Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interesting Site about Egyptian Tombs

     I have found a site called that has many pictures from the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Amarna and the Valley of the Nobles at Luxor. If you have photos of any tombs and would like this site to publish them, let them know. Otherwise, just go to the site and enjoy looking at places you have been to and fondly remember, or to which you would like to go but have not (yet) been able to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Be a Scribe

Fig. 1 - Horemheb as a scribe
Fig. 2 - Horemheb, Metropolitan Museum
     A famous ancient Egyptian text tells young Egyptians that it is best to work hard to become a scribe. The text tells of the ordeals of those engaged in other professions (soldiers, farmers, etc.) while extolling the status and lifestyle of the scribe.

     Horemheb was a commoner who became Pharaoh of Egypt after the death of Aye, who in turn was a commoner who became King upon the death of Tutankhamen. Horemheb was a general, but he had himself represented in this statue, which pre-dates his becoming Pharaoh, as a scribe.

Fig. 3 - Detail of Horemheb's Face
Fig. 4 - Louvre Scribe, Old Kingdom
     The statue is quite similar to many other statues of scribes that have survived from ancient times. The scribe sits cross-legged with his "kilt" stretched tight over his lap to provide a surface on which to write. A papyrus roll is held open by the left hand while the right hand, which is broken away on this statue, is poised to use his brush to begin writing on the open scroll. Also note the rolls of fat in the Horemheb's pectoral area. This is designed to show that the scribe represented by the statue was above physical labor. This is a convention in Egyptian art that extends back to very early times.

     Compare the famous "seated scribe" statue from the Old Kingdom (now in the Louvre Museum in Paris). In spite of the fact that there is almost one thousand years between the creation of these two statues, the basic conventions described above are the same. From the rolls of fat on the scribe's body to the right hand poised over the scroll ready to begin writing, the statues do bear a remarkable similarity to each other.

Fig. 5 Granary Model of Meketre, 11th Dynasty
     Scribes would have spent their careers recording goods brought from the fields to a granary (see the scribes in the foreground of the famous granary model from the tomb of Meketre), or writing contracts or writing letters dictated by the lord of an estate. Well placed or very talented scribes would have worked in the major temples, or even for the King himself.

     Scribes with a gift for art may have been commissioned, in the New Kingdom and later periods, to create a "Book of the Dead" for a client. This required the ability to not only copy religious texts to a scroll, but to also draw the vignettes that illustrated the Book of the Dead. It was probably frequent for two different persons to collaborate on a copy of a funerary text, with one of them copying the text and the other painting the vignettes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

ISIS Destroys a Temple at Palmyra

     ISIS has apparently destroyed yet another famous historical site, the Baalshamin temple at Palmyra in Syria. Reports are somewhat conflicting with one report saying the destruction was done a month ago, while another source said it was done in the past couple of days. A longer article on this can be found here.

All of this comes a few days after ISIS beheaded an elderly archaeologist.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tut's tomb to be Investigated for Hidden Doorways

     The Egyptian government has asked archaeologist Nicholas Reeves to come to Egypt to debate his conclusions that there MAY be two hidden doorways in Tutankhamen's tomb and that one of them MAY hide the entrance to Nefertiti's tomb. Tests will likely be done to see if the doorways are, or are not, actually there.

Here is a short interview with Dr. Reeves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cylinder Seals at the Morgan Library

     The Morgan Library has a number of cylinder seals. The one illustrated here shows a winged human fighting a lion while the human continues to show his dominion over a bull. The seal is made of a red substance (the label does not specify what the seal is made of). When it was rolled over a soft substance like clay, the image in the grey rectangles appears.

     In ancient times, this type of seal would be used to mark a wine jar, jewelry box or anything along these lines as belonging to whoever owned the seal that was rolled over the clay on the object in question. Perhaps the lid of a jewelry box could be "locked" by tying the lid to the box itself and then putting soft clay over the string and rolling the seal over the clay. If anyone opened the box, it would be obvious as the clay seal would be broken.

     Unfortunately, there is no date given on the label for this seal.

Copyright (c) 2015 by John Freed

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More on "Nefertiti's Tomb"

     I have read a copy of Nicholas Reeve's paper in which he describes his theory that the tomb of Tutankhamen is the front on Nefertiti's tomb and that her burial lies behind one of the walls of Tut's final resting place.

     Tutankhamen's tomb was digitally scanned a while back so that a full scale replica could be made. In looking at those scans, Dr. Reeves found what he believes is evidence that there is a doorway behind the paintings on two of the burial chamber's walls. One of these doorways leads only to an additional chamber (or so Dr. Reeves believes), while the other leads to a passageway into Nefertiti's tomb.

     So why does Dr. Reeves believe that, if there is a tomb hidden behind Tut's, it is the tomb of Nefertiti? He feels that the layout of the chambers in Tutankhamen's burial place indicate that the "antechamber" and "burial chamber" are a corridor that was divided by a wall erected to break what was originally one space into two. The layout of the "original corridor" indicates that the "larger tomb" was constructed for a Queen, and the only Queen of this era who might have had a burial in the Valley of the Kings was Nefertiti after she ruled Egypt as Akhenaten's successor (Semenkhara).

     Reeve's cautions that his theory needs to be proven by careful study of Tutankhamen's tomb. I would assume that this work will be done soon and it will be very interesting to see if it supports this intriguing idea.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tut's Tomb was the Antechamber of Nefetiti's Tomb?

     Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believes there is a passage hidden in the burial chamber of the tomb of Tutankhamen and that it may lead to the tomb of Nefetiti. Reeve's claims to have noticed a bricked up passage in a digital scan of Tutankhamen's tomb.

Click here for more information.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Morgan Library Collection

     I recently had a chance to get to the Morgan Library in New York. The collection contains a number of great European paintings and a small amount of ancient Near Eastern Art. I got some photos and will do a few posts about the collection.

     First is a copper figure from a foundation deposit. It shows Ur-Nammu, the first King of the Third Dynasty of Ur, carrying a basket full of mud to be used in creating bricks used in building new temples or in restoring the temples he found in disrepair. The King is showing his humility before the gods by performing the lowly task of carrying mud for brick making.

     The inscription reads "Ur-Nammu, King or Ur, King of Sumer and Akkad, the one who built the temple of Enlil".