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Posts Tagged ‘egypt’

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Photo: Mark Brodkin Photography/ Getty Images
After archaeologists found steps and postholes on either side of a ramp, they concluded the pyramid builders were able to haul from both directions, shortening the time to complete construction.

What were you taught in school about how the pyramids in Egypt were constructed? The story has always been partly guesswork, like the story of Stonehenge and the giant statues on Easter Island, narratives that change as new bits of data are uncovered.

Kevin Rawlinson writes at the Guardian, “The mystery of how, exactly, the pyramids were built may have come a step closer to being unravelled after a team of archaeologists made a chance discovery in an ancient Egyptian quarry.

“Scientists researching ancient inscriptions happened upon a ramp with stairways and a series of what they believe to be postholes, which suggest that the job of hauling into place the huge blocks of stone used to build the monuments may have been completed more quickly than previously thought.

“While the theory that the ancient Egyptians used ramps to move the stones has already been put forward, the structure found by the Anglo-French team, which dated from about the period that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built, is significantly steeper than was previously supposed possible.

“They believe the inclusion of the steps and the postholes either side of a rampway suggests the builders were able to haul from both directions, rather than simply dragging a block behind them. The team believes those below the block would have used the posts to create a pulley system while those above it pulled simultaneously. …

“Dr Roland Enmarch, a senior lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool and the co-director of the project that made the discovery, the Hatnub Survey, … told the Guardian that … the alabaster quarry itself, as well as the inscriptions they were there to study, had been known to Egyptologists for a long time, having first been found by Howard Carter – the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

“His team’s original focus was not on the ramp leading down into the quarry, but on properly documenting the inscriptions found there. But their attention was soon drawn to the former’s construction – and what it could tell them about how pyramids were built.

“They said the inscriptions allowed them to date the ramp to around the time of the Pharoah Khufu, or Cheops, who built the Great Pyramid.” More here.

It’s amazing how archaeologists keep deepening our knowledge of the past. At the same time, the use of slave labor in building these monuments remains almost too painful to think about. And it reminds me that although slavery is no longer accepted as normal, we still face huge challenges to obliterate it.

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Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
The tomb of Mehu opened for the public near the Saqqara necropolis, in Giza, Egypt, on Sept. 8, 2018.

I have never been to Egypt, but members of my extended family grew up there. My experience of visiting an Egyptian tomb is pretty much limited to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

But it seems new tombs keep being discovered, and after getting thoroughly studied, are being opened to the public. The tomb of Mehu, a top official under King Pepi I, was found in 1940 but was only opened to the general public in September of this year.

Josh K. Elliott writes at Canada’s GlobalNews, “Egypt has opened the doors of an ornate 4,000-year-old tomb to the public. … The Tomb of Mehu, in the Saqqara necropolis near Giza, features dozens of vibrant paintings from Egypt’s sixth dynasty, dating back approximately four millennia. …

” ‘Mehu, a top official under King Pepi I, … was a vizier, the chief of the judges and the director of the palace at the time of King Pepi, the first king of the sixth dynasty,’ archeologist and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass told [Reuters].

“The tomb includes two chambers with wall inscriptions that depict Mehu hunting, gathering a bountiful harvest and dancing acrobatically. It also lists Mehu’s 48 titles as pictures on the walls

“Hawass says the tomb contains several unique images from the sixth dynasty, including a portrait of two crocodiles getting married.

“The Tomb of Mehu was first discovered by Egyptologist Zaki Saad in 1940, but remained off-limits to the public until this month. …

“ ‘We opened this previously discovered tomb to invite ambassadors and show the media that Egypt is safe,’ he told Reuters in Arabic. …

“Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. … Tourism numbers rebounded in 2017, when they jumped up to 8.2 million foreign tourist arrivals, the UNTWO [UN World Tourism Organization] data shows. …

“Archeologists have found several high-profile sites in Egypt recently, including a massive, sealed sarcophagus, an ancient village and a giant statue of Ramses II.”

More at the GlobalNews, here.

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Photo: Tom Blackie via Flickr
The Avenue of Sphinxes on the Al-Kabbash road in Luxor. Recently, a previously unknown sphinx was discovered by construction workers.

Every day new discoveries. Today I have a story about a recent discovery in Egypt. But first, to refresh your classical memory, the mythological creature called a sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a human. Although the most famous sphinx story — the one that involved Oedipus — took place in Greece, all the statues of sphinxes are in Egypt.

Naomi Rea writes at artnet news, “A previously unknown statue of a sphinx has been discovered in Egypt, the general director of Luxor Antiquities, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, announced [in August].

“Construction workers upgrading the historic Al-Kabbash Road between the famous Luxor and Karnak temples stumbled upon the find, the English-language Egypt Today reports. …

“The Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities is developing a way to lift the newfound statue from its resting place. … In the meantime, construction work has been paused on the road and the Minister of Antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, is encouraging tourists to visit the site to see the statue.

“A researcher in Egyptology, Bassam al-Shamma, told Egyptian media that the find is not altogether surprising as many similar sphinx statues have been found across Luxor. Several new discoveries have been found in recent years, and the road is already lined with many other small stone versions of the mythical creatures dating from around 1400 BC. …

“The mythical creature of the sphinx has the head of a human and the body of a lion. In ancient Greek tradition, the sphinx’s head is often a merciless female. … For the Egyptians, though, the guardian creature was seen as benevolent, and the heads of the statues were often carved in the likeness of pharaohs. This is the case with the famous Great Sphinx; the monumental statue is thought to have been sculpted in likeness of the pharaoh Khafra.

“Other famous Egyptian sphinxes include a granite example with the head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Great Sphinx of Tanis in the Louvre is one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.”

More at artnet, here

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Photo: Magda Saleh collection
Egypt’s first prima ballerina, Magda Saleh, as she is today and in ballets of
the 1960s and 1970s.

I like to include stories about Egyptian culture whenever I see them because of my special connection to two naturalized citizens who were born in Egypt. Here is an intriguing New York Times article by Brian Seibert about an Egyptian who excelled at ballet and even performed with the Bolshoi in Moscow.

“Once upon a time, the Egyptian ballerina Magda Saleh danced the dream role of Giselle in Moscow as a guest star with the mighty Bolshoi Ballet. …

“Recently, in the elegant Upper East Side apartment that she shares with her husband, the American Egyptologist Jack Josephson, Ms. Saleh, 73, recounted how her life had been ‘punctuated’ by shifts in Egyptian political history. …

“In the era just before she was born, Egypt was no longer a protectorate of Britain, but British influence was still high. Her father, who would become a prominent academic, studied agriculture in Scotland and brought home a Scottish bride, Ms. Saleh’s mother. Their children spoke English and Arabic at home, French at school. …

“Her first ballet teachers were British, and she traveled to Britain to study ballet. By then, though, Egypt had undergone a revolution and soon it was at war with Britain. Young Ms. Saleh was called home, where she discovered that her British instructors had left.

“But the Egyptian government was now friendly with the Soviet Union, and new teachers arrived. In 1959, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture created an Academy of Arts, with a Higher Institute of Ballet, and imported teachers from the Bolshoi to run it.

” ‘This was unprecedented in Egyptian history,’ Ms. Saleh said. ‘We have this very ambiguous attitude toward dance and especially women dancers …

“ ‘None of this would have been possible,’ she continued, ‘but for a confluence of time and circumstance and one man, the first minister of culture’ — Tharwat Okasha, an army officer with vision and tenacity. …

“Ballet education came filtered through translation, with old Russians who had fled to Egypt during the Russian Revolution converting the instructions of the newly arrived Soviet dancers into broken Arabic.

“Yet the school developed rapidly, and in 1963, Ms. Saleh and four other female students were offered scholarships to study at the Bolshoi in Moscow. She was 19 — or ’19 going on 11,’ she said, ‘because we were so sheltered.’ Now they were on their own in the bitter cold of the grim Soviet capital, sitting on radiators before class to thaw. …

“The experience was tough. ‘But character forming,’ Ms. Saleh said. ‘The Russians taught us with love. Not love for us. Love for dance. They instilled this in us.’

“Back in Cairo, diplomas in hand, they wanted to dance. So the ballet institute mounted ‘The Fountain of Bakhchisarai,’ a 1934 Soviet ballet about a Polish princess abducted by a Tatar Khan. The Egyptian public loved it. The president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, awarded the dancers the Order of Merit.

“Even more meaningful to Ms. Saleh was the praise of a poor old man after a performance in the southern backwater of Aswan. ‘People had insisted that Egyptians wouldn’t accept Egyptian ballet,’ she recalled misty-eyed. ‘But we were right!’ ”

Read more and see some lovely pictures at the New York Times, here — and also here, at Ahramonline.

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There is still so much to be discovered about the cosmos, medicine,  psychology, nature … and human history.

Claire Voon’s story at Hyperallergic about a “new” 2,800-year-old painted sarcophagus is a case in point. The colorful hieroglyphs promise to add to our knowledge.

Voon reports, “Archaeologists in Luxor have found an exquisitely decorated, millennia-old sarcophagus near the pharaonic temple of Thutmose III that still contains the remains of its ancient owner. The discovery is the most recent to emerge from the Spanish Thutmosis III Temple Project excavation, which since 2008 has explored the 18th Dynasty pharaoh’s funerary complex, situated along the west bank of the Nile. …

“Archaeologists are now starting to piece together the history of the coffin’s permanent resident. Although termites had eaten away at parts of the slim, wooden container, as the team’s head, Myriam Seco Alvarez, told El Mundo, the surface still retains a rich array of hieroglyphs that offer clues. Sarcophagi are much more than simple containers for the departed, and the pictorial script on this one records that it belonged to a man named Amenrenef, who once served as a royal court advisor.

“The images, whose bright pigments have been preserved after all this time, also depict religious figures such as the ancient goddesses Isis and Nephtys and the four sons of Horus.

“The archeologists have since removed the sarcophagus from its tomb and brought it to a lab, where it will undergo restoration. The team also plans to carry out X-ray examinations to determine the exact state of the remains inside.” More here.

Photo: Thutmosis III Temple Project
A decorated sarcophagus recently found by Spanish archaeologists near Luxor.

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Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Visitors play music and talk together in a Cairo, Egypt, bookshop where the new “scream room” is found.

There’s a rather unusual bookstore in Cairo: one that offers customers a room where, if they feel the need to scream, they can just let it rip. No charge for ten minutes.

“Visitors to a bookshop in Cairo are being invited into a dark, soundproof room to scream at the top of their lungs in an effort to relieve their frustrations and escape from the stresses of daily life.

“The new ‘scream room’ is tucked away in the ‘The World’s Door’ bookshop and is also equipped with a full drum kit allowing customers to let go of their worries …

“Owner AbdelRahman Saad offers each visitor ten minutes inside the private scream room, free of charge. He believes it is the first room of its kind in the Middle East.

” ‘I entered it at a time when I was really stressed and came out much more relaxed,’ said frequent visitor Mohamed el-Debbaby. ‘What’s even better is that I was able to find solutions to the problem I was facing.” More here.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Adela Suliman; Editing by Patrick Johnston/Jeremy Gaunt)

Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Mohamed el-Debbaby, a dentist, screams in a soundproof room inside a bookshop in Cairo in an effort to escape from the stresses of daily life.

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The pages, Schrope reports, “seemed oddly familiar. … Dr. Kessel realized that just three weeks earlier, in a library at Harvard University, he had seen a single orphaned page that was too similar to these pages to be coincidence.

“The manuscript he held contained a hidden translation of an ancient, influential medical text by Galen of Pergamon, a Greco-Roman physician and philosopher who died in 200 A.D. It was missing pages and Dr. Kessel was suddenly convinced one of them was in Boston.

“Dr. Kessel’s realization in February 2013 marked the beginning of a global hunt for the other lost leaves, a search that culminated in May with the digitization of the final rediscovered page in Paris. …

“In 2009, the Galen Palimpsest was lent to the Walters Art Museum for spectral imaging of its leaves by an independent group of specialists, which would reveal the erased Galen undertext. …

“The resulting images went online under a ‘creative commons’ license, meaning that anyone can use the material free for any noncommercial purpose. Once the images were online, William Noel, who was the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the museum, began organizing members of the tiny community of scholars who study Syriac scientific texts to study the new material.

“One of them was Dr. Kessel … By analyzing the page size, handwriting and other features, as well as the visible text, Dr. Kessel was able to determine that the Harvard leaf did indeed fill one of the gaps in the Galen Palimpsest. But six more were apparently missing. Dr. Kessel set out to find them.

“He began with a list of 10 libraries known to have ancient Syriac material, combing through online catalogs when available to look for clues such as the right dimensions or vague references to undertext. Sometimes, he traveled to the libraries himself. …

“It was not long before Dr. Kessel had good news. He found one missing page in a catalog from the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai. It is known more commonly as St. Catherine’s in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, which has the world’s oldest continuously operating library.

“Another leaf turned up at the National Library of France in Paris. And at the Vatican’s vast library in Rome, he was able to identify the other three missing leaves, bringing the total to six.”

Read more here about the hunt, and learn what scholars hope to glean from the restored text.

Photo: Anonymous owner of the manuscript

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