Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Discovery, RED SEA: Medieval-Era Graffiti Discovered In Cave In Upper Egypt

The newly discovered text in the Red Sea governorate 
The cave is thought to have been used by pilgrims and travelers. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An Egyptian mission has stumbled upon a cave in Upper Egypt which contains Medieval-era Arabic graffiti. The cave was discovered during an archaeological survey carried out at the archaeological sites located in the area known as the Golden Triangle in the Red Sea governorate.

Deputy Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Abdellatif told Ahram Online that studies reveals that the cave was a rest house for pilgrims, traders and passengers who used it to protect themselves from the hot weather during their trips from Egypt to Mecca or Palestine.

During their stay in the cave, said Abdellatif, they carved graffiti on the walls, some of which remain while others have disappeared due to erosion.
The newly discovered text reads: No God except Allah.
The ministry is now studying the possibility of putting the cave on the official list of antiquities sites in an attempt to protect it, as well as restoring the texts.

Mohamed Tuni, an archaeologist at the governorate’s Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department, said that the texts are composed of two sections. The first reads: "there is no God except Allah" while the second reads: "God has returned the poor slave Youssef Bin Hatem Al-Shati to his family in 755 of Hegira. May God have mercy on him and his parents and all the Muslims. Amen."

Tuni describes the texts as unique within the Golden Triangle area, which consists of the cities of Safaga and Qusseir at its base with the Upper Egyptian city of Qena at the top.

News: 'Cairo Pass' Available For Foreigners to Visit all Archaeological Sites in Cairo And Giza

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities is now issuing visitor’s passes for foreigners to visit all archaeological sites and museums in Cairo and Giza Governorates. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The “Cairo Pass” costs $80 for foreign tourists and $40 for foreign students, and provides access to Islamic, Ancient Egyptian and Coptic sites for unlimited visits over a five-day period, according member of the Technical Office of the Assistant Minister of Antiquities Mostafa Elsagheer.

Elsagheer says the move comes as part of the ministry’s efforts to promote archaeological sites and increase its financial resources.

The pass can be obtained at the Cultural Relations Department at the ministry headquarters in Zamalek, as well as at ticket outlets at the Giza Plateau, the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir and the Citadel of Salah El-Din.

Assistant of the Minister of Antiquities for the Development of Financial Resources Eman Zeidan explains that foreigners can obtain the pass by showing their passport or a student card with picture ID.

Last year, the ministry issued the “Luxor Pass” under two categories.

The first – which costs $200 for tourists and $100 for students – includes all sites and museums in Luxor including the royal tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I.

The second category is half the price and includes all sites excluding the aforementioned royal tombs.

The Annual Visitors Pass, meanwhile, includes all open archaeological sites and museums across Egypt, with several options available. The first is for foreign diplomats and foreigners who work in international and multinational companies in Egypt. The annual pass costs $240 excluding the tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I, and $340 including the two royal tombs.

The annual pass for Egyptians and Arab residents in Egypt to visit all the country’s sites and museums costs EGP 400, or EGP 100 for university students. School trips and Egyptians over 60 are allowed free entry.

Monday, July 17, 2017

News, Cairo: AUC Hands Over to Egypt 5,000 Artifacts From Past Archaeological Excavations

The American University in Cairo is to transfer nearly 5,000 Islamic, Coptic, Pharaonic, Greco-Roman artifacts to the possession of the Egyptian state. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Coins
AUC has been in legal possession of these antiquities since the 1960s, ensuring their preservation. “Though we legally possessed these artifacts and scrupulously preserved and protected them over so many years, we took the initiative to transfer these important antiquities to the Ministry of Antiquities because we felt that this should be their rightful home,” said AUC President Francis J Ricciardone. “Egyptology has been one of AUC’s most beloved fields over many years. In collaboration with the ministry, we have always strived to advance the field globally, through both our scholarship and our demonstration of responsible stewardship,” he added.

Former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass commended this collaboration. “I am thrilled to know that AUC gave its antiquities collection to the Ministry of Antiquities as a gift,” said Hawass, who had officially stated in 2011, while serving as minister, that all artifacts in AUC’s storage were registered and documented with the ministry.

An Islamic clay lamp
The nearly 5,000 pieces were registered and reviewed in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities. They date from a time when archaeological material, after a stringent review, did not have to remain exclusively in the hands of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities).

The bulk of the materials consisted of fragments of everyday pottery, such as bowls, ulnas, jars and lusterware vessels. Most of the materials could be dated back to the 10th and 11th centuries. Some of the objects in the collection had been legal gifts to the university. 

“The materials from the excavation often seem humble, but they help fill in the blanks to understand what people ate, their social class and trade in the region,” said Distinguished University Professor Salima Ikram and head of the Egyptology unit at AUC’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology.

Clay fragments 
“The pots, for example, can point to how people lived and the technologies used at the time, and can demonstrate artistic influence on ceramic production and decoration.”

Specifically, AUC acquired most of these artifacts during joint excavations in the Fustat area led by the late George Scanlon, professor emeritus in AUC’s Department of Arab and Islamic Civilisations who became a prominent name in the field of Islamic archaeology. “George Scanlon’s work at Fustat was invaluable, as it set the stage for Islamic archaeology in Egypt,” said Ikram. 

“He and his colleagues helped create the discipline, fusing art history, archaeology and texts in an effort to understand the administrative, sacred and secular lives of the inhabitants of Fustat, one of the first Muslim capitals of Egypt.”

Ikram had reviewed the Pharaonic materials in AUC’s possession, while Scanlon was responsible for the Fustat materials. The objects were regularly checked against the list made by AUC and the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation. “The Fustat objects had already been catalogued by Dr Scanlon, who excavated them, so they were fully recorded,” said Ikram. The discovery of these artifacts was shared between Egypt and the American mission at that time.

A ceramic tile 
After this excavation, the diverse antiquities were brought to AUC, and the university came to legally possess these artifacts in accordance with the Egyptian Antiquities Law No 215 for 1951, which previously allowed foreign excavations in Egypt to keep 50 percent of their findings. The remaining 50 percent of the artifacts went to the Egyptian state. Throughout AUC’s period of custody over the collection, the materials were kept under close surveillance, and were securely stored to prevent damage. The special storage room, locked behind two secure doors, was equipped with protected cupboards to ensure the safekeeping of the materials.

The same committee from the Ministry of Antiquities responsible for the recent handover had collaborated closely with AUC over the years to conduct reviews of the collection twice a year, keeping records of the inventory and maintaining photographic documentation.

In May 2017, the Ministry of Antiquities assigned a special committee to review the inventory of antiquities at AUC, comparing it to its own government records. They worked with AUC’s Office of Legal Affairs to ensure that all antiquities were preserved and documented in the handover. “This [transfer] is incredible news, and I hope that any institution that owns antiquities not shown in museums would give them back,” said Hawass.

“AUC President Francis Ricciardone will be remembered in history because of his courage, power and honesty to take this decision,” Hawass added.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Discovery, Alexandria: Mosaic Floor From Roman Period Uncovered in Alexandria

An Egyptian archaeological mission uncovered a Roman floor mosaic during excavation work in the Moharam Bek district of Alexandria. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities uncovered a Roman floor mosaic during excavation work at the Hend area in the Moharam Bek district of Alexandria.

Aymen Ashmawi, the head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section, explained that the floor mosaic is unique in Egypt but similar mosaics have been found in several areas in Rome, including the Baths of Trajan and Hadrian’s Villa. He said that the floor was in good condition.

Mostafa Roshdi, director of Alexandria and West Delta Antiquities, said that excavation work is continuing at the site in order to reveal more parts of the mosaic floor, and that comprehensive studies will be carried out on it.

Mohamed Farouk, director of Middle Alexandria Antiquities Department, told Ahram that the newly discovered floor bears an opus spicatum design which was well-known during the Roman period and used in the construction of the floors of baths and fortresses.

Egyptologist Mohamed Abdel-Aziz said that the Hend area was once home to workshops, and a large number of glass and clay ovens have been uncovered.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany has visited the site and given the go-ahead to continue the excavations and uncover more parts of the floor.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

News: EgyptAir Removed From Laptop Ban

Two and counting down: EgyptAir announced Wednesday that it had been removed from the March laptop ban for carry-on bags to the U.S.

The announcement left two airlines – Royal Air Maroc and Saudi Arabian Airlines – as the only remaining among nine airlines targeted by the Department of Homeland Security for the prohibition against electronics larger than cellphones. 

Those two have each said they expect to get off the list by July 19.

Kuwait Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines were removed Sunday. Etihad, Emirates, Turkish and Qatar airlines were removed last week.

The department adopted the ban because of intelligence about terrorists getting better at hiding explosives in electronics. 

But the department said airlines could be removed from the prohibition against electronics larger than cellphones if they met tougher security measures announced June 28.

The standards are aimed at both detecting explosives hidden in electronics and thwarting airport workers from smuggling bombs aboard planes. 

The measures apply to 180 airlines flying to the U.S. from 280 airports in 105 countries.

If airlines don’t meet the standards, they could ultimately face a laptop ban for carry-on and checked bags on flights to the U.S.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

News, Cairo: Three Islamic Monuments Inaugurated in El-Moez Street

Three edifices from the Mameluke, Ottoman and Ayyubid eras were inaugurated Monday in Historic Cairo after intensive restoration. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany along with Cairo Governor Atef Abdel Hamid and other high-ranking government officials and foreign ambassadors flocked to El-Moez street in Medieval Cairo to inaugurate three Mameluke, Ayyubid and Ottoman edifices.

Before cutting the red ribbon, the dignitaries, along with Archbishop of St. Catherine's Monastery Demitry Demianos, stood for a moment of silence on the stairs of the Sabil-Kuttab of Mohamed Ali in memory of the Egyptian officers and soldiers who were killed in a terrorist attack on Friday in Rafah, North Sinai.

Other officials present included Local Development Minister Hesham Al-Sherif as well as the ministers of culture and religious endowments and directors of foreign archaeological institutes in Egypt.

The inauguration tour started by the Sabil-Kuttab (public water fountain and Quranic school) of Khesru Pasha before moving to the Qubbet (Dome) Nagm El-Din Ayyub and finally Mohib El-Din El-Tayeb Hall.

The Ceiling of Khesru Sabil Kuttab
"Restoring these three monuments was part of a national campaign launched by the Ministry of Antiquities in 2015 to restore 100 monuments in Historic Cairo," El-Enany told Ahram Online.

He added that the newly inaugurated edifices are the first batch of a restoration campaign that includes seven monuments. The four still being restored include Maqaad Mammay Al-Seify, Al-Salihiyya Madrassa (school) Saeed Al-Saadaa’ Khanqah and the Abul Dahab monumental complex.

The ministry has allocated EGP 9 million to restore these seven. Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director-general of Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project explains that the first three monuments were like other Islamic ones in heavily populated areas like Al-Moez street: suffering from ill use by area inhabitants, excess subterranean water leaking in, and cracked walls.

The Al-Tayyeb Hall
Now after two years of work, he said, the edifices have regained their original grandeur. The sabil-kuttab of Khesru Pasha is one of the most beautiful Ottoman sabils with a sabil on the first floor and the kuttab on the second.

Al-Sultan Al-Saleh Negm El-Din dome is a rare example of a significant period in Egyptian Islamic history, when the Mamelukes took the Egyptian throne from the Ayyubids. The dome, he explains, was built by Shagaret Al-Dor as a burial place for her husband Al-Sultan Negm Al-Din, the last Ayyubid ruler. It consists of a large hall with a wooden sarcophagus in the middle and two other halls holding a kuttab and a small mosque.

Sherif Fawzi, coordinator of the El-Moez street project, said that the Moheb Al-Din Abul-Tayyeb Hall was originally the reception hall of a palace built during the 14th Century. During the 1940s, the palace was severely damaged when work began on Beit Al-Qadi road. The hall was the only section left intact in the stunning palace.

Today, it is a vast square visitor hall with a large mashrabiya façade. A marble water tap decorates the center and overhead is a fine wooden ceiling ornamented with colourful foliage and geometrical drawings. To the left is a small passage leading to a bathroom with a vaulted ceiling.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Short Story: The Myth of Red Mercury

The myth of red mercury, a substance supposedly found in the throats of ancient Egyptian mummies, is still widespread in Egypt, writes Zahi Hawass.

The stories of tomb robberies are amazing but also tragic. The robbers do not realise that by cutting scenes and reliefs out from ancient temples and tombs they are damaging not only the history of Egypt but also that of the world as a whole.

During the 25 January Revolution, Egypt went through difficult times. On 28 January 2011, over 1,000 people sneaked into the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. That night, the police had left Cairo and the city did not have a single policeman on the streets. We have to thank God for saving the museum, because the people who sneaked inside it did not find the gold room or the room containing the golden mask of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

When we entered the museum the next day, we found many gilded statues thrown on the ground. But the museum as a whole was saved because the mummy room was locked and the building was dark, so the robbers could not find its location. If these people had found the mummy room, the royal mummies could have been destroyed.

“Red mercury”, one of the things the robbers may have been looking for, is a mythic substance for many Egyptians. They believe that in the throats of mummies there is a liquid called red mercury. If someone possesses this liquid, he or she will be able to control the spirits and become rich. Of course, there is no such thing as red mercury, but many people still believe in it all over Egypt. A daughter of a friend of mine called me one day and said that her father had held a zar (a kind of religious ceremony) at his house and brought in a Moroccan magician who had made her father believe that he could summon up the djinn, or spirits, to provide him with red mercury.

The secretary of an Arab prince also once called me and said the prince would like to meet me. I agreed. The prince came and said that he would make the story short. “My mother is very sick, and we have taken her to doctors in Egypt and all over the world, but she is still sick. A sheikh who lives near us told me that the remedy for my mother was in the hands of Zahi Hawass.” I did not know what to say, because I did not understand why he was telling me what he was saying. “I am an Egyptologist and not a doctor,” I said.

A few months later, he called me one evening and said he wanted to see me. On his arrival he said, “I have $100,000 in my bag. If you will give me some of the liquid you have, I have the same amount at my hotel.” I realised that he was referring to red mercury. I told the prince that there was no such thing as red mercury. I found out from the prince that the reason he had come to me was because I had been working on a major excavation called the Valley of the Golden Mummies in the Bahareya Oasis and had found a large cemetery full of mummies dating to the Roman period and covered with gold.

The people of Bahareya had become rich because of the production of wine, and it was wine that everyone in ancient Egypt wanted to drink in the afterlife. The discovery of the mummies happened by accident when the antiquities guard of the Temple of Alexander the Great in the Oasis had been riding his donkey whose leg fell into a hole. He looked inside and saw mummies covered in gold. We excavated the discovery, which the foreign press called the “Tutankhamun of the Greek and Roman Period”... READ MORE.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

New Discovery, South Sinai: Sixth Century Medical Recipe Uncovered in St Catherine's Monastery

The medical recipe uncovered is one of the renowned Greek physician Hippocrates. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Newly Discovered Manuscript
In a ceremony held at his ministry's headquarters, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany announced the discovery of a very important medical manuscript uncovered by the monks of St Catherine's Monastery in South Sinai during restoration works carried out in the monastery's library.

The ceremony was attended by Greek Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media Nikos Pappas, the Archbishop of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Egyptian Cultural Minister Helmy El-Namnam,  Egyptian Minister of Communication and Information Technology Yasser El-Kadi, Egyptian Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashid, and South Sinai Governor Major General Khalid Fouda.

Mohammed Abdel-Latif, assistant minister of antiquities for archaeological sites, explained that the discovered manuscript is one of those known as "Palmesit" manuscripts, dating to the 6th century AD. The manuscript is written on leather and bears parts of a medical recipe of the renowned Greek physician Hippocrates.

The manuscript has also three other medical recipes written by an anonymous scribe, one of which contains drawings of medicinal herbs of the Greek recipe.

The second layer of writing found on the manuscript is a text of the Bible known as the "Sinaitic manuscript," which spread during the Middle Ages.

Ahmed Al-Nimer, supervisor of Coptic archeology documentation at the ministry, told Ahram Online that "Palmesit manuscripts" are a very well-known type of manuscript written on leather and formed of two layers. The first one, he explained, was previously erased in order to be re-written on the leather again. "This was done due to the high cost of leather at that time," Al-Nimr pointed out.

The monastery of Sainte Catherine's contains many "Palmesit" manuscripts in addition to a library containing 6,000 manuscripts, among them 600 manuscripts written in Arabic, Greek, Ethiopian, Coptic, Armenian and Syriac. They are mainly historical, geographical and philosophical manuscripts and the oldest dates to the 4th century AD.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

News, Cairo: Roof of Ottoman-Era Cairo Mosque Reinforced After Partial collapse - Ministry

Marzouk Al-Ahmady in Gamaliya district has been closed to worshippers because of the collapse. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
Ottoman-Era Cairo Mosque 
The Marzouk Al-Ahmady Mosque in the Al-Gamaliya district of medieval Cairo has been reinforced by the antiquities ministry after the collapse of part of the roof.

Mohamed Abdel-Latif, the deputy minister of antiquities, told Ahram Online that the partial collapse was due to the impact of erosion elements and heavy rain over a period of time.

An archaeological committee led by El-Saeed Helmy, the head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Section at the ministry, has inspected the mosque and closed it to worshippers due to safety concerns.

Helmy said that there were plans to restore the mosque, which dates to the Ottoman era, but it has not yet been implemented due to lack of funds.

According to Article 30 in the antiquities law, he pointed out, the Ministry of Religious Endowments is required to fund the restoration.

The mosque contains the mausoleum of a clergyman from Yemen. It also boasts a distinguished minaret that combines Ottoman and Egyptian architectural styles.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

News, Esna: Al-Maala Necropolis Site in Upper Egypt is Scientifically Documented

The archaeological documentation of Al-Maala necropolis in Upper Egypt was carried out. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Al-Maala Necropolis
The Antiquities Documentation Centre has completed its project to document Al-Maala necropolis, which is located in the town of Esna in Luxor governorate.

The necropolis is a very important archaeological site because it was the official cemetery of the rulers of the third nome of Upper Egypt during the Third Intermediate Period. Hisham El-Leithy, the director general of the centre, explained that the documentation work was carried out by an Egyptian mission from the centre.

Al-Maala is the second site in the town of Ensa to be subject to the process; Esna temple was the first. The documentation project, he explained, aims to record information about every inch of every monument in Egypt according to the most up-to-date scientific and archaeological techniques.

“The actual documentation methods will consist of computer-data sets, plans and sections, as well as photographs, drawings and illustrations, recording forms, logbooks, site notebooks, diaries and dive logs,” El-Leithy said. He added that GIS systems, 3D reconstructions, applications that support on-site recording processes, modern measuring techniques and data-processing software used in geophysical research would also be used.

El-Leithy said that the project to document all the archaeological sites in Egypt was also stopped in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution due to budgetary problems.

Decorated Pillars Found Inside One of The Tombs
The ministry however resumed the documentation project earlier this year and started with the Esna Temple and the Tanis site. At Al-Maala, the mission documented the architecture of the seven tombs that compose the necropolis as well as their engravings and paintings. All the pillars found there were also documented and given a special number.

The Al-Maala necropolis consists of seven tombs divided into two groups: the southern and northern groups. The southern group, El-Leithy said, is composed of three tombs, with the main one belonging to Ankh-Tify, the ruler of the Nekhen area found between Edfu and Isna towns during the reign of King Nefer-Ka-Re of the Third Intermediate Period.

The tomb is decorated with his biography and different titles, and contains information about the period. The other two other tombs have not been identified yet, but one of them is decorated with scenes showing the process of grain storage as well as the tomb’s owner in different positions with his family members. The second tomb has no decorations.

The southern group at the necropolis, El-Leithy said, consists of four tombs, the main one belonging to Prince Sobek Hetep, believed to be the son of ruler Ankh-Tify. The tomb is decorated with scenes of daily life. It is surrounded by three other undecorated tombs that have not yet been identified.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Discovery, Luxor: Inscriptions Showing Early Hieroglyphic Writing Discovered at Site South of Luxor

Many of the rock inscriptions date from the Predynastic Period (4,000-3,500BC) Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An archaeological mission from Yale University has discovered a new rock inscription site near the village of El-Khawy near Luxor, during their excavation work on the Elkab Desert Survey Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities.

The inscriptions range in date from the early Predynastic Period, which spanned approx. 4,000 to 3,500 BC, through to the Old Kingdom (approx. 2,686 BC to 2181 BC). The village of El-Khawy is located approximately 7km north of the ancient city of Elkab and 60km south of Luxor.

Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the ministry explained that the site is composed of several panels of rock art and inscriptions which include some of the earliest—and largest—signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script, and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system.

Hani Abu ElAzem, head of the Central Department of Upper Egypt Antiquities, described the discovery as important because it helps in understanding the development of a system of graphic communication, which sets the stage for the appearance of true hieroglyphic writing in Upper Egypt in approx. 3,250 BC.

John Coleman Darnell, the head of the archaeological mission, said the inscriptions were discovered on high rock faces overlooking the modern railroad and the earliest one shows animal images—especially a herd of large elephants—some of which develop into symbols of political power associated with late Predynastic rulers. The most important inscription is found at the northern end of the site dates to the final phase of the Predynastic Period (the Naqada III phase or Dynasty 0, approx. 3,250-3,100 BC.)

He continued that the mission also discovered a panel of four signs, written right to left (the dominant writing direction in later Egyptian texts) featuring a bull’s head on a short pole, followed by two back-to-back saddle bill storks with a bald ibis above and between them. This panel is one of the largest yet discovered from Dynasty 0.

Darnell continues that rock art in the Eastern and Western deserts of Egypt demonstrates that ancient artists often interacted with earlier images—clustering similar images or images with related meanings on the same rock surface.

By the last phase of the Predynastic Period, rock art and other objects from the Nile Valley could use images to express concepts, such as the saddle bill stork with a serpent beneath its beak meaning “victory.”

“These symbols are not phonetic writing, but appear to provide the intellectual background for moving from depictions of the natural world to hieroglyphs that wrote the sounds of the ancient Egyptian language,” Darnell said, adding that the newly discovered inscriptions at El-Khawy provide another example of this important transitional phase.

The team of archaeologists located these inscriptions by mapping out routes based on road networks in Egypt. Most rock inscriptions in Egypt, Darnell said, are not randomly placed; they are placed along major roads, either roads that parallel the Nile or roads that head out into the desert. They are usually at a juncture or crossroads. “Any place where someone might pause in their journey,” said Darnell.

Using a new recording technique pioneered at Yale, Darnell and Alberto Urcia, a digital archaeologist and associate research scientist in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, created a series of 3D images of the inscriptions from photographs taken in the field.

“This new technology makes it possible to record sites at a level of accuracy and detail that was absolutely impossible before,” said Darnell. “It also means that we can record the site as a place, or a location, and not just as a series of inscriptions.” “This was not what I was expecting to find when I set out on this period of work on the expedition,” said Darnell. “It was completely shocking to me.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

News: Al-Khalifa Heritage Project Resumes

The third phase of the Al-Khalifa Area Rehabilitation Project has resumed after securing the required funds, writes Nevine El-Aref.
 The Three Newly Restored Domes
The Al-Khalifa area of Cairo, known for its Islamic monuments, is again in the limelight as the third phase of its rehabilitation project is now set to begin after being put on hold owing to the lack of a budget. The project is being carried out by the Ministry of Antiquities in collaboration with the Cairo governorate, the built-environment collective Megawra, the Al-Athar Lina (the Monuments are Ours) initiative, and Mashroo Kheir.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, director of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the third phase included the implementation of a pilot project to integrate solutions for ground-water problems in historic contexts.

A multi-disciplinary research and training programme with the participation of an international team of architects, conservators, urban planners, and experts in urbanism, environment, infrastructure and water resources had begun this in 2016, he said. The programme was organised by Megawra and the universities of Oregon and Cornell in the US, with funding from the American Research Centre in Egypt (ARCE) and the American Embassy in Cairo in partnership with the Ministry of Antiquities and the Cairo governorate.

The team has studied the phenomenon of rising ground water in historic areas and its impact on historic buildings. It has also trained professionals and scholars in the field of heritage conservation on state-of-the-art techniques of the treatment of historic buildings that suffer from high amounts of salt and water damage.

The programme will follow this up by using technologies that can be implemented and that are suitable for the social particularity and economic conditions of the area, with the aim of transforming ground water from a source of harm to a social resource. The third phase, Abdel-Aziz said, includes the restoration of both the Al-Ashraf Khalil and Fatma Khatoun domes in Islamic Cairo.

 Th Al-Sayeda Rokaya Mausoleum 
The Fatma Khatoun Dome was originally a mausoleum and was once part of the Al-Madrasa Al-Khatouniya and the Madrasa Umm Al-Saleh. During the Ottoman period, it was used as a Sufi hostel. The madrasa (school) no longer exists. The dome is located on Al-Ashraf Street near the Al-Sayeda Nafisa Mausoleum. It was built by the Mameluke Sultan Al-Ashraf Salaheddin Khalil Ibn Qalawoun for his wife Khawand Khatoun. The mausoleum is composed of an inner square, a minaret and two rows of stalactites within an outer arch.

The Mausoleum of Al-Ashraf Khalil was founded in 687 AH (1288 CE) by Sultan Qalawoun. The lower part is built using stone-crowned stalactites, while the dome is made of brick.

The restoration project aims to preserve both domes from water damage by installing a new drainage system. It will also decrease the level of humidity, consolidate the walls, and repair cracks. The open area in front of the dome is to be converted into a public park, including an open-air theatre, cafeteria, library and a playing area for children. An administrative building is to be provided.

Abdel-Aziz said that the project was part of a long-term plan to develop the Al-Khalifa area, both archaeologically and in terms of urban planning, as a step towards upgrading... Read More.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Discovery, Nubia: Ancient Tomb of Gold Worker Found Along Nile River

A 3,400-year-old tomb holding the remains of more than a dozen possibly mummified people has been discovered on Sai Island, along the Nile River in northern Sudan.

Archaeologists discovered the tomb in 2015, though it wasn't until 2017 that a team with the Across Borders archaeological research project fully excavated the site.

The island is part of an ancient land known as Nubia that Egypt controlled 3,400 years ago. The Egyptians built settlements and fortifications throughout Nubia, including on Sai Island, which had a settlement and a gold mine. 

The tomb, which contains multiple chambers, appears to hold the remains of Egyptians who lived in or near that settlement and worked in gold production.

The artifacts found in the tomb include scarabs (a type of amulet widely used in Egypt), ceramic vessels, a gold ring, the remains of gold funerary masks worn by the deceased and a small stone sculpture known as a shabti. 

The ancient Egyptians believed that shabtis could do the work of the deceased for them in the afterlife. Some of the artifacts bore Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions that revealed the tomb was originally created for a man named Khnummose, who was a "master gold worker."

The remains of Khnummose (which may have been mummified) were found next to those of a woman who may have been his wife. Some of the other people found in tomb may have been relatives of Khnummose, the researchers said, adding that they planned to conduct DNA analyses of the remains.

"We will try to extract ancient DNA from the [bones] of the bodies in question," said Julia Budka, professor for Egyptian Archaeology and Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich. "If the [ancient] DNA is preserved, this will help us a lot. 

Otherwise, it all remains tentative," said Budka, who noted that the samples are already at the Department for Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

The archaeologists said they aren't sure how many of the bodies were mummified.

"The state of preservation is very difficult here," Budka said. "I am waiting for the report of my physical anthropologists. For now, the position and also traces of bitumen speak for some kind of mummification for all persons in Tomb 26 who were placed in wooden coffins." 

Bitumen is a type of petroleum that the ancient Egyptians sometimes used in mummification.

Many of the coffins are also poorly preserved, and it's uncertain exactly how many of the people were buried in coffins, Budka said.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

News, Giza: Tutankhamun Artifacts Moved to Grand Egyptian Museum Ahead of Soft Opening in 2018

Zidan During Restoration on The Oars
Mummified dates, grains and small model boats were among the objects moved in this most recent batch, an operation that required careful packing and essential restoration work. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has transported another batch of items from the Tutankhamun collection to their new home at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau.

The ancient Egyptian artifacts were moved on Sunday from their current location at the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo to the GEM ahead of its soft opening in early 2018.

Tarek Tawfik, supervisor general of the GEM, said the new batch of artifacts includes dried and mummified seeds and fruits, as well as several model boats crafted from wood and a small wooden chair painted in white plaster.

Prior to the move, the objects were subjected to essential restoration work, courtesty of the GEM's First Aid Restoration department.

Eissa Zidan, the department's director, said the artifacts – including dried dates, onions, garlic, wheat, barely and doum – were all transported safely.

He said that the restoration staff used scientific methods to pack and transport the items. They also compiled a detailed report on the current condition of all items prior to the move. Zidan said the objects would undergo further restoration at the GEM.

The GEM is due to open in April 2018, with two areas accessible to the public: a large hall containing the entire Tutankhamun collection; and the Grand Staircase collection of major objects and statues from Ancient Egypt.

The process of transporting items from Downtown to the GEM started in the summer of 2016, while the transfer of the Tutankhamun collection began earlier this year.