Wednesday, May 30, 2018

News, Cairo: Part of Arcade Ceiling Collapses at Cairo's Medieval Sarghatmish Mosque and Madrassa

Five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 collapsed, leading to a collapse in the ceiling of one of the arcades. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The restored wooden beams holding up the ceiling of part of the arcade in the medieval mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish collapsed on Tuesday morning, Egypt’s antiquities ministry has said.

Gamal Mustafa, head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department at the ministry, told Ahram Online that five wooden beams that were installed during the restoration work carried out at the mosque in 2005 to hold up the wooden ceiling of the mosque qibla’s riwaq (arcade) had collapsed.

He said that there are no casualties reported and the mosque, located in Cairo’s Sayyeda Zeinab, is in good conservation condition, except for the fallen beams, and the decorative element that runs along the upper level of the mosque’s main façade.

An engineering company will now consolidate the mosque to avoid any further risk, and start the restoration of the ceiling, Mustafa said, while a cleaning crew from the Arab Contractors cleans the debris.

The mosque-madrassa comprises an open court with a water fountain at its centre, surrounded by eight marble pillars and four iwan (vaulted halls). The mihrab (the point faced during prayer) of the mosque has a panel of white marble with a medallion in the centre and four quarter-medallions in the corners.

Hidden among the leaf and stem forms of the arabesque design are six birds and five hands. On the north corner of the facade are finely carved mashrabiya (wooden lattice) windows.

14th-century treasure

The mosque is located in Saliba Street close to such important Islamic monuments as the mosque of Ibn Tulun, the madrassa and sabil-kuttab of Sultan Qaitbay, the Gayer Anderson House, the mosque of Raghri Bardi and the mosque and madrassa of Hassan Pasha Tahir.

Until the 14th century, the area was dotted with waste and rubbish heaps along with cemeteries and private estates. The redevelopment of the citadel under Sultan Al- Nasser Mohamed led to the transformation of this zone into an urban area, and Saliba Street became a major thoroughfare. Princes built town houses, palaces, mosques and schools in the area.

The mosque and madrassa of Sarghatmish are attached to the northeast wall of the Ibn Tulun mosque and were originally part of the Ibn Tulun complex, but were later turned into houses. 

In 1356 these houses were demolished by Prince Sarghatmish, a Mamluk in the reign of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun, so he could build his own mosque and madrassa.

This renowned Mamluk prince was the jamandara (wardrobe keeper) of Al-Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalawun. His prominence dates from the reigns of Al-Nasser's minor sons, when he took an active part in battles waged on their behalf. In 1354, supporting Prince Shaykhu, he was one of the principal agents in the re-election of Sultan Hassan, and after Shaykhu's assassination he became the amir kabir or "great prince".

He was virtual ruler of Egypt for Hassan, who in 1358 had Sarghatmish thrown into prison and put to death. He was buried under the dome of his madrassa. The Sarghatmish madrassa is a good example of the type founded in the mid-14th century by Mamluk emirs in support of higher Quranic studies, prophetic traditions and jurisprudence.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

News, Alexandria: Egyptian Authorities Foil Attempt to Smuggle Roman-Era Coins Through Port of Alexandria

The archaeological unit at Alexandria Port, in cooperation with the customs department, succeeded in foiling an attempt to smuggle 30 archaeological coins out of Egypt on last Wednesday. Written by/ Nevine El-Aref.

According to Hamdy Hamam, head of the Central Administration of Seized Antiquities Units at the Ministry of Antiquities, customs officials reported the discovery of the coins to the port's archaeological unit, which in turn assigned an archaeological committee from Alexandria's Graeco-Roman Museum to inspect their authenticity.

The committee then verified the authenticity of the coins and seized them according to Egypt’s Antiquities Law No. 117 of 1983 and its amendments.

The seizure consists of 22 bronze coins dating back to the early Roman era and the period between the first and third centuries CE. Also discovered were five bronze coins dating back more than 135 years.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

New Discovery, Nile Delta: Greco-Roman Bath, Artifacts Discovered at San El-Hagar Archaeological Site in Egypt.


Wriiten By/ Nevine El-Aref: An Egyptian archaeological mission from the Supreme Council of Antiquities has uncovered sections from a huge red brick building that might be part of a Greco-Roman bath at San El-Hagar archaeological site in Gharbeya governorate.

The mission has also uncovered a collection of pottery vessels, terracotta statues, bronze tools and coins, a stone fragment engraved with hieroglyphs and a small statue of a lamb.

Head of the mission Saeed El-Asal told Ahram Online that the most notable artefact discovered is a gold coin of King Ptolemy III, which was made during the reign of his son King Ptolemy IV (244 – 204 BC) in memory of his father. The diameter of the coin is 2.6cm and weighs about 28g.

One side of the coin depicts a portrait of King Ptolemy III wearing the crown while the other side bears the Land of Prosperity and the name of the king.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Recovered Antiquities: Cairo International Airport Officials Foil Attempt to Smuggle Old Manuscripts out of Egypt

The find includes a document that dates back to the 16th century. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Officials of the Antiquities Unit of the Customs Department at Cairo International Airport on Sunday foiled an attempt to smuggle a collection of old manuscripts and documents that date back several centuries out of Egypt.

Hamdy Hammam, head of the Central Administration of Seized Antiquities Unit told Ahram Online that the manuscripts were contained in three books, while ten other documents were packed in seven separate parcels on their way to an Arab country.

According to Ali Ramadan, director of the Archaeological Unit at the airport's cargo village, one book is entitled Summary of the Speeches of the Princes of the Holy House.

The 277-page text is imprinted with red and black ink and bears several dates from 948-1299 Hijri (1541/2-1881/2 CE). 

The second book includes of 20 pages and is dated 28 Jumada II 1334 Hijri (1915/6 CE). The third has 56 pages and bears the date 1265 Hijri (1848/9 CE).

The ten documents belong to the Egyptian Survey Authority and are dated from 1239 to 1251 Hijri (1823/4 - 1835/6 CE).


An archaeological committee from the Ministry of Antiquities has inspected and verified the authenticity of the items. 

The documents and manuscripts were confiscated according to Antiquities Protection Law, No. 117 of 1983 and its amendments, and will be held until the investigation's conclusion.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

New Discovery, Sakkara: Egypt Uncovers Tomb of Great Ramesses II Era General in Saqqara

Material found so far at the site testifies to the high status of its General Iwrkhy and his family. Written by/ Nevine El-Aref.

Professor of Egyptology at Cairo University Ola El-Aguizy has announced the discovery of an important tomb belonging to the great Ramessess II era General Iwrkhy in Saqqara, in a speech delivered to attendees of the Faculty of Archaeology Prom 2017. The tomb was discovered in the New Kingdom necropolis south of the Causeway of King Unas in Saqqara, during the last excavation season in 2017/2018.

El-Aguizy, head of the mission that uncovered the tomb, said it most likely dates to the reigns of both Sethi I and Ramesses II. The site has yet to be fully excavated, but has already provided a wealth of material testifying to the high status of its owner and his family.

The tomb belongs to General and High Steward of the estates of Ramsses II in the Domain of Amun. His name is inscribed on the tomb along with that of his son Yuppa and grandson Hatiay -- the latter occupying a significant position in the inscriptions on the walls still in place.

Iwrkhy began his military career under King Sethi I and reached the highest positions in Egyptian court during the reign of Ramesses II. His tomb appears to mimic the style of contemporary tombs in the area, which include a forecourt, statue room with adjacent plastered vaulted storehouses, perystile court and western chapels (which have yet to be excavated), El-Aguizy said.

Archaeologists believe the general came to Egypt as a foreigner, one of many who settled here and managed to reach high positions in the court of the New Kingdom.

The scenes that remain on the walls of the statue room and on blocks found buried in the sand show a number of unusual scenes, many related to Iwrkhy's military career, and foreign relations with neighboring countries. These include an image of moored boats unloading Canaanite wine jars.

One block, most likely detached from the northern wall, shows an exceptional scene of an infantry unit and charioteers crossing a waterway with crocodiles. Preliminary studies of the scene determined that its fortified walls represent the eastern borders of Egypt.

The scene has only one parallel, depicted on the outer north wall of the hypostyle court of Karnak temple in Thebes. The scene shows Sethi I coming back from a victorious campaign against the Shasu Bedouins, entering Egypt by the same waterway with crocodiles.

The remains of such fortified walls were recently discovered by archaeologist Mohamed Abdel Maksoud and his team on the site known as Tell Heboua I and II on the Pelusian branch of the Nile in Eastern Qantara, North Sinai.

Discoveries in the Saqqara tomb also show signs of active daily life in this garrison, including wine cellars and livestock depicted on the walls. The scenes of the high steward's tomb are quite exceptional, with artistic features characteristic of the time of Sethi I and Ramesses II. This indicates that the tomb was constructed over a number of phases.

The prominence of the names of Iwrkhy's family -- Yuppa and Hatiay -- suggests that this may have been a family tomb. Further excavation of the sanctuary and shaft are needed to confirm this.

Monday, May 7, 2018

News: New Survey Confirms No Hidden Nefertiti Chamber in Tutankhamun's Tomb

The result of a third radar survey shows conclusively that there are no hidden chambers in the tomb. Written by/ Nevine El-Aref.

After almost three months of study, a new geophysics survey has provided conclusive evidence that no hidden chambers exist adjacent to or inside Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced the results, adding that the head of the Italian scientific team carrying out the research,

Francesco Porcelli of the Polytechnic University of Turin, is to provide all the details of the ground penetrating radar (GPR) studies during his speech to be delivered on Sunday evening at the ongoing Fourth Tutankhamun International Conference.

Waziri said that a scientific report was submitted on Sunday morning to the Permanent Committee for Ancient Egyptian Antiquities by Porcelli and his team, which included experts from the nearby University of Turin and from two private geophysics companies, Geostudi Astier (Leghorn) and 3DGeoimaging (Turin), who collected GPR data from the inside of Tutankhamun’s tomb in February 2018.

According to the report, which Ahram Online has obtained, Porcelli said that the GPR scans were performed along vertical and horizontal axes with very dense spatial sampling. Double antenna polarisations were also employed, with transmitting and receiving dipoles both orthogonal and parallel to the scanning direction.

Porcelli asserted that the main findings are as follows: no marked discontinuities due to the passage from natural rock to man-made blocking walls are evidenced by the GPR radargrams, nor there is any evidence of the jambs or the lintel of a doorway. Similarly, the radargrams do not show any indication of plane reflectors, which could be interpreted as chamber walls or void areas behind the paintings of the funerary chamber. “It is concluded, with a very high degree of confidence, that the hypothesis concerning the existence of hidden chambers or corridors adjacent to Tutankhamun’s tomb is not supported by the GPR data,” Porcelli said in the report.

This is the third GPR survey to be conducted inside the tomb in recent years. It was designed to stop the controversy aroused after the contradictory results of two previous radar surveys to inspect the accuracy of a theory launched in 2015 by British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, who suggested that the tomb of queen Nefertiti could be concealed behind the north and west wall paintings of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber.

The theory was supported by former minister of antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, who agreed to conduct two GPR surveys. The first was conducted by a Japanese professional who asserted with 95 percent certainty the existence of a doorway and a hall with artefacts.

The second radar survey was carried out with another high-tech GPR device by an American scientific team from National Geographic, who rejected the previous Japanese results and asserted that nothing existed behind the west and north wall of Tutankhamun's burial chamber.

To solve the difficulties encountered by the two preceding surveys and provide a conclusive response, the current antiquities minister, Khaled El-Enany, who took office in March 2016, decided to discuss the matter at the second International Tutankhamun Conference, which was attended by a group of pioneer scholars and archaeologists who decided to conduct a third GPR analysis to put an end to the debate.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

News Giza: Egyptian Antiquities Minister Assures That Last Week's Fire did Little Damage to Grand Egyptian Museum

El-Enany with media at the GEM
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany escorted members of the media on a tour of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza to show that the fire that broke out at the museum last week did little damage to the museum. Written by/ Nevine El-Aref.

The visit included a tour of the museum buildings as well as the display of the King Ramses II colossus and artifacts at the GEM’s conservation centre.

Last Sunday, a minor fire broke out on the wooden scaffolding on the museum’s rear façade. No one was harmed and no artifacts were damaged in the fire. One hour after the fire broke out, the museum’s fire station, with aid from Civilian Security fire trucks, succeeded in extinguishing the flames, Mostafa Waziri Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said at the time.

An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the blaze. The GEM is currently under construction, with scaffolding positioned outside several buildings. 
The museum is being built to house antiquities from ancient Egypt, including many items currently held at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo's Tahrir Square. A partial opening is planned for later this year.

News, Giza: Last Chariot of The Boy King Tutankhamun Arrives Safely to GEM

The sixth and last chariot of King Tutankhamun is one of the prized artifacts from the Tutankhamun collection now housed at the GEM. Written by/ Nevine El-Aref. 
Completing a collection of 5,200 Tutankhamun artefacts, the Egyptian Ministry of Defence has offered the Ministry of Antiquities the sixth and last chariot of the boy king.

In a gala ceremony, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany received the sixth and last chariot of Tutankhamun at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). The others were previously transferred to the GEM’s laboratory centre.

El-Enany said that the chariot was discovered in 1922 in Tutankhamun's tomb. He described the GEM as “a gift” from Egypt to the world. He also thanked the Ministry of Defence for offering the chariot to the GEM and its transport from the Military Museum at Salah Al-Din Citadel to the GEM.

"It is the first time to display the six chariots together since their discovery in 1922," Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online, adding that it took nine years to assemble and restore the chariots upon their discovery. This particular chariot was sent to the Military Museum in 1987.

Eissa Zidan, head of restoration at the GEM, said the chariot was padded with special materials to absorb any vibrations during transportation. State-of-the-art technology and modern scientific techniques were used in order to guarantee the safe lifting and moving of the chariot from its display at the Military Museum.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Back Home, Cyprus: Egypt Restores 14 Smuggled Artifacts

Director of Cyprus' Department of Antiquities, Marina Solomidou,
handed over 14 artifacts to Egypt
CAIRO - 2 May 2018: Director of Cyprus' Department of Antiquities, Marina Solomidou, handed over 14 artifacts to Egypt on Tuesday; the artifacts were stolen and illegally smuggled from Egypt in the late 1980s. 

This came on the sidelines of the initiative entitled “Nostos: Reviving Roots,” which was launched by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his Cypriot and Greek counterparts in Alexandria on Monday. In this regard, Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-Anani expressed his thanks to the Cypriot authorities for their continuous cooperation with Egypt to restore these artifacts. In the same context, Director General of the Retrieved Antiquities Department of the Antiquities Ministry Shaaban Abdel Gawad stated that the process of repatriation began in 2017 when Interpol conversed with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. 

Abdel Gawad revealed that these artifacts date back to the ancient Egyptian era. They were smuggled after the Antiquities Protection Law had been issued in 1983, and arrived in Cyprus in 1986.  He further remarked that the Ministry of Antiquities, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice and the International Cooperation Office coordinated to send urgent letters to Cyprus, stressing Egypt’s right to retrieve the artifacts, especially considering that the Cypriot law allows for antiquities trafficking. 

Abdel Gawad said that the restored pieces comprise of an alabaster vase decorated with the name of king Ramses II, in addition to 13 ushabti figurines and amulets of different shapes, sizes and materials, including amulets for goddesses Sekhmet, Neith and Isis. Upon invitation from the Cypriot authorities, Abdel Gawad travelled to Cyprus to inspect these pieces, which were kept at the Cypriot antiquities museum in Nicosia. Gawad delivered a lecture highlighting the efforts exerted by the Ministry of Antiquities to restore the smuggled artifacts and to make new archaeological discoveries in Egypt ..... READ MORE.