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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Mummies with golden tongues discovered in Quesna - Egypt Independent

Mummies with golden tongues discovered in Quesna

The Egyptian archaeological mission of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, working in the Quesna archaeological cemetery in Monufiya Governorate uncovered an extension of the archaeological Quesna cemetery.

This includes ancient tombs dating back to different periods of ancient time.

It turned out that they contain a number of mummies with golden tongues, Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced.

The mission also discovered a number of golden flakes in the form of human tongues in the mouth of some of the discovered mummies.

The condition of these mummies are not in a very good state but skeletons with gold linen are still in tact.

Remains of wooden coffins in human form and a number of copper nails used in those coffins were also discovered.

The cemetery is characterized by a unique architectural style. 

There are many main vaults of entry and exit points : north and south and mud bricks for the burial well.

There are three burial chambers also that coincide with the rest of the design.

He added that the excavations inside the cemetery revealed that they were used during three different time periods.

As the archaeological finds suggest the burial customs at each level of burial were found different from each other, and had different burial directions, which probably were to re-use the cemetery in the Late Period of Ancient Egypt, the Ptolemaic period, and two phases in the Roman period.

The mission also discovered a number of golden flakes in the form of scarab, lotus flower and a number of funeral amulets, stone scarabs and pottery utensils that were used in the mummification process, Qutb Fawzy, Head of the Central Department of Lower Egypt, said.

The results of the archaeological mission's work resulted in the discovery of a number of tombs and architectural units.

Some of these are human-shaped stone coffins and a huge granite sarcophagus of one of the most important priests in the city of Atrib (Banha), capital of the tenth nome of Lower Egypt, Mustafa Rizk, head of the archaeological mission and director general of the Monufiya Antiquities District, stated.

The Quesna Quarries Cemetery is a very import archaeological site in the Delta, as it is located in the Kfour al-Raml area of ​​Quesna in Monufiya Governorate.

The historical and archaeological value of the  cemetery is due to the diversity of burial methods that were used in it.

Also, there is a presence of a rare cemetery for the burial of sacred birds, and a number of architectural units that form a group of tombs built of mud bricks from the late era and the Greek and Roman eras.

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Friday, November 25, 2022

The Bookseller - Rights - Egyptologist Wilkinson’s ‘essential’ account of the Ptolemies goes to Bloomsbury

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Sunday, November 20, 2022

Unlocking ancient Egyptian secrets

Unlocking ancient Egyptian secrets

THE first thing to greet visitors to Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt is reminiscent of a highly engaging Jawi lesson. Large cubes are at the ready to be flipped for a quick comparison between the sounds of ancient Egypt, Greek, English and Arabic. Hieroglyphs are not just about pictures, they turned out to be an alphabet too.

This year is the 200th anniversary of breaking the code of the Rosetta Stone. Most of the British Museum's latest exhibition is about this achievement. It might sound as dry as the Egyptian desert, but the curators have managed to generate some excitement with two scholars racing for the finish line.

 Learning cubes for visitors who want to brush up their              skills in four languages.
Learning cubes for visitors who want to brush up their skills in four languages.

If the thought of a Frenchman versus an Englishman battling it out for linguistic supremacy doesn't get the blood coursing through one's veins, there is an impressive array of background material to enliven their competitive spirit.

The stone's present location is the outcome of what some visitors might find more thrilling — endless military conflict between the two top colonisers of the 19th century and their relationship with the North Africans at the time.

 The Rosetta Stone — more important than impressive to              look at.
The Rosetta Stone — more important than impressive to look at.

Modern Egypt has now stepped into the controversy. With cultural-restitution wars raging all around, the Egyptian archaeologist-in-chief, Zahi Hawass, recently relaunched a campaign to bring the stone home.

As Britain's flagship cultural attraction is the Rosetta Stone, it seems strange not to see this prize in its usual place of public display. The crowds are still there, gawping at empty space, while the stone is now the centrepieces of a (paid-for) exhibition.


 A drawing of the canopic jar does a good job of              depicting hieroglyphs, but in 1720 there was no              translation.
A drawing of the canopic jar does a good job of depicting hieroglyphs, but in 1720 there was no translation.

The display has improved. Unlike the British Museum's permanent gallery of ancient-Egyptian wares, the exhibition space is filled with drama, superior lighting and even the sound of Coptic chanting.

This community was the link between the languages of hieroglyphs and a more comprehensible alphabet, they have not been forgotten. Nor were they overlooked in centuries past. Rome was well furnished with pharaonic souvenirs on a grand scale long before Mussolini went to Ethiopia to grab some monumental art.

 Canopic jars preserved body parts of the deceased, as              in this one for the stomach from around 2,500 years ago.
Canopic jars preserved body parts of the deceased, as in this one for the stomach from around 2,500 years ago.

One of the exhibits is an Egyptian obelisk. It's only a fragment, and the imagery is a bit fuzzy, but it's given some real context by the enlarged print next to it. On this it is recorded how Pope Pius VI had the 2,600-year-old red-granite monument moved in 1748 to the Piazza di Montecitorio from where Emperor Augustus had placed it after a long journey from Heliopolis. The obelisk is in the same square today — minus the piece that is being lent by the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.

More than a century later, a member of the infamous Borgia family took an interest in the Copts, whose culture had been overtaken by Arab Muslims around the year 640. His curiosity was aroused, as with later linguists, by the continuity of the Coptic language from what was spoken in more-ancient Egypt. It is a succession that is central to the exhibition.

Exploration of those links between antiquity and the growth of Coptic culture is, however, a lower priority than the determination of Jean-Francois Champollion and Thomas Young to break the code and release all that information stored in the form of hieroglyphs.

Earlier scholarship is on display too, mostly the work of Arab historians and linguists, although their descendants in the 19th century accepted that the Western interlopers had made a huge amount of progress, not just with the ancient languages, but also with Arabic.


 Arab scholars had made some progress with hieroglyphs              before the Rosetta Stone was discovered.
Arab scholars had made some progress with hieroglyphs before the Rosetta Stone was discovered.

Along the way, we get to see the old favourites of Egyptology. As hieroglyphs appear on almost everything, there is no shortage of sarcophagi and canopic jars. These are accompanied by a profusion of "shabti" mini-mummy figures that used to have a place in learned homes around the world. The famous Book of the Dead also puts in an appearance. It turns out to be neither a book nor even a fixed text, but in its different manifestations, it is at least about the dead.

Throughout the exhibition, there's an emphasis on prayers for the dead. Much of it will make the ancient Egyptians seem more "normal" about death than some of the mythology about them suggests.

 The ancient Greeks, like the Egyptians, revered cats.
The ancient Greeks, like the Egyptians, revered cats.

Visitors looking for cat mummies will be disappointed. This is too serious a show for that, although you can still see a good selection upstairs for no entry charge. There are also some statues, probably dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet. The accompanying label reveals that cat in ancient Egyptian is "mioew".

With the Rosetta Stone decrypted, there was so much valuable information suddenly available. Two hundred years on, there's a still a lot of mystery and some assumptions that don't seem entirely credible.

One such item in the exhibition is the caption accompanying a tiny mineral figure of Isis with Horus on her lap stating that the imagery was "later adapted by Christians for the Virgin and child".

In this case, no quantity of deciphered hieroglyphs is going to get to the truth of the claim. Around the world, there are countless mother-and-child images created by societies that never knew anything about the pantheon of ancient Egypt, nor how to read hieroglyphs.

Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt at the British Museum ends on Feb 19, 2023.

Follow Lucien de Guise at Instagram @crossxcultural.

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Dramatic Mirrored Orb Sits in Front of the Giza Pyramids

Pyramids Are a Dramatic Backdrop for a Mirrored Orb Inspired by Ancient Egypt

SpY Art Installation in Front of the Pyramids in Egypt

The Giza pyramids are the dramatic backdrop for a new installation by anonymous Spanish artist SpY. Inspired by Egyptian symbolism and mathematics, the piece is part of the exhibition Forever is Now II. Organized by Culturvator/Art D'Égypte, the exhibition asks artists around the world to take inspiration from Egypt's rich cultural history. In SpY's case, he looked at the logical and spiritual world of Ancient Egypt to put together his piece, ORB.

The sphere is created from a cluster of circular chrome mirrors, allowing bystanders to soak in the surrounding environment that is reflected back at them. The form is based on the number pi, which is concealed within the geometry of the pyramids. SpY, understanding the importance of geometry and mathematics in Ancient Egypt, carefully looked at the measurements of the pyramids. What he discovered is that when one divides the perimeter of a pyramid by twice its height, the result is very close to pi.

"The sphere is an invisible part of the resulting geometry since a sphere with a radius as high as the pyramid would have a circumference very close in length to the pyramid's perimeter," the artist writes in a statement.

The use of mirrors is tied to the spiritual beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. "The Egyptians believed that life in the beyond was a reflection of life on earth and it was thought that mirrors had magical properties. They also linked mirrors to the sunlight that contributes to resurrection, the regeneration of the corpse," the artist shares. "The construction of our sculpture shows these intentions. Like those mirrors, the sun, light, the surroundings, visitors will be reflected, creating a living link with the regeneration of life."

Forever is Now II, organized in collaboration with UNESCO and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, brings together the artwork of twelve international artists and will run until November 29, 2022.

ORB is a new installation by Spanish artist SpY that is set against Egypt's Giza pyramids.

SpY Art Installation in Front of the Pyramids in EgyptSpY Art Installation in Front of the Pyramids in EgyptArt Installation in Front of the Pyramids in Giza

The sculpture is inspired by Egyptian symbolism and mathematics.

Art Installation in Front of the Pyramids in GizaRainbow Over SpY Installation in EgyptGirl Taking Photo in Reflection of SpY's ORB in Egypt

At night, the mirrored sphere glows from within, adding another layer of mystery.

SpY Art Installation at Night in Front of the Pyramids              in GizaLighting Behind SpY - ORB for Forever is Now 2

The piece is part of the Forever is Now II exhibition, which runs until November 29, 2022.

SpY - ORB for Forever is Now 2

SpY: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by SpY.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she's not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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Saturday, November 19, 2022

Reminder: ARCE-NC Egyptology Lecture Dec. 11 - "A Gateway into the Desert: History, Exploration, and Cyclical Rediscovery of Wadi Tumilat"

The American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California Chapter, and the Near Eastern Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley, invite you to attend a lecture by
Dr. Aleksandra Ksiezak, University of Toronto, CSU San Bernardino:

A Gateway into the Desert: History, Exploration, and Cyclical Rediscovery of Wadi Tumilat

Sunday, December 11, 2022, 3 PM Pacific Standard Time
Room 126 Social Sciences Building (formerly Barrows Hall)
UC Berkeley

No Zoom meeting is scheduled for this lecture.

Image courtesy of Dr. Aleksandra Ksiezak

About the Lecture:

Once a distributary of the Nile, Wadi Tumilat is a dry river valley in the Eastern Nile Delta. In antiquity, the wadi was a major communication artery for trade between Egypt and her neighbours to the east, and its importance was recognized by many great strategic minds of their day. Across Wadi Tumilat are numerous archaeological sites, dating from the 3rd millennium BCE to the Late Roman Period. Accompanying them was a navigable canal—an impressive waterway that not only provided the arid valley with water but allowed transportation of goods and people in and out of Egypt. While the ancient canal and its surrounding ruins were a source of fascination for ancient geographers, and historians, and were recorded in their writings, it took centuries for these antiquities to re-emerge in the letters, reports, and memoirs of early European travellers to Egypt.

This lecture aims to summarize the history of the discovery of Wadi Tumilat and our understanding of its place in Egyptian archaeology.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Aleksandra Ksiezak is a field archaeologist, Egyptologist, and ceramicist specializing in macro-and microscopic analyses of Egyptian and Nubian pottery. She obtained her Ph.D. in Egyptology at the University of Toronto (Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations) where she focused on the analysis of the ceramic material from the Second Intermediate Period Hyksos settlement at Tell el-Maskhuta excavated by the Wadi Tumilat Project (WTP) during the late 1970s/early 80s. She is currently involved in research on the identification and study of the Middle Bronze Age trade routes involving Wadi Tumilat through the identification of imported objects and their local imitations identified at Tell el-Maskhuta and the neighbouring sites. Both her past and present research deal with the broader question of migration and mobility in Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Levant during the Bronze Age. She currently holds the position of W. Benson Harer Egyptology Scholar in Residence at California State University, San Bernardino.

Parking is available in UC lots all day on weekends, for a fee. Ticket dispensing machines accept debit or credit cards. Parking is available in lots around the Social Sciences Building, and in lots along Bancroft. A map of the campus is available online at

About ARCE-NC:

For more information, please visit,,, or To join the chapter or renew your membership, please go to and select "Berkeley, CA" as your chapter when you sign up.

New research reveals oldest Ancient Egyptian tomb orientated to winter solstice - HeritageDaily - Archaeology News

New research reveals oldest Ancient Egyptian tomb orientated to winter solstice

A team of archaeologists from the University of Malaga (UMA) and the University of Jaen (UJA), have revealed the oldest Ancient Egyptian tomb that is oriented to the winter solstice.

The tomb (designated No. 33) is located in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa, a site on the western bank of the Nile opposite the city of Aswan. Qubbet el-Hawa served as the resting place of ancient nobles and priests from the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt.

Archaeologists have identified a tomb that was oriented to the sunrise of the winter solstice, bathing the interior in light that was intended to house the statue of a governor from the city of Elephantine. The tomb was first excavated between 2008 and 2018 and is believed to be the burial place for Governor Heqaib-ankh, who lived during the XII Dynasty around 1830 BC.


Studies by UMA using Dialux Evo, software that can reproduce the position of the sun with respect to the horizon in ancient times, suggests that the Egyptians were capable of calculating the position of the sun and the orientation of its rays to design their monuments.

According to a paper published in the scientific journal, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, calculating the orientation of the funerary chapel and the location of the statue of the governor was done by using a one metre long two-cubit pole, a square and some robes.

Speaking of the discovery, a researcher from the University of Malaga said: "The tomb perfectly registered the whole solar cycle, related to the idea of rebirth. While the winter solstice meant the beginning of the sunlight victory over darkness, the summer solstice generally coincided with the beginning of the annual flooding of the Nile, hence both events had an important symbolism linked to the resurrection of the deceased governor.

University of Malaga



Header Image Credit : University of Jaen and Malaga

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Friday, November 18, 2022

In Photos: Egyptian mission uncovers remains of colonnades hall of 26th Dynasty Buto Temple - Ancient Egypt - Antiquities - Ahram Online

In Photos: Egyptian mission uncovers remains of colonnades hall of 26th Dynasty Buto Temple

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 17 Nov 2022

Remains of the colonnades hall of Buto Temple were uncovered during excavations carried out by an Egyptian archaeological mission at Tel Al-Farayeen, Kafr El-Sheikh in the northern Nile Delta.


A collection of pots used in religious rituals was unearthed along with decorated stone engravings depicting scenes that date back to the 26th Dynasty Saitie period.

The hall, has three aligned columns in ruins with a probable papyrus on the top - emblematic of the of prevailing art forms in that period - could be associated withe deity Wadjet who is the master of Buto Temple.

The mission also unearthed a limestone relief showing a deity with a bird head wearing a white crown surrounded by feathers - possibly Nekhpet or Mut.

"This is a very important discovery," said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"It shows a major part of the temple, which sheds light on the original plan of the temple and the architectural design of the surrounding area extending for 11 feddans," Waziri added.

He noted that the area was surrounded by a huge mud brick wall built during the New Kingdom.

More height was added to the wall during the Saitie period, he explained.

A small limestone shrine, pots, and vessels were also discovered in the temple area.

"The shrine might have been built to preserve small statues sacrificed for the temple," said Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, adding that excavations will continue to reveal more secrets of the site.

The mission had earlier uncovered a huge stone building with tools used in religious rituals and a collection of distinguished scenes carved in ivory and inlaid with gold and hieroglyphic engravings.

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Thursday, November 17, 2022

African Queen: an intact royal burial from Egypt reveals new insights into cultural connections | The Past

African Queen: an intact royal burial from Egypt reveals new insights into cultural connections

The identity of the ancient Egyptian 'Qurna Queen' remains a mystery over 100 years after the excavation of her intact burial. However, new research on her burial assemblage is revealing historic biases in interpretation and shedding light on Egypt's place within African culture, as Margaret Maitland explains.


A landmark year in Egyptology, 2022 marks 200 years since the decipherment of hieroglyphs, which unlocked access to ancient Egyptian written sources, and 100 years since the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, whose splendour sparked global Egyptomania. People were captivated by the golden 'treasure' of Tutankhamun's tomb, but much of its significance and enduring fascination comes from the fact that the burial was almost intact and much of it had remained undisturbed since antiquity. Relatively few time capsules like these survived the early era of European collecting in Egypt. Now, new research on another intact royal burial group from Egypt, dating to about 275 years before the burial of Tutankhamun, is demonstrating the importance of reassessing historic museum collections. The burial group of the 'Qurna Queen' (c.1600 BC), now at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, dates to a less well understood period of Egyptian history, a time of political turmoil. Recent analyses of the objects are offering new perspectives on Egypt's relationship with its southern neighbour, Nubia, in what is now northern Sudan and the southernmost area of Egypt. This dimension helps us to move on from an understanding of Egypt's ancient past that has been coloured by colonial-era biases, in particular the misrepresentation of Egypt's African context.

The rishi (meaning 'feathered') coffin of the 'Qurna Queen'. It forms part of a burial group that dates back to c.1600 BC and was discovered intact in 1908. Recent analyses of the objects are shedding new light on Egypt's relationship with Nubia.

The discovery

In 1908, an intact burial of a woman and a child was discovered by a team of Egyptian excavators and the British archaeologist W M Flinders Petrie on the west bank of Thebes (modern Luxor). They were digging in an area that had not been excavated before, to the north of the road that leads to the Valley of the Kings, which Petrie referred to as 'Qurna'. Although the burial was simple, in a mere shallow trench, the woman and child were accompanied by over 100 objects, including gold and electrum jewellery, a carrying pole used to suspend ceramic vessels in rare examples of well-preserved net bags, wooden furniture, baskets, cosmetic vessels, food, and various other items. The excavation and recording of the burial were conducted with more care and attention than was usual at the time, probably because of the fragility of some of the objects, but ultimately it was cleared in just 'around five hours'. At the time of its discovery, it was described as 'the richest and most detailed undisturbed burial that has been completely recorded and published.'

During that time, Egypt was under British military control, and finds from archaeological excavations were typically divided between the Egyptian Antiquities Service and the foreign excavation teams. The Head of the Antiquities Service did not want the burial group to be split up, so he agreed that it could go to the UK provided that it was kept together. While the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum insisted that all objects be displayed typologically, the Royal Scottish Museum (now National Museums Scotland) agreed to display the burial group together as an assemblage, so the 'Qurna Queen' came to Edinburgh.

Who was buried in the grave?

The location of the grave, near other royal burials, and the variety of objects that had been placed in it, including elaborate gold jewellery, suggest that the woman and child were members of the royal family. The coffin contained the remains of a woman, around 5ft tall, aged about 18-25. With her was the white-painted rectangular coffin of a 2- to 3-year-old child. They had been mummified but not successfully, so their remains were skeletal, but still wrapped in large quantities of linen.

IMAGE: Map based on a map of Ancient Egypt by Jeff Dahl licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

The Qurna coffin is a beautiful example of a style known as a rishi coffin, which was common in this period (c.1700-1550 BC). Rishi is Arabic for feather, in reference to the large, feathered wings that wrap around the lids of such coffins, possibly evoking the ba, an aspect of a person's spirit that could take the form of a human-headed bird. The coffin shows the owner wearing the royal nemes headcloth; a large collar; and a gilded pectoral in the form of a vulture with outstretched wings.

BELOW A photograph taken during the excavation of the            Qurna Burial in 1908.
A photograph taken during the excavation of the Qurna Burial in 1908.

The coffin was made from two whole sycamore-fig and tamarisk tree trunks, skilfully carved to fit together. The lid is gilded with gold leaf and painted with Egyptian blue and orpiment yellow. The child's coffin is much plainer, but includes planks and dowels made of east African ebony and cedar from Lebanon.

The woman's coffin has a hieroglyphic inscription in a vertical column down the centre. A name should appear at the end of this, but it was damaged and has been lost, probably because of the placement of the child's coffin on top. The length of the gap in the inscription indicates that it contained a substantial title before the woman's name. One hieroglyph provides a tantalising hint that it may have read 'united with the white crown', a title used for royal women at the time. As such, the woman has become known as the 'Qurna Queen'.

ABOVE The woman's gold necklace, earrings, and bangles,            and electrum girdle. Although the necklace and earrings went            into the burial new or little used, the bangles appear to have            been used, while the girdle may have been an heirloom. LEFT A            close-up of the damaged inscription on the coffin of the            'Qurna Queen'. RIGHT These gold necklace clasps were recycled            as stand-ins for earrings for the child.
The woman's gold necklace, earrings, and bangles, and electrum girdle. Although the necklace and earrings went into the burial new or little used, the bangles appear to have been used, while the girdle may have been an heirloom.

While the woman cannot be identified with any certainty, it is possible to narrow down who she might have been. Known royal women of this period who held the title 'united with the white crown' include Haankhes, Nubemhat, and Sobekemsaf, though there may be others who are yet unknown. They were all part of the Theban royal family and lived around the same time, with probably only a maximum of 30 years separating them.

A close-up of the damaged inscription on the coffin of the 'Qurna Queen'.

The jewellery and other objects

The 'Qurna Queen' would have been at the cutting edge of fashion in her time. She was buried wearing a magnificent gold necklace, two penannular gold earrings, four gold bangles, an electrum girdle, an electrum button, and a glazed steatite scarab. She wore very early examples of earrings, which only became common after her lifetime, via influence from Western Asia and/or Nubia. The style of bead (known as 'wallet beads') used on her electrum girdle are probably the earliest surviving examples. Scientific analysis of the jewellery was conducted using optical microscopy, X-radiography, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray fluorescence, and ion beam analysis. The earrings were found to be made of an extremely high-purity gold alloy (95.4% gold). The necklace is formed of 1699 individual gold ring-beads strung in four strands and secured with a clasp ingeniously designed to blend in completely with the ring-beads.

These gold necklace clasps were recycled as stand-ins for earrings for the child.

The necklace and earrings must have been almost entirely new or very little used when they went into the burial, while the bangles show marks indicating they were probably worn in life. The girdle displays so much wear that it may have been handed down as an heirloom.

The child wore a necklace of gold and electrum ring-beads, two gold earrings, three ivory bangles, a faience bead girdle, and faience bead anklets. The presence of the girdle suggests that the child was considered female. The 'earrings' were probably re-purposed necklace clasps, serving as stand-ins. Even though we cannot be sure about the child's identity, since their set of jewellery was intentionally assembled for the joint burial from reused and recycled elements, this suggests that it was intended to link the identities and status of the woman and child.

ABOVE & RIGHT Two views of a cow-horn oil-container            with bird-headed ivory spoon. LEFT A stone bowl decorated with            images of baboons.
ABOVE & BELOW Two views of a cow-horn oil-container with bird-headed ivory spoon.

Alongside items of exceptional wealth, the woman and child were buried with more everyday objects like baskets, bread, fruit, and even a ball of string. Numerous carved stone vessels held cosmetics, some of which are still sealed with their contents intact. A beautiful stone bowl is decorated with figures of baboons. A container made from a cow's horn is fitted with an ivory carving of a bird's head topped with a spoon and a small hole to allow the contents to flow into it. Like other examples that have been found, it apparently held some form of oil. Representations of horn containers show them being held by kneeling women, several of whom are also carrying a child. This suggests that the horn and its oil contents might have been associated with the care of pregnant women, mothers, and children.

A stone bowl decorated with images of baboons.

Why is the 'Qurna Burial' important?

The contents of the burial – over 100 objects – have fascinated researchers ever since their discovery. Because of its nature as an assemblage, many objects found in the burial have been useful in dating and interpreting similar objects in other museum collections. In particular, the burial is an important source of information about a less well understood period of history, when Egypt was politically divided between competing rulers in various parts of the country, including occupiers in the north from western Asia, known as the Hyksos. Fewer objects and texts survive from this period of political instability, which is called the Second Intermediate Period (c.1750-1550 BC) by Egyptologists. Thebes, where the burial was found, was the seat of power for kings who ruled the southernmost part of Egypt at this time. The burial group is an important source of evidence for our understanding of the Theban royal court, showing that it was not so completely isolated or at conflict with its neighbours. They still had skilled craftspeople, resources, and trade connections beyond Egypt, but they also reused and recycled, especially things that were harder for them to access at this time. The burial also tells us much about the cultural connections between Egypt and the powerful Kingdom of Kerma in Nubia to the south. A new publication on the burial aims to provide the first comprehensive reassessment since the original excavation and publication over a century ago, synthesising previous studies of the various objects in the burial alongside new research and scientific analyses.

ABOVE These six Kerma beakers from Nubia were found in            the Qurna Burial. Far left The huge temple at the centre of            the city of Kerma, known as the Western Deffufa. Left A bowl            with a painted black rim filled with dates, grapes, and            possibly peaches.
These six Kerma beakers from Nubia were found in the Qurna Burial.

Cultural connections between Egypt and Nubia

The burial of the 'Qurna Queen' contained six exquisite tulip-shaped beakers, thin-walled and highly burnished, which were made in the Kingdom of Kerma in Nubia, Egypt's nearest neighbour to the south. The presence of Nubian pottery in the grave of the 'Qurna Queen' has been used to argue that the woman was a Nubian princess who married into the Theban royal family. However, it is problematic to assume that these objects must be ethnic markers. When Mycenaean and Cypriot vessels have been found in Egyptian-style graves, they have usually been interpreted as luxury imports, but Nubian pottery in Egyptian burials has generally been viewed as an indicator of Egyptianised Nubian identity. This reveals a reluctance to recognise the desirability of Nubian material culture rooted in Egyptological bias against the rest of Africa.

The colonial attitudes of European and American Egyptologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries meant that they generally assumed that ancient Egypt must be culturally linked to Europe and more 'civilised' than the rest of Africa. The first excavator of the site of Kerma in Sudan, archaeologist George Reisner, originally assumed that it was an Egyptian colonial settlement, which has since been proven to be incorrect. Later excavations at the site of Kerma led by Charles Bonnet revealed extensive, elaborate indigenous Nubian structures and demonstrated the scale and wealth of their capital city. Scholars such as Elizabeth Minor have reinterpreted the presence of imported Egyptian objects at the site as expressions of status by the Kerman elite.

A bowl with a painted black rim filled with dates, grapes, and possibly peaches.

At the time of the Qurna Burial, Egypt itself was politically divided, whereas the Kingdom of Kerma was a powerful enough political entity that the Hyksos occupying the north of Egypt sought their alliance. Since we now know that Kerma was a powerful and influential kingdom, it makes perfect sense that their material culture would have been considered desirable in Egypt, especially the delicate and beautifully formed Kerma beakers. They were used as drinking cups and have been found in other burials in Egypt, but none boast as many as the burial at Qurna, clearly indicating that it was fit for a queen.

The Qurna Burial also contained an Egyptian-made carinated bowl with a painted black rim. This style of vessel seems to have first emerged in southern Egypt before moving northwards. It may have been made in imitation of similar Nubian vessels, further indicating an Egyptian interest in Kerma culture during this period.

The huge temple at the centre of the city of Kerma, known as the Western Deffufa. IMAGE: © Adrian Hon

Other items from the burial have been assumed to be either specifically Egyptian or Nubian, but are actually not so easily categorised. Ten net bags made from linen string were used to transport various pottery vessels to the burial, suspended from a wooden carrying pole. The survival of this cordage to such a high level of preservation is remarkable, as few examples of net bags are known from ancient Egypt. Despite the limited number of surviving examples, images from tombs suggest that net bags were fairly common and they show netting strung in a diamond-pattern similar to many of the Qurna examples.

There are five different styles of netting attested from the burial. The majority of the net bags from the Qurna Burial are made in a style of half knots grouped in a diamond-pattern. Examples of this style have been found in a number of places in Egypt, including one from the 18th-Dynasty tomb of Hatnefer at Thebes, which also has similarly plaited handles.

TOP Various net bags were found holding pottery vessels            in the burial. The two types on the left (close-knotted            diamond-pattern and herringbone-pattern) have otherwise only            been found in Kerma. RIGHT This bovine-footed stool with            original woven seat is also suggestive of Nubian influences.
Various net bags were found holding pottery vessels in the burial. The two types on the left (close-knotted diamond-pattern and herringbone-pattern) have otherwise only been found in Kerma.

But the largest number of surviving net bags come from Kerma in Nubia, including some of the most intricate types known. Two types of netting from the Qurna Burial are otherwise only attested at Kerma, including the most elaborate example. The Qurna example fits the vessel perfectly, so tightly that it appears to have been made around the vessel itself – which is Egyptian – rather than added afterwards. Arguably, the similarities between net bags from Egypt and Nubia, especially in terms of the method of knotting in half-knots, outweigh their differences. The comparison of known examples indicates that the use of net bags was a shared tradition along the Nile Valley.

Three stools were found in the burial, a further indicator of wealth, as wood was scarce in Egypt, and furniture was relatively rare. The two smaller stools are made from costly cedarwood imported from Lebanon. The largest stool has elegantly carved legs imitating cattle hooves. This was a style that had been used in Egypt several centuries earlier, before falling out of fashion, replaced by leonine feet. However, bovine-feet were used on Nubian funerary beds at this time, so this may indicate further influence from Nubia.

This bovine-footed stool with original woven seat is also suggestive of Nubian influences.

The headrest from the 'Qurna Queen' burial is a particularly graceful example made of local acacia wood with delicate inlaid decoration in imported ebony and ivory. Its octagonally-faceted pillar was common in Egypt, though at the time it would have been a relatively new style. It has always been assumed to be entirely Egyptian in style, but the triangular pattern used to decorate the pillar – alternating ebony and ivory triangles, so that each inlay forms one half of a square – is not common in Egyptian design.

While triangular ivory inlays and motifs on pottery are attested in Egyptian prehistory, they later disappeared. However, triangular motifs were common on Nubian pottery from fairly early on, right up to the time of the Qurna Burial. And at the Nubian capital city of Kerma, triangular inlays of ivory, bone, and shell seem to have been a relatively widely used form of decoration on wooden furniture and other items. So, the triangular motif may perhaps derive from a common Egyptian and Nubian artistic tradition that diverged over time and remerged during this period of increased interaction and influence. The burial of another queen of this era, Queen Ahhotep at Thebes (c.1550 BC), also features this triangular motif on the decoration of the handle of a ceremonial dagger, as well as several gold bracelets.

ABOVE The acacia-wood headrest decorated with triangular            inlays of ebony and ivory.
The acacia-wood headrest decorated with triangular inlays of ebony and ivory.

The 'Qurna Queen' may have been a royal woman of Egyptian or mixed Egyptian-Nubian heritage who appreciated and valued Nubian culture. Or she could have been a powerful Nubian woman whom the Egyptian king married to ally Egypt to the formidable Kingdom of Kerma. The results of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses of her skeleton suggests that she consumed a mixed diet, including plants common to both a Nubian diet (such as sorghum and millet) and an Egyptian diet (for example, wheat and barley). However, reassessment of the objects from the burial of the 'Qurna Queen', alongside items found in both Egypt and Nubia, demonstrates that it is impossible to categorise neatly the material culture of this period. The two cultures were entwined like the threads of a woven net bag. This and other evidence proves that cultural influence was not just a one-way flow from Egypt to Nubia, as was originally believed, but rather part of a much broader and richer cultural conversation over time.

In the past, the objects from the 'Qurna Queen' burial were displayed in the museum in Edinburgh as purely 'Egyptian', exemplifying what was to be admired about Egypt as a 'civilisation', without acknowledging how much came from or was influenced by Nubia. Our understanding of museum collections, and the past more broadly, isn't static though – it's a process, and we need to keep continually learning and reassessing past interpretations in light of new information and new perspectives. Egyptology has all too often approached Nubia as 'the other', but re-examination of the Qurna Burial suggests that there was a greater level of mutual influence between Egypt and Nubia than previously acknowledged – especially during the Second Intermediate Period – as well as a deeper shared cultural heritage across the Nile Valley.

ALL IMAGES: © National Museums Scotland unless otherwise noted
Further reading  C Bonnet and D Valbelle (2006) The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press).    K A Eremin, E Goring, W P Manley and C Cartwright (2000) 'A 17th Dynasty Egyptian Queen in Edinburgh?', KMT, 11/3: 32-40.    M Maitland, D M Potter and L Troalen (2022) 'The burial of the "Qurna Queen"' in G Miniaci and P Lacovara (eds), The Treasure of the Egyptian Queen Ahhotep and International Relations at the Turn of the Middle Bronze Age (1600-1500 BCE) (London: Golden House Publications), pp.205-233.    E Minor (2018) 'Decolonizing Reisner: A Case Study of a Classic Kerma Female Burial for Reinterpreting Early Nubian Archaeological Collections through Digital Archival Resources' in M Honegger (ed), Nubian Archaeology in the XXIst Century. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference for Nubian Studies, Neuchâtel, 1st-6th September 2014 (Leuven: Peeters Publishers) pp.251-62.    W M F Petrie (1909) Qurneh (London: Bernard Quaritch).
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