Thursday, March 23, 2017

New Discovery, Aswan: Spanish Archaeologists Discover An Intact 4000 Years Old Tomb in Aswan

Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, Head of Ancient Egyptian Department announced the discovery of an intact burial in Aswan.

The Spanish Archaeological Mission in Qubbet el-Hawa, West Aswan, has discovered an intact burial chamber. The discovered burial belongs to the brother of one of the most important governors of the 12th Dynasty (middle Kingdom), Sarenput II.

Dr. Afifi said “The discovery is “important” because not only for the richness of the burial but it sheds light on those individuals who were shadowed by others in power. In fact, there is no much information about them.”

Nasr Salama, Director of Aswan Antiquities said that the present finding is unique because it has been located with all the funerary goods, which consist of pottery, two cedar coffins (outer and inner) and a set of wooden models, which represents funerary boats and scenes of the daily life.

Dr. Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano, Director of the Spanish mission of the University of Jaen, said that a mummy was also discovered but still under study. It is covered with a polychrome cartonnage with a beautiful mask and collars in good condition of preservation.

The inscriptions of the coffins bear the name of the defunct, Shemai followed respectively by his mother and father, Satethotep and Khema. The latter was governor of Elephantine under the reign of Amenemhat II.

Dr. Alejandro Jiménez-Serrano explained that Sarenput II, the eldest brother of Shemai, was one of the most powerful governors of Egypt under the reigns of Senwosret II and Senwosret III. Apart from his duties as governor of Elephantine, he was general of the Egyptian troops and was responsible of the cult of different gods.

The director of the mission added “This discovery, the University of Jaen Mission in Qubbet el-Hawa adds more data to previous discoveries of fourteen members of the ruling family of Elephantine during the 12th Dynasty. Such high number of individuals provides a unique opportunity to study the life conditions of the high class in Egypt more than 3800 years ago.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

News: Newport News Museum Receives Ancient Egyptian Artifact

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The Mariners’ Museum and Park has received the oldest artifact in the museum’s collection!

Ancient Egyptian Artifact – Oarsman
The ancient Egyptian artifact dates to the Middle Kingdom period (2040-1802 BC) and is a hand-carved, wooden figure depicting a boatman, a museum spokesperson said.

The 6½-inch tall figure displays classic Egyptian features with large, dark-outlined eyes, a cropped black haircut, and a white knee-length covering called a shendyt. 
The boatman is depicted sitting, knees pulled into his body, with long, articulated arms capable of holding an oar.

As one of the oldest maritime cultures in the world, Egypt’s development was primarily centered on the Nile River. The first boats were built around 6,000 BC, and the Egyptians were the first culture in recorded history to employ sails as a method of propulsion.

The Egyptians also built larger wooden vessels for extended riverine travel as well as sturdy craft used for long-distance sea voyages.

By the First Dynasty (3399-2900 BC), Egyptian boats got a greater cultural significance, which led to the development of a third river craft called papyriform used for religious pilgrimages and as funerary barges, a museum spokesperson said.

“The acquisition of this delicate, ancient figure helps further the Museum’s mission of preserving the world’s maritime history,” says Jeanne Willoz-Egnor, the Museum’s Director of Collections Management and Curator of Scientific Instruments. “It enables Museum curators and educators to discuss one of the oldest and most important maritime cultures in the world using an original object.”

The object is currently going through the accessioning process. Currently, there are not any specific plans to display the object, but Museum staff hope to use it for several purposes including educational outreach and general research.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Short Story: Unveiling A Pharaoh’s Torso

The discovery of the torso of an ancient Egyptian colossus stirs a debate on the real identity and the manner in which it was retrieved. Written By/ Nevine El Aref.

International attention this week turned to Matariya, a slum area of Ain Shams. The reason:  the removal of a seven-tonne quartzite torso, part of a colossal statue which was pulled out of a muddy pit. Hundreds of local and foreign journalists, TV reporters, government officials and foreign ambassadors to Egypt gathered in the gardens of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on Friday to admire the newly discovered Matariya colossus.

During the event, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced that the colossus probably represented the 26thDynasty pharaoh Psammetick I and not Ramses II as had previously been thought. “There is a strong possibility that the colossus is of Psammetick I,” El-Enany told reporters, adding that there was a small possibility that the statue had originally been made for Ramses II but reused by Psammetick.

“Further studies of the hieroglyphics on the back of the torso will reveal more,” El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that “if the statue was originally carved for Psammetick I it would be very important as it would show how ancient Egyptian artisans had succeeded in revitalising sculpture in the Late Period.” “It would also be the largest colossus of the Late Period ever found in Egypt,” he said. The colossus is carved in quartzite and originally measured about nine metres tall. The two fragments of the colossus are now at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square for restoration and temporary exhibition until they are transported to the Grand Egyptian Museum where they will be placed on show.

 Last week morning Souq Al-Khamis Al-Gadid, which neighbours the Matariya obelisk site, was a hive of activity as Egyptian and German archaeologists prepared to raise the newly discovered torso out of the pit where it has rested for thousands of years, many of them spent submerged in ground water. The torso was fastened with padded ropes attached to a hook lift crane. Beside the pit Upper Egyptian workers from Qift prepared a mat of sand for the torso.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany was present, alongside members of parliament, ministry officials and Moushira Khattab, Egypt’s candidate for the post of UNESCO director-general. Hundreds of Egyptian and foreign journalists, photographers and TV cameras were positioned behind the pit. Residents of Souq Al-Khamis were hanging out of their windows, the better to catch a glimpse of the scene. Finally the gigantic ancient Egyptian royal torso emerged.

Local residents clapped and whistled as restorers dressed in white gowns, gloves and helmets approached the 3,000-year-old statue. “It is in a very good condition,” said Eissa Zidan, head of the Restoration Department at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). There were no scratches or other damage and the statue, he added, was skillfully carved. The lifting of the part of the colossus’ head, however, provoked controversy, leading the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) to begin an investigation into the manner in which the fragment of the colossus had been raised.

The controversy was fuelled by some Egyptologists and concerned citizens taking to social media after they were shocked by images of the statue being lifted with a backhoe. Rumours soon spread that use of the heavy mechanical digger had broken the statue.

Criticism of the ministry grew as photographs were published showing part of the colossus’ head wrapped in a blanket emblazoned with the cartoon character Spiderman, and of children playing unsupervised next to the statue and taking selfies with it. “The Ministry of Antiquities raised the sections of the statue with great success,” El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“The first part of the statue was not broken during removal. It was found in pieces,” said El-Enany. Unfortunately, the same applies to many Matariya monuments. The ancient city of Heliopolis, which is buried beneath the site, was destroyed in antiquity and subsequently used as a quarry, furnishing building materials for monuments in Alexandria and in Cairo. El-Enany was unhappy, however, with photographs “showing children playing beside the first part of the statue which was left on site without any supervision”. This was the reason, he told the Weekly, that he had ordered an administrative investigation.

“We accept any positive criticism,” El-Enany added before calling on Egyptians to work hard to present a positive image of the country in order to promote tourism.  “Unearthing the torso was not an easy task, the team was working in a very difficult condition,” Zidan told the Weekly. The colossus was embedded on its side in the muddy pit and within 30 minutes of the surrounding ground water being pumped out it had returned to depths of three metres. “We tried to lift the torso dozens of times before we succeeded,” he said... READ MORE.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Recovered Artifacts, France: New Kingdom Mummy Mask Recovered From France

The Recovered Mummy Mask. 
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities 
The mask was among items stolen and illegally smuggled out of the country in 2013. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

After four years out of Egypt, a stolen and illegally smuggled mummy mask has been returned from France.

Shabaan Abdel Gawad, the general supervisor of the Antiquities Repatriation Sector of the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the mask dates to the New Kingdsom and is carved in wood and depicts human facial features. It was stolen in 2013 along with other artefacts from the Elephantine Antiquities Galleries in Aswan, when it was subject to looting.

The mask was discovered in an auction hall in Paris in December 2016 and Egypt succeeded in recovering it after proving legal possession.

Abdel Gawad continued that the mask was sent to the Egyptian Embassy in Paris and arrived to Cairo two days ago.

He asserted that previously the antiquities ministry was able to recover two items stolen from the Elephantine Galleries and found in Britain and Germany in March 2015.

These objects, Abdel Gawad said, are an ivory statue and a wooden ushabti figurine.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Recent News, Cairo: Newly Discovered Matariya Colossus Is Probably of King Psammetich - Ministry

The newly discovered Matariya colossus most likely belongs to the 26 dynasty king Psammetich I, not King Ramses II as initially believed, says antiquities minister. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany said on Thursday that the royal colossus discovered last week in Matariya district, Cairo is probably a statue of 26 dynasty king Psammetich I not King Ramses II as believed earlier. Hieroglyphic signs and initial studies carried out on fragments of the colossus suggest that it belongs to king Psammetich I(664-610 BC)-26 Dynasty, El-Enany said.

The minister explains that the torso’s back-pillar has preserved one of the five names of king Psammetich I. "If it belongs to this king, then it is the largest statue of the Late Period that was ever discovered in Egypt," he said. This date explains the puzzling features of different ancient stylistic details since the Late Period, which is known for its archaizing art.

Dietrich Raue, the head of the German archaeological mission which participated in the discovery mission, pointed out that the colossal statue is carved in quartzite which was hailed from from Al-Gebel Al-Ahmar in what is now modern eastern Cairo. The statue originally measured about 9 meters in height. The two fragments of the statue were discovered under the water table, which made their location and extraction extremely difficult, Raue explains. The fragments were found adjacent to a heavily congested housing area, two to three meters beneath water levels.

Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Sector at the ministry, explains that both fragments were moved and successfully saved by a team of the ministry's restorers and archaeologists from Matariya Antiquities Inspectorate and skilled workmen from Qift.

Both parts and a collection of recently discovered artifacts in Matariya were transported today - with the help of the Transportation Department of Egypt’s Armed Forces - to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir for restoration and temporary exhibition. It will be later tranferred to its permanent home at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which scheduled for a soft opening in mid-2018.

Aymen Ashmawi, the head of the Egyptian mission, said the artifact that is on show with the fragments of the royal colossus includes a relief of King Ramses II. It features King Ramses II with an extended right arm, performing the ritual of anointing the representation of the cult-statue of a goddess. The goddess can be identified by other blocks from this area as Mut.

This relief was found in the remains of a second temple of King Ramses II. The temple of Matariya is well known as one of the most important sites of pharaonic religion, since it was considered to be the place of the world`s creation by the sun-god. For about 2400 years, most kings erected their monuments in the temple.

Because of the vicinity's proximity to modern Cairo, the site was heavily destroyed in antiquity, from the Late Roman times onwards to the Mameluk era in medieval times.The blocks of the temple were used to build various monuments in Old Cairo such as Bab el-Nasr and others. More monuments could be found in Matariya.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Story: Princess Tomb

The recent discovery of the tomb of an ancient Egyptian princess from the Fifth Dynasty has opened a new chapter in the saga of the Abusir necropolis, says Nevine El-Aref.

An archaeological mission from the Czech Institute of Egyptology at the Charles University in Prague, who is carrying out routine excavations on the north side of the Abusir necropolis, 30km south of the Giza Plateau, has been taken by surprise with the discovery of an important rock-hewn tomb.

The tomb belonged to a Fifth-Dynasty princess named Sheretnebty, and alongside it were four tombs belonging to high–ranking officials. An era enclosed within a courtyard. The tombs had been robbed in antiquity and no mummies were found inside them.

According to the Czech mission’s archaeological report, a copy of which has been given to Al-Ahram Weekly, traces of the courtyard were first detected in 2010 while archaeologists were investigating a neighbouring mastaba (bench tomb). However, active exploration of the royal tomb was not undertaken until this year, when it was discovered that the ancient Egyptian builders used a natural depression in the bedrock to dig a four-metre-deep tomb almost hidden amidst the mastaba tombs constructed around it on higher ground. Four rock-hewn tombs were also unearthed within the courtyard surrounding the royal tomb.

The north and west walls of the princess’s tomb were cased with limestone blocks, while its south wall was cut in the bedrock. The east wall was also carved in limestone, along with the staircase and slabs descending from north to south. The courtyard of the tomb has four limestone pillars which originally supported architraves and roofing blocks. On the tomb’s south side are four pillars engraved with hieroglyphic inscriptions stating: “The king’s daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the great god, Sheretnebty.”

Miroslav Barta, head of the Czech mission, says early investigations have revealed that the owner of the tomb was previously unknown, but that it most probably belonged to the family of a Fifth-Dynasty king. The preliminary date of the structure, based on the stratigraphy of the site and analysis of the name, Barta says, falls in the second half of the Fifth Dynasty. It is surprising that the tomb should not be located in Abusir south, among the tombs of non-royal officials, considering that most members of the Fifth-Dynasty royal family are buried 2km north of Abusir pyramid.

While digging inside Sheretnebty’s tomb, the Czech archaeologists found a corridor that contains the entrances to four rock-hewn tombs of top officials of the Fifth Dynasty. Barta says two tombs have been completely explored so far. The first belonged to the chief of justice of the great house, Shepespuptah, and the second to Duaptah, the inspector of the palace attendants. Both tombs probably date from the reign of King Djedkare Isesi.... READ MORE.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

News, Cairo: Second Half of Statue Found in Cairo's Matariya To be Lifted from Ground

The statue was found in wasteland inbetween apartment blocks on the site
of the ancient capital, Heliopolis      
          
The eight metre quartzite statue was found near the temple of Ramses II in the temple precinct of ancient Heliopolis in Greater Cairo. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The German Egyptian Archaeological mission in collaboration with the Egyptian antiquities ministry have taken measures to secure the lift on Monday of the second part of a large statue discovered in the ground of the Souq El-Khamis area in El-Matariya last week.

The first part of the eight metre quartzite statue, which the archaeologists believe could be of Ramses II, was removed from the ground on Thursday.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the ministry's Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department told Ahram Online that the team laid bedded ropes under the part of the statue set to be lifted Monday, often used with heavy antiquities.

Head of First Aid Conservation at the Grand Egyptian Museum Eissa Zidan said the team extracted a water sample where the statue was found and determined that the water was neutral to alkaline. 

This knowledge will allow the team to take the appropriate steps to preserve the statue.

The part of the statue pulled out on Thursday has been packed in treated materials, and will undergo a process of wetting with neutral water and perforation to ensure that it adapts gradually to an above ground environment.

Monday, March 13, 2017

News, Cairo: Door and Decorative Elements of Sultan Al-Kamel Al-Ayyubi Shrine Stolen

The Sultan Al-Kamel Al-Ayyubi shrine is located within Al-Imam Al-Shafie Dome, one of the largest of the Ayyubid era. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
Part of the stolen door. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities
The Sultan Al-Kamel Al-Ayyubi shrine located inside Al-Imam Al-Shafie Dome was subject to looting today when thieves got inside the shrine after cutting barbed wire that covered its window. Head of the department of Islamic and Coptic antiquities at the Ministry of Antiquities, Al-Saeed Helmi. said that the 70-centimetre tall wooden door of the shrine has been stolen as well as a number of tiny wooden decorative elements.

Helmi told Ahram Online that a detailed report about the theft was sent to Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany who in turn sent the whole case to the prosecutor general for investigation. 

The Tourism and Antiquities Police was also called on site to inspect the shrine and collect any fingerprints that could be found in an attempt to trace the criminals. Al-Imam Al-Shafie Dome is considered as one of the largest of its time, built in 1211 AD during the Ayyubid era to venerate Al-Imam Al-Shafie.

The dome has four shrines with wooden decorative structures: the first for Al-Imam Al-Shafie, the second for the mother of Al-Sultan Al-Kamel, the third for Sultan Al-Kamel, and the fourth for the family of Abdel Hakam, the family who hosted Al-Imam Al-Shafie. Al-Imam El-Shafie was one of the four great imams whose legacy on juridical matters and teaching eventually led to the Shafie school of fiqh.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

News, Cairo: Egyptologist Hawass Refutes Reports Colossal Statue Was Damaged During Excavation

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany found the massive eight-metre statue - believed to be of Ramsis II - submerged in ground-water in Cairo last week, and used a winch to recover it. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The newly discovered statue suggested to be for King Ramses II. 
Photo by Magdi Abdel Sayed
In the wake of the discovery of a colossal statue assumed to be Ramses II in Cairo earlier this week, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass refuted local media reports that charged the use of a winch to haul part of the monument out of the pit it was found in damaged the artefact.

Hawass, a former antiquities minister, told Ahram Online that using a winch was “the only efficient way” to remove the 7-ton piece of the statue from the two-metre ditch. “Souq El-Khamis area in Matariya where the statue was discovered is a very important archaeological site which does not have any complete statues, tombs or temples,” Hawass said.

Initial reports by some Egyptian media outlets had suggested that the winch had damaged the statue, or had broken it into pieces. However, according to ministry officials, the statue was discovered already in pieces.

Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany found the massive eight-metre statue submerged in ground water last week, which they say probably depicts revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

The discovery, hailed by the antiquities ministry as one of the most important ever, was made near the ruins of Ramses II's temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis, located in the eastern part of modern-day Cairo in the working-class neighbourhood of Matariya.

Head of the newly discovered statue of king Seti II. 

The site was subjected to deterioration and damage during Egypt’s Christian period because the area was used as a quarry for constructing other buildings, Hawass said. “It is impossible to find any complete full-sized statue,” Hawass said, adding that any statue that would be uncovered in the future will be found in pieces, like this one.

He argued that the Matariya area, a poor suburb of Cairo, suffers from three main problems. Its modern residential houses were built on top of the remains of ancient Egyptian temples and tombs which are submerged in subterranean water extended from two to four metres deep. “This is a fact that made it too difficult to transport or remove any of the blocks [from these structures].”

Hawass told Ahram Online that he called the German excavation mission head, Dietrich Raue, who sent him a complete report on the excavations with photographs revealing the lifting process. “The transportation and removal process of any heavy colossus like the one discovered is carried out in collaboration with the head of workmen from the upper Egyptian town of Qift who are skilled and very highly trained in such work,” Hawass said.

Hawass explained that similar workmen work in the Saqqara necropolis and belong to the El-Krity family, who have been able to transport and lift up a large number of huge sarcophagi and colossi that each could reach 20 tons.

Hawass also said that the newly discovered statue definitely belongs to the 19th dynasty king, Ramses II, because it was found at the entrance to his temple. He noted that the area, in which he had carried out excavations, held the remains of temples belonging to pharaohs Akhenaton, Thutmose III and Ramses II. “I am very happy to hear about such a discovery because it will not only reveal a part of ancient Egyptian history but it will also help promote tourism to Egypt,” Hawass said.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Discovery, Cairo: New Discovery Reveals Grandeur of Oun Temple in Ancient Heliopolis

The newly discovered statue suggested to be for King Ramses II. 
Photo by Magdi Abdel Sayed
A quartzite colossus possibly of Ramses II and limestone bust of Seti II were discovered at the ancient Heliopolis archaeological site in Cairo. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany witnessed on Thursday the lifting of two newly discovered 19th dynasty royal statues from a pit at the Souq Al-Khamis district in the Al-Matariya area of greater Cairo.

The statues were found in parts in the vicinity of the King Ramses II temple in the temple precinct of ancient Heliopolis, also known as “Oun,” by a German-Egyptian archaeological mission.

El-Enany inspects a part of the newly discovered statue.
Mahmoud Afifi, Head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities at the Ministry said that what has been found of the first statue is an 80cm tall bust of King Seti II carved in limestone with fine facial features. 

The second statue was found in large pieces. It appears to have been 8 metres long and carved in quartzite. 

"Although there are no engravings that could identify such a statue, its existence at the entrance of King Ramses II’ temple suggests that it could belong to him," Afifi told Ahram Online.

Aymen Ashmawy, Head of the Egyptian team on the mission described the discovery as "very important" because it shows that the Oun temple was enormous with magnificent structures, distinguished engravings, soaring colossi and obelisks. 

Regretfully, he said, the temple suffered damages during the Graeco-Roman period, and most of its obelisks and colossi were transported to Alexandria and Europe. 

Head of the newly discovered statue of king Seti II. 
During the Islamic era, the blocks of the temple were used in the construction of Historic Cairo.

At the site, El-Enany said the parts of the statue that appears to be associated with Ramses II will be transported to the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) for restoration and display when the museum opens. 

El-Enany said the newly discovered artifacts would be placed, meanwhile, in a temporary exhibition at the Egyptian Museum.

Head of the German mission Dietrich Raue said excavations would continue in search of other statues and artefacts that could reveal more of the ancient sun city’s secrets.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

New Discovery, Luxor: Statue of Amenhotep III, 66 of Goddess Sekhmet Unearthed in Luxor

Headless statue of goddess Sekhmet. Photo courtesy of The Colossi of Memnon
and 
Amenhotep III  Temple Conservation Project
The discoveries shed further light on what the eighteenth dynasty pharaoh's temple would have looked like. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project has discovered a magnificent statue in black granite representing king Amenhotep III seated on the throne.

Project director Hourig Sourouzian told Ahram Online that the statue is 248cm high, 61 cm wide and 110cm deep. It was found in the great court of the temple of Amenhotep III on Luxor's West Bank.

"It is a masterpiece of ancient Egyptian sculpture: extremely well carved and perfectly polished," Sourouzian said, adding that the statue shows the king with very juvenile facial features, which indicates that it was probably commissioned early in his reign.

A similar statue was discovered by the same team in 2009 and is now temporarily on display in the Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art. When the site's restoration is complete, Sourouzian said, the pair of statues would be displayed again in the temple, in their original positions.

The Left - statue of goddess Sekhmet standing with the papyrus slogan in
 her hand. The Right - statue of goddess Sekhmet sitting. 
Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ministry of Antiquities Ancient Egyptian antiquities department said the team has discovered up to 66 parts of statues of the goddess Sekhmet this archaeological season. These statues represent the goddess sitting or standing holding a papyrus sceptre and an ankh — the symbol of life. On many of these statues the goddess' lion head is preserved. Other pieces include busts, heads detached from their bases, as well as several other parts.

Sourouzian said this series of statues was found during excavation between the ruined temple's Peristyle Court and the Hypostyle Hall, as archaeologists searched for remains of the wall separating the two areas.

"The sculptures are of great artistic quality and of greatest archaeological interest, as they survived extensive quarrying of the temple remains in the Ramesside Period, after a heavy earthquake toppled the walls and the columns," she told Ahram Online.

A collection of statues depicting goddess Sekhmet in situ. 
Photo courtesy of The Colossi of Memnon and 
Amenhotep III  Temple Conservation Project
As her name indicates (derived from Sekhem, meaning "might"), the lion-headed Sekhmet is a powerful goddess who protects the sun god against his enemies. King Amenhotep III commissioned hundreds of statues of the goddess for the temples he constructed in Thebes.

In his funerary temple particularly, which was called the "temple for millions of years," the great number of these statues was intended to protect the ruler from evil and repel or cure diseases.

"All of these statues of the goddess will be placed back in their original setting as soon as the site is restored," Sourouzian said.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Short Story: Crowds Descend on Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel was abuzz with Ramses fever this week as the sun’s rays penetrated through his temple to illuminate the pharaoh’s face 200 years after its discovery. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

A crowd of over 4,000 people descended on Abu Simbel 280km south of Aswan on Wednesday to witness a phenomenon that only takes place twice a year. On 22 February and 22 October every year, the sun’s rays travel through the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel to illuminate the face of a statue of the pharaoh.

Despite the cold weather, visitors stayed awake all night waiting for the sunrise, entertained by a musical troupe performing Nubian folkloric songs and dances as well as other troupes from Indonesia, Greece and India.

The atmosphere was joyous, as hibiscus and tamarind drinks were sampled along with stuffed dates served on large, coloured bamboo plates. The sound of music filled the dry night air, as women, men, boys, and girls in colourful Nubian garb danced to the rhythm of the duf, a kind of tambourine, while other foreign dancers in traditional costumes danced to their music.

Archaeological chief inspector Hossam Aboud said the celebrations took place every year and that people from neighbouring villages often flocked to Abu Simbel to attend. According to Aboud, couples have even been known to plan their weddings on the day. One couple had chosen to have their wedding ceremony within the temple itself, he said.

Beit Fekry, the house of a Nubian citizen called Fekry, was also buzzing with people who had come to celebrate the sun’s alignment in their own way. They danced to Nubian music and moved in rows backwards and forwards.

At 3am, people began to reserve their seats at the foot of the monumental temple. At 6:25am, the sun struck the innermost wall of the temple’s sanctuary, illuminating images of the right arm of the god Re-Horakhti, the face of Ramses II, and the right shoulder of the god Amun-Re, leaving only the god Ptah in darkness. Twenty minutes later, the temple was dark again.

Afterwards, a Swiss tourist who had come to witness the festival and celebrate 200 years since Abu Simbel’s discovery told Al-Ahram Weekly that although the event was “great it was also difficult because people had to position themselves so as not to obstruct the sun’s rays and move quickly so that others could see.” He said he had been so wrapped up in being careful that he had almost not been able to see the event.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, said people sometimes wrongly confused the event with Ramses II’s coronation or birth, while it was actually the way the ancient Egyptians identified the beginning of summer and winter in order to alert farmers to the start of the cultivation season or harvest.

The two Abu Simbel Temples were built by Ramses II (1279-1213 BCE) to demonstrate his political clout and divine backing to the ancient Nubians. On each side of the main temple, carved into a sandstone cliff overlooking the Nile’s second cataract, sits a pair of colossal statues of the pharaoh.

Though the statues have been damaged in earthquakes since their construction, they remain an awe-inspiring, tremendous sight. The temple is aligned to face the east, and above the entrance sits a niche with a representation of Re-Horakhti, an aspect of the sun god.

In the early 1960s the temple was moved to higher ground, a task requiring considerable international resources, when the building of the Aswan High Dam caused Lake Nasser to fill and inundate the area. For this reason, the sun now strikes a day later than originally planned, though the event itself is no less stunning.

This year, the event also marks the celebration of 200 years since the discovery of the Abu Simbel Temples by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who died shortly after his discovery, and his colleague Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni.

To highlight this in advance of the gala ceremony to be held in October, the ministry organised a photographic exhibition in the area’s visitor centre that related the history of the temples since their discovery in 1817. The exhibition was inaugurated by ministers of culture Helmi Al-Namnam and of antiquities Khaled El-Enany.

Hisham Al-Leithi, head of the Antiquities Registration Centre, told the Weekly that the exhibition put on show a collection of 50 vintage photographs showing the temples covered with sand, while others showed their excavation. Other photographs showed the salvage operation of the temples in the 1960s and their relocation and reconstruction at their current location in the desert on a 65-metre artificial hill above the High Dam to protect them from the waters of Lake Nasser.... READ MORE.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Recent News: Hollywood Star Will Smith Visits Egypt's Giza Pyramids

Smith and his family with Hawass before The Sphinx. 
Photo courtesy of Hawass
The actor and his family admired the sun rise on Giza Plateau with Egypt's Zahi Hawass. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Famed American actor Will Smith and his family arrived in Cairo early this morning and paid a visit to the Giza Plateau where they met renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who guided the family on a tour around the Sphinx and inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Hawass discussed with the Smiths the secrets of the Khufu Pyramid and the latest discoveries being uncovered at the plateau.

The former minister of antiquities told Ahram Online that Smith and his family enjoyed admiring the sun rise on the plateau, learning about ancient Egyptian civilisation and taking photographs before the Sphinx.

Smith and Hawass have been good friends since 2006 when they were selected among Time magazine's top 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.

Hawass told Ahram Online that Smith is from Philadelphia, the city where Hawass received his PhD. Hawass and Smith enjoyed breakfast together in a luxury hotel overlooking the plateau and planned to meet again for dinner. Smith received an Oscar nomination for portraying Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007.

News: Ismailia Museum Celebrates 83rd Anniversary - Two Monuments To Be Restored

Ismailia museum 
Yesterday, the Ismailia Museum celebrates its 83th anniversary, with further restoration works in the area to be undertaken soon. Written By/ Nevive El-Aref.

In an attempt to promote tourism, the Ministry of Antiquities celebrates yesterday the 83rd anniversary of Ismailia Museum. The celebration was to be inaugurated noon by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Ismailia governor Major General Yassin Taher.

Elham Salah, head of the Museums Department at the ministry, told Ahram Online that the celebration would include a number of sportive activities for children, a lyre (semsemeya) musical performance, and lectures on archaeology. A documentary summarising the history of the museum since its construction in 1934 is to be screened.

Ismailia Museum was the second museum to be constructed in Egypt after the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo. The idea of its establishment started in 1911 when a French mission led by archaeologist Jean Kilda unearthed a collection of sarcophagi at Qantara-East city.

The relief of king Ramses II 
The Sphinx
Ismailia Museum opened in 1934 in a building constructed in a style inspired by the Greco-Roman architecture. The collection displays 3,800 objects from the Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman eras unearthed in the course of construction work on the Suez Canal 1859 and at other sites in Ismailia, Suez and Port Said cities.

Distinguished artifacts such as a collection of statues, scarabs, stelae and columns and records of the first canal built between the Bitter lakes and Bubastis by the Persian ruler Darius are also on show. The highlight of the museum is the large and beautifully preserved Roman floor mosaic depicting Phaedra sending a love letter to her stepson Hippolytus, while below Dionysus rides a chariot driven by Eros.

El-Enany is to also embark on an inspection tour around three monuments in Suez that will soon see restoration works. These monuments are the Mohamed Ali Pasha Palace at Al Khour area in Suez city, the Suez Canal Authority edifice in Ismailia, and the Abbas Helmy II mosque in Ismailia.

Thé Suez Canal Authority building
Ahmed El-Nemr, member of the Scientific Office of the antiquities ministry, told Ahram Online that the Mohamed Ail Palace was built to be Mohamed Ali's residence when following up on army forces during his war against the Wahhabis in the Saudi Arabia. It is a two-storey house with a wooden dome at its eastern roof.

The Suez Canal Authority building was built by Fernand de Lesseps and consists of a basement, a ground floor and a first floor with 120 rooms. The Abbas Helmi II mosque was built in 1898 for Khedive Abbas Helmi II and has a collection of very distinguished arcades.

El-Nemr said that the mosque was restored and inaugurated in 2013, adding that both the palace and the edifice of the Suez Canal Authority are in a very bad state of conservation and that a restoration project for them would be implemented soon.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Short Story: 5 Animals You Didn't Know Were Important In Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egyptians valued animals and insects in a way that seems very alien to us today.

In modern day Egypt, animals are given very little attention and even less social importance. This hasn’t always been the case as ancient Egyptians rooted their understanding of the creation of the universe in the natural elements (earth, air, water fire) and observable wildlife.

It is widely thought that ancient Egyptians worshiped animals, but this is largely a misconception. They looked to their surroundings to learn about divine laws, and it was believed that animals held the godly knowledge they needed to lead successful lives. This is why we see the gods depicted in animal forms.

Ancient Egyptians valued animals and insects in a way that seems very alien to us today.  Their deep respect and appreciation for all creatures, even ones that could threaten their safety, is a reflection of how holistically they saw the world around them. 

Of course, we've all heard of cats, jackals and falcons in ancient Egyptian mythology and daily life, but have you heard of these 5 other animals?

1. The Fly
It is likely that the fly was seen with as much disdain as we have for it today. After all, it spreads disease, hovers annoyingly and is generally a source of disturbance. But, ancient Egyptians were able to see past these traits and recognize the fly's persistence and courage.

Kings awarded golden fly amulets in the New Kingdom to distinguished people as part of the Order of Valor. 

This golden fly amulet was given in recognition of fierce persistence and bravery in the face of enemies. Think about that next time you swat a fly!

2. The Cow
Like the Hindus, ancient Egyptians recognized divinity in cows. The cow goddess, Hathor – a name that roughly translates to “House of Horus” – is associated with feminine love and motherhood.

When Hathor is not depicted as a cow-headed woman, she is frequently shown in cow-form standing protectively over the king, or suckling an infant king from her udder. 

She is the mothering force guarding Horus and each of his earthly manifestations.

3. The Scarab
The dung beetle or scarab, is an image we associate regularly with ancient Egyptian culture, but what does it actually signify?

The dung beetle would find a ball of dung, lay its eggs inside it, push it around with its hind legs until it grew to be several times its size. It would then find an appropriate area to bury the dung. From the depths of the earth, baby dung beetles would emerge.

This process caught the ancient Egyptians’ eye. The dung beetle was linked with the heavenly process of rebirth and regeneration and so became the representation of Khepri (the solar god) on earth. The sun would be rolled across the sky every morning by Khepri, and buried every night, only to appear again the next morning.

4. The Baboon
Thoth, god of the moon and writing, is presented in relation to two animals, the ibis bird and the baboon. While the curvature of the ibis’ beak resembles the lunar crescent, its movement while searching for food in the ground mimics that of a pen writing. 

The baboon was deified because of its human-like appearance and intelligence. It is often shown in texts directing the tasks of scribes and with the moon disk on its head.

Interestingly, the baboon was also considered to be a supporter of the sun god Ra. This is because of the baboon's barking at the rising sun in what appeared to the ancient Egyptians as an act of worship.

5. The Goose
It's possible that the early morning squawks of geese helped establish their place in ancient Egyptian creation stories.

It is said that Amun (the hidden creator god) was incarnated as the original goose, the Great Shrieker (or the Great Honker), whose squawk was the first sound in creation.  

The Great Shrieker lays the world as an egg in another version of the story.