main gallery in which the relics of a number of ancient and modern capitals are displayed. There are 7 capitals; namely Memphis, Thebes, Tell El-Amarna, Alexandria, Islamic Cairo, Khedivial Cairo.  The patterns of life are represented in each historical period of each capital separately, such as decorative tools, tools of war and fighting, the system of government and various correspondences.
As for the second section of the museum, it is a wing that represents the after life in ancient Egypt. It consists of the tomb of Tutu, which was discovered in 2018 in Sohag Governorate, in addition to a hall for mummies, coffins, and two shelves containing canopic jars and a set of false doors and alternate heads that simulate religious rituals in  Ancient Egypt.
The museum's display will use modern technology, where the exhibition galleries are equipped with screens displaying an interactive panoramic film showing the history, and an illustration of each of the ancient Egyptian capitals.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Counterfeiting began even before money was invented, archaeologists deduce - Archaeology -

Counterfeiting Began Even Before Money Was Invented, Archaeologists Deduce

Evidently there always was one born every minute, and as the great civilizations around the Mediterranean collapsed 3,000 years ago, silver became extremely hard to obtain

Around 3,200 years ago, the great civilizations around the Mediterranean collapsed. The sprawling empire of ancient Egypt shrank back to the land by the Nile, and even suffered the indignity of invasion from overseas. The Hittite cities in Anatolia were burned to the ground. Ugarit (in today's Syria) was brought low, the Mycenaeans and Minoans vanished into the long night, the Babylonians descended into chaos and the Sea Peoples apparently became ascendant, sailing out of the Aegean.

And in the turmoil that descended over Canaan as the Egyptian forces retreated, a new industry arose in the land: counterfeiting, a team of archaeologists from the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University report in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

This was during the late Bronze Age period, and the peoples of the Levant were in the process of mastering advanced metallurgy. They had come a long way from the early furnaces dating to over 6,500 years ago, which were recently discovered in Be'er Sheva. The Bible itself indirectly indicates how far the industry had progressed from its prehistoric start in hammering copper out of ore and crude smelting in clay crucibles: "As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will cast you in, and melt you" – Ezekiel 22:20.

But coins hadn't been invented yet – that only happened about 2,500 years ago, it seems. So what exactly were the ancients of collapsing Canaan counterfeiting? Fragments of metal used as currency in the period predating coins. You would use it to buy, say, some goats and trick the vendor into thinking it was pure lovely silver. Alas, it was not; it was debased. Hoards predating the Bronze Age collapse were almost pure silver; hoards after the period of the collapse were silver again; hoards dating to the period of the implosion were alloyed.

These silver fragments used in commerce were not uniform in shape or size, so the amount of actual silver they contained mattered, explain doctoral candidate Tzilla Eshel of the University of Haifa with Prof. Ayelet Gilboa of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, and Prof. Yigal Erel of the Institute of Earth Sciences and Naama Yahalom-Mack of the Biblical Archaeology Departmen at the Hebrew University.

Note the greenish tinge              attesting to a high proportion of copper in the alloy
Note the greenish tinge attesting to a high proportion of copper in the alloyCredit: Yael Yelovitz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Who was behind this nefarious scheme, at least at first? Possibly, the imploding Egyptian regime.

Retreat to the Nile

"Cut pieces of silver were used as a means of payment in the 1,500 years before coins were invented," Eshel explains to Haaretz, adding that insofar as is known, coins were invented in Libya in roughly the seventh century B.C.E. Such tender only reached what is today's Israel in the Persian period.

She adds that the silver didn't have to be cut fresh from an ingot, as it were (all international metal trade at the time was in the form of ingots, many of which have been retrieved from ancient shipwrecks). "If someone had a silver ring that broke, they could use it for its silver value," Eshel says.

Some call the source silver ingots chocolate bar ingots because of proto-perforation that enabled their subsequent dismemberment into the silver pieces for trade.

Silver cuts from ingots              used for pre-currency trade found at Beit She'an
Silver cuts from ingots used for pre-currency trade found at Beit She'anCredit: Courtesy of the excavation team at Beit She'an
There is pretty much no silver in Israel, Egypt or anywhere near here. The closest sources were Anatolia, Turkey, and Greece, Eshel says. They studied silver pieces from eight sites in Israel, including Megiddo (aka Armageddon), Beit She'an and Ashkelon, from relevant layers dated to 1200 to 950 B.C.E. – the time of the region-wide upheaval. Long story short, the alloy "silver" pieces are so mixed that isotope analysis is not particularly helpful, the team explains. A separate analysis suggesting the silver ore may even have come from Spain cannot be verified, they add.

The copper, however, came from the so-called King Solomon's Mines in Timna. Likely the silver-bit-makers of yore had to resort to using what pieces of silver they could find lying around from earlier, better periods. That in and of itself would have muddied the chemical signal of the metal.

Wherever it came from, as chaos descended roughly 3,200 years ago, a shortage of silver was created in the Levant, especially in Egypt. Unable to import more, the perp – possibly the Egyptian leaders before they left Canaan once and for all – began doctoring the metal during production. And "silver" pieces used for trade came to consist largely of copper, a sliver of silver – and other constituents that would emulate the look of silver, chiefly arsenic.

That's why the archaeologists suspect the ancients of counterfeiting as opposed to some more mundane aspiration: there was a deliberate effort to try to make the things look like silver.

To be clear, silver pieces before the great collapse had been made of almost pure silver, the archaeologists explain. So were silver pieces afterward. But in the interim period, when the entire region had descended into chaos, they were not. In some cases, the "silver" pieces contained as much as 80 percent copper.

Silver bits serving in              pre-currency commerce
Silver bits serving in pre-currency commerceCredit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The archaeologists feel the creation of the copper "silver" pieces being systematic, not sporadic, supports the theory of fakery, at least at first (otherwise they could have left the things looking coppery).

As the practice persisted over 250 years, no less, we can assume the secret came out. But by then it was a sort of new normal, they explain.

Asked about use of gold pieces rather than silver, Eshel explains that "there were periods in which gold was also used, especially in Egypt. They had a lot of gold, imported from Africa, preferring it to silver. When they controlled Israel in the late Bronze Age, they apparently used gold too – but usually silver was more widely used," she says.

Just like today, gold was usually more precious than silver (based on ancient Assyrian and other texts). But in Egypt itself, silver was worth more than gold because it was relatively rarer, she says.

Anyway, not all sins inevitably come to light, but this one did. Israel is littered with archaeological finds, including several dozen hoards of precious metals. In fact, the research began with excavators reporting the discovery of hoards of bronze bits – they corroded green, as copper does. But when cleaning the artifacts in the lab, suddenly a silver-like look appeared, Eshel recounts. All the treasures to which this applied were from the same period: the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age – yes, that period when the great civilizations collapsed.

A silver hoard: Coming in so many different forms, the proportion of actual silver in the alloy was crucial to valueCredit: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

"It continued for 250 years, starting in the late Bronze Age when the Egyptians were ruled Canaan," Eshel sums up. "This counterfeiting begins shortly before they left – which is why we believe the Egyptians initiated it. We find it in the contexts of Egypt in Canaan, such as the site of the Egyptian garrison in Beit She'an." And it's still happening to this very day.

ARCE-NC December 13 Zoom Lecture: The Power of Images in Ancient Egypt

The American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California Chapter, and the Near Eastern Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley, invite you to attend a virtual lecture by
Dr. Rune Nyord, Emory University:

The Power of Images in Ancient Egypt

When: Sunday, December 13, 2020, 3 PM Pacific Time

Zoom Lecture. A registration link will be automatically sent to ARCE-NC members. Non-members may request a registration link by sending email with your name and email address to Attendance is limited, so non-members, please send any registration requests by December 10.

About the Lecture: black granite statues of the pharaoh Sesotris III, seen in right profile. From the time of the 12th dynasty, circa 1850 BC. Originally from Deir el-Bahri. EA 684, 685, 686. User:Captmondo (Own work (photo)).

Ancient Egyptian material culture is full of images, but the ways in which they were used often contradict modern intuitions about how representations work. This talk presents and discusses a number of examples that can provide clues to how the ancient Egyptians experienced and thought about images, from "portraits" idealized beyond recognition or even borrowing other peoples' features, to figurines and drawings used to affect the depicted persons for good or ill. 

About the Speaker:

Dr. Rune Nyord (Photo courtesy of the speaker)

Rune Nyord is Assistant Professor of Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology at Emory University. His research focuses on questions of images, personhood, and funerary religion in ancient Egypt, especially during the early second millennium BCE. He is the author of Breathing Flesh: Conceptions of the Body in the Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts (2009) and Seeing Perfection: Ancient Egyptian Images beyond Representation (2020), and he has edited and co-edited several anthologies and volumes of conference proceedings. 

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Egypt- Imam Al-Shafi'i Mosque reopens following EGP 13m restoration | MENAFN.COM


Egypt- Imam Al-Shafi'i Mosque reopens following EGP 13m restoration

(MENAFN - Daily News Egypt) Cairo's Imam Al-Shafi'I Mosque was reopened, on Friday, in the presence of Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani, Minister of Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa, and Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal.

The mosque was reopened following its restoration, which took place at a cost of EGP 13m, with Friday prayers held at the monument to mark the occasion.

The two ministers and the governor also inspected the restoration progress of the Quba of Imam al-Shafi'i, which began in March 2017 under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The work has received an estimated EGP 20m in funding from the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Al-Anani said that the restoration project for the mosque has been significant, and was undertaken by the Arab Contractors Company. The restoration took place under the Tourism Ministry's supervision, with the full EGP 13m in funding coming from the Ministry of Endowments.

He referred to the efforts made by the Egyptian government to develop the area as a whole. This was among the work done to develop Ain El-Sira Lake and the area around the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, including bridges and roads.

Al-Anani added that there will be a grand parade soon, that will see thetransportation of the mummies of 22 Ancient Egyptian kings and queens, from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

Hisham Samir, Assistant Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for Engineering Affairs, said that the first phase of the restoration project was completed in 2018. The phase included the completion of all historical and construction monitoring of the Quba and the archaeological documentation of its components and decorations.

In addition, an optimal restoration approach was put in place to address the structural deterioration and to the take necessary protective measures for all its architectural and decorative elements. This took place alongside the completion of all of the external facade restoration.

The second phase of the project started in 2019, of which nearly 65% was completed, with the work scheduled to continue until mid 2021. It included upgrading the internal efficiency of the Quba, adjusting its external location, and the development of a modern lighting system for it.

Osama Talaat, Head of the Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that archaeological excavations were carried out during the first phase of the project. This resulted in the discovery of the remains of a building that was at the mausoleum in the Fatimid era, before the construction of the current Quba dating back to the era of al-Malik al-Kamil al-Ayyubi in the year 608 AH.

The Imam al-Shafi'i Mosque was built during the reign of Khedive Muhammad Ali Tawfiq in 1399 AH/1892 CE. It follows the style of covered mosques and is constructed of limestone with a wooden roof with a square in the middle. Attached to the mosque is a Quba dating back to the Ayyubid era.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Naqa – The Meroitic City - HeritageDaily - Archaeology News

Naqa – The Meroitic City

Naqa, also called Naga'a, and presently referred to as the El-Moswarat Andel-Naqa'a Archaeological Area was one of the ancient cities of the Nubian Kingdom of Kush, located on the east bank of the River Nile in Western Butan (historically called the Island of Meroë) in Sudan.

The Island of Meroë consists of three separate sites, Meroe, the capital and royal city of the Kushite kings, Musawwarat es-Sufra, which served as a ceremonial temple complex, and Naqa.

The Kingdom of Kush emerged after the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt during a period known as the Bronze Age Collapse. The Kushite King Kashta and his successor, Piye, took advantage of the instability in Egypt to launch a series of campaigns, eventually conquering their neighbours, and pronouncing themselves the Pharaohs of the 25th dynasty.


The Nubian Pharaohs created a revival in Egyptian culture, in both religion, art, and architecture, including a new phase of pyramid building not seen since the "Age of the Pyramids" during the Old Kingdom.

Temple of Amun – Image Credit : Ron Van Oers – CC BY-SA 3.0

Naqa was founded at the foot of the Jebel Naqa mountain to serve as a religious centre during the Meroitic period, comprising of the First Meroitic Period (542–315 BC), the Second Meroitic Period (3rd century BC), the Third Meroitic Period (270 BC-1st century AD), and the Fourth Meroitic Period (1st century-4th century AD). The kingdom began to decline around AD 300, possibly due to a collapse of internal trade with the Nile valley states, with archaeological evidence pointing to an economic and political decline.

Among the many structures at Naqa, the most significant in the city is the Roman Kiosk, and the Amun and Apedemak temples.

Temple of Apedemak depicting King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore smiting enemies – Image Credit : TrackHD – CC BY 3.0

The Temple of Amun was founded by King Natakamani in dedication to Amun, an ancient Egyptian deity who appears as a member of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad. Outside of Egypt, Amun (pronounced as Amane or Amani in Nubia) was worshipped through to classical antiquity, most notably where he remained a national deity at Meroë.

The temple consists of an outer court and colonnade of rams, that leads to a hypostyle hall containing the inner sanctuary. The design and relief carvings are reminiscent of the Temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal in Northern State, Sudan, and the Karnak Temple Complex in Egypt, commonly known as Karnak.

Roman Kiosk – Image Credit : Hans Birger Nilsen – CC BY-SA 2.0

To the west of the Temple of Amun is the Temple of Apedemak (or the Lion Temple), which is dedicated to Apedemak, a lion-headed deity considered the war god of Kush. The architecture and artistic style of the temple is certainly influenced by Ancient Egyptian design, which also includes depictions of Isis, Mut, Hathor, and Amesemi.

The temple also marks a fusion of cultures with the Kushites, evident by depictions of King Natakamani, Queen Amanitore, and Apedemak who is represented by a snake emerging from a lotus flower) in its construction.

This cultural fusion is none more apparent than the Roman kiosk, a small temple structure dedicated to Hathor that is a juxtaposition of architectural and decorative elements incorporating Pharaonic Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as from Kush itself. The temple has an Egyptian entrance, topped by a lintel with a row of sacred uraeus (cobras), and columns with Corinthian capitals, and arched windows in the Roman style.

Header Image Credit : LassiHU – CC BY-SA 4.0