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Unique Egyptian sphinx unearthed in north Israel

A little something for my Egyptology fans!

Part of an ancient Egyptian king’s unique sphinx was unveiled at a dig in northern Israel on Tuesday, with researchers struggling to understand just how the unexpected find ended up there.

The broken granite sphinx statue — including the paws and some of the mythical creature’s forearms — displayed at Tel Hazor archaeological site in Israel’s Galilee, is the first such find in the region.

Its discovery also marks the first time ever that researchers have found a statue dedicated to Egyptian ruler Mycerinus who ruled circa 2,500 BC and was builder of one of the three Giza pyramids, an expert said.

“This is the only monumental Egyptian statue ever found in the Levant – today’s Israel, Lebanon, Syria,” Amnon Ben-Tor, an archaeology professor at the Hebrew University in charge of the Tel Hazor dig, told AFP.

“It is also the only sphinx of this particular king known, not even in Egypt was a sphinx of that particular king found.”

Ben-Tor said that besides Mycerinus’s name, carved in hieroglyphics between the forearms, there are symbols reading “beloved by the divine souls of Heliopolis”.

“This is the temple in which the sphinx was originally placed,” Ben-Tor said of Heliopolis, an ancient city which lies north of today’s Cairo.

Tel Hazor, which Ben-Tor calls “the most important archaeological site in this country,” was the capital of southern Canaan, founded circa 2,700 BC and at its peak covering approximately 200 acres and home to some 20,000 Canaanites. It was destroyed in the 13th century BC.

 

“Following a gap of some 150 years, it was resettled in the 11th century BC by the Israelites, who continuously occupied it until 732 BC,” when it was destroyed by the Asyrians, Ben-Tor said.

He said the find was approximately 50 centimetres (20 inches) long, and estimated the entire statue was 150 centimetres (60 inches) long and half a metre (20 inches) high”.

How, when and why it reached Tel Hazor remains a mystery.

“That it arrived in the days of Mycerinus himself is unlikely, since there were absolutely no relations between Egypt and this part of the world then,” said Ben-Tor.

“Egypt maintained relations with Lebanon, especially via the ancient port of Byblos, to import cedar wood via the Mediterranean, so they skipped” today’s northern Israel, he said.

Another option is that the statue was part of the plunders of the Canaanites, who in the late 17th and early 16th century BC ruled lower Egypt, the expert said.

“Egyptian records tell us that those foreign rulers… plundered and desecrated the local temples and did all kinds of terrible things, and it is possible that some of this looting included a statue like this one”.

But to Ben-Tor the most likely way the sphinx reached Tel Hazor is in the form of a gift sent by a later Egyptian ruler.

“The third option is that it arrived in Hazor some time after the New Kingdom started in 1,550 BC, during which Egypt ruled Canaan, and maintained close relations with the local rulers, who were left on their thrones,” he said.

“In such a case it’s possible the statue was sent by the Egyptian ruler to king of Hazor, the most important ruler in this region.”

Shlomit Blecher, who manages the Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations in Memory of Yigael Yadin, was the archaeologist who actually unearthed the finding in August 2012.

The statue’s incrustation was meticulously removed over a period of many months by the excavation’s restorer, before the intricate carvings and hieroglyphics were fully visible.

“It was the last hour of the last day of the dig,” she told AFP of the moment of the find. “We all leapt with joy and happiness, everyone was thrilled.”

“We hope the other pieces are here and that we find them in the near days,” she said.

Ben-Dor said the statue was most likely deliberately broken by new occupiers at Tel Hazor in an act of defiance to the old rule.

Finding the sphinx was “unexpected,” said Ben-Tor, “but fits” archaeological facts and findings. “When you’re in a bank, you find money,” he said.

To Ben-Tor, however, the true coveted find would be archives buried somewhere on Tel Hazor that could serve as an inventory to the ancient city’s content.

“I know there are two archives,” he said. “We already have 18 documents from two periods, the 17th and 14th century BC. If I found those archives, people would come running here.”

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Dear Readers:  While I don’t know what the final outcome is, I am delighted that Egyptian’s seem to be soundly rejecting Mohammed Morsi and his vision of an Islamic paradise on the Nile.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood thugs destroyed Egypt’s priceless heritage and brutalized the Copts.  So, it is with great joy I share this image with you, from the Egypt Daily News.

Morsi Under Arrest

The latest news: Morsi is no longer head of state -

Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that the army told President Mohammed Morsi that he was no longer head of state, quoting a presidential source.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s army deployed tanks and troops close to the presidential palace in Cairo today after a military deadline for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to yield to street protests passed without any agreement.

Morsi’s national security adviser said a military coup was under way as armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met political, religious and youth leaders.

The state news agency MENA said they would make a joint announcement of a roadmap for a new transitional period and new elections two years after the overthrow of autocratic ex-president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

The elected Muslim Brotherhood president, in office for just a year, remained out of sight in a Republican Guard barracks surrounded by barbed wire, barriers and troops, but military sources denied media reports that he was under arrest.

“For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: military coup,” Morsi’s national security adviser Essam El-Haddad said in a statement, warning of “considerable bloodshed” to come.

Another presidential aide, Yasser Haddara, said it was unclear whether Mursi was free to return to the palace where he spent the previous night. His message to supporters was to resist the “military coup” peacefully and not use violence against troops, police or other Egyptians.

One of my favorite lines form the 1945 film Caesar and Cleopatra is: EGYPT FOR THE EGYPTIANS.

It’s nice to see them take it back. Lets hope they make a better choice next time.

Legal Insurrection has a picture of the fireworks at Tahrir Square, which is a nice touch. It’s nice to see them celebrating there by doing something other than raping women for a change. It’s a nice omen for a better future, too.

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Why I love Matt Drudge

Cover Story of the Drudge Report.

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Abandoned Luxor Residents set to join Egyptian revolt

A big hat-tip to Instapundit!

I had a piece earlier this week that indicated the military was poised to unleash a coup, as Morsi’s policies have caused an economic collapse.  This is borne out by the news that the tour industry has completely collapsed, to the point that the gem of Egypt’s ancient history has returned to being a “ghost town”.

In Luxor, protests erupted last week when Morsy named Adel Al Khayat, a leading Gama’a Islamiyya figure, as the local governor; Al Khayat withdrew when residents barred his office door and burned tires in the street.

Many here resented his connection to the group behind the 1997 massacre. Many believe his selection reflected an Islamist assault on tourism, near collapse since Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

In the past, Hassan says, 20,000 tourists visited Luxor daily. “Now we are lucky to get 400, 500.” Only five of the normal 320 tourist cruise ships sail the Nile, according to guides.

Hassan calls out to a fellow guide, Adel Asad, to ask his opinion about the state of things. “Luxor is dead,” Asad yells back, and the ousted governor “is an idiot, like the president.”

That’s a sentiment heard often here.

A good gauge of unrest

“Morsy doesn’t understand that Egypt is too big for him,” says Aly Araby, who runs a tourist shop outside Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, site of the 1997 massacre. With tourists all but gone, he worries, “Where will we get our food?”

He predicts “all the people in Luxor” and nearby villages will join the protest on Sunday.

In a 2½-hour televised speech on Wednesday, Morsy conceded some mistakes, suggested amending a controversial 2012 constitution and criticized his opponents.

Yet, as Sunday nears, the growing division — and impact — of his yearlong presidency can be seen, heard and felt everywhere.

Soldiers are deployed in many cities. Traffic is snarled in long lines as fuel supplies evaporate. Electrical blackouts, rising food prices and lawlessness intensify the public rage and alarm.

Luxor is a good gauge of how such unrest has surged, because it has rarely witnessed protests.

During the 2011 revolution, tour guide Ahmed Kareem formed a small group to oppose then-dictator Hosni Mubarak. But “whenever a tour bus came, we would put our signs down and wave at the tourists,” says Kareem, 37, a leader of the local guides’ syndicate.

Last week, hearing rumors of a Brotherhood attack, anti-Al Khayat protesters grabbed sticks and metal poles and went looking for a fight.

Ashraf Ahmed, head of a Luxor shopkeepers’ syndicate, says “the biggest mistake of my life” was voting for Morsy in 2012′s presidential election.

As he walks past empty tourist-bazaar stalls, another man says people “want the downfall of the beards” — meaning Islamists, who typically are unshaven.

Ahmed, 41, believes Morsy and the Brotherhood hate tourism. “We will fight with them until they die,” he vows.

To understand the magnitude of this “man-made disaster”, consider that Luxor is the gateway to some of the most famous of all ancient Egyptian historical sites.  A small sampling of the 45 key areas of interest should be familiar to my Egyptophile readers:

Aerial View of Karnak Temple
Aerial View of Karnak Temple
Photo by: SonofGrouchu, Creative Commons

Temple of Karnak:  The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isut (Most select of places) by the ancient Egyptians. It is  a temple complex, where pharaohs built  for over 2000 years. (Note – The ancient Temple of MUT is in this complex)

Temple of Medinat Habu: The great mortuary temple of Ramses III dominates the site at Medinat Habu.  Second in size only to Karnak, the main pylon and well-preserved wall carvings record military.

Valley of the Kings: Luxor is the Gateway to the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of Kings is the ancient burial ground used by the Pharoahs and dignitries from the 18th to the 20th dynasties. Among 63 royal tombs is the famous Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Colossi of Memnon: Two enthroned statues of Amenhotep III, each soaring more than 60 feet into the sky, are the first monuments visitors see upon arrival at the West Bank.  Standing sixty feet high

Colossi of Memnon

To go on a tour of Egypt and not go to Luxor is possible.  However, it would rather be like someone who adores France goes there and does not visit the Louvre, Norte Dame, Versailles, or wine country.

The word “inconceivable” comes to mind.

Small wonder the Luxor natives are pissed that a man connected with the 1997 slaughter at the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari now in governor of that area.

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Jon Stewart on Egyptian satirical TV show as captured foreign spy

It seems the only thing to laugh about in Egypt today is on its TV.

Hot across the Shrine wires is a notice that a noted historical site in Matariyya / Arab el-Hisn was damaged in the nationwide demonstrations (a translation of the following this piece)

Today thugs set fire to the gate of Ramses II, in plans to completely overtake the site during the protests of June 30th. The gate got completely burnt today.” [FB]. This happened after volunteers had removed 9 tons of garbage from the site to help restore its archaeological status.

It seems American comedic pundit Jon Stewart stopped by a show based on his American version while in the country.  It seems that President Morsi has become an international-level joke:

Jon Stewart took the guest’s seat Friday on Egypt’s top satirical TV show, modeled after his own program “The Daily Show.”

Stewart was brought to the set wearing a black hood and introduced by host Bassem Youssef as a captured foreign spy.

Stewart, wearing a scruffy beard, spoke briefly in Arabic as the studio audience gave him a raucous welcome.

“Please sit down, I am a simple man who does not like to be fussed over,” he said in Arabic to laughter.

Youssef, host of the show “Al-Bernameg” and one of Egypt’s most popular TV presenters, has been questioned by prosecutors on accusations of blasphemy and insulting the president. Stewart defended his counterpart and friend in one of his monologues after Youssef was interrogated earlier this year, and Youssef has appeared as a guest on the popular New York-based show.

Stewart, who is on a summer-long break from anchoring the Comedy Central fake newscast is in the Middle East making his first movie. He expressed admiration for Youssef in Friday’s episode, which was recorded earlier this week during a visit to Cairo.

“Satire is a settled law. If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you have no regime,” Stewart said, adding that Youssef “is showing that satire can be relevant.”

True to form, Youssef began the weekly show with a series of jokes about Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s appearance and address at a rally last weekend hosted by his hard-line Islamist backers.

 

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Egypt’s Military Poised for a Coup

I think Morsi’s vision of an Islamic paradise by the Nile isn’t panning out as he promised.

The Egyptian military has warned that it is prepared to step in should the nationwide demonstrations expected this week descend into chaos.

A statement from General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged the nation’s bickering political factions to forge consensus ahead of the protests.

“The will of the Egyptian nation is what governs us and we protect it with honour,” said Mr Al-Sisi.

Huge numbers of people are expected to demonstrate in cities across Egypt this weekend to demand the resignation of Mohamed Morsi, prompting fears that the country will face further unrest,

Despite the expectation for mass marches on Sunday 30 June – exactly one year after Mr Morsi was elected – nobody appears certain about what might unfold over the following days.

In what counts as a substantial political gamble, most of the major opposition figures have lined up behind the protests. Many of Mr Morsi’s Islamist allies have vowed to fight any attempt to remove him by force, and are incensed at what they see as an illegitimate attempt to undermine Mr Morsi’s democratic election last year.

And a bit of background information from Joshuapundit that offers an explanation of the military’s motivation:

Remember that the Egyptian Army is not like our army…it’s more like a state within a state. It owns private businesses, factories, property, even farmland, often staffed by army recruits who work at non-military jobs for army wages. A good part of the $1.5 billion in aid Egypt gets from us in military aid goes to fund these enterprises.

As the economy spirals out of control, the financial assets of the army are taking a huge hit.That’s an important motivation behind what al-Sissi had to say. He is warning Morsi and the Brotherhood to focus less on implementing sharia and more on managing Egypt’s economy.

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This is the full hair and make-up test from the film Cleopatra. It was filmed in 1958, it features Joan Collins as Cleopatra and Stephen Boyd as Mark Anthony. It is featured on the 1997 A&E documentary “Joan Collins: A Personal Dynasty” and on the 2001 feature-length documentary “Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood”.

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At Egyptian Dig, Families Pillage as Police Relatives “Guard” Site

Battle for Egypt’s ancient Roman site: Antinopolis

A flood of reports are now coming in on another chaotic “Intermediate Period” in Egypt’s history.  For those of you new to Egyptology, it is at those periods that the tombs were heavily plundered.

The aftermath of the Muslim Brotherhood take-over simply shows, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. 

According to The Art Newspaper, leading archaeologists have denounced the poor state of conservation of the Roman remains at Antinopolis in Egypt, the city built by Emperor Hadrian, who ruled Rome from 117 A.D. to 138 A.D. The revolution that swept through the country in 2011 and the subsequent exit of its president, Hosni Mubarak, who is currently in jail facing corruption charges, have affected the security and conservation of many historical sites in the country, especially those that are far from major city centers. Antinopolis, located near the Nile over 30 kilometer south of the nearest large town, Minya, is a perfect target.

Until recently, the Roman hippodrome there was still intact, although it has now been swallowed by the ever-expanding cemetery for the neighboring small town called Sheikh ‘Ibada. Out of the four hippodromes built by the Romans in Egypt, this was the only one that survived. Large areas are being prepared for redevelopment and parts of the ancient necropolis on the north of the site have already been converted into farmland, reported The Art Newspaper.

Egyptian authorities

According to The Art Newspaper, Rosario Pintaudi, an Italian archaeologist from the Vitelli Papyrological Institute, Florence, has raised the alarm and involved other leading archaeologists, such as Jay Heidel, from Chicago University’s Oriental Institute, to bring the issue to the attention of the Egyptian authorities. Pintaudi claims that, thanks to American involvement, he obtained a meeting with Mohammed Ibrahim, the minister of antiquities, who only promised to address the matter when he realized that a nearby temple, built by Rameses II, is also under threat. “It’s a battle,” said Pintaudi, “groups of children pass by us, grinning, armed with spades with which they dig out artifacts and sell them. People don’t like our presence here.”

Raymond Johnson, the director of the archaeological mission from the University of Chicago in Luxor, said: “This is a disgrace, it’s a real tragedy. After the meeting with the minister they increased the number of guards, but many of them are from the same families as those that pillage the site.”

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Unchecked looting guts Egypt’s heritage, with one ancient site ‘70 percent gone’

Sadly, all is proceeding as I have foreseen:

Salima Ikram, an expert in tombs and mummification who heads the Egyptology unit at American University in Cairo, gasps in horror in her home while examining Tribune-Review photographs of the site.

“These scattered remains … brutally pulled apart in search of one shiny piece of metal,” Ikram says in disgust.

“This is most horrific — someone’s ribs!” she suddenly exclaims. “Oh, God! It’s like the killing fields!”

Thieves, explorers and archaeologists have raided Egypt’s ancient sites for centuries. The Tribune-Review first reported in February that the looting had become a free-for-all after a 2011 revolution toppled one government and introduced continuing turmoil.

The tomb raiding threatens some of Egypt’s — and the world’s — most revered and valuable heritage sites, many of which have never been properly studied or catalogued, experts say. A few experts privately accuse the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsy of ignoring the threat.

Some Islamist religious leaders have contributed to the frenzy by ordering “pagan” antiquities to be destroyed, or issuing directives on the “correct” Islamic way to loot them.

Police and local authorities insist they are overwhelmed by lawlessness and outgunned by criminal gangs with heavy weapons smuggled from Libya.

Meanwhile, the threatened heritage is a low priority for many Egyptians beset by daily electrical outages, fuel shortages, higher food prices, rising street crime and political instability.

For others, that heritage is a chance to cash in. Looted objects are sold in dirt-poor villages near sites such as Abu Sir al Malaq; others go to wealthy collectors, particularly in the United States, Europe, Japan and the Middle East, experts say.

Last week, Egypt’s new antiquities minister pledged to improve security “at all archaeological sites and museums.”

But that appears to be too little too late for the sprawling cemetery complex, or necropolis, in the governorate of Bani Suef. Of three sites examined by the Trib – the others are Dahshour and El-Hibeh – it is the most extensively ravaged.

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“A book has got…

“A book has got smell. A new book smells great. An old book smells even better. An old book smells like ancient Egypt”. Ray Bradbury

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