Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pyramid Interior Revealed Using Cosmic Rays

APR 27, 2016 06:00 AM ET // BY ROSSELLA LORENZI

Photocredit: EGYPTIAN MINISTRY OF ANTIQUITIES, HIP INSTITUTE AND THE FACULTY OF ENGINEERING (CAIRO UNIVERSITY)

The internal structure of an ancient Egyptian pyramid was revealed for the first time using cosmic particles, a team of international researchers reports.

The innovative technology was applied to the Bent Pyramid, a 4,500-year-old monument so named because of its sloping upper half.

According to the researchers, who presented their results in Cairo on Tuesday to Khaled El-Enany, minister of Antiquities and the former minister Mamdouh El-Damaty, the outcome was “excellent” as it showed the inside of the monument as with an X-ray.

The technology relies on muons, cosmic particles that permanently and naturally rain on Earth, which are able to penetrate any material very deeply.

This is the first of four pyramids to be investigated within the ScanPyramids, a project carried out by a team from Cairo University’s Faculty of Engineering and the Paris-based non-profit organization Heritage, Innovation and Preservation under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The others are the Great Pyramid, Khafre or Chephren at Giza, and the Red pyramid at Dahshur.

Scheduled to last a year, the project uses a mix of innovative technologies such as infrared thermography, muon radiography, and 3-D reconstruction to better understand the monument and possibly identify the presence of unknown internal structures and cavities.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

CEA joins #ScanPyramids project

The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is joining the mission to scan several of Egypt's pyramids

By Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 19 Apr 2016

After having submitted a request to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the #ScanPyramids project is welcoming a new team of researchers from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the Institute of Research into the Fundamental Laws of the Universe (Irfu).

Communication Officer, Malak Elkhadem, announced that since the launching of the project, the CEA team has shown interest due to its know-how in muon tomography. The team has been developing over many years micro-pattern gas detectors called Micromegas.

The #ScanPyramids project aims at scanning over the course of one year a number of Egyptian pyramids, including the Khufu and Khafre pyramids in Giza as well as the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramids.

The project combines several non-invasive and non-damaging scanning techniques to search for the presence of any hidden internal structures and cavities in ancient monuments, which may lead to a better understanding of their structure and their construction processes / techniques.

The Micromegas detectors are used to reconstruct particle tracks for many scientific endeavours in high energy physics. According to Elkhadem, the detectors have been installed in the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in the US.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Speak like an ancient Egyptian

Mai Samih discovers how ancient Egyptian expressions and traditions have survived to the present day

Today’s Egyptians have inherited from their Pharaonic ancestors not only their distinguished civilisation, but also certain traditions and words from their hieroglyphic vocabulary.

Hanging an image of a blue glass eye or a metal hand, called a khamsa wa khemesa, on the wall to protect people from the evil eye is an ancient Egyptian habit. The same is true of the belief that a cat has nine lives. According to the ancient Egyptian religion, cats are the sun god Ra’s incarnation and share some of his characteristics, among them having nine lives.

In the version of Arabic spoken by Egyptians today more customs and traditions can be discovered. This is well illustrated in a book entitled The Origins of Slang Words in the Ancient Egyptian Language by Sameh Maqqar. The author has based his work on books by renowned Egyptian and foreign Egyptologists, including The Ancient Egyptian Language by Abdel-Halim Noureddin, professor of ancient Egyptian at Cairo University, and Egyptian Grammar by the British Egyptologist E A Wallis.

Maqqar’s book uncovers, through many ancient Egyptian words, the characteristics of the ancient Egyptians, together with the kinds of lives they lived.

According to Maqqar, a modern Egyptian is given his share of the language used by his forefathers in the cradle. This is exemplified in the early vocabulary used by Egyptian children today. For example, embo (I’m thirsty) is the Egyptian slang children use to communicate their thirst. It is derived from the combination of two ancient Egyptian words eb (I want) and mo (water) and changed to its current form for ease of pronunciation.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Barque station of Queen Hatshepsut discovered on Elephantine Island

Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector Dr. Mahmoud Afify declared the discovery of a number of blocks that most probably belong to a previously unknown building of Queen Hatshepsut that was discovered this year by the German Archaeological Institute on the Island of Elephantine, Aswan.

According to Dr Felix Arnold, the field director of the mission, the building served as a waystation for the festival barque of the god Khnum. The building was later dismantled and about 30 of its blocks have now been found in the foundations of the Khnum temple of Nectanebo II. Some of the blocks were discovered in previous excavation seasons by members of the Swiss Institute, but the meaning of the blocks has only now become clear.

On several of the blocks discovered this year Queen Hatshepsut was originally represented as a woman. The building must therefore have been erected during the early years of her reign, before she began to be represented as a male king. Only very few buildings from this early stage of her career have been discovered so far. The only other examples have been found at Karnak. The newly discovered building thus adds to our knowledge of the early years of Queen Hatshepsut and her engagement in the region of Aswan. In the reign of Thutmosis III. all mentions of her name were erased and all representations of her female figure were replaced by images of a male king, her deceased husband Thutmosis II.

Based on the blocks discovered so far the original appearance of the building can be reconstructed. The building thus comprised a chamber for the barque of the god Khnum, which was surrounded on all four sides by pillars. On the pillars are representations of several versions of the god Khnum, as well as other gods, such as Imi-peref “He-who-is-in-his-house”, Nebet-menit “Lady-of-the-mooring-post” and Min-Amun of Nubia. The building thus not only adds to our knowledge of the history of Queen Hatshepsut but also to our understanding of the religious beliefs current on the Island of Elephantine during her reign.

Ministry of Antiquities, Press Office
Based on the the Mission's Report.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Seven more days

Tenhours of radar scanning of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber produced no concrete results. Seven days of study and analysis are still required, reports Nevine El-Aref

Although the sun beat down in the middle of the Valley of the Kings and the heat was overwhelming, dozens of Egyptian and foreign journalists and photographers gathered at the footsteps of King Tutankhamun's tomb, anxious to hear the results of a new American-Egyptian radar survey.

But they left disappointed.

"The scans have given several data and indications but we cannot announce the results right now because it requires more study to achieve accurate and concrete results," Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany told reporters. El-Enany said seven days at most were still needed for all the data to be analysed and studied by a US-Egypt geophysics team.

"We have indications but I want to highlight that we are not looking for a hidden chamber. We are testing a scientific hypothesis," El-Enany said. “We are keen on science and exploring the truth.”

A new vertical radar survey is to be conducted at the end of April in order to be 100 per cent sure of the results of both previous radar scans.

El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly that on 6 May all the results of the three radar surveys are to be discussed by scholars from across the globe during an international conference to be held at the planned Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) overlooking the Giza Plateau.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

3,400-Year-Old Necropolis Found in Egypt

MAR 30, 2016 09:26 AM ET // BY ROSSELLA LORENZI

A remarkable 3,400-year-old necropolis has been discovered at an Egyptian quarry site, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Wednesday.

Consisting of dozens of rock-cut tombs, the New Kingdom necropolis was found at Gebel el Sisila, a site north of Aswan known for its stone quarries on both sides of the Nile. Blocks used in building almost all of ancient Egypt’s great temples were cut from there.

“So far we have documented over 40 tombs, including a small shrine on the banks of the Nile,” Lund University archaeologist Maria Nilsson, director of the Gebel el Silsila Survey Project, told Discovery News. “Many tombs are in bad condition. They have suffered from heavy erosion and extreme decay due to the rising water and its high salt contents,” Nilsson said.

Nilsson and associate director John Ward concentrated on the cleaning of a small selection of tombs. Their team worked in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities as well as Kom Ombo and Aswan Inspectorates under General Directors Abd el Menum and Nasr Salama respectively.

The shrine is a small rock-cut sanctuary featuring two open chambers facing the river and an inner doorway crowned with the winged solar disc. The burials, meanwhile, consist of one to two undecorated rock-cut chambers, with one or more crypts cut into the bed rock floors.

In some cases the archaeologists found remains of the original lids.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Boat discovery sheds light

A recently discovered 4,500-year-old non-royal boat in the Abusir necropolis is shedding new light on watercraft construction in ancient Egypt, reports Nevine El-Aref

Scholars have long debated the purpose of ancient Egyptian boat burials. Did they serve the deceased in the afterlife? Or might they have functioned as symbolic solar barques used during the journey of the owner through the underworld?

The Old Kingdom kings adopted the earlier tradition and often had several boats buried within their pyramid complexes. Unfortunately, most of the pits that have been found are empty of timber, while others contain little more than brown dust in the shape of the original boat. The only exceptions are the two boats of the First Dynasty king Khufu, and these have been reconstructed or are in the process of reconstruction.

However, no boat of such dimensions from the Old Kingdom has been found in a non-royal context until the newly discovered boat at Abusir.

Last December, a Czech archaeological mission from Charles University in Prague stumbled upon what is believed to be the first remains of a non-royal ancient Egyptian wooden boat ever found. The discovery was made during excavation work at the Abusir necropolis, in an area south of a still unidentified non-royal mastaba tomb identified as AS54.

Miroslav Bárta, the leader of the mission, told Al-Ahram Weekly that this unexpected discovery once again highlights the importance of this Old Kingdom official cemetery. He said that the excavation work that led to this important discovery started in 2009 on mastaba tomb AS54 and had been followed by several seasons of excavations.