Articles - Part 2

Ancient Egyptian Tomb Discovered in Saqqara

February 12, 2001 - Cairo - Reuters

A tomb dating back to the reign of New Kingdom Pharaoh Amenhotep IV in the 14th century BC has been discovered in the Giza suburb of Sakkara, an antiquities official said on Sunday.

``This is a unique discovery because it is the first time we have uncovered a tomb in Sakkara from the reign of Akhenaton, who had his capital at Akhetaton (now called Tel al-Amarna) in Upper Egypt,'' Adel Hussein, director of Sakkara at the Supreme Antiquities Council, told Reuters.

The tomb once occupied by the high priest Meryneith, whose name means ``the beloved of Neith (goddess of war and hunting),'' was discovered by a Dutch-Egyptian archaeological mission on January 31 during excavation of New Kingdom tombs at Sakkara.

The excavation work, which is still under way, has so far uncovered two store rooms in the east of the tomb, three small chapels in the west, wall reliefs that include depictions of funeral rituals, five columns with hieroglyphic inscriptions and a burial chamber, Hussein noted.

``No mummies have yet been uncovered, but we have come across bones. There is a good chance we will find a mummy once excavation work on the burial chamber is complete,'' he added.

Hussein sees the discovery as an addition to our knowledge of the reign of Amenhotep IV and Sakkara, which was used as a site for pyramids and tombs from the first Pharaonic dynasties.

In his quest to unify Egypt in the worship of a single deity, Aton -- a form of the sun-god Ra --, the 18th dynasty ruler Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton, meaning ``it pleases Aton,'' and built a new capital in Amarna dedicated to Aton and called it ``Akhetaton'' (the Horizon of Aton).

Akhenaton, a religious hard-liner who provoked the wrath of the powerful Amun priesthood, among others, for his reforms, is said by some scholars to have been the world's first monotheist. He ruled from 1353-36 BC.

Crystalinks - Saqqara Crystalinks - Akhnaton


Fancy footwork from Ancient Egyptians

The reconstructed mummy

December 22, 2000 - BBC

The discovery of a false toe attached to the foot of an mummy provides more evidence of the sophistication of ancient Egyptian medicine.

The well-crafted wooden toe was discovered by a team investigating remains found in a burial chamber believed to be in the ancient city of Thebes.

Pottery fragments found in the chamber dated the find at approximately the 21st or 22nd Egyptian dynasty, or between 1065BC and 740BC.

They found that the woman, aged between 50 and 55 at death had lost the big toe on the right foot - probably by amputation - during life, as soft tissue and skin had regrown over the wound.

In addition, a wooden prosthetic toe - perfectly shaped to match the lost toe, even to the point of having a nail - had been created and attached to the foot with textile laces.

The regrowth of tissue, allied with definite scuff marks on the base of the wooden toe, seem to indicate a functional role rather than simply an effort by embalmers to make the body appear complete in readiness for the afterlife.

The investigation was reported in the medical journal The Lancet.

Examination of the rest of the body suggest that this may well be one of the earliest examples of someone suffering diabetic complications.

The woman had suffered significant hardening of the arteries, but not just the large arteries, but also the tiny vessels supplying the extremities.

Although they cannot prove this, the researchers suggest that the toe may have had to be amputated after the blood supply was cut, and gangrene set in.


Virtual mummy tour

Ramesses I had a deformed ear

November 29, 2000 - BBC

Scientists have taken a virtual tour inside several ancient Egyptian mummies.

The researchers used computed tomography (CT) imaging to produce extraordinary images of the embalmed individuals and reveal details of how they might have lived and died.

One of the images provides a tour inside the rib cage of a mummy believed to be that of Ramesses I, the first pharaoh of the 19th dynasty during ancient Egypt's splendid New Kingdom period, who died in about 1314 BC.

It shows abdominal organs tightly rolled in linen packs as was then the embalming custom.

Another image from the same mummy shows a severely deformed ear, perhaps the result of a bad piercing job, and a skull full of embalming resin.

Researchers studied nine mummies in all

The imaging involved taking a number of cross-sectional CT pictures, or "slices" of the body, and entering the images into a computer. The computer digitised them, combining the scans to create a 3D image.

"Although there are studies of mummies using standard CT, this is the first to combine the use of 3D and virtual imaging techniques," Dr Hoffman said.

Nine mummies were studied in total. One mummy initially thought to be a baby was actually shown to be a young child whose legs had been amputated below the knees. Another child had a skull fracture, which may have been the cause of death.


Archaeologists Find Sarcophagus in Egyptian Tomb

Galal Abdu al Keriti, an Egyptian antiquities worker, dusts off a newly-discovered Pharaonic portrait of Queen Inty near the Giza plateau November 20, 2000. The portrait was among finds, which included an empty sarcophagus, in a 4,000-year-old tomb being excavated by a Czech-Egyptian team of archaeologists.

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November 20, 2000 - Reuters - Abu Sir

Archaeologists excavating a 4,000-year-old tomb near Cairo found an empty sarcophagus on Monday that they said could yield vital clues about the collapse of the pyramid-building era in ancient Egypt.

Zahi Hawass, director of the Giza Plateau, told Reuters that a team of Egyptian and Czech archaeologists discovered the stone coffin in a sixth dynasty tomb at the pyramids of Abu Sir 17 miles southwest of Cairo.


Pyramids lined up with the stars


The method was accurate for only a few years

November 15, 2000 - BBC

Ancient Egyptian astronomers aligned the pyramids due north by using two stars that circle the celestial polar point.

Spence has come up with an ingenious solution to a long-standing mystery.

Nearly 4,500 years ago, each star was about 10 degrees from the celestial pole which lay directly between them. When one star was exactly above the other in the sky, astronomers could find a line that pointed due north.

But the alignment was only true for a few years around 2,500 BC. Before and after that time, the stars deviated from the north-south line and anyone using the stars to plot a direction would have made errors.

And it is these mistakes that a British Egyptologist now believes can be used to estimate very accurately when the pyramids were built. Her theory suggests that the Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed within 10 years of 2,480 BC.

'Indestructible' stars

Kate Spence is from the University of Cambridge. She developed her theory while trying to explain the deviations in the alignment of the bases of many pyramids from true north.

Alignment errors provide the clue

She believes the ancients may have used a pair of fairly bright stars, which in 2,467 BC lay precisely along a straight line that included the celestial pole.

"We know that the ancient Egyptians were extremely interested in the night sky, particularly the circumpolar stars."

"These circle around the North Pole, and as you can always see them, the Egyptians always referred to them as 'The Indestructibles'.

"As a result, they became closely associated with eternity and the king's afterlife. So that after death, the king would hope to join the circumpolar stars - and that's why the pyramids were laid out towards them."

Ancient astronomy

The pyramid builders may have used a pair of stars for alignment

The north-finding stars were Kochab, in the bowl of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor), and Mizar, in the middle of the handle of The Plough or Big Dipper (Ursa Major).

An Egyptian astronomer would have held up a plumb line and waited for the night sky to slowly pivot around the unmarked pole as the Earth rotated.

When the plumb line exactly intersected both stars, one about 10 degrees above the invisible pole and the other 10 degrees below it, the sight line to the horizon would aim directly north.

However, the Earth's axis is unstable and wobbles like a gyroscope over a period of 26,000 years. Modern astronomers now know that the celestial north pole was exactly aligned between Kochab and Mizar only in the year 2,467 BC.

Either side of this date, the ancient astronomers trying to find true north would lose some accuracy.

Writing in the journal Nature, Kate Spence shows that the orientation errors of earlier and later pyramids faithfully track the slow drift of Kochab and Mizar with respect to true north.

And because the error in the Kochab-Mizar alignment can be readily calculated for any date, the error in each pyramid's orientation corresponds to a period of several years.

Owen Gingerich, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: "Spence has come up with an ingenious solution to a long-standing mystery."


Archaeologists unearth ancient Egyptian solar barge

Oct. 23, 2000 - Nando

A team of U.S. archaeologists has unearthed the earliest known example of an ancient Egyptian solar barge, team leader said Monday. The barge dates back to the first Pharaonic dynasty around 5,000 years ago, they said.

The royal boat was excavated in May and June at the southern Egyptian funerary site of Abydos near the Nile River, said Matthew Adams, the team's associate director.

"The substantial size shows that the Egyptians were already masters of boat construction by this early period and the use of imported wood shows that they already had extensive trade contacts," he said.

The U.S. team is certain the boat was built from non-native timber, possibly cedar wood from Lebanon, for one of the pharoahs of the first dynasty (3100 to 2890 BC), making it the oldest solar boat yet unearthed, Adams said.

Such boats, buried in pits on land next to royal burial chambers, may have been used for the pharoah's funerary procession while others may have been intended for his use in the afterworld in travels with the sun god.

The boat was excavated from one of 14 mud brick boat pits so far discovered at the site in Abydos, 300 miles south of Cairo. It measures 75 feet long, 7 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep, a statement from the Egyptian ministry of culture said.


Big Hips Ran in King Tut's Family

August 5, 2000 - Discovery

According to an analysis of the clothing found in Tutankhamen's tomb, the ancient pharaoh was pear-shaped and may have suffered from a disease that gave him huge hips.

In an eight-year study, Vogelsang-Eastwood, curator at the Ethnological Museum in Leiden, Netherlands, found that the pharaoh, who was only 18 when he died in about 1323 BC, measured 31 inches around the chest, 29 inches around the waist, and 43 inches around the hips, according to the London Times.

Vogelsang-Eastwood believes that being pear-shaped may have run in the family, considering the pharaoh's father Akhenaten had a similar figure.

She said, "This is shown on statues and reliefs of Akhenaten. But by the time of Tutankhamen, Egypt had returned to the old religion, and reliefs were idealized - they show him as a golden boy."

According to Vogelsang-Eastwood, father and son may have suffered from an inherited disease or one common to the area, although she has no idea as to what it might be. She told the Times, "Not enough medical research has been done in this area. The disease, or whatever he had, certainly affected his weight, putting fatty deposits on his hips."

A leading expert on Tutankhamen's wardrobe, Vogelsang-Eastwood began her study in 1992, a time when little research on the textiles had been done since they were found in 1922.

She used the hundreds of items found in his tomb, including garments he was buried in and clothing dating from his childhood, to create exact copies of the pharaoh's clothing. Tutankhamen's recreated wardrobe will be featured in an exhibition in Edinburgh early next year.


Mini-Pyramid Tombs Unearthed near Sphinx

July 23, 2000 - Discovery

Two mini-replicas of the great pyramids of Giza have been unearthed south of the Sphinx, at the eastern foot of the three great pyramids.

Containing the bodies of the workers who built the pyramids and their supervisors, the limestone tombs may throw new light on the knowledge of the funerary traditions in ancient Egypt.

"Now we can say that pyramid-shaped tombs were not a privilege reserved to kings and nobility. Ordinary people were also allowed to use the pyramid design to construct their own tombs," said Zahi Hawass, director of the Giza plateau where the pyramids are located, announcing the discovery on Thursday.

Built 4,600 years ago, during the reign of the pharaoh Cheops, the tombs are modeled exactly on the design made to house kings, with false doors and causeways leading to an offering basin.

The upper-level tombs, made in limestone, were reserved for technicians, craftsmen and artisans, while the lower-level tombs, made with "leftovers" from the pyramids construction, housed the bodies of the workmen who positioned the huge stone blocks.

Like the great pyramids, the workers tombs bore inscriptions depicting the worker's title such as "Inspector of Pyramid Building" curses to ward off sacrilegious visitors, and even frescoes showing builders at work with a customary dress very similar to the galabiyas, the traditional garb peasants still wear today.

Hawass said that the skeletons found in the tombs show that the workforce also received good health care. Twelve skeletons had splints on their hands for injuries probably caused by falling rocks; one had an amputated leg and lived for 14 years after the surgery. Moreover, X-rays on a skull revealed what may be one of the earliest examples of brain surgery.

According to Hawass, the findings dispel once and for all the popular belief that the pyramids were built by whip-driven slaves: "This care would not have been given to slaves," he said.

Egyptologists are intrigued. "The imitation of elements of the royal pyramid complex in these private tombs is a process seen also at other periods, by which the fashions and styles of the elite were copied by other levels of society, " said Alan Jeffrey Spencer of the British Museum.


Body of 'Exodus pharaoh' found

July 16, 2000 - London Times

More than 3,000 years after it was stolen from a tomb in Egypt, scientists believe they have found the body of Ramses I, who is thought to have been the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus recounted in the Old Testament. The mummy was discovered in a private museum at Niagara Falls where it had lain unrecognised for 140 years.

American Egyptologists who bought the remains are awaiting the results of DNA tests. They hope these will back up evidence from the body's provenance and appearance which suggest that it is Ramses.

They will compare material taken from the body with DNA samples from Ramses I's son, Sethi I, and his grandson, Ramses II.

The Egyptologists at the Michael C Carlos Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, say clues suggest it is the body of a pharaoh even though the 5ft 5in man has lost his original coffins and bandage wrappings. He lies in a cardboard box, head tilted back and arms crossed across his chest.

"The arms are crossed in a way which is generally only seen in royal mummies and the incisions made in its side to allow the removal of internal organs also correspond to the techniques used on the pharaohs," said Betsy Teasley Trope, the assistant curator of antiquities.

Her museum bought the remains last year from the owner of the Niagara Falls Daredevil Museum.

Museum records show that in 1861 Colonel Sydney Barnett, the son of its founder, bought five mummies from James Douglas, an adventurer who may have bought them during a visit to Thebes in Upper Egypt around 1860. It is believed that one of these bodies came from a cache of royal mummies that was discovered near Thebes and later transferred to Cairo.


Egyptian Worker Tombs Copied Pharaohs

June 24, 2000 - AP

Two mini-replicas of the great pyramids of Giza have been unearthed south of the Sphinx, at the eastern foot of the three great pyramids.

Containing the bodies of the workers who built the pyramids and their supervisors, the limestone tombs may throw new light on the knowledge of the funerary traditions in ancient Egypt.

"Now we can say that pyramid-shaped tombs were not a privilege reserved to kings and nobility. Ordinary people were also allowed to use the pyramid design to construct their own tombs," said Zahi Hawass, director of the Giza plateau where the pyramids are located, announcing the discovery on Thursday.

Built 4,600 years ago, during the reign of the pharaoh Cheops, the tombs are modeled exactly on the design made to house kings, with false doors and causeways leading to an offering basin.

The upper-level tombs, made in limestone, were reserved for technicians, craftsmen and artisans, while the lower-level tombs, made with "leftovers" from the pyramids construction, housed the bodies of the workmen who positioned the huge stone blocks.

Like the great pyramids, the workers tombs bore inscriptions depicting the worker's title - such as "Inspector of Pyramid Building" - curses to ward off sacrilegious visitors, and even frescoes showing builders at work with a customary dress very similar to the galabiyas, the traditional garb peasants still wear today.

Hawass said that the skeletons found in the tombs show that the workforce also received good health care. Twelve skeletons had splints on their hands for injuries probably caused by falling rocks; one had an amputated leg and lived for 14 years after the surgery. Moreover, X-rays on a skull revealed what may be one of the earliest examples of brain surgery.

According to Hawass, the findings dispel once and for all the popular belief that the pyramids were built by whip-driven slaves: "This care would not have been given to slaves," he said.

Egyptologists are intrigued. "The imitation of elements of the royal pyramid complex in these private tombs is a process seen also at other periods, by which the fashions and styles of the elite were copied by other levels of society, " said Alan Jeffrey Spencer of the British Museum.


Relief of Ramses Found

Archaeologists found in late May a hidden chamber containing a statue of what is thought to be Ramses II, ruler of Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. Above, a relief depicting Ramses as a young man.

June 13, 2000 - AP

Statues of a pharaoh thought to be Ramses II and an ancient cow goddess, their colors intact, have been discovered in a hidden chamber at a necropolis south of Cairo, the Egyptian authorities said Sunday.

The three-foot-high statue of the king and the taller sculpture of Hathor, goddess of love and happiness and guardian of cemeteries, were found in a sealed room beneath the Saqqara funerary chapel of Ramses II's treasurer, Necheruymes, who lived more than 3,200 years ago.

Alain Zivie of France's national science research center said he and his team made an opening in a chapel wall that appeared to date back to the later Greco-Roman period, and came face to face May 21 with the two statues.

The pharaoh was wearing a yellow headdress with blue stripes, the traditional royal cobra over his forehead and false beard on his chin. Hathor, who was standing protectively over the king, was depicted with her long horns twisted into the shape of a lyre.

Zivie said the discovery was the logical next step of a breakthrough his team made in 1996.

Four years ago, the Egyptologist discovered a series of tombs in a cliff on the edge of the Saqqara necropolis that had housed the remains of New Kingdom pharaonic dignitaries including Maia, the nurse of Tutankhamun.

This year, they were exploring a gallery that ran along the edge of the nearby richly colored chapel of Necheruymes, who is believed to have negotiated a peace accord with the Hittites, the other great Middle Eastern empire of Ramses II's day.

The French team ran into a wall, which they breached. "The two statues were standing in a room several meters deep which could lead to funerary chambers," Zivie said.

"We hope to find interesting relics, even if the tomb has already been looted as is often the case, and to come to a better knowledge of Ramses II."

The archeologists are waiting for the next excavation season in the cooler temperatures of October and have in the meantime re-sealed the wall to protect the statues from curious people and the ravages of the climate.

Zivie, who has been excavating for 20 years in Saqqara, discovered on the same site in 1987 the vault of pharaoh Akhenaton's prime minister, or vizir, Aper-El, which contained a wealth of funerary treasure.


American tourist discovers ancient cave drawings in Egypt

June 7, 2000 - Reuters - Ain Sokhna Road, Egypt

Archaeologists aren't exaggerating when they say ancient treasures abound in the sands of Egypt. So many, in fact, that even a pilot from Iowa, out on a desert outing, can make a notable discovery: cave drawings that could date back thousands of years before the birth of Christ.

George Cunningham was in the desert 25 miles southeast of Cairo looking for fossilized sea urchins, shells and plants - a favorite hobby - when he spotted "an interesting looking wall" late last month.

On Wednesday, Cunningham led Egyptian scholars to the site to investigate the find - a sort of cave in a limestone hill.

"We were astounded that this wall was there and that we had never seen it," said Cunningham, of Algona, Iowa, who has worked in Cairo for 2 1/2 years as a helicopter pilot trainer for an oil company. He is a frequent visitor to the stretch of desert where he made the discovery.

The cave drawings appear to be from three eras, according to Egyptian experts. The earliest, which could date back to 7000-6500 B.C., are hunting scenes: men and women carrying bows alongside what appear to be dogs or wolves.

A later drawing appears to be religious: two gods or goddesses in an arch alongside three shapely women - probably goddesses as well. It could date to the early Pharaonic dynastic period, around 3,000-2500 B.C., the experts say.

From yet another era comes writing that includes hieroglyphic elements, like a primitive version of an eye of Horus. Specialists speculate that it could represent a transition between languages, either before or after hieroglyphics.

Cunningham escorted several friends to the site. Among them was an American diplomat, who sent photos of the cave to Gaballah Ali Gaballah, the director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

That led to Wednesday's visit by some 15 archaeologists, who fanned out around the cave pointing out the different symbols. Exclamations of "fascinating" and "it must be excavated" punctuated their talk - as well as a cautious: "This is all speculation."

The researchers declined to make any evaluations Wednesday, saying they needed time to excavate the site and study the drawings.

But Mohammed el-Saghir, head of the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman sector of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who did not accompany the team but saw photos earlier, says he is certain the find is of value.

Archaeologists have found similar drawings in caves in southern Egypt. But, says el-Saghir, this may be the first time such etchings have been found in northern Egypt.

If anything, it could help mark the route that Stone Age nomads took from southern Egypt to the Nile Valley to settle in what is now Ma'adi, a posh Cairo suburb, el-Saghir said. Those Bedouin later became the Ma'adi civilization, established around 3200 B.C., about 1,000 years before the Early Dynastic Period.



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