Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hatshepsut's Mummy Identified

This is somewhat old news, but since I mentioned the topic on March 26, I may as well explain why some claim that Hatshepsut's mummy has been identified.

Over a century ago, two female mummies were found in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 60), near the tomb of Hatshepsut. One of the women was in a coffin with an inscription that identified her as Hatshepsut's nurse. The other female had no coffin and could not be identified.

This second mummy had its left arm laid over her chest in a pose associated with 18th Dynasty royal women. The mummy was removed from the tomb in 2005 and was CT scanned in 2006 - 2007. The unidentified mummy was found to have a missing tooth, but part of the tooth's root was left in the mummy's jaw.

A wooden box inscribed with Hatshepsut's name was found in the Dier el-Bahri cache in 1881. This box contained what was believed to be her mummified liver. When the liver was CT scanned it was discovered that the box also contained the tooth that was missing from the unidentified female mummy.

This has led many to state that the unidentified female is Hatshepsut. This is not certain; all we can say is that the liver and tooth came from the body of the unidentified women in KV60. One must admit however, that if this mummy is not Hatshepsut then there are an awful lot of unexplained coincidences associated with this corpse. For instance, it is undoubtably an 18th Dynasty royal woman who was found buried next to Hatshepsut's nurse. additionally, the liver and tooth were found in a box inscribed with Hatshepsut's name.

While it is not absolutely certain that the unidentified mummy in KV60 is that of Hatshepsut, the available evidence sure does point to that conclusion.

If you are interested in some pictures of KV60 and the mummy of Hatshepsut, follow this link to Donald Ryan's website and then scroll down to the "Illustrations" section of the page.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Babylonia in the News

During the course of surfing the web, I have come across some stories about Babylonia in the press that I have not seen before, even though some of the stories are not all that recent. I thought I might provide links to the stories in case anyone else might find them intersting. So here goes:

1) Commentary on the recent Babylonia exhibit at the British Museum.
2) Another article on the same topic.
3) Another article in the London Times discusses ancient astronomy, including a Babylonian document that records sightings of Venus.
4) A stela from the reign of Nabonidus.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hatsepsut's Perfume to be Re-Created

A team from Bonn University has extracted what is believed to be the residue of perfume from a metal jar belonging to Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt's 18th Dynasty. They are currently trying to identify and "re-create" the perfume.

The article also goes on to state that Hatshepsut's mummy was positively identified in 2007, but my understanding is that the identification is not so posititve.

Here is a link to the story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adoption Contract Penalty Clauses

Adoption contracts frequently, but not always, have a penalty clause in them. Penalties may be set for breaking the terms of the contract by either the adopter(s) or the adoptee(s).

The penalties range from being sold into slavery to losing one’s inheritance. Sometimes a payment of some sort would need to be made for violating the terms of the contract. For instance, an adoption contract from Nippur concerns the adoption of three males (Ilum-gamil, Mar-ersetim and Ilsu-bani) by a man named Damiq-ilisu. If any of the three adoptees say “you are not our father” they will be shaved, marked as a slave and sold (see Stone and Owen, “Adoption in Old Babylonian Nippur in the Archive of Mannum-mesu-lissur”, p. 45).

Another contract from the same source (translated again by Stone and Owen, p.46) provides once again for the adoptees to be sold into slavery for repudiating their adopted parents. The parents will forfeit their house and field and pay an additional one mina of silver for violating the terms of the contract.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why did the Babylonians Adopt?

Typically today people adopt to have additional children to love and raise.

In Babylonia many couples no doubt adopted for the same reason. Some couples want children to fulfill emotional needs, possibly because they can not have more children or may even not be able to have any children. Also, in a second marriage, one or both partners might adopt the child of their new spouse as a way of making one family out of two.

A family might take in children from neighbors or related families if those families could no longer care for the child or if the child had been orphaned. This would serve societies need to make sure that children have a proper family to grow up in.

Another reason to adopt would be to have children to support you in your old age. In ancient Mesopotamia there were no government programs to care for senior citizens; children were expected to care for aged parents. In return, the adoptees would inherit property from the adopting parent(s).

Some adoptions are done by Naditu women. These women were not permitted to marry, so they needed to adopt children to care for them in their old age.

All of this is fairly straight forward and logical, possibly even obvious. Elizabeth Stone and David Owen in their book “Adoption in Old Babylonian Nippur in the Archive of Mannum-mesu-lissur” (see my review of the book) pointed out that there is another, not so obvious, reason to adopt. It seems that the owner of land in Babylonia could not freely sell land. Instead they must keep it within their “family”. If they wanted to sell land to someone who was not a member of their family, they needed to “adopt” that person.

Over the next few posts, I will take a look at some adoption contracts and see how they fit into these categories and what other information they provide to us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Egypt Wants Stolen Coffin Back

The Egyptian government claims that a coffin comfiscated by United States customs belongs to a 21st Dynasty Pharaoh. Apparently the coffin was being smuggled from Spain to the United States when U. S. Customs officals siezed it.

Here is a link to the story:


Monday, March 16, 2009

Bent Pyramid to be Opened to Tourists

Zahi Hawass, the head of the Egyptian antiquities service, has announced plans to open the “Bent” pyramid at Dashur to tourists for the first time. The neighboring “Red” pyramid is already open to tourists.

The “Bent” pyramid was probably built by the Pharaoh Sneferu, the father of Khufu (who built the Great Pyramid at Giza).

Dr. Hawass was quoted as saying that archaeologists believe that Sneferu’s burial chamber still lies undiscovered in the “Bent” pyramid, but this is news to me. I am not aware of any archaeologists who have made this claim. I will check into the published material and see if this claim has ever been made before.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Body of Cleopatra's Sister Identified?

The London Times is reporting that the skeleton of Arsinoe, the younger sister of Cleopatra, has been identified. Arsinoe was murdered at Cleopatra and Mark Antony's orders. Here is a link to the story.

The body was found in 1926 in a tomb in Ephesus, where Arsinoe was banished and later murdered. Recent medical work on the body have led to the identification.

In other news out of Egypt, some gold jewelry has been found in the plundered tomb of Gahouti, the head of the treasury under Queen Hatshepsut. Here is a link to the story.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sumerian Adoption Laws

A Sumerian Law Tablet (translated in "Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor" by Martha Roth) contains three laws relating to adoption:

#4 - If he (the adopted son) declares to his father and mother, "You are not my father," or "You are not my mother," he shall forfeit house, field, orchard, slaves and possessions and they shall him for silver (into slavery) for his full value.

#5 - (If) his (adoptive) father and mother declare to him, "You are not our son," they shall forfeit... the estate.

#6 - If his (adoptive) father and mother declare [to him], "You are not our son," they shall forfeit [the estate].

Similar laws to these existed in later Mesopotamian "law codes" and provided protection to both the adoptive parents and to the adopted child.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Sumerian Reader: a Review

I am in London on a business trip and while in London, I visited Foyle’s Bookshop, which bills itself as the world’s largest book store, and they might be right about that. I found a book, A Sumerian Reader, by Konrad Volk, which I did not even know existed. It was a great find.

The book grew out of some texts that the author put together to give students practice reading Sumerian. The author published the current version of the work in 1999.

The book is a slim volume that is highly useful to the student of Sumerian. Dr. Volk includes texts from three genres: Royal Inscriptions, Legal Texts (marriage contracts, slave purchases, etc.) and “Economic Documents”. The texts are given in Sumerian characters and in transliteration. In all, 44 texts are presented in this volume.

The book also includes a Sumerian sign list (only for the signs used in this book), a Sumerian to English dictionary, a list of place names and person al names. Lists of divine names and Sacred Buildings are also given.

At 20 British Pounds, this book is a great value. Giving the student both the texts and the transliterations is a great help to self-learners who want to take the next step in learning Sumerian (after learning the language’s grammar).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tutankhamen's Father Identified?

The Supreme Council for Antiquities in Egypt has relocated a stone block that was published many years ago by Gunther Roeder. This block has an inscription with the names of Ankhesenpaaten and Tutankhaten carved on it. Both names are not in cartouches and have the titles "King's daughter of his body" and "King's son of his body" respectively. Some have leapt to the conclusion that this indicates that both Tutankaten and his bride had the same father. Since we know that Ankesenpaaten's father was definately Akehenaten, this would make Tutankaten's father Akhenaten as well. Or would it?

Frankly, I am sceptical. It is possible that the block was carved to commemorate the couple's marriage. If so, there is no reason to conclude that their names occuring together shows that they had the same father. I do suspect that Akhenaten was Tutankaten's father, but this block does not prove it in my opinion.

On another topic, I will be away for much of the next three weeks, so my posts will be sporadic at best. Once I get back to normal, I will resume my posts on adoption in Mesopotamia.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Laws of Eshnunna on Adoption

The "Laws of Eshnunna" have something to say about adoption as well. For instance:

#33 "If a slave woman acts to defraud and gives her child to a woman of the awilu-class, when he grows up should his master locate him, he shall sieze him and take him away."

No doubt this refers to a slave woman trying to keep her child from growing up as a slave by giving the child away for adoption. The owner of the mother has the right to reclaim the child if he can identify him / her.

#34 "If a slave of the palace should give her son or her daughter to a commoner for rearing, the palace shall remove the son or daughter whom she gave."

This law would seem to apply to a situation where the child is simply given away without a formal adoption. Otherwise, the next law makes no sense:

#35 "However, an adopter who takes in adoption the child of a slave woman of the palace shall restore (another slave of) equal value for the palace."

NOTE: the translations given here are from Roth, Martha. Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 2nd Edition. Society of Biblical Literature, 1997 (see my review of this book).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hammurabi’s Law Code and Adoption (Part 3)

There are a number of other laws that are pertinent to this topic in Hammurabi’s code (these translations are also from Dr. Richardson’s book Hammurabi’s Laws):

#168 “If a man has come to the decision to dispossess his son and he has stated before judges, ‘I will dispossess my son,’ the judges shall make the decisions about his affairs and the father shall not dispossess his son from his inheritance unless the son has committed an offence serious enough to be disinherited.”

#169 “If he has committed an offence against his father serious enough to be disinherited, on the first occasion they will turn a blind eye. If he has committed an offence for the second time the father shall disinherit his son.”

Note that neither of these laws specifically deals with adopted sons. As far as we can tell from the texts, these laws apply to all sons, natural born and adopted. They provide a way to disinherit a son who has done something very wrong, but even then, his first offence shall be forgiven (#169).

Children could not easily disown their parents. Hammurabi Code #192 – 193 deal with the punishment a son could expect for trying to disown his parents:

#192 “If the son of an official or the son of a priestess has said to the father who brought him up, ‘You are not my father. You are not my mother,’ they shall cut out his tongue.

#193 “If the son of an official or the son of a priestess declares he knows his father’s house, and he hates the father and the mother who have brought him up, and he has gone away to his father’s house, they shall pull out his eye.”

Law #193 clearly is intended to mean that the son has left his adopted father’s house and returned to the house of his biological father. Law #193 does not seem to make a distinction between an adopted child and a biological son.