Monday, March 29, 2010

False Door from Vizier's Tomb Discovered

Originally published March 29, 2010 | Yahoo! News and AP | An announcement about the very recent uncovering of a false door near the Temple of Karnak at Luxor of a royal 15th century B.C.E vizier. As with many ancient Egyptian artifacts, particularly those that are brick-like, it was reused for another building project during the Graeco-Roman Era. Although there is a picture of the find, I'd like to see a bigger one that showcases the inscriptions. It would be great practice for those, like me, who are currently studying ancient Egyptian. Should I find a great photograph of the false door, I shall post it here for the benefit of scholars and enthusiasts alike. For now, here is a decent picture where you can kind of make out the hieroglyphic signs, which is the typical offering formula you find on many funerary scenes:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Role of Women in Egypt's History Lecture - My Review

"What does Egypt have to do with Chicago?," you might wonder. I certainly do not, as I have come to know the rich cultural connection between this beautiful city and an ancient one and the many Egyptological opportunities that proliferate through its haunted streets and heavily embellished theaters, some having been frequented by the most infamous gangsters, from Dillinger to Capone. However, Chicago has cleared itself (mostly) clean of its corrupt history and has welcomed programs, events, and celebrations that have cultivated it into an Egyptological hot-spot, boasting names (both fictional and real) like Indiana Jones and Rick O'Connell; mystery writer, Elizabeth Peters; and Dr. Emily Teeter, whom you may have seen give commentary on the Discovery and History channels.

As evidence of the aforementioned, there had taken place just recently a free lecture entitled The Role of Women in Egypt's History, as given by Ambassador Nihad Zikry, Assistant Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs. Although it wasn't entirely about ancient Egypt, a subject that she used to introduce her presentation, it did give me an appreciation for modern Egyptian women like her who have been raised in a country - like so many others - where the advancement of women has been a slow process. It was the perfect presentation to attend on International Women's Day, indeed. There were quite a few men in attendance too - I brought one of them with me.

Ambassador Zikry started her presentation off with saying that the important role of women is not a newly acquired achievement; women throughout all history and cultures have consistently exhibited this endeavor, this inevitable desire. After all, "in ancient Egypt, the deity of wisdom was a woman, not a man." I'd have to disagree with that statement, as Thoth is the chief deity of wisdom. However, there are many powerful female deities worth a mention. You have Seshat, consort of Thoth (how appropriate that she's his counterpart), the goddess of writing, lady-scribe to the pharaohs and all Egyptian kings throughout Dynastic Egypt, Mistress of the Books. Without her skill and duty to write the names of the newly crowned rulers on the leaves of a sacred tree to preserve forever their names, they wouldn't've been known to their successors. Then you have Ma'at and Shai, goddess of social and religious order, truth, and justice and goddess of fate, respectively, key players during the Weighing of the Heart Ceremony. Without these goddesses, Osiris, his Four Sons, and the 42 Judges would have been unable to determine fairly the outcome of a decedent's otherworldly trial, leaving the dead person unadmitted into the Afterlife. It's very interesting indeed that Ambassador Zikry mentioned that the highest position a modern Egyptian woman has attained is a judge, when you consider that, in ancient times, women were portrayed as deities of judgment. Finally, there are the Seven Hathors, septuplets with the power of foresight, the ability to determine the future of a newborn Egyptian child's life, particularly it's death. You can add to that list as many Egyptian goddesses as you wish. Those are my contributions.

Ambassador Nihad Zikry also spoke briefly of Hatshepsut, how she took up the highest achievement any ancient Egyptian could attain at the time - that of king. I append the following pre-Dynasty 18 queens to the list of powerful Egyptian women, who mostly like reigned as king in their own right: Mer-Neith of Dynasty 1, Ni-Ma-et of Dynasty 3, Sobek-Neferu of Dynasty 12, Ah-Hotep I of Dynasty 17, and quite possibly Tiye and Nefertiti of Dynasty 18. As a side note, I'd add that this achievement has never been neither matched following her long and prosperous reign or her predecessors' reigns, nor allowed ever again until Cleopatra VII, who had to commit many sinful acts to maintain that power (I don't blame her). Following Dynasty 18, with help from Djehuti-Mes III, kings/pharaohs never called their wives "God's Wife of Amun" again, as it was a powerful title, one that made royal queens practically, if not actually, equal to their kings in status.

These are just reminders that women can be as successful in higher positions as men are, even if they don't think, feel, or express themselves in similar ways. So, to all women of the world, if a man tries to throw religious dogma or prejudice in your face as justification for being superior, you make sure you give him a lecture on the "reasons" their opinion is unjustified.

Man fears time, time fears the pyramids, the pyramids fear Mother Nature.

Related Links:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lecture - The Tomb of Sennedjem: Little Jewel in the Beginning of Spanish Egyptology

Accessed March 18, 2010 | Instituto Valenciano de Egiptología | Join Marina Escolano, out of the EES and Durham University (among many other places), at the Royal Agricultural Society and Sports (C / Comedy, 12 - Valencia) on May 27 at 7:30pm for a free lecture she will be presenting on the tomb of Sennedjem, the discovery of which included a Spaniard, Eduard Toda i Güell. This announcement is in Spanish; click here to access an English translation. The link above gives a brief intro to TT1 and a nice description about my friend, Marina. Congratulations on your Fulbright scholarship!

Organic Preservation - a Petrie Museum Video

Originally published March 23, 2010 | UCLMuseums YouTube Channel | A short video documenting an intern's conservation efforts on some shabtis figures. If you frequent YouTube, perhaps you might subscribe to UCLMuseums' channel.

The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus Online

Accessed March 23, 2010 | US National Library of Medicine | For those passionate about papyrology and the ancient Egyptian writing system, here's an amazing find on the web: the Edwin Smith Papyrus, a digitized image and interactive experience that lets you unroll this medical papyrus and read it (if you are so inclined). There is also additional information about this historic document. Talk about preserving the past. Now we can enjoy this artifact repeatedly without having to worry about contributing to its deterioration.

KV63 - an Update from Jane Akshar

Originally published March 19, 2010 | Luxor News | by Jane Akshar | Jane details the latest about KV63: excavation work, restoration, etc. Follow the above link to read more. Here's an excerpt:

Otto opened the lecture by reminding us that whatever KV63 finally turns out to be it will always be the first tomb discovered since the tomb of Tutankhamen. It started with a search for foundation deposits for the tomb of KV10. Excavation revealed 2 huts to the west and 10 huts to the east. These were used by the workman who lived in the valley and filled with ostracha and other artifacts. Theodore Davies had excavated the east most huts 10, 9 and 9a but left the central area. Under hut 5 they found KV63. Consisting of a single chamber with a stack of 8 coffins and 28 huge storage jars. This season they have been working on restoration of the coffins and the contents of the jars. Within these jars they have found natron, pots, textiles and the ‘embalming bed’ that is now in the mummification museum.

Solving the "Blue" Mystery - New Kingdom Pottery

Originally published March 17, 2010 | Washington University in St. Louis | by Diana Lutz | An excerpt:

What was she doing in the tunnel?

The answer: seeking an uncontaminated sample of a mineral that might have been the key ingredient in the blue used to decorate "blue painted pottery" popular among the Egyptian elite during the New Kingdom (1550-1079 BC).

Colleague Colin A. Hope, PhD, an expert in blue painted pottery, had asked if she wouldn’t help him pin down the source of the blue pigment by sampling and analyzing material from the mine.

Hope and Smith, together with Paul Kucera, a doctoral student at Monash University in Australia who first identified the mines, describe the pottery, the mines and the mineral in a chapter of Beyond the Horizon, a festschrift for the Egyptologist Barry A. Kemp

New Statues Found at Kom el-Hettan

Originally published March 21, 2010 | Zahi Hawass' Blog | by Dr. Hawass | Press release announcement from Zahi Hawass about the unearthing of two red granite statues of King Amenhotep III and of the god Thoth near the Pharaoh’s funerary temple at Kom el-Hettan on Luxor’s west bank by an Egyptian team. Includes a photo and related links.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Avenue of Lost Sphinxes to be Unveiled Soon

Originally published March 14, 2010 | Times Online | by Matthew Campbell | I have a love-hate relationship with this endeavor - that of uncovering and restoring the Avenue of the Sphinxes. I commend the restoration work, but wish the effort wasn't a rushed affair. It's archaeology - it should be a slow process, not only to take care with ancient artifacts, but to avoid making mistakes (historical and ethical). Yes, it's a great future touristic hot-spot, but catering to tourism should come second to good archaeology.

The following is an excerpt:

A HIDDEN wonder of the ancient world is to be unveiled in Egypt after excavation of the first stretch of a two-mile avenue lined with hundreds of carved sphinxes.

Built more than 3,000 years ago, the so-called Avenue of Sphinxes linked two giant temples and was used once a year for a religious procession. It was gradually buried by silt and built over after falling out of use in the 5th century AD.

Now it is being uncovered and the first part is expected to open within weeks. Visitors will have the chance to stroll under the imperious gaze of the sphinxes — mythological creatures with the body of a lion and head of a human or ram.


Controversy has surrounded the project, not least because of the speed of the excavation in which bulldozers have cut a 100-yard trench through some of the densely populated districts of Luxor.

Foreign archeologists say historical buildings have been demolished to make way for a lucrative new attraction.

Video - Behenu's Burial Chamber

Accessed March 13, 2010 | Reuters | This is a nice video documenting the recent discovery of Queen Behenu's intact burial chamber at Saqqara. Whereas before (in articles announcing the discovery) you couldn't really see the beautiful inscriptions, you can with this video. If you have a minute or two, I encourage you to watch it.

Excavations in the Valley of the Kings

Originally published March 14, 2010 | Zahi Hawass' Blog | by Dr. Hawass | An excerpt:

One of the most famous sites in Egypt has always been the Valley of the Kings, which has revealed to us such wonders as the tomb of Tutankhamun. However, all of the major discoveries of the past were made by foreign archaeologists. I was determined that Egyptian archaeologists should become part of the process of excavation and discovery, so in November 2007, the first all-Egyptian team to ever work in the Valley began excavating the area behind the tomb of Merenptah.

In the cliffs behind the tomb we discovered channels that the ancient Egyptians dug to redirect the “tears of the gods,” the flood, in order to preserve the tombs. In the course of our excavations, we recorded many new graffiti in the Valley and found many ostraca, which are pieces of limestone or pottery with drawings and inscriptions. The inscriptions found were very interesting, including a picture of an old lady, the cartouche of Ramses II and many descriptions and other things.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Burial Chamber of Ancient Egyptian Queen Unearthed

Originally published March 3, 2010 | Yahoo! News and AFP | For all of you hieroglyphic inscription fans, this find should be a fascinating one for you (it is for me). Recently discovered in Saqqara was a burial chamber of an obscure Old Kingdom Queen. The following is an excerpt from this article at Yahoo! News:

"We are excited because the texts are well conserved," he told The Associated Press, adding that the queen's titles were written on the walls of the 33 by 16 foot (10 meter by 5 meter) burial chamber inside her small pyramid.

The text is primarily concerned with protecting the queen's remains and her transition to afterlife.

Collombert called the queen "mysterious," and said it was not clear whether she was the wife of King Pepi I or II, two long-ruling pharaohs of the Sixth Dynasty.

Another source reporting on the same news can be found at Reuters and my favorite place to frequent on the web, Heritage Key.