Friday, August 25, 2017

Meet King Tut’s Father, Egypt’s First Revolutionary

Akhenaten upended the religion, art, and politics of ancient Egypt, and then his legacy was buried. Now he endures as a symbol of change.


By Peter Hessler
Photograph by Rena Effendi

Sometimes the most powerful commentary on a king is made by those who are silent. One morning in Amarna, a village in Upper Egypt about 200 miles south of Cairo, a set of delicate, sparrowlike bones were arranged atop a wooden table. “The clavicle is here, and the upper arm, the ribs, the lower legs,” said Ashley Shidner, an American bioarchaeologist. “This one is about a year and a half to two years old.”

The skeleton belonged to a child who lived at Amarna more than 3,300 years ago, when the site was Egypt’s capital. The city was founded by Akhenaten, a king who, along with his wife Nefertiti and his son, Tutankhamun, has captured the modern imagination as much as any other figure from ancient Egypt. This anonymous skeleton, in contrast, had been excavated from an unmarked grave. But the bones showed evidence of malnutrition, which Shidner and others have observed in the remains of dozens of Amarna children.

“The growth delay starts around seven and a half months,” Shidner said. “That’s when you start transition feeding from breast milk to solid food.” At Amarna this transition seems to have been delayed for many children. “Possibly the mother is making the decision that there’s not enough food.”

Until recently Akhenaten’s subjects seemed to be the only people who hadn’t weighed in on his legacy. Others have had plenty to say about the king, who ruled from around 1353 B.C. until 1336 B.C. and tried to transform Egyptian religion, art, and governance. Akhenaten’s successors were mostly scathing about his reign. Even Tutankhamun—whose brief reign has been a subject of fascination since his tomb was discovered in 1922—issued a decree criticizing conditions under his father: “The land was in distress; the gods had abandoned this land.” During the next dynasty, Akhenaten was referred to as “the criminal” and “the rebel,” and pharaohs destroyed his statues and images, trying to remove him from history entirely.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2,000-Year-Old Tombs from Roman Period Found in Egypt

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | August 24, 2017

A series of tombs dating back about 2,000 years, to the time when the Romans controlled Egypt, has been discovered, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced yesterday (Aug. 23).

Excavations at Bir esh-Shaghala in the Dakhla Oasis have uncovered tombs made of mudbrick and some are quite large containing multiple burial chambers. Some of the tombs have vaulted roofs and one tomb has a roof built in the shape of a pyramid.

Five of the tombs were recently discovered while eight more were found within the past six excavation seasons, ministry officials said in a statement. 

Artifacts were found in the tombs, including mummy masks and pieces of inscribed pottery known as ostraca. Giant containers were also found that may have held wine or olive oil, although chemical tests will need to be done to confirm this. The discovery of the tombs was made by a team of archaeologists from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. The excavations at Bir esh-Shaghala are scheduled to continue.

The Romans took over Egypt in 30 B.C., following Cleopatra VII's suicide after her navy was destroyed by the Roman Emperor Octavian at the Battle of Actium. While the Roman emperors ruled Egypt from Rome, the Egyptians revered the emperors as pharaohs. Their traditional Egyptian funerary customs (including mummification) and religious practices continued until the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion during the fourth century A.D.

Located in the Western Desert, about 217 miles (350 kilometers) west of Luxor, the Dakhla Oasis contains a vast amount of archaeological remains that date from prehistoric to modern times. A number of settlements from the Roman era flourished in the Dakhla Oasis. In 2014, Live Science reported that one of the Roman era settlements in the oasis had yielded the remains of an ancient school covered with writing that included references to drug use.

Source: https://www.livescience.com/60223-2000-year-old-egyptian-tombs-from-roman-period.html

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Three Ptolemaic tombs uncovered in Egypt's Minya, contents suggest a 'large cemetery'

Three new discoveries in El-Kamin El-Sahrawi point to a large cemetery spanning the 27th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman era

By Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 15 Aug 2017

Three rock-hewn tombs from the Ptolemaic era have been discovered during excavation work in the El-Kamin El-Sahrawi area of Minya governorate, the Ministry of Antiquities announced on Tuesday.

The discovery was made by an Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities working in the lesser-known area to the south-east of the town of Samalout.

The tombs contain a number of sarcophagi of different shapes and sizes, as well as a collection of clay fragments, according to ministry officials.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the ministry's Ancient Egyptian Sector, said that studies carried out on the clay fragments suggest the tombs are from the 27th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman era.

"This fact suggests that the area was a large cemetery over a long period of time," said Ashmawy.

Ashmawy describes the discovery as "very important" because it reveals more secrets from the El-Kamil El-Sahrawi archaeological site.

During previous excavation work, the mission uncovered about 20 tombs built in the catacomb architectural style, which was widespread during the 27th Dynasty and the Graeco-Roman era.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Yale archaeologists discover earliest monumental Egyptian hieroglyphs

By Bess Connolly Martell

Photo courtesy of YaleNews
A joint Yale and Royal Museums of Art and History (Brussels) expedition to explore the the ancient Egyptian city of Elkab has uncovered some previously unknown rock inscriptions, which include the earliest monumental hieroglyphs dating back around 5,200 years.

These new inscriptions were not previously recorded by any expedition and are of great significance in the history of the ancient Egyptian writing systems, according to Egyptologist John Coleman Darnell, professor in Yale's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale, who co-directs the Elkab Desert Survey Project.

“This newly discovered rock art site of El-Khawy preserves some of the earliest — and largest — signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system,” says Darnell.

The researchers also discovered rock art depicting a herd of elephants that was carved between 4,000-3,500 B.C.E. One of the elephants has a little elephant inside of it, which, according to Darnell, “is an incredibly rare way of representing a pregnant female animal.”

The archaeologists also identified a panel of four signs, created circa 3,250 B.C.E. and written right to left — the dominant writing direction in later Egyptian texts — portraying animal images of a bull’s head on a short pole followed by two back-to-back saddlebill storks with a bald ibis bird above and between them. The arrangement of symbols is common in later Egyptian representations of the solar cycle and with the concept of luminosity. “These images may express the concept of royal authority over the ordered cosmos,” says Darnell.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ancient Tomb of Gold Worker Found Along Nile River

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | June 19, 2017

A 3,400-year-old tomb holding the remains of more than a dozen possibly mummified people has been discovered on Sai Island, along the Nile River in northern Sudan.

Archaeologists discovered the tomb in 2015, though it wasn't until 2017 that a team with the AcrossBorders archaeological research project fully excavated the site.

The island is part of an ancient land known as Nubia that Egypt controlled 3,400 years ago. The Egyptians built settlements and fortifications throughout Nubia, including on Sai Island, which had a settlement and a gold mine. The tomb, which contains multiple chambers, appears to hold the remains of Egyptians who lived in or near that settlement and worked in gold production.

The artifacts found in the tomb include scarabs (a type of amulet widely used in Egypt), ceramic vessels, a gold ring, the remains of gold funerary masks worn by the deceased and a small stone sculpture known as a shabti. The ancient Egyptians believed that shabtis could do the work of the deceased for them in the afterlife. Some of the artifacts bore Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions that revealed the tomb was originally created for a man named Khnummose, who was a "master gold worker."

The remains of Khnummose (which may have been mummified) were found next to those of a woman who may have been his wife. Some of the other people found in tomb may have been relatives of Khnummose, the researchers said, adding that they planned to conduct DNA analyses of the remains.

Friday, June 2, 2017

First complete genome data extracted from ancient Egyptian mummies

Study finds that ancient Egyptians were most closely related to ancient populations from the Middle East and Western Asia. 

An international team of researchers have successfully recovered and analysed ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies dating from approximately 1400 BCE to 400 BCE, including the first genome-wide data from three individuals. The study found that modern Egyptians share more ancestry with sub-Saharan Africans than ancient Egyptians did, whereas ancient Egyptians were found to be most closely related to ancient people from the Middle East and Western Asia.

This study counters prior scepticism about the possibility of recovering reliable ancient DNA from Egyptian mummies. Despite the potential issues of degradation and contamination caused by climate and mummification methods, the authors were able to use high-throughput DNA sequencing and robust authentication methods to ensure the ancient origin and reliability of the data. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that Egyptian mummies can be a reliable source of ancient DNA, and can contribute to a more accurate and refined understanding of Egypt’s history.

Egypt is a promising location for the study of ancient populations. It has a rich and well-documented history, and its geographic location and many interactions with populations from surrounding areas, in Africa, Asia and Europe, make it a dynamic region. Recent advances in the study of ancient DNA present an opportunity to test existing understandings of Egyptian history using ancient genetic data.

However, genetic studies of ancient Egyptian mummies are rare due to methodological and contamination issues. Although some of the first extractions of ancient DNA were from mummified remains, scientists have raised doubts as to whether genetic data, especially the nuclear DNA which encodes for the majority of the genome, from mummies would be reliable, and whether it could be recovered at all.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lintel bearing Middle Kingdom cartouches unearthed at Ihnasya site in Egypt

A lintel inscribed with the cartouche of Sesostris II was unearthed at Heryshef temple in Ihnasya

By Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 27 May 2017

Photocredit: Ahram Online

A large temple lintel made of red granite was discovered by an Egyptian-Spanish mission during excavation work at the temple of Heryshef at an archaeological site in Ihnasya El-Medina, Beni Suef.

Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, announced the discovery on Saturday.

He described it as “very important” because the lintel is engraved with two cartouches containing the name of the Middle Kingdom King Sesostris II, (c.1895 – 1889 BC), who built the Lahun pyramid located 10 km away from Ihnasya.

The presence of the lintel at the Heryshef temple proves the interest of Sesostris II in this site, and in Fayoum in general.

Maria Carmen Perez-Die, the director of the mission from the Antiquities Museum in Madrid, said that the mission had uncovered several constructions levels, one dating to the early 18th dynasty, which concluded with the reign of Thutmosis III (c. 1479 – 1425 BC) and another to that of Ramesses II (c.1279 – 1213 BC).

Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/269618/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Lintel-bearing-Middle-Kingdom-cartouches-unearthed.aspx