Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tomb with Animal Mummies Found at Sakkara and Work in Merneptah's Tomb

     We have mentioned in the past that animals were often mummified and offered to particular deities. A tomb filled with animal mummies offered to Anubis has been found at Sakkarra, near Cairo. Additionally, the tomb that was excavated to hold the mummies has, embedded in its roof, a fossilized marine life form (I have no more specific details than that) that is estimated to be about 48 million years old.

     This tomb is near by several other catacombs devoted to various animal mummies including two tombs with ibis mummies (for Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom), hawks (Horus or Ra) and, of course, the famous Serapeum where the Apis bulls were buried. Also, there is a tomb nearby for the mummies of the mothers of the Apis bulls. All of these tombs are slightly north of Djoser's step pyramid complex.

     In a completely unrelated story, in the Valley of the Kings are trying to re-assemble and reconstruct the sarcophagus of the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Merneptah. Archaeologists believe that Merneptah was buried in four stone sarcophagi (this is very unusual) and that these huge sarcophagi were decorated with scenes from the "Book of Gates" and the "Amduat".

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ARCE Lecture in NY

     On Thursday, June 25 the New York Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt will have guest speaker Dr. Peter Feinman lecturing on "Cosmic Trauma: Assyria and Egypt's 9/11". The lecture is at 6:00 at:

15 East 84th St.
NY., NY.

If you can make the lecture please do, it should be interesting. You do not need to be a member of ARCE to attend, but please go to to let them know you will be there.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Terrorist Bombing at Karnak (a Little More Information)

     The Wall Street Journal is reporting that five people were injured in the attempted terrorist attack at Karnak, although they did not say if that number included the terrorists who were injured. Egyptian police have apparently confirmed that one of the terrorists died when he detonated a suicide bomb.

     Once again I have to compliment the Egyptian Police for preventing this from being far worse than it was.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Attempted Terrorist Attack at Karnak Temple

     There has been an attempted terrorist attack at Karnak Temple, in southern Egypt. The police apparently realized quickly what was happening and were able to shoot and kill one terrorist and wound another. A third had an explosive device that detonated and killed him. There were minor injuries to the police and a couple of civilians. No tourists were injured.

     A big "thumbs up" to Egyptian security guards who handled this attack quickly and efficiently.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Horus, Son of Osiris

Figure 1 - Horus and Nectanebo II, Metropolitan Museum
     The god Horus was, to the ancient Egyptians, the shining example of what a good son should be. Conceived after his father's death (we will get to that in a moment!), he avenged his father's murder and took his place as the king of Egypt. Each Pharaoh in turn was thought to be the earthly form of Horus.

     Osiris was murdered by his evil brother Seth and his body was torn into many different pieces. The pieces were patiently re-assembled by Isis, the sister and wife of Osiris. She then copulated with her dead husband and conceived Horus.

Figure 2 - Horemheb and Horus, Kusthistorisches Museum, Vienna
     After Horus reached adulthood he waged a series of battles against Seth. These battles were detailed in the sometimes bawdy "Tale of the Contendings of Horus and Seth" (as told on Papyrus Chester Beatty I). Eventually Horus tricked Seth into a race in the river using boats made of stone. Seth's boat, predictably, sank. Horus however used a wooden boat painted to look like stone and won the race. At this point the gods chose Horus as the legitimate King of Egypt and successor to his father Osiris.

Figure 3 - Horus, 18th Dynasty, Munich
     Horus is very often portrayed in Egyptian art. He is frequently shown with the Pharaoh, sometimes standing above the king with the Pharaoh standing between the god's legs (figure 1, Dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II) and other times with the Pharaoh standing beside the him (figure 2).

Figure 4 - Mummified Raptor, Late Period / Ptolemaic
     Horus usually took the form of a hawk with the long lappets of a headdress hanging down over his shoulders (figures 2 and 3) and is frequently shown wearing the white and red crowns (the so-called "double" crown) in his role as the King of Egypt.

     The Egyptians also mummified animals, including raptors, which were then offered to the gods. Figure 4 is an example of this and is currently exhibited in the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences (on loan from the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University).

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Latest Issue of KMT

     The latest issue of KMT magazine is on newsstands, including Barnes and Nobles bookstores, now. The issue has an article on the recently re-opened collection in the Turin Museum. Another article covers the find of a Dynasty Twelve tomb that contains some nice Middle Kingdom jewelry. Last but not least, is an article on the newly discovered Pharaoh Senebkay. Given the coverage this discovery has garnered in the past year (I have done three blog entries on the find already), it would seem to be one of the hottest stories in Egyptian Archaeology in the past few years.

     Shorter articles on Hatehepsut's temple at Dier el-Bahri and on ancient beer making round out the issue.

     You can subscribe to KMT here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Dynasty 26 Tombs Found at Aswan

     Six new Dynasty 26 tombs have been found at Aswan near the Aga Khan mausoleum. These are first Late Period tombs found at Aswan.

     These tombs do not seem to have any inscriptions, but some burials have been found in them. Here are some photos.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bes - Protector of Childbirth

      Bes was the Egyptian god who protected women during childbirth. He is usually portrayed either as a lion rearing up on its (bowed) hind legs or as a dwarf. He is also sometimes shown brandishing a large knife or sword. I am not aware of any temple of Bes at any point in Egyptian history, and his worship would seem to have been limited to households.

     This particular example, which dates to either Dynasty Nineteen or Twenty and is now in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, shows the god playing a double flute. The tenon at the bottom of the figure would indicate that this piece was originally part of a piece of furniture. The carving is of wood covered with plaster.

     One further interesting thing about Bes is that he is the only Egyptian god that I know of who is usually portrayed in a completely frontal view (Hathor is the only goddess about whom the same can be said).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Middle Kingdom Attempt at Perspective

     A fragmentary piece from Nebhepetre Montuhotep II's Dynasty Eleven mortuary temple on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science may be an early attempt by an Egyptian artist at perspective.

     The piece, which is on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston,  shows the feet of the King and a couple of gods that he stands between. Notice how some of the feet seem to be "in front of" other feet in what seems to be an attempt at adding perspective to this carving. In the fragmentary state this relief is in the result is rather confusing to a modern viewer; it is virtually impossible to tell which feet go with which figure.

     Montuhotep reunified Egypt in about the 39th year of his reign after the political troubles of the First Intermediate Period. He built a temple at Dier el-Bahri that served as the inspiration for temples built more than 500 years later by Tuthmose III and Hatshepsut of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

     There have been three major sets of excavations at the temple, one in the 1850's, another (under Naville) in the very early 1900's and most recently in the 1960's by Dieter Arnold. Under the temple's terraces were found the burials of several of the Pharaoh's wives were found during the first two sets of excavations, while Arnold's work resulted in a complete clearance of the tombs that had been found earlier.