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Sunday, July 30, 2023

July Updates – South Asasif Conservation Project

Today's updates are brought to you by Abdelrazk Mohammed Ali, Marion Brew,, and Ken Griffin. They will discuss our latest discoveries and reconstructions in the tomb of Karakhamun.

BD 100 Vignette, Second Pillared Hall, Karakhamun. Reconstruction in progress.

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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Karnak's open-air museum gets a tourist-friendly facelift: Ministry - Ancient Egypt - Antiquities - Ahram Online

Karnak's open-air museum gets a tourist-friendly facelift: Ministry

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 20 Jul 2023

The Karnak Temples' open-air museum near Luxor has been given a facelift to make it more appealing to tourists, according to statement by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Karnak s open-air museum
The work was completed within the framework of the National Tourism Strategy, which aims to enhance the visitor experience at museums and archaeological sites in Egypt.

The project, which started two months ago, improved the site by installing new seats, sunshades, and signage to provide visitors with required information and direction.

It also replaced paving tiles that have gone missing over past decades and improved mobility for disabled people.

New artefacts were also added to the open-air museum to enrich its display. Among them are objects from the reigns of King Akhenaten (c.1350 BC) and King Shabaka (705-690 BC) and others that date back to the Late Period (664-332 BC).

The open-air museum is located in the northwest corner of the Karnak Temples. It brings together a magnificent collection of monuments that were found scattered due to archaeological excavations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As it was impossible to rebuild them in their original location, the open-air museum was established in 1937 to preserve the blocks and architectural elements found and rebuild them there.

Now, the museum displays a collection of distinguished monuments. Among them are the red quartzite Red Chapel from the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (c.1478-1458 BC), the shrine of King Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC), columns from the reign of King Thutmose IV (c.1400-1390 BC), two alabaster chapels belonging to kings Thutmose I (1506-1493 BC) and Thutmose II (1493-1479 BC) as well as a large Talatat limestone wall from the reign of King Akhenaten.

The museum also features a collection of ancient Egyptian slabs as well as remains of portico and architectural elements from different edifices that once graced the temples.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

ARCE-NC Pottery Practicum by Dr. Carol Redmount, Aug. 13, 2023

The American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California Chapter, and the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Berkeley, invite you to attend a workshop presented by Dr. Carol Redmount, UC Berkeley:

Pottery Practicum

Sunday, August 13, 2023, 3 PM Pacific Daylight Time
Baer-Keller Library, Social Sciences Building
(formerly Barrows Hall)
UC Berkeley

Limited attendance (20); send registration requests to
This is an in-person event only; it will neither be Zoomed nor recorded.

Dr. Carol Redmount at the El Hibeh excavation site

About the Practicum:

Ever wonder why and how an archaeologist deals with ancient pottery? In this hands-on practicum we will look at these questions and review some of the issues relating to the basic study of ancient Egyptian pottery.

Dr. Carol Redmount is a field archaeologist who teaches Egyptian archaeology at UC Berkeley. She has been excavating in Egypt for many years and also has archaeological experience in Tunisia, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, and the U.S.

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.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

In a first, Egypt to use AI in mummy restoration - Egypt Independent

In a first, Egypt to use AI in mummy restoration 

Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in cooperation with the Atomic Energy Authority, is set to launch the first workshop of its kind in Egypt that uses nuclear, radiological and artificial intelligence techniques for the restoration and documentation of ancient mummies and other human remains.

The workshop is organized by the Department of Restoration of Mummies and Human Remains.

Lasting for three days, the workshop will be held with the participation of a group of experts and specialists from the authority, the ministry, and the Faculty of Archeology in Cairo University.

The head of the Central Department for Maintenance and Restoration at the ministry, Manal Abdel-Moneim, said that the Atomic Energy Authority's laboratories have state-of-the-art technologies for examining, maintaining and analyzing human remains without harming them.

She added that the Artificial Intelligence Division of the Atomic Energy Authority will assist the restorers in performing their duties.During the workshop, the technologies used will be explained in an extensive manner by scientists within the authority.

The director of the Mummies Restoration Department, Rania Ahmed, stated that the use of AI technology in this field is of major importance, as it keeps pace with the latest scientific developments and allows for a non-invasive method of examining these mummies, thereby preserving Egypt's heritage.

She said that this marks the first time in Egypt that AI technology will be used on mummies and human remains, and added that it will go beyond preparing videos or reconstructing faces as it will also be used in restoration work.

Ahmed explained that training sessions will take place on the use of AI in the restoration field.

She added that programs will be reviewed which can help the restorer to evaluate the process of restoring mummies and human remains before work even begins.

Restoration workers can use a special program on a laptop or on an iPad to take pictures of the available bones of the remains, which can then be set-up through the program.

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Monday, July 17, 2023

Egyptian Museum in Tahrir shines spotlight on ancient pharaonic capital of Pi-Ramesses - Museums - Antiquities - Ahram Online

Egyptian Museum in Tahrir shines spotlight on ancient pharaonic capital of Pi-Ramesses

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 17 Jul 2023

The Egyptian Museum in Tahrir is hosting a temporary exhibition that sheds light on the archaeological excavations of the ancient city of Pi-Ramesses, which served as the capital during the reign of King Ramses II, in the eastern Nile Delta.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and Frank Hartmann, German ambassador in Cairo, as part of the cooperation between the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and Roemer Museum in Hildesheim, Germany.

The exhibition, titled "Qantir – Pi-Ramesses: A Century of Excavations & Research in the Ramesside Residence," will run through mid-October.

It features a collection of artefacts discovered over the past century around what is now the modern village of Qantir. They include those unearthed by renowned early Egyptian archaeologists Mahmoud Hamza and Labib Habachi. In 1980, German archaeologists from the Roemer Museum continued excavations in the same area in collaboration with the SCA.

A collection of artefacts that were stored in San Al-Haggar archaeological site in Sharqiya governorate are also on display. "This collection will be exhibited permanently at the Egyptian Museum in a special display after the completion of the temporary exhibition," Waziri pointed out.

Among the most distinguished objects on display are statues and inscriptions for the early kings during the 19th Dynasty (1292-1189 BC), such as kings Seti I and Ramses II. Also on display are architectural elements and the items that represent the ancient Egyptians' daily life during this period.

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Sunday, July 16, 2023

Egyptian Hieroglyphs in Late Antiquity, with Jennifer Westerfeld -

Egyptian Hieroglyphs in Late Antiquity, with Jennifer Westerfeld


A conversation with Jennifer Westerfeld on the scripts used to write ancient Egyptian, especially hieroglyphs. Their last attested use was in the 390s AD, ending their long history in our period. Meanwhile, Greek, Roman, and Christian observers were developing their own theories about how the script worked, often quite fantastic, and reacted to texts inscribed in public spaces.

Jennifer Westerfeld is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Louisville, where she specializes in the cultural and religious history of late antique Egypt, Coptic epigraphy, and papyrology. The conversation is based on Jennifer's fascinating book Egyptian Hieroglyphs in the Late Antique Imagination (University of Pennsylvania Press 2019).

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Friday, July 14, 2023

Antiquities Coalition founder: ‘This isn’t just about your history being stolen’

Antiquities Coalition founder: 'This isn't just about your history being stolen'

Antiquities Coalition                        founder: 'This isn't just about your history being                        stolen'
The Golden Coffin of Nedjemankh on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, following its repatriation from the US. (AFP)
  • Inside the multi-million-dollar industry of trafficking in ancient artifacts 

LONDON: When Kim Kardashian attended the Met Gala in 2018, little did she know she was about to trigger a global investigation into the illicit trade in antiquities. The image of her next to a gold sarcophagus of the high-ranking Egyptian priest Nedjemankh went viral and soon attracted the attention of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. An investigation into its provenance followed, leading prosecutors to the 2011 Egyptian revolution.  

During the unrest, the sarcophagus had been looted from Minya in Upper Egypt, smuggled to Paris, restored, and eventually sold to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for $4 million.

One of an almost identical pair of ivory carvings known as the Lion of Nimrud, another artifact on the Antiquities Coalition's most-wanted list. (Supplied)

"The Met purchased the item at a time when there were reports of looting in Egypt after the 2011 revolution," says Deborah Lehr, the chairman and founder of the Antiquities Coalition. "If they had simply Googled the provenance records, they would have known it was falsified, as the export license was dated 1971 and bore the stamp 'Arab Republic of Egypt', which was not the name of the country at that time."

The coffin was returned to Egypt in February 2019.   

Louvre museum director Jean-Luc Martinez in 2020. (AFP)

The unravelling of the mystery surrounding the gold sarcophagus provoked a global investigation into the trade in stolen antiquities. In May last year, Jean-Luc Martinez, a former president and director of the Louvre in Paris, was charged with complicity in fraud and money laundering. All charges relate to the trafficking of antiquities from Egypt and were upheld by a French appeals court in February. Martinez denies any wrongdoing.   

Among the deals under investigation is the acquisition of a stone stele (slab) depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun, which was purchased for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2016. That slab is believed to have been sold to the museum by Lebanese-German gallerist and art dealer, Roben Dib, and French antiquities expert Christophe Kunicki. Both were involved in the sale of the gold sarcophagus to The Met in 2017.  

Deborah Lehr, the chairman and founder of the Antiquities Coalition. (Supplied)

According to Lehr, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but gauging the true scale of the problem is difficult. The Antiquities Trafficking Unit within the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which was established in 2017, estimates that the total value of its seizures to date is over $375 million. Those seizures include 180 relics surrendered by the billionaire hedge fund tycoon Michael Steinhardt in 2021, valued at $70 million, which included artifacts stolen from Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. Steinhardt had also previously owned a bull's head from the Phoenician temple of Eshmun in Saida, which had been snatched from a facility in Byblos during the Lebanese Civil War. The head ended up at The Met and was repatriated to Lebanon despite legal challenges from its owners, Lynda and William Bierewaltes, in 2017.   

"That's just one market," says Lehr, who is also the CEO of Edelman Global Advisory and vice chairman of the Paulson Institute. "For many years, it was viewed as a victimless crime by the big galleries, a lot of the auction houses, and the dealers. It was viewed as, 'Nobody will notice, and if they do it's just the price of doing business to return it.'" 

An alabaster stone inscription from the Temple of Awwam in Yemen, one of the AC's 'most wanted' items. (Supplied)

 The opposite is, in fact, true. Not only does the theft of antiquities rob communities of future economic opportunity around archaeological sites, it helps to fund entities such as Daesh. "They had a ministry of extraction," explains Lehr. "One division was focused on oil and one division was focused on antiquities because they realized it was a very profitable business. They even had their own auction house." It is because of its impact on national economies and global security that the Antiquities Coalition says a whole-of-government approach, as well as international cooperation, is necessary to combat cultural racketeering.  

"Nobody listens to the minister of antiquities," says Lehr. "They're the weakest in the system. So if you want to address anything, it's got to go to the ministry of foreign affairs, to defense or finance. You've got to get it onto their radar. Once it's there, it gives us a chance to start to put the legal structures in place and to raise awareness. And we found as soon as we could talk to those people and show them that this isn't just about your history being stolen, this is about economic opportunity, this is about some of the unrest that you're seeing, then we got their attention. Then we started working with them and changing the legal structure, so at least if a crime is committed, they can address it." 

France's Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak. (AFP)

Previously a negotiator for the US government on intellectual property rights with China, Lehr's interest in the illicit trade in antiquities was piqued by its blending of history and foreign policy. It was while working as a negotiator that she and her team began to painstakingly break down smuggling patterns. They found that the networks often began with local organized crime gangs working from lists supplied by dealers who, in turn, collaborated with academics, who knew what antiquities might be found in a particular area. 

"They're smuggled out, so you have professional smugglers who one day will be smuggling drugs, one day women, one day cigarettes, and one day antiquities," says Lehr. "That process is often very similar and then it gets specialized at the middleman." Middlemen such as Douglas Latchford, a British art dealer who was accused of trafficking looted Cambodian relics and falsifying documents in 2019. Although charges of wire fraud, smuggling and conspiracy were brought against him in New York, they were dismissed following his death in 2020. In June this year, Latchford's daughter agreed to forfeit $12 million derived from the sale of stolen antiquities. She had previously returned 125 statues and gold relics to Cambodia. 

"We're not opposed to the antiquities trade, we're just opposed to the trade in illegitimate items," says Lehr, who formed the Antiquities Coalition in 2011 as an NGO dedicated to safeguarding the world's heritage from cultural racketeering. "And it's very hard sometimes to tell the difference. So we're trying to work with institutions to encourage certain practices, including for auction houses, dealers and museums to have rigorous provenance research units." In the wake of the scandal surrounding the Louvre, France's Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, announced the formation of a commission to look into the legal framework and procedures relating to the acquisition of works. In May, The Met announced it was to hire a team dedicated to provenance research.  

Lehr is also hoping that stronger penalties will be implemented for those found guilty of cultural racketeering. In the case of the Hobby Lobby scandal, in which representatives of the US-based arts and craft retailer knowingly falsified records for the import of Iraqi artefacts, a $3 million settlement was agreed upon. In contrast, Steinhardt, who is 82, only received a lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.  

"We are hoping that we will see some prison time in the near future because that is really what you have to have as a deterrent," Lehr says. 

Two antiquities from the region on the coalition's 'Most Wanted' list are the Lion of Nimrud, which was looted from the Iraqi national museum in 2003, and an alabaster stone inscription from the Temple of Awwam in Yemen. The coalition is also working with governments across the Arab world to bring about meaningful change. It pushed for the 2016 signing of a memorandum of understanding between the US and Egypt, which restricted the import of certain archaeological relics, and works with the ministries of culture in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to raise awareness — AlUla is, after all, one of the world's largest archaeological sites, and Dubai has (historically at least) been a transshipment point for the trade in illegal antiquities. Saudi Arabia is also seeking to play a leadership role in the fight against cultural racketeering and in the development and training of Arab archaeologists.  

"Even though I don't think Saudi Arabia or the UAE consider that they have a looting issue, they do have heritage to protect and being leaders on this issue is so important," says Lehr. "The steps that they take around their collecting, and how they're handling the excavations, is so important in setting an example, not just in the region, but globally."

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X-ray scans reveal 'hidden mysteries' in ancient Egyptian necropolis paintings | Live Science

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Archaeologists Armed With Analyzer Change Paradigm of Ancient Egyptian Art - Archaeology -

Archaeologists Armed With Analyzer Change Paradigm of Ancient Egyptian Art

Artifact analysis is usually done in labs, leaving tomb art sadly short of scientific scrutiny. Now, archaeologists have brought the tech to the tombs and are changing our thinking on how pharaonic wall art was made

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Inside the tomb of Menna, part of the Theban Necropolis. Credit: Oved Cohen

Archaeologists Armed With Analyzer Change Paradigm of Ancient Egyptian Art

Artifact analysis is usually done in labs, leaving tomb art sadly short of scientific scrutiny. Now, archaeologists have brought the tech to the tombs and are changing our thinking on how pharaonic wall art was made

Ruth Schuster

"No, no, no. His arm is in the wrong place," the master of artwork in a tomb in the Theban Necropolis about 3,300 years ago rebuked some miserable underling.

Or maybe the master kindly said nothing and personally handled the fix. Or maybe the master made the mistake – we can only speculate. But in any case, the position of a high official's arm in the painted tomb chapel of Menna by the Nile was painted, and then changed forever more.

Not by much, but it was – which flies in the face of assumptions about the rigidly structured process of creating ancient Egyptian wall art, according to research published Wednesday in PLOS ONE. The study was conducted by Philippe Martinez of the Sorbonne University in Paris and colleagues at the University of Liège, who analyzed the tomb art with the help of a mobile chemical imaging device.

Actually, the repositioning of Menna's arm is visible to the naked eye if one is observant. The final arms are colored brick red, while the errant one was whited out like a typo.,1351,x0,y0&height=804&width=1429
Look closely at the man's left arm. Behind is is the 'ghost' of the originally painted arm

Credit: Oved Cohen

The change may not have been noticeable back in the day, but it is now, thousands of years later, possibly due to chemical changes in the paints they used. The correction of the arm's position was, however, proved by a groundbreaking technological development: bringing portable chemical imaging technology to the necropolis to view the walls in situ.

Generally, ancient wall paintings are analyzed, insofar as they are, at museums or academic labs. After all, one does not typically lug advanced machinery to the field. So they hardly ever are, leaving the art "somewhat estranged from this primary physical understanding," as Martinez and the authors put it. Throughout, this was one of the most amusing papers this author has ever read.

In this case, the technology was brought to the art, enabling on-site analysis of paint composition, layering, and the chemical composition of pigments. It also permitted the researchers to identify alterations in the two sites the team chose to check, both tombs from the Ramessesan II period.

"The Pharaonic Civilization offers the most extended cultural continuity of the ancient world. Its highly formalized painting style is easily recognized," the authors write, adding that the consistency over centuries has been assumed to stem from an organized, regulated – in a word, rigid – workflow.

The system was thought to have worked like this: Sketch on the smooth plaster wall in ocher, maybe on a grid; apply background; then add color, layers, and a final outline. Cover up any colors that spill beyond the outlines with white.

But archaeologists have previously found examples of post hoc alterations, prompting the suspicion that apprentices, mistakes, and alterations were part of the Egyptian artistic process after all. The tomb of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut bears 200 almost-identical engravings of variable quality.

Presumably, they should have been identical, indicating a range in the skillsets of the artisans. Analysis also noticed retraced chisel lines, indicating fixes there too.

But this may have happened more frequently than thought; in fact, with their mobile machine, Martinez and the team identified additional substantial artistic alterations in the tomb of Nakhtamun, chief of the altar under Pharaoh Ramesses II, about 3,100 years ago.

The thing is that until now, Egyptian art has been studied almost entirely by visual observation. Now the team could dig deeper without moving a molecule for the first time, permitting speculation as to why the fixes were made. They also write that the alterations found to date could be the "tip of the iceberg."

Menna's extra arm

Menna wasn't a pharaoh or even a royal. He was a scribe and an official in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, unusually serving dual religious and administrative roles. He was buried in an elegant tomb in the Necropolis of Thebes.

The multiple rooms leading to the burial chamber were sumptuously decorated, using themes from his professional life and depictions of his anticipated transition from powerful official to influencer in the afterlife. His tomb was found in 1888.

The altered arm position appears in a scene showing Menna and his wife, the noblewoman Henuttaw, adoring the god Osiris. It shows Menna raising his hands (all three, really) before his face. The third arm, presumably drawn earlier, was whited out. But it positively blazes with fluorescence under the device's ultraviolet light, while the final arms look black, the archaeologists found using their mobile chemical imager.

Why the concealed arm fluoresces is chemically unclear. It's possible that the paint contained a specific ingredient or degradation product that reacted to the rays.

In any case, the archaeologists confess that they have no idea why the correction was made. That conundrum remains "frustratingly puzzling because the factual reasoning behind this alteration remains difficult to define precisely." The change is very slight, they point out, and it doesn't seem to change Menna's stance, but there it is.

The team qualifies that they can't say when the alteration was made – whether during the initial painting process or later – let alone who was dissatisfied with the initial arm position. Based on the cohesion between the white overlay and the background, the indication is that the correction was done during the initial stage of decoration.,2316,x0,y0&height=1379&width=1429
Artwork depicting Anubis weighing the hear in the tomb of Nakhtamun.

Credit: Nina M. Davies / The Metropolitan Museum of Art

There's a snag in that theory, though: the pigments aren't the same. But conclusions must remain elusive for the nonce. Chemicals in the lower layer could have reacted with chemicals in the upper one, the authors point out. Tomb decoration would involve many people; the modifications may indicate that it was built and decorated over quite some time.

They also point out the conclusion of separate work: that the paintings in Menna's tomb were split between masters and less-skilled artisans. In the case of Hatshepsut's tomb décor, there, too, the teams suspect that apprentices handled some of the figures and did the kind of job that apprentices do, requiring repairs.

The pharaoh's scepter

We move to the burial of Nakhtamun, whose tomb features a portrait of Ramesses II. The archaeologists explain that they were particularly intrigued by the fact that Ramesses' portrait shows a protrusive Adam's apple, unique in the known annals of Egyptian art. This prompted them to seek other weirdness.

Analysis of pigment layers and chemical signals shows the pharaoh's scepter began its career much broader than it wound up; initially, it would have touched or almost touched the figure's chin. The pharaonic crown also seems to have been changed, and mainly, his necklace appears to have been replaced outright.,900,x0,y0&height=536&width=1429
Art depicting Nakhtamun's funeral procession in the tomb of Nakhtamun.

Credit: Nina M. Davies / The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The visible neckwear is the famed wesekh type of necklace – a flat collar, common during the 19th dynasty. But analysis of arsenic distribution in the paint layers indicates, possibly, the initial illustration of a shebyu necklace consisting of chains of gold beads, typical of the earlier period of Amenhotep III (whose reign began 3,390 years ago) and Amenhotep IV, but not in the reign of Ramesses II (which began 3,279 years ago).

The team elaborates on what the hypothetical shebyu might indicate, including speculatively, "when the anachronistic or symbolically problematic nature of this piece of jewelry was recognized, the original composition was adjusted and simply repainted, in a fashion that made the former shebyu necklace completely invisible to the naked eye." But not invisible to their mobile chemical imaging device.,2400,x0,y0&height=1429&width=1429
Collar-type shebyu necklace

Credit: BOOCYS/

At the end of the day, Martinez and the team do not purport to have a clue why the pharaoh's portrait was retouched; maybe there is deep significance, or perhaps it was due to lousy initial composition.

So what have we? The ancient Egyptians were thought to have worked on their art in a rigid fashion that is being repudiated, most recently by bringing advanced technology to their tombs, in a huge step forward for – well, still not understanding.

"One can also note that seemingly meaningless corrections recently revealed on sculpted decoration at the Ramesseum, in places that are rather inaccessible even to the naked eye, show that we remain clearly ignorant of what was really important and significant for the ancient Egyptian eye and mind," the team clarifies. But the technology has proven its worth., the online English edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, gives you breaking news, analyses and opinions about Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

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