December 11, 2015

KV62 update

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 9:35 am

Discovery of the century?

“There is, in fact, an empty space behind the wall based on radar, which is very accurate, there is no doubt,” Watanabe told Al-Ahram Weekly. He said that obviously this void space was an entrance to a very deep “something”. At this point, Watanabe could not determine the size of the hollow space behind the wall; the data had to be analysed in order to better understand it and to come up with the correct results.
Eldamaty described the results of the radar scans as “good and positive”. He told the Weekly that “although we do now believe 90 per cent that the west and north wall conceal something behind it, probably a burial chamber, more work is needed to yield accurate results. “The scans will be sent to Japan for further analysis, which will take around one month to complete.”

A bit more cautious assessment from Al-Ahram. They mention the possibility that it could just be a natural void in the rock that was plastered over to make a nice flat wall. The whole Valley is all jointed up with faults and such and it’s also fairly friable rock so it’s possible that a portion could have caved in during construction. But we’ll see I guess.

December 1, 2015

More Tut

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 9:51 am

Was King Tutankhamun’s famous burial mask originally intended for his stepmother Nefertiti?

One of the most famous relics from the ancient world – the golden and heavily decorated funeral mask of ancient Egypt’s King Tutankhamun – could have been initially designed for someone else, a leading archaeologist has theorised. Nicholas Reeves, a British Egyptologist, says that the historic mask could have been made for Tutankhamun’s stepmother – the mysterious Queen Nefertiti.

In early August, Reeves, of the University of Arizona, detailed how he thought he had discovered a secret passageway within the tomb of Tutankhamun – son of pharaoh Akhenaten. By analysing high-definition photographs, Reeves discovered evidence of bricked-up passageways that could act as a secret passageway to Nefertiti’s burial chamber.

Now, in a draft study published on, Reeves argues that the mask wasn’t made for King Tut. “Blinded by the piece’s sheer beauty and enormous bullion worth, however, the world has looked and yet has completely failed to see — that the gold mask had never been intended for Tutankhamun at all,” he writes.

Well, we’ll see I guess.

November 12, 2015

Paleocardiology update

Filed under: Egypt, Public Health — acagle @ 11:36 am

Mummies know best: the pharaohs giving up their secrets about heart disease

In 2008, Greg Thomas, a cardiologist from California, was in Cairo for work. While there, he visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities with another cardiologist, Adel Allam of Al Azhar University in Cairo. They came across the mummy of King Merneptah, a pharaoh who lived 3,200 years ago. The description on Merneptah’s case said he had suffered from atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque on artery walls. Both men were sure this must be wrong. How could an ancient Egyptian have had heart disease, when most of the risk factors for the disease – obesity, unhealthy diet, smoking and lack of exercise – did not then exist? But could they prove it?
. . .
After months of negotiation with officials, the pair began scanning the museum’s mummies (ironically, Merneptah was excluded, as Egyptian archaeological officials ruled that royal mummies could not be part of the project). What they found surprised them: many showed clear signs of fatty buildup in their arteries. When the results are adjusted for age (pre-modern people had shorter life-spans, so most of the remains are of people who died in their 40s or younger), the rate of atherosclerosis was about the same as it is for people in modern society, around 40%.

I think this is great research because they’re getting scans from a wide variety of people and areas. Hard to tell what all other demographic and health status information they can get from the mummies themselves; many times you can gauge obesity from the mummies and it looks like they are getting other data (though probably from previous research, such as the infections each had). However, in most places you’re still likely to get mostly upper echelons of society since those were the ones most likely to have their corpses expensively preserved (except in cases where preservation was natural).
Remember, we really know very little about the causes of most non-infectious diseases.

October 7, 2015

Anubis the Bouncer

Filed under: Egypt, Humor — acagle @ 8:22 am

(via Kara Cooney)

Desert Fox

September 21, 2015

An Egyptologist you’ve probably never heard of

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:14 pm

Memoires of an Egyptology guru

Selim Hassan’s daily routine was quite simple. He woke at the crack of dawn and went off to his excavation site. To name a few of his excavations, he discovered many of the Giza mastaba tombs, cleared the Sphinx and its temple, for the first time completely digging out the great amphitheater around it and ensuring that it would not be buried by sand easily.

In addition, he wrote a study on the temple of Amenhotep II, discovered the so-called “fourth Pyramid,” or the palace-façade tomb of Queen Khentkawes of the Fourth Dynasty, and also the funerary town of the priests associated with it, reveals CULTNAT. He worked at Sakkara on the causeway, and the valley temple of King Wanis, discovering 17 mastaba tombs around this area. He was a great success.

I’d come across the name before but never really had much to do with him.

Also this:

Om Siti, or the later famous Dorothy Eady, became Selim Hassan’s assistant, and would live on site. ” She lived by the newly discovered tomb, which she took as shelter, never posed in any of our photos and would feed all stray animals, including snakes,” he remembered.

Kind of a nut, but apparently a kind-hearted nut.

August 11, 2015

Hmmmmm. . . . .

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:14 pm

What lies beneath?

What Mr Reeves found in these ultra-high-resolution images, which reveal the texture of walls beneath layers of paint in the original tomb, was a number of fissures and cracks that suggest the presence of two passages that were blocked and plastered to conceal their existence. (See image, with proposed new areas in yellow.) One of these would probably lead to a storeroom; its position and small size mirror that of an already-uncovered storeroom inside the multi-chambered tomb. The other, bigger possible doorway in the north wall of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber suggests something much more exciting.

This link has one of the images. Not sure about this without reading the paper. It’s certainly possible that it could have been someone else’s tomb — perhaps a queen’s — that was then modified and maybe cut off and plastered over in spots in the rush to give Tut a tomb. Doesn’t mean there’s anything in the other chambers, but one never knows. I would have thought earlier scans would have revealed these though.

July 28, 2015

Online paper alert

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:26 pm

The Burial of Nefertiti? (2015)

Downloadable paper.

I drank a lot of beer with Reeves once. No, twice.

July 21, 2015

Breaking news!

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 6:57 pm

From the EEF:

Ministry of Antiquities
Press Office
Antiquities Minister, Dr. Mamdouh Eldamaty declared the
The Durham/Egypt Exploration Society /Ministry of Antiquities
team working at Sais – Nile Delta, excavated part of the
magazine storerooms of the late Ramesside period. They
discovered a complete assemblage of pottery food storage and
preparation vessels within a large magazine of around 6m by 6m
and a similar set of vessels in a neighbouring magazine, which
still remain to be excavated.
Eldamaty added that outside this domestic area a series of
circular mud features were noted, perhaps the bases of storage
silos for grain or perhaps tree-pits for special kinds of fruit
tree or plants.
On the other hand, Head of Ancient Egyptian Archaeology Sector
Dr. Mahmoud Afify said that the discovered The pottery jars
were all in fragments but included globular cooking vessels,
Canaanite amphora, ‘meat-jars’ and large Red Egyptian amphorae
dating to the late 20th Dynasty.
Mission’s Director, Penny Wilson elaborated that The ceiling
of the magazine had collapsed on top of the magazine in a
catastrophic event which may have affected the whole Ramesside
city, burying it under rubble. Late in the Third Intermediate
Period a large walled structure was built upon the rubble and
several phases of domestic activity were recorded either within
or outside this large mud-brick wall. Large hearths associated
with the houses were used for some time, being refurbished and
reused when they became too full of ash. Throughout the material,
some earlier broken fragments from the Old Kingdom can be found
in the rubble attesting to the long time period of settlement
at Sais.
Adding that, although the glorious city of Dynasty 26 is almost
completely destroyed, the finds in the northern part of the Sais
site confirm that there are two earlier cities preserved, complete
but in many fragments. They could represent the powerful New
Kingdom temple centre and the early Third Intermediate settlement
of the Great Kingdom of the West. Further work on the pottery will
enable more precise dating to be confirmed.

No doubt more will be forthcoming.

July 2, 2015

Salima again

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 7:27 pm

8 million mummified animals, mostly dogs, in catacombs at Egypt site
For centuries, dogs have been humans’ loyal, domesticated companions. They’ve been wild animals, doing what’s needed to survive. And in ancient Egypt, they served as bridges to the afterlife, with the hope that they’d intercede with the god Anubis on their owner’s behalf.

But only now is it becoming known the extent to which dogs served this latter role — 8 million times over.

That is the number of dead animals, most of them dogs, estimated to have laid in the catacombs of Anubis around Saqqara, one of Egypt’s most historic and oft-visited sites, according to a group of British researchers. While such mass burials aren’t unprecedented, given the numerous animal cults of ancient Egypt, this one’s scale makes it unique.

Not sure the link is right. The “8 million” figure isn’t what they’ve found, but an extrapolation. That’s not necessarily an inaccurate estimate since they could have been using it for hundreds of years with thousands of people bringing sacrifices every year. Remember that when someone mentions how an animal was “sacred” to the Egyptians; it likely means they killed an awful lot of them.

May 18, 2015

Only post today: RIP, John “Ruther-hotep” Rutherford

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 3:03 pm

John Brisbin Rutherford

John Brisbin Rutherford died on February 3 at home surrounded by his family. He was 90. Born March 1, 1923, in Harrisburg, Pa., John grew up on his family’s dairy farm, which supplied milk to the Hershey chocolate company. Early on, at the age of 8 or 9, he decided he did not want to be a farmer and fixed on becoming an engineer. After receiving a Purple Heart for wounds from German machine-gun fire in World War II, he earned his B.S. in engineering from Lehigh in 1949 and his M.S. from Cal Tech in 1950. With the late Constantine Chekene, John co-founded the engineering firm Rutherford & Chekene in 1960. The firm’s projects include the Cannery and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, among many others. But his favorite project, to which he devoted much of the last 20 years of his career, was protection of Egypt’s ancient monuments in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere.

That’s from last year (2014) by the way.
I worked with John two seasons in the Valley of the Kings, 1991 and 1993. He was truly a fine man. I’ve always wished I’d had a career like his. He was a good engineer, worked on many interesting projects, and had a long career followed by a productive retirement. As the obit says, he assisted in protecting the VK tombs through an analysis of the flood potential. That’s what I worked with him on, surveying the Valley from that perspective, identifying drainages, etc. We did everything by hand the old fashioned way: wrote down transit readings and then reduced them using a calculator every evening. I really learned more from that experience about surveying than just plugging junk into a total station. Although I quickly forgot it all, since that was the only time I used it.

Just a couple of stories. First, he worked on the movie The Abyss (I think it was that one, some underwater movie at any rate). They were apparently attempting to figure out some way of making the deep underwater scenes look like they were deep underwater but still provide enough light to film by. They’d tried all sorts of tricks with different lighting schemes and filters and what-not but it all looked artificial. But then they happened upon a relatively simple idea: they covered the surface of the tank they were filming in with a bunch of irregularly shaped styrofoam blocks. Turned out it made it relatively dark but let enough natural sunlight in at random trajectories so it looked natural and allowed enough light to film in.

Second, one day a bunch of British soldiers stayed at our hotel while on leave; I think they’d been part of the Iraq operation in ‘91. They were kind of being all full of themselves and started to get. . . .well, not belligerent, but maybe a little sneery at us civilian archaeologists. The three of us were sitting in the “hot tub” (a generous term, I assure you) part of the pool at the hotel with a couple of them and they were getting uppity, and John just raised his hand up and you could see where it was a little deformed and told them that was where he’d been hit by a German machine gun in WWII. That shut them up real quick and we all got along well after that.

Nothing seemed to faze him either. He just calmly carried on his work no matter how hot and uncomfortable it was or how many odd people did weird and/or irritating things. I’ve actually thought of him now and again over the years in something of a WWJD? (What Would John Do?) way, when things get a bit hectic.

You were a good man, John, a good engineer, and a fine human being.

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