Thursday, March 29, 2018

News: Once Overlooked, 2,500-Year Old Coffin May Offer Clues Into Ancient Egypt

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian academics could help unlock mysteries around ancient Egypt after discovering that a 2,500-year old coffin might contain the remains of a prestigious mummy.

The University of Sydney acquired the coffin 150 years ago and a series of academics incorrectly classified it as empty. Their error was only discovered by chance late last year when more recent academics removed the lid to the coffin and discovered the tattered remains of a mummy. The discovery offers scientists an almost unique opportunity to test the cadaver.

"We can start asking some intimate questions that those bones will hold around pathology, about diet, about diseases, about the lifestyle of that person - how they lived and died," said Jamie Fraser, senior curator at the Nicholson Museum at the University of Sydney. Whole mummies are typically left intact, limiting their scientific benefits. Adding to the potential rewards is the possibility that the remains are those of a distinguished woman of an age where little is known, Fraser said.

Hieroglyphs show the original occupant of the coffin was a female called Mer-Neith-it-es, who academics believe was a high priestess in 600 BC, the last time Egypt was ruled by native Egyptians.

"We know from the hieroglyphs that Mer-Neith-it-es worked in the Temple of Sekhmet, the lion-headed goddess," Fraser said. "There are some clues in hieroglyphs and the way the mummification has been done and the style of the coffin that tell us about how this Temple of Sekhmet may have worked."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

News, Cairo: Exhibition of Artifacts from Deir al-Bersha to Open Thursday at Egyptian Museum in Tahrir

The exhibition celebrates 120 years of excavations at the Minya governorate site. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

A temporary exhibition highlighting 120 years of archaeological excavations in Deir el-Barsha in Minya will open Thursday evening at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. Under the title Life in Death: The Middle Kingdom at Deir el-Bersha, the exhibition will be officially inaugurated by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany, Belgiun Ambassador to Egypt Sibille de Cartier and German Ambassador Julius Georg Loew.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, KU Leuven University in Belgium and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany. The event will be attended by the head of the Belgium-Germany Archaeological Mission, a number of ambassadors to Egypt from foreign counties, Egyptian members of parliament and top officials at the antiquities ministry.

Elham Salah, Head of the Museums Sector at the ministry, told Ahram Online that the exhibition will be on display for 30 days and will showcase 70 artifacts from the discoveries at Deir Al-Bersha, which were previously spread throught the museum’s various galleries or concealed in its basement.

“The artefacts will for the first time be displayed together,” she pointed out, revealing that the objects include the distinguished funerary collection from the tomb of Sepi III.

Among Sepi III's artefacts are the rectangular box coffins, inscribed with religious funerary texts, known as coffin texts, which helped the deceased to travel through the afterlife. Also among the displaed items are wooden models found in the tomb, which often depicting activities from daily life such as making food and drink.

The aim of such models was so that the deceased could enjoy these activities in eternity. Trays found in the tombs of Sepi I, Sepi III and Nehri I will also be on display. These trays, Salah said, are unique as they are made of painted cartonnage, consisting of a layer of gypsum.

The individual offerings on these trays are also made of cartonnage, painted in intricate detail, allowing for the easy identification of objects.

Sabah Abdel-Razek, General-Director of the Egyptian Museum, said that the site at Deir Al-Bersha is located 280 km south of Cairo and is best known as the burial place of the Middle Kingdom governors of el-Ashmunein (c. 2055-1650 BCE).

The governors built elaborately decorated tombs high on the North Hill of the Eastern Desert cliffs, while important officials were buried in tomb shafts in the vicinity of their lords.

The earliest excavations at Deir el-Bersha began in 1897 when the French Egyptologist Georges Daressy began exploring the site on behalf of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. His most spectacular find was the intact burial chamber of Sepi III.

The first Egyptian Egyptologist, Ahmed Kamal, continued to work at Deir el-Bersha from 1900-1902. He excavated several of the elite shaft tombs on the North Hill, including those of Amenemhat and Nehri I.

During their expeditions, she explains, Daressy and Kamal discovered an impressive collection of exemplary Middle Kingdom funerary equipment, such as wooden tomb models and decorated coffins. The majority of these objects are kept in the Egyptian Museum and many will be on display in this exhibit.

In 1915, American Egyptologist George Andrew Reisner excavated for two months at Deir el-Bersha. His most important discovery was the nearly intact tomb of governor Djehutinakht IV or V. Since 2002 KU Leuven University has resumed excavations at this site, reinvestigating several of the areas where these prior excavations took place.

KU Leuven University has also collaborated with the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz since 2009 on excavations of five large tomb shafts in front of the tomb of governor Djehutihotep, most of the contents of which are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

News, Giza: King Meneptah Column Arrives at Grand Egyptian Museum

King Meneptah was the fourth king of the 19th Dynasty and the son of King Ramses II. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Column of King Meneptah arrived Saturday at its permanent display area in the atrium of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza.

King Meneptah was the fourth king of the 19th Dynasty and the son of King Ramses II. He ruled for 10 years, from 1213-1203 BC.

Tarek Tawfik, supervisor general of the Grand Egyptian Museum, told Ahram Online that the pillar was discovered in 1970 inside Meneptah Temple in Matariya archaeological site, east of Arab Al-Hesn area.

It is carved in red granite with a limestone base. It is decorated with engravings of the king’s different titles, cartouche and scenes depicting his victory in wars against Libyan tribes.

The pillar is 17 tons in weight and 5.6 metres tall. It was first transported in 2008 to the Salaheddin Citadel for conservation and restoration as the residential area around it was suffering with high levels of subterranean water.

The pillar was then kept in the Citadel for 10 years until it was chosen to be among the GEM exhibits. It is to be put on show in the atrium at the GEM's main entrance, neighbouring the colossus of his father, Ramses II.

Eissa Zidan, director general of First-Aid Restoration at the GEM, explained that great care was taken before transportation, the pillar restored after comprehensive study to detect and consolidate its weak points.

It took eight hours to prepare the pillar for transportation. A wooden base padded with of layers of foam was made, with the pillar tied with carefully tensioned rope to safeguard it during transportation. The Tourism and Antiquities Police accompanied the pillar on its journey.

Osama Abulkheir, director general of the Restoration Department at the GEM, said that upon its arrival the pillar would be examined and further restoration work completed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

News, Dakhla Oasis: Seven Mummies of El-Mezawaa Necropolis Restored as Part of Ministry of Antiquties Preservation Initiative

Three of the mummies reveal deliberate desecration. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

A team from the Egypt's Mummies Conservation Project has finished restoring a group of seven mummies in the El-Muzawaa necropolis in Dakhla oasis, completing the first phase of the project, Gharib Sonbol, head of Ancient Egyptian restoration projects at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online.

The restoration of Al-Muzawaa necropolis mummies came within the framework of the project, which launched three years ago by the ministry to preserve and maintain all mummies stored in Egyptian storehouses.

Aymen Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities sector at the ministry, explains that the project started with the conservation of mummies in the Mostafa Kamel gallery storehouses in Alexandria and at the Alexandria National Museum, as well as those in the Kom Ushim stores in Fayouom.

According to Sonbol, the second phase of the project will begin shortly and will involve the restoration of several more mummies. He explained that during the recently completed work, the team noted that two mummies have "screaming" faces, a term used to describe mummies with open mouths. The hands of a third mummy were bound with rope.

“This is not the typical form of mummification, but it indicates that those people were cursed by the god or the priests during their lifetime,” Sonbol said. He continued that the project offers a great opportunity for restorers to learn more about the death and life of those mummified people.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Re-Openning, Sharqiya: Tel Basta Museum Inaugurated in Egypt's Zagazig

After eight years in limbo, the site museum of Tel Basta in Zagazig, Sharqiya, was inaugurated Saturday. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany and Sharqiya Governor Khaled Saeed inaugurated Saturday Tel Basta Museum in Sharqiya governorate after the completion of its restoration.

The inauguration of the museum comes within the framework of efforts by the Ministry of Antiquities to increase the archaeological and heritage awareness of Sharqiya inhabitants as well as creating more tourist attractions across Egypt.

During the ceremony, El-Enany announced that visits to the museum would be free this week to celebrate the museum’s long-awaited opening.

Waadalla Abu El-Ela, head of the Projects Sector at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the ministry started construction work on the museum in 2006. In 2010, construction was completed but the project put on hold, resuming at the end of 2017.

Elham Salah, head of the Museums Sector at the Ministry of Antquities, explained that the second phase of the project, concerning the interior design of the museum, aimed to showcase the history of Sharqiya and the excavation work that has been carried out within its boundaries. New lighting and security systems were installed and new showcases fabricated to host the artifacts along with descriptive panels on the history of Sharqiya.

“The objects on display are the result of archaeological excavations in Sharqiya,” Salah told Ahram Online. She added that the collection includes canopic jars, terracotta statuettes, clay pots of different shapes and sizes, domestic instruments, coins, statuette deities, tombstones, offering tables, and jewellery.
One of the showcases is devoted to Sharqiya's main ancient Egyptian deity, the cat shaped goddess Bastet.

French Egyptologist Pierre Montei discovered the Temple of Amun in Tanis in 1939 as well as a group of royal tombs from the Late Period, such as those for the kings Psusennes I and Shosinenq II.

In 2009, the joint French-Egyptian mission discovered the location of the sacred lake of the goddess Mut’s temple, the second sacred lake to be revealed on the site. In 2013, in Tel-El-Yahudia area, a mission from the antiquities ministry uncovered a huge fortification of mud brick inside the Hyksos fortress, as well as a residential city on its northeastern corner. A collection of oil lamps and faience tiles once used to decorate the palace of the kings Meneptah and his father Ramses II was also unearthed.

In Tel-El-Pharaeen, British Egyptologist Flinders Petrie discovered the ruins of the ancient city, including residential areas and the ruins of the city’s temple devoted to the goddess Wadjet.

Friday, March 2, 2018

New Discovery: Tattoos Discovered on Egyptian Mummies After Millennia Under Wraps

Researchers have discovered the oldest figurative tattoos in the world on the upper arms of two ancient Egyptian mummies, the British Museum said on Thursday. 
A male mummy was found to have tattoos depicting a wild bull and a Barbary sheep on its upper arm, while a female has linear and S-shaped motifs on its upper arm and shoulder. The artworks appeared as dark smudges in natural light but researchers at the British Museum and Oxford University's Faculty of Oriental Studies found the tattoos in 2017 with infrared photography. "It's actually providing completely new insights into the use of tattooing," Daniel Antoine, curator of physical anthropology at the British Museum, told Reuters.

"The location of these tattoos suggests they were designed to be highly visible on the upper arm and the shoulder," he said, adding that the discoveries push back by 1,000 years evidence for tattooing in Africa.

The mummies were unearthed 100 years ago in the Egyptian town of Gebelein, around 40 km (24 miles) south of modern-day Luxor. They date to 3351 to 3017 BC, which is the Predynatic period before Egypt was unified by the first Pharaoh. Researchers said the female tattoos may have denoted status, bravery or magical knowledge, while the male's were likely symbols of virility and strength.

Prior to the discovery, archaeologists believed tattooing in Egypt was only performed on women, as tattoos were only depicted on female figurines of the period. The oldest surviving tattoos are geometric designs on a mummified corpse known as Otzi, who lived around 5,300 years ago and was discovered preserved in the Italian Alps in 1991. The research, lead by Antoine and Oxford University's Renee Friedman, was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on March 1.