Archive for the ‘Egyptology’ Category

Dear Friends: I am thrilled to be joining friend and Deadliest Blogger Barry Jacobsen to discuss the epic Battle of Actium, as well as delve into some new theories about the iconic queen’s death. Please join us Aug. 29th at 7 pm PST/9 pm CT/10 pm EST.

As a matter of fact, Vanity Fair has a wonderful spread on the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 movie classic starring Cleopatra:

Cleopatra #06

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Behind the Scenes of the Fabled Motion Picture

Last week, the Cannes Film Festival and Bulgari kicked off a 50th-anniversary celebration for Cleopatra, the Oscar-winning, Egyptian-set epic that famously brought stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton together, featured 20,000 costumes, and premiered with a four-hour running time. Today, the festivities continue on VF.com with an interactive time line that explains how the picture came together, with photos of the stars, details on the film’s wardrobes (including the 24-karat-gold cloth worn by Taylor) and impact on 60s fashion, video of Taylor inking her record-setting salary, and anecdotes about her on-set chemistry with Burton.

And that site is really worthwhile checking if you are a fan of that film.

Now, onto Actium: Here is the gist of what happened

It’s one of the most crucial naval clashes in history, but the Battle of Actium scarcely lasted longer than a day. Flanked from behind by 60 of Cleopatra’s Egyptian warships, Antony’s fleet of 500 lacked speed. His heavily armored quinqueremes ships, designed with bronze bows to ram into enemy fleets, trudged through the water. Agrippa tried to maneuver his speedier boats around the back of Antony’s fleet, causing the lines of combat to break in the middle . As Octavius’ forces advanced, the outcome appeared grim for Antony and Cleopatra. What happened next determined the course of history for the next 400 years.

Cleopatra’s fleet raised its sails and pushed through the opening. But it wasn’t in pursuit of Octavius; Egypt was retreating. Once Mark Antony noticed that Cleopatra was fleeing, he and 40 other ships turned course to follow. Catching up to her ship, Antony boarded but didn’t speak to his Egyptian wife. He realized that the remaining ships and the 5,000 men on them couldn’t defend themselves, and the battle was lost. The desolate consul reportedly sat with his head in hands, barely moving for the next three days.

Criminal profiler Pat Brown did a cold-case investigation and came to the conclusion that Cleopatra was murdered, which she presents in the book, “The Murder of Cleopatra“.

There was no suicide by asp, advises Brown; the most famous woman of antiquity was strangled on the orders of the victor of Rome’s civil wars, Octavian. Resting this belief on her reputation as a professional criminal profiler, Brown examined the sources about Cleopatra’s demise (Plutarch, Suetonius, Cassius Dio); detected defects in their descriptions of the death scene; and then traveled to Egypt in 2003 to investigate. There was more motivation to her trip than personal curiosity. Brown reveals that a TV production company enlisted her to appear in its program on Cleopatra, a natural choice because Brown’s own TV profile was high; according to her website (patbrownprofiling.com), up to 2010, she frequently appeared on tabloid TV shows to talk about crimes and criminals. For the cold case of Cleopatra, Brown envelops her suspicions of murder within a narrative of Cleopatra’s contested rule of Egypt, which she diplomatically maintained through Julius Caesar and Mark Antony until Octavian came knocking.

And a video of the author discussing her book:

Finally, there is a great article on Rehabilitating Cleopatra.

The years after Actium were a time of extravagant praise and lavish mythmaking. Cleopatra was particularly ill-served; the turncoats wrote the history. Her career coincided as well with a flowering of Latin literature. It was Cleopatra’s curse to inspire its great poets, happy to expound on her shame, in a language inhospitable to her. Horace celebrated her defeat before it had occurred. She helpfully illuminated one of the poet Propertius’s favorite points: a man in love is a helpless man, painfully subservient to his mistress. It was as if Octavian had delivered Rome from that ill as well. He restored the natural order of things. Men ruled women, and Rome ruled the world. On both counts Cleopatra was crucial to the story. She stands among the few losers whom history remembers, if for the wrong reasons. For the next century, the Oriental influence and the emancipation of women would keep the satirists in business.

Propertius set the tone, dubbing Cleopatra “the whore queen.” She would later become “a woman of insatiable sexuality and insatiable avarice” (Dio), “the whore of the eastern kings” (Boccaccio). She was a carnal sinner for Dante, for Dryden a poster child for unlawful love. A first-century A.D. Roman would falsely assert that “ancient writers repeatedly speak of Cleopatra’s insatiable libido.” Florence Nightingale referred to her as “that disgusting Cleopatra.” Offering Claudette Colbert the title role in the 1934 movie, Cecile B. DeMille is said to have asked, “How would you like to be the wickedest woman in history?”

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Dear Friends: I wanted to thank Liberty Chick Mandy Nagy of Legal Insurrection for joining Silvio Canto, Jr. and I last night on Canto Talk. The sad situation in Egypt was one of the many topics we covered (CLICK HERE FOR DOWNLOADABLE PODCAST).



The scope of the “man-caused disaster” in Egypt is tragic. Egypt Daily News has regular updates, which I am following closely. Mainly, adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking martyrdom. The good news is that the Egyptian Military seems inclined to give it to them. Perhaps we could take a few lessons from army commander General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who deems disinclined to follow the “play nice” advice from the usual suspects. Some of today’s news:

As an amateur Egyptologist, I am deeply troubled by looting of the museums and plundering of the archeological sites. There is disturbing news from the Mallawi Museum:

From the Luxor Times
: 1040 objects were stolen out of 1089 objects on display on Mallawi museum in Minia which was looted yesterday. Most if the rest if the big size statues were damaged as looters couldn’t transfer them. Another sad day for the Egyptian heritage.

The Mallawi Museum has a Facebook Page, listing the taken treasures (click HERE to “Like”/View page).  To give you a feel for what was stolen, here are some of my favorites:

Stolen Mallawi Museum Object: Armana Princess

Mallawi Museum Stolen Object: Golden Thoth (Ibis) with small seated Ma’at (Goddess of Truth).

Mallawi Museum Stolen Object: Ptolemaic Era Priest

My readers may take a small amount of comfort that the international team is on top of the situation: The list of stolen artefacts will also be distributed among all Egyptian ports to prevent any smuggling attempts, the antiquities minister continued. International museums, UNESCO and the INTERPOL are planning to put these artefacts on the Red List to prevent its trading and to return the items safely to Egypt.

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Grandma’s House: German Boy Finds Mummy in Attic

This is my feel-good story of the week.  The mummy and its “Egyptomania” sarcophagus are the sort of thing I dreamed about finding in my Grandmother’s attic.

Last week 10-year-old Alexander Kettler was playing in the attic of his grandmother’s house in the northern German state of Lower Saxony when he came upon three mysterious cases in a cluttered corner. Neither his grandmother nor his father, a local dentist named Lutz Wolfgang Kettler, knew what was inside. So they hauled the dust-covered cases out of the attic, pried them open and peered inside with amazement.

There was a huge sarcophagus and inside a mummy,” said Lutz Wolfgang Kettler. “Then we opened the other cases and found an earthenware Egyptian death mask and a Canopic Jar,” he added, referring to a container in which the ancient Egyptians kept the entrails of the deceased who had been mummified.

As to the question of how the 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) mummy could have gotten to the small town of Diepholz, Kettler can only speculate. His father, who passed away 12 years ago, went traveling through North Africa in the 1950s, but spoke very little of his travels. “He was of the older generation who experienced a lot in the war and didn’t really talk about anything. I do seem to remember him mentioning having been to the city of Derna in Libya,” says Kettler. Had Kettler’s father purchased the sarcophagus on his trip, it would have been possible for him to ship it to Diepholz via Bremerhaven.

Mummy #01

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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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Welcome Captain Capitalism readers! The Goddess of Capitalism welcomes the denizens of the “Man-o-sphere” with open arms! For more Man-o-sphere goodness, please check out the “HISTORY OF WAR PAINT“.

Dear Readers:  Please check Legal Insurrection for today’s political punditry — Conservatives need craftiness as well as courage!

One of the items on my “bucket list” is to see the legendary city of Meroe, which is in the Sudan and is home to some of the most beautiful ancient structures that exist:

Meroe pyramid

Some of my readers may be shocked to learn there are more pyramids in the Sudan than there are in Egypt:

The kingdom of Cush (or Kush) flourished south of Egypt along the Nile from the Eighth Century B.C. to the Fourth Century A.D. Here the rulers of Cush built some 228 pyramids, three times as many as the Pharaohs managed to pile up! We rarely hear or see anything of these strange, steeply pointed structures. They are usually less than 100 feet high and not as impressive and mysterious as those farther north beyond the Aswan Dam.

The Cushite kingdom’s passion for pyramids was probably acquired in the Eighth Century B.C., when it actually ruled Egypt for a few years until the Assyrians pushed its armies back south in 671 B.C. With them, the Cushites took the pyramid idea, Egyptian art forms, and hieroglyphics. They liked pyramids so well that the Cushite rulers kept on building them until the kingdom’s demise in 350 A.D. — some 2,000 years after the Egyptians had abandoned this form of architecture altogether.

There is nothing in the Cush pyramids that can be called anomalous. It’s just so surprising to learn there are so many of them and that they are so neglected in the TV documentaries.

The Cush empire did leave us one enigma: an alphabetical script of 23 symbols that has never been deciphered. P. Wolf, at Berlin’s Humboldt University, fears that, “Maybe we will never be able to decipher the language. Every-body is hoping for some sort of Rosetta stone.”

That being noted, there has been an exciting new discovery: Cluster of 35 ancient pyramids unearthed in Sudan

At least 35 small pyramids, along with graves, have been discovered clustered closely together at a site called Sedeinga in Sudan.

Discovered between 2009 and 2012, researchers are surprised at how densely the pyramids are concentrated. In one field season alone, in 2011, the research team discovered 13 pyramids packed into roughly 5,381 square feet (500 square meters), or slightly larger than an NBA basketball court.

They date back around 2,000 years to a time when a kingdom named Kush flourished in Sudan. Kush shared a border with Egypt and, later on, the Roman Empire. The desire of the kingdom’s people to build pyramids was apparently influenced by Egyptian funerary architecture.

The entire history of the region is fascinating. The area was so highly influenced by ancient Egyptian culture that when it was waning because of internal strife, Kings of Kush came up to re-assert the traditional ways and formed the 25th Dynasty:

By the eleventh century B.C., the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Cush. There is no information about the region’s activities over the next 300 years. In the eighth century B.C., however, Cush reemerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who gradually extended their influence into Egypt. About 750 B.C., a Cushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 B.C. His successor, Painkhy, subdued the delta, reunited Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Cush and Thebes for about a hundred years. The dynasty’s intervention in the area of modern Syria caused a confrontation between Egypt and Assyria. When the Assyrians in retaliation invaded Egypt, Taharqa (688-663 B.C.), the last Cushite pharaoh, withdrew and returned the dynasty to Napata, where it continued to rule Cush and extended its dominions to the south and east.

King Taharqa

Finally, please check out the NOVA special on the reconstruction of the ancient Egyptian war chariot — it was awesome! (Click here for link to video).

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Dear Readers:  Please check Legal Insurrection for my most recent political punditry – Losing CA high-speed rail bidders get $2 million payout from state

Now, for some items of historical interest.  I have two pieces that feature examples of the high quality of ancient Egyptian funerary arts.

The first is a fascinating look at the reconstruction of the largest sarcophagus ever built, that of 19th Dynasty pharaoh Merneptah (who fans may recall from my earlier post on Queen Tausert).

Merneptah’s Sarcophagus Reconstruction

Via Discovery News: Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

The largest ancient Egyptian sarcophagus has been identified in a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, say archaeologists who are re-assembling the giant box that was reduced to fragments more than 3,000 years ago.

Made of red granite, the royal sarcophagus was built for Merneptah, an Egyptian pharaoh who lived more than 3,200 years ago. A warrior king, he defeated the Libyans and a group called the “Sea Peoples” in a great battle.

He also waged a campaign in the Levant attacking, among others, a group he called “Israel” (the first mention of the people). When he died, his mummy was enclosed in a series of four stone sarcophagi, one nestled within the other.

Archaeologists are re-assembling the outermost of these nested sarcophagi, its size dwarfing the researchers working on it. It is more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, 7 feet (2.3 m) wide and towers more than 8 feet (2.5 m) above the ground. It was originally quite colorful and has a lid that is still intact. (See Photos of Pharaoh’s Sarcophagus)

“This as far as I know is about the largest of any of the royal sarcophagi,” said project director Edwin Brock, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, in an interview with LiveScience.

Brock explained the four sarcophagi would probably have been brought inside the tomb already nested together, with the king’s mummy inside.

Holes in the entrance shaft to the tomb indicate a pulley system of sorts, with ropes and wooden beams, used to bring the sarcophagi in. When the workers got to the burial chamber they found they couldn’t get the sarcophagi box through the door. Ultimately, they had to destroy the chamber’s door jams and build new ones.

Also, last month brought an exciting discovery of a wooden 17th Dynasty sarcophagus of a child and collection of 18th Dynasty Ushabti figurines of a priest: More discoveries at Djehuty’s tomb in Luxor

Although the Egyptian sarcophagus does not have any engravings, decoration, or mummy inside, early studies carried out in situ by Jose Galàn, head of the archaeological mission, revealed that it belongs to a yet unidentified child who died during the 17th Dynasty.

A collection of wooden pots and pans was also unearthed beside the sarcophagus in the Draa Abul Naga area in Luxor’s west bank, along with a collection of Ushabti figurines (statuettes) carved in wood and wrapped in linen .

Mansour Boreik, supervisor of Luxor antiquities, told Ahram Online that the Ushabti figurines depict the similar facial features of the well-known priest Ahmosa saya Ir, who played a major role in the royal palace during the 18th Dynasty.

Galàn described Djehuty as an important official who lived in the reign of Hatshepsut, but died in the reign of Thutmosis III, because the names of both Pharaohs are written on the tomb wall. However, the name of Hatshepsut is slightly scratched.

Djehuty would appear to have participated in the construction and decoration of most of Hatshepsut’s monumental constructions in Thebes as well as registering all the exotic products, including minerals and spices, brought from the land of Punt, as shown on his tomb walls. “He was such an important official that he is even represented carrying out such activities on one of the walls of the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir Al-Bahari,” Galàn said.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that Djehuty’s tomb was discovered in 2003. The discovery amazed Egyptologists and historians because of its distinguished and uncommon architectural design and decoration as well as the artefacts found within its corridors. Since 2003 until now, objects from different dynasties were piled in the tomb to form a haphazard treasury. Among the artefacts unearthed are eight mummies of falcons and a demotic graffito relating to them. The drawing located on one of the tomb walls suggests the tomb was reused in the Graeco- Roman era.


Child's Sarcophagus


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Dear readers:  As a result of seeing “Cleopatra – The Exhibition” last week, I discovered a 1983 BBC series called “The Cleopatras”.

Cleopatra the exhibit

Last night, I located the YouTube videos.

It is an 8-episode production that supposedly covers all the Cleopatras [though it starts with the “love triangle” if mother Cleopatra II, daughter Cleopatra III, and Ptolemy VIII (aka Physcon/”Fatty”)].

The production clearly demonstrates that the worst enemy a Ptolemy had was another Ptolemy.

Clearly, it is not the same production quality of “I, Claudius”.  However, I thought it may amuse some of the history fans among my readers.



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