Monday, July 30, 2018

Luxor in Las Vegas (Part 2)

Fig. 1 - Entranceway to the Casino
     While the outside of the Luxor hotel / Casino in Las Vegas is big and splashy, the Egyptianizing fun continues inside as well.

Fig. 2 - the heart of the deceased being weighed to see if he is free of sin
     First you enter the hotel past a statue of a Pharaoh and a couple of Egyptianizing columns (see fig. 1) as well as a copy of the scene of the heart of the deceased being weighed before Osiris (see fig. 2). I could make all sorts of comments about having your heart weighed to see if it is heavy with sin before you enter a casino (or will it be weighed when you leave the casino??), but I will refrain.

Fig. 3 - the entrance pylon that is inside the hotel
     Now you find yourself in the main lobby. There you are greeted by what looks like a copy (sort of) of the entrance pylon of an ancient temple. Statues of the king flank either side of the entrance to the casino (you can see the slot machines in the distance through the "pylon's" entrance). Also, if you look at the foot area of the statue on the right, you can see a ram-headed sphinx that looks very much like it comes from the avenue of sphinxes that connected the Karnak and Luxor temples in early times.

Fig. 4 - an obelisk with hieroglyphs that light up
Fig. 5 - a "Middle Kingdom" Sphinx
     Upstairs, where the shows and shops are located, there is still more  Egyptomania fun with an obelisk that has hieroglyphs that light up (the hieroglyphs do not really say anything, but in Las Vegas that is not really important, right?). One can only wonder what Ramesses II would have done with something like this. There is also another sphinx there that resembles the famous one from the Middle Kingdom that is now in the Louvre in Paris. My wife sat by the paws of the sphinx while I toured the nearby exhibit of artifacts brought up from the Titanic.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Luxor (in Las Vegas)

Fig. 1 - the Luxor Obelisk in Las Vegas
     OK, let's get silly for a few minutes. I recently did a trip to Las Vegas and I stopped by the Luxor Hotel to get some photos of the "Egyptianizing" decor of the place.

Fig. 2 - the Great Sphinx of Las Vegas
     The front of the hotel / casino features a giant sphinx and obelisk, while the building itself is shaped lime a giant black pyramid. The front of the building has a temple-like front where taxi cabs can drop off and pick up passengers. The walls of this "temple" are decorated with numerous, well carved, but totally meaningless "inscriptions" (see figure 3).
Fig. 3 - "inscriptions" on the exterior of the Luxor "Temple"
     On a previous trip to Vegas (many years ago) the hotel had an exhibit that was something like a reproduction of Tutankhamen's tomb. Not a real reproduction mind you, just something that looked like a small scale mock up of the tomb. This is gone now, replaced by places that can sell you something.

In the next post we can take a look inside the hotel at some of the Egyptianizing decor that can be seen there.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Drinking from a Sarcophagus???

     Occasionally Egyptologists get to deal with some truly unusual ideas and the people who propose them. Some people believe that the pyramids were built by aliens while others believe that there is a curse of the Pharaohs that will strike down anyone who violates a royal tomb.

     The latest example of this sort of thing just might be the craziest I have ever heard of. Last week a large black sarcophagus was found and opened in Alexandria. Inside was a mix of skeletons and a vile smelling red water. A crack in the sarcophagus had apparently allowed water to seep in.

     Now someone has started a petition to have the antiquities service permit the drinking of "...the red liquid from the cursed dark sarcophagus in the form of some sort of carbonated energy drink so we can assume its powers and die." Wow! Mixing an ancient curse with a carbonated energy drink. This idea is truly unique!

     Now it would be easy to dismiss this petition as the ravings of a lone loon, but apparently over 17,000 people have signed the petition! Seriously, 17,000 people want to drink this stuff in the form of a carbonated energy drink that will kill them?

     And I thought the ideas I hear at work were crazy!!!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Assassin's Creed Origins

     At the annual ARCE meeting a video game called "Assassin's Creed: Origins" was brought to my attention by a speaker (Christian Casey) who suggested that it be used to engage youngsters in ancient history, especially ancient Egyptian history.

     I took a look at the game through the magic of, which has numerous video clips showing off the stunning graphics in this game. Take a look at them and see what I mean.

     But the larger question here is can games be used to engage kids in "school work" like history? My own personal experience would suggest that the answer to this question is yes. Back in about 1982 I became an early adopter of a new product called a PC. At first I bought it to do for processing, rather than driving myself nuts with a typewriter. During summer break, I played a few games (very primitive ones compared to Assassin's Creed) and got interested in learning how the games were actually created. This led me to becoming a programmer and having a much better career than I otherwise might have. Playing video games did indeed have a significant, positive, impact on my education and life.

     So if anyone has any thoughts on all of this, please do comment on this post as I am really interested in what others may think about this idea.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Gods, Priests and Bald Men in the Book of the Dead - ARCE Annual Meeting Day 3

     On day 3 of the annual ARCE meeting Dr. Barbara Richter spoke about "Gods, Priests and Bald Men: a New Look at the Book of the Dead 103". Spell 103 is short and not well studied. Eighty-six copies of it are known from the New Kingdom through the Roman Period and pre-cursors of this spell appear in the Coffin Texts. The spell reads, "I am one who passes by, pure and bald. Ihy, Ihy, I am in the following of Hathor".

     For such a short spell, there are a number of meanings to the words, as Dr. Richter pointed out. First of all, Ihy is a minor Egyptian god. The word can also mean "a sistrum player" or "Ihy priest", or even "to make music". The god Ihy is shown wearing a sidelock at Dendera, which is his main cult center, as far back as the Fifth Dynasty. There is also a statue of Ihy in the Tomb of Tutankhamen (see: Carter, Howard. The Tomb of Tutankhamen, vol. 3, plate LVI; the statue is made of wood covered in black resin). Ihy priests are more commonly shown in the Ptolemaic Period, than the New Kingdom. There is also one interesting extra tidbit related to this, as pointed out in this talk. Some New Kingdom statues show a bald man, with just a fringe of hair, offering a sistrum.

     There are double meanings in other words in this short spell. "Ssh" means "to pass by" or "to open" and this spell is sometimes accompanied by a vignette showing a person opening a shrine with Hathor inside.

     A possible interpretation of this spell, according to Dr. Richter, is that it indicates the role of music in pacifying Hathor.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Day Two of the ARCE Meeting (Conclusion)

     The second day of this year's ARCE annual meeting ended (for me) with two papers the first of which was delivered by Hassan Ramadan, one of several Egyptian scholars who spoke at this year's meeting. This paper (entitled "The Western Cemetery Excavation of the tomb of Hetepet at Giza") detailed excavation work done on the Fifth Dynasty (sometime after the reign of Neferkara) mastaba of Hetepet.

     Next, Geoff Embering (University of Michigan) spoke on the "Memories of the Kings of Kush: New Excavations Around the Royal Cemetery at el_Kurru". The paper detailed the work of Dr. Embering and his team in a post-Dynasty 25 Nubian cemetery.  The team attempted to locate some structures mentioned by Reisner and looked at a pyramid dating to the fourth century B. C. This pyramid was considered to be in danger of collapsing and architecture experts were brought in to determine how to prevent that from happening. It is suspected that this pyramid may not have actually been used for a burial.

     Day three started with Dr. Rita Lucarelli speaking about the "Dead Vignettes of the Greek Magical Papyri". Dr. Lucarelli showed a number of interesting vignettes from some Greek papyri and made some suggestions about their interpretation. One of these shows a square with a large "X" running through it. On top of it are two animal heads (Set animals?), while underneath it is a large snake (Apopis?). Is it a stela? A representation of the coffin of Osiris? Or does it represent a gate (from the underworld?). Another interesting vignette shown and discussed is a round topped stela with a winged snake and a human holding a knife, with this scene coming from Spell 149 of the Book of the Dead.



Thursday, April 26, 2018

More Papers at the ARCE Annual Meeting

     Even after hearing all of the papers mentioned in my previous two posts, the second day of the ARCE annual meeting was not nearly over. The next group of papers started with Dr. Rosa Erika Feleg speaking on the topic of "Re-Used Blocks in the Triple Shrine Inside Ramesses III's Forecourt at the Luxor Temple". Some scholars have argued that the shrines to Nut, Amun-Re and Khonshu that has been credited to Ramesses III was actually built by Hatshepsut. Dr. Feleg however seemed to be of the opinion that Ramesses re-used blocks from the reign of Hatshepsut and Amenhotep II, as well as some talatat blocks from the reign of Akhenaten, to build these shrines.

     Dr. Karen Bryson of Johns Hopkins deliver a lecture entitled "Fashion Forward: Dress and Decoding the Queenly Images of the Early 19th Dynasty". One interesting point that she made is that the iconography of the few statues of Horemheb's wife, Mutnodjmet was very similar to the statue found at Akhmim and thought to be of Meritamun, who was a wife of Ramesses II. Was this statue actually of Mutnodjmet?

     Then Dr. Nazomu Kawai of Kanazawa University described his recent excavations at North Saqqara. His team was trying to find the New Kingdom cemetery of Saqqara. They conducted a survey south of the Abu Sir lake, west to the Serapeum and east to the pyramid of Teti. Finds were precisely located using a GPS system and infra-red satellite images were used locate mud-brick structures under the sand. Work will continue in this area.