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 YouTube.com, 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.

     

Sunday, April 22, 2018

ARCE Meetings - Day 2 (Continued)

     Day 2 of the annual ARCE meeting continued with Dr. Ogden Goelet (of New York University) discussing "Insights into Ritual at the Abydos Temple of Ramesses II".

     Like most Egyptian temples, this one is divided into three parts. At the front is a peristyle court where the general public could worship. Behind this area was an octostyle count (called octostyle because it had eight columns) which was restricted to priests and the elite. At the rear of the temple was a second octostyle court and three cult rooms.

     During festivals the cult statue of the god was frequently paraded on a small barque (boat) carried on poles by the temple priests. Dr. Goelet feels that the rear portions of the temple were too small for a barque to be carried and suggests that a small shrine may have been used instead.

     Like all Egyptian temples, this one had many texts and scenes carved on its walls, including the "Litany of Horus", which is an offering ritual that appears as far back as the Pyramid Texts. There is also a scene of Ramesses being rejuvenated by drinking cow's (Hathor's) milk, while in chapel G there is another scene of Ramesses being rejuvenated, this time by a "baptism" that shows the water being poured on him as streams of Ankhs (life) and Was scepters (dominion).

     Adela Oppenheim of the Metropolitan Museum discussed the museum's recent work at Lisht South and the pyramid complex of Senwosret III in a talk entitled "The Metropolitan Museum 2017 Season at Lisht South and the Pyramid Complex of Senwosret III, Dashur".

     The museum started the season by doing conservation and restoration work in the burial chamber of Senwosretankh at Lisht South, which is well known as it has a copy of the Pyramid Texts in it. Then the work switched to Dashur and the South Temple of Senwosret III's pyramid complex. On the Southwest side of the temple are a number of boat pits (one of the boats they contained is in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh). The temple itself is now limited to mud brick sub-foundations and the exact layout of the temples rooms cannot be determined at this time. The decorative program is very fragmented. There were intrusive burials found as well as a post-Middle Kingdom pit lined with blocks placed in all sorts of random directions. A lintel was also found that has what Dr. Oppenheim referred to as a "Bird Stare Down", with Nekhbet and Horus facing each other and seeming to want to see who will blink first.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ARCE 2018 Annual Meetings - Day 2

     Day two of the annual American Research Center in Egypt conference started at 8:30 this morning with a talk by Martin Uildriks (of Brown University) entitled "Forts, Cities and Urbanization, a Comparative Space Syntax Analysis of State-Planned Space".

     Dr. Uildriks raised the issue of Egyptologists assuming that the first floor of homes (of the wealthy anyway) had columned rooms that were used as reception areas. This interpretation may need to change as he showed a number of depictions of homes that show columned rooms on the second floor. Further, some of the excavated homes at Amarna show signs of having the first floor used fo production work, such as weaving. The speaker also pointed out to similar indications is state controlled housing at Kahun and in the Nubian forts, such as Uronarti.

     Lisa Saladino Haney discussed the art work of Senwosret III and how it fit into a possible co-regency (the talk was called "Visualizing Coregency: the Early and Later Styles of Senwosret III"). Dr. Haney started by mentioning three stelae that have "double datings" that possibly indicate coregencies:

  • Stela of Hapu - double dating of Amenemhat II (year 35) and Senwosret II (year 2)
  • Stela of Wepwawet - Senwosret I (year 44) and Amenemhat II (year 2)
  • Stela of AMeny - also carries a double date

Dr. Haney divides the art of Senwosret III into two parts, and early and late period. The late style continues into the reign of Amenemhat III while the early style first appears in the reign of Senwosret iII's predecessor.
  

ARCE Annual Meetings - Day 1

     The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is having its annual meeting this week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I arrived Friday morning (because United got me to Houston too late to catch my connecting flight on Thursday), so I missed the first few papers I wanted to see. However, there were still plenty of other papers to enjoy:

     Bonnie Sampsell gave a paper entitled "Reconsidering the History of an Unusual Yellow Coffin" in which she described a Third Intermediate Period yellow coffin and suggested that the specific coffin was likely a late example of its type.

     Brian Muhs of the University of Chicago gave a talk entitled "Papyri in Private Collections, Afterlife or Second Death? The Case of William Randolph Hearst", in which he detailed Hearst's collection of eight papyri, how they were eventually sold at auction to help pay off Hearst's massive debts and what became of some of them after they were sold to private collectors. Dr. Muhs also pointed out that the present whereabouts of three of the papyri is no longer known.

     "The Gilded Coffin of the Priest of Heryshef, Nedjemankh", a talk by Diana Craig Patch and Janice Kamrin, described a Ptolemaic coffin that has recently been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum. The coffin has a number of interesting features. For instance, the lappets of the "wig" on the coffin have a number of registers of decoration that show baboons worshipping the rising sun Isis and Nephthys with Osiris, Anubis and Horus with Osiris and representations of recumbent jackals (earlier Egyptian coffins did not have decorative registers on the wig lappets). The coffin is made of cartonnage covered with plaster and gilded.

     There was also a business meeting of the various members of the various ARCE chapter's Board of Directors, which I attended as one of the representatives of the New York chapter. Some interesting ideas were discussed and some interesting developments should be happening soon.  I will post news as it happens.

     My next post will detail events of the second day of the conference.