Posts Tagged With: Melissa Pankuch

Update: Cleopatra’s Needle gets a Facelift!

In my post Eye on the Needle: The Fight to Save an Iconic Monument, the desperate need for conservation work on an obelisk currently housed in NYC’s Central Park, affectionately called Cleopatra’s Needle, was being promoted through an up-and-coming documentary.

I am happy to report that since May 2014, conservators have been giving Cleopatra’s Needle a laser treatment unlike any other.

Read this amazing article published in the New York Times on July 10,2014 (published electronically July 9 2014) discussing the conservation efforts!

Nearly 3,500 Years Old, an Egyptian Monument Gets a Laser Cleaning

10BLOCKSweb1-master675 (courtesy of the NY Times)

 

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Rosetta and Philae: from Ancient Egypt to Asteroids!

 

 

  Image(courtesy of the EGSA)

This August, Ancient Egypt will experience a stellar comeback. Literally. In just a few weeks, the spacecraft “Rosetta”, launched in 2004, will reach its destination—the comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko, and be delivered to its lander, “Philae” on the surface of the comet! On March 20-21st, scientists noted (through an OSIRIS wide-angle camera….Osiris—get it?) that Rosetta was right on track for its arrival.

In addition to the fact that a spacecraft being able to land on a comet is just about the coolest thing EVER, the connection to Ancient Egypt makes this particular mission even sweeter!

The spacecraft Rosetta is named after the famous Rosetta stone, an ancient artifact currently housed at the British Museum. According to the museum’s records, the Rosetta stone is from the Ptolemaic Period of Ancient Egypt (around 196 BC) and is an inscribed decree passed by a council of priests.  The true value of this artifact is found in the carved text where the council’s decree is inscribed three times: once in Hieroglyphs (the older language almost exclusively used by the religious at this point in history), once in Demotic (daily script of Egyptians in the period), and once in Greek (the language of the administration)

 

Image (courtesy of the British Museum)

When the stone was initially discovered by Napoleon’s army in 1799 in the town of el-Rashid (Rosetta), no one could decipher the hieroglyphic texts. However, an English physicist, Thomas Young, was the first to realize that some of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta stone spelled out the royal name Ptolemy. Using this knowledge, the French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion, who was fluent in Coptic and Greek, was then able to uncover the connection between Greek, Coptic, and Demotic! His work was the catalyst to the formation of our understandings of all hieroglyphic texts.

And what about Philae? The Rosetta spacecraft’s lander is named after an obelisk found on the Nile island of Philae. This obelisk, much like the Rosetta stone, contains texts in both Greek and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and was utilized as a comparative “document” by Champollion and other scholars as they translated the ancient Egyptian language. In particular, scholars were able to identify the hieroglyphic spelling of Cleopatra and her family name Ptolemy through these two objects, providing a breakthrough that changed the landscape of Egyptology by providing a kind of “skeleton key” to the long misunderstood language of the ancient culture.

 

 Image(courtesy of kalligraphie.de)

In regards to our space mission, scientists are hoping that the spacecraft Rosetta and the lander Philae will function in the same way as their ancient counterparts, allowing scientists to discover previously unknown facts about the earliest years of the Solar System, when the planets were not yet formed and only comets and asteroids surrounded the sun.

As of June 20th, the spacecraft Rosetta was just under 160,000 km away from the comet and from meeting the lander Philae. Although scientists are unsure of how successful the mission will be, we will hope for history to repeat itself, and for Rosetta and Philae to hold their title as a team that opens the door to the ancient world…and beyond! 

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.universetoday.com/110761/rosetta-spacecraft-spies-its-comet-as-it-prepares-for-an-august-encounter/

http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/t/the_rosetta_stone.aspx

http://books.google.com/books?id=LVxT6gMEQzIC&pg=PA65&lpg=PA65&dq=obelisk+of+philae+rosetta+stone&source=bl&ots=NGp2FsRdlo&sig=kzQcgnqZZtiQhTSwJQUHv7qcWL0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TnakU8O5MYfEsATgz4GoCg&ved=0CCcQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=obelisk%20of%20philae%20rosetta%20stone&f=false

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A Saturday at the Met

After a long hiatus, Stories My Mummy Told Me is back! So many amazing things have happened since May 2014 began, from graduation to moving to New York City to beginning my fantastic internship! I have definitely been caught up in a whirlwind of beautiful chaos. 

My move to New York City for graduate school has brought many blessings into my life, but one of the most outwardly remarkable is the fact that I am surrounded by legendary artworks and treasure-filled museums wherever I go. During my first visit to NYC, I became enamored with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s immense Egyptian collection (which I wandered through for over 3 hours!). Being able to visit it on a regular basis, as well as see the other fantastic Met collections, is a true joy. 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which includes its Main Building on Fifth Avenue and the Cloisters and museum gardens, dates back to 1866. The formation of the museum began in Paris, when a group of Americans agreed to create a “national institution and gallery of art” to bring art and art education to the American people. (metmuseum.org)

 

Image (courtesy of metmuseum.org)

 

On April 13, 1870, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened to the public in the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue, and in November acquired a Roman sarcophagus as its first object. In 1871, one hundred and seventy four European paintings were added to the collection, and from then on, the museum experienced massive growth. In March of 1880, the museum moved to its present day location on Fifth Avenue and 82nd street: a two million square foot building incorporating over two million objects, with thousands seen every day.

 

Focusing on the art of ancient Egypt, that collection includes around 26,000 objects dating from the Paleolithic era to the Roman period in Egyptian history (ca. 300,000 B.C.E.-400 C.E.).

For the most part, the collection was amassed during the Museum’s thirty-five years of archaeological work in Egypt. Beginning in 1906, the Metropolitan Museum set out on its Egyptian Expedition, conducting over 14 season of excavation at Lisht until the year 1935. At Lisht, the expedition explored areas such as the pyramid complexes of Amenemhat I and Senwosret I, a cemetery of Dynasty 12 and 13 officials, and an important Middle Kingdom settlement site.  Further excavation work was completed at the palace of Amenhotep II at Malqata, and the temples and cemeteries around Deir el-Bahri. The expedition uncovered many impressive finds, such as ritual figures in wood, the untouched chamber in the tomb of Meketre, and statue fragments from the funerary temple of Hatshepsut!

The collection is also comprised of multiple private collections, including those of Chauncey Murch, Theodore M. Davis, J. Pierpont Morgan, and the well-known Earl of Carnarvon (whose home is showcased in PBS’ Downton Abbey!).

 

Image (courtesy of metmuseum.org)

One of the most intriguing and interactive aspects of the Egyptian Gallery is the Temple of Dendur, located in the Sackler Wing.  Rich with pharaonic and religious images, the Temple of Dendur was built around 15 B.C.E. by the Roman emperor Augustus, as a dedication to Isis and two Nubians who had aided the Romans in their military conquests. The temple was originally located in Lower Nubia, but had to be dismantled and relocated as protection from rising waters after the construction of the Aswan Dam. The Egyptian government presented it to the United States as a gift, recognizing America’s contribution to the preservation of Nubian monuments, and the temple was bestowed upon the Metropolitan Museum two years later, in 1967.

One of my favorite pieces is slightly smaller in scale:  a damaged Head of a King, Possibly Seankhkare Mentuhotep III.

 Image ( courtesy of metmuseum.org)

 

Although there is no clear text identifying the piece, features of this head can be matched with a relief from Armant housed in the Brooklyn Museum which is inscribed for King Seankhkare Mentuhotep III, son of the great Mentuhotep II (known for his architectural feats, and attributed with the construction of the temple atop Thoth Hill, the highest point overlooking the Valley of the Kings). This particular portrait is created in the Old Kingdom “Second Style” and clearly shows abstract ears and almond, slanting eyes. However, the cheek outline and softly rounded shaping of the face offer life to the stylized image. Why do I like it so much? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. There are so many well-preserved pieces of Egyptian sculpture, so many other, more beautiful interpretations; but when I saw this for the first time—during that first visit, it immediately drew me in.

There are so many treasures hidden in this museum collection, from the small faience scarabs to the mummies themselves, no blog posting could ever do them justice. So please, in the name of all that is good in this world, take an afternoon (or entire day) and spend it with the beautiful art at the Metropolitan Museum. Who knows what you will find?

 Image

Resources:

http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-museum/museum-departments/curatorial-departments/egyptian-art

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/547802

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/545879?rpp=30&pg=2&ft=head&where=Egypt&pos=39

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So You Wanna Play with (Ancient Egyptian) Magic? An Analysis of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”

In all honesty, when Katy Perry first released the music video for her latest hit, “Dark Horse,” I was mortified; Yes, Ancient Egypt was the theme of the video, but the presence of Katy’s intense diamond grill, spinning chariot rims, and a pyramid of Twinkies was completely overwhelming.

After I got over my initial revulsion and watched the video a few more times, however, I was relieved to recognize a few little glimmers of true Egyptology. So, here is my Top 5 Best Egyptology Moments in Katy Perry’s (Featuring Juicy J) “Dark Horse.” (This Top 5 list is provided, in part, through the analysis of the director of the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, Pearce Paul Creasman, who was interviewed by MTV.)

  1.  Katy Perry’s decision to create a pink Egyptian palace wasn’t made simply to celebrate her favorite color. The Egyptian pharaohs used pink granite in ancient architecture. The stone came from the southern region called Aswan, located just above the first cataract in the Nile between Nubia and Egypt. Although the natural pink granite quarried in Aswan was not as…potent in color as the stone appearing in the video, Katy gets an ‘A’ for effort.
  2.  No, those aren’t random and/or fake hierImageoglyphs floating around Katy Perry’s head. Aside from the actual hieroglyphs (like the Re eye at the bottom left) Perry includes the royal name of King Tut within this scene. At the left-most side of the view below, a cartouche is seen with hieroglyphs inside, indicating that  within the cartouche is a royal name. The name written is Nebkheperure, the throne name of Tuthankamun.          (Courtesy Vevo: Katy Perry)
  3. During the video, KP hangs with a few of the many gods worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians, including Bastet, Sobek,Horus, Seth, Aten, Anubis, and Thoth. There’s even a discreet shout out in the song itself when she sings, “Make me your Aphrodite.” Although Aphrodite is a goddess of Ancient Greece, the Egyptian goddess Isis was referred to by the Ancient Greeks as Aphrodite.
  4. If you know me at all, you know Cleopatra is one of my favorite Ancient Egyptian females. Whether you believe she was a woman who slept her way to the top or a brilliant leader and cunning politician (in case you’re wondering…the second is correct J), there is no question of her impact on Egyptian history. Katy Perry gives a graceful nod to this Egyptian Queen through her stylized makeup, her encounter with Egyptian asps—referencing Cleopatra’s tragic end (a moment of silence for Cleo please), and the lyrics mentioning Aphrodite. Cleopatra often portrayed herself as the Goddess Isis, particularly during her relationship with Caesar, as a way of aligning herself with one of the greatest goddesses in the Egyptian World.
  5. Okay…it’s time to address the Twinkies. Although I think this is absolutely ridiculous…Twinkies do last forever…and pyramids are a symbol of eternal life. I’ll give that one to you Katy. I don’t like it, but I respect it.

Image

(Courtesy Vevo: Katy Perry)

*As a bonus, the rapper featured in “Dark Horse”, Juicy J, is from Memphis, Tennessee, which is named after one of the capital cities of Ancient Egypt,  placing him as the cherry on top of this Egyptian sundae.

Although there was no Egyptologist on set for the creation of the video, it is clear that Katy Perry and her team had some idea of the history and religion of Ancient Egypt. However, I have no explanation for Katy’s diamond grill…sorry friends.

Curious to see what other Egyptian imagery is in the video? Watch it now! (Link in Works Cited)

 

Works Cited:

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1722735/katy-perry-dark-horse-egyptian-references.jhtml

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KSOMA3QBU0

 

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I’m Not Gonna Write You A Love Song…But Khufu Might

Love is in the air! As an early Valentine’s Day gift to you, I’m giving you all the scoop on the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of Roses, Chocolates, and Singing Valentines: Love Poetry.

Before we get to the poems, it’s important to know that this type of composition wasn’t the only kind of writing that Ancient Egyptians produced for fun. There is a rich collection of literature describing the adventures of magicians, epic poems, epic journeys, and even a few fairy-tale like stories.

The Ancient Egyptian love poems that have been discovered date to the Ramesside period, around the 13th-12th centuries BC.  All of the love poems are from the same location: the workmen’s village at Deir el-Medina.  Three papyri, one fragmented pottery jar, and twenty separate stanzas were discovered in the village. All were written in the Late Egyptian phase of hieroglyphics, a formal version of the spoken language of Ancient Egypt.  The contents of the poems, also referred to as “songs”, lead Egyptologists to believe that they were written to echo the elite lives of the palace and court of the king.  One vital difference between Ancient Egyptian love poetry and our own? The terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ were used to indicate intimacy and affection, not familial relations. The use of these terms in a romantic way was the basis of the argument that sibling marriages were common in Ancient Egypt, which is untrue for the common people. Even on a royal scale, sibling marriages occurred to secure power, not for the reasons we imagine ourselves being married today.

One of my favorite poems illustrates a great passion in sumptuous language that evokes a mesmerizing picture of a beautiful and powerful, but clearly Ancient Egyptian, woman. This describes a man so in love with his beloved, you can’t help but imagine it in a “Romeo and Juliet” kind of way:

“She has no rival,
there is no one like her.
She is the fairest of all.
She is like a star goddess arising
… at the beginning of a new year;
brilliantly white, shining skin;
such beautiful eyes when she stares,
and sweet lips when she speaks;
she has not one phrase too many.
With a long neck and shining body
her hair of genuine lapis lazuli;
her arm more brilliant than gold;
her fingers like lotus flowers,
ample behind, tight waist,
her thighs extend her beauty,
shapely in stride

when she steps on the earth.
She has stolen my heart with her embrace,
She has made the neck of every man
turn round at the sight of her.
Whoever embraces her is happy,
he is like the head of lovers,
and she is seen going outside
like That Goddess, the One Goddess.”

And here we read the classic tale of unrequited love…

My brother overwhelms my heart with his words,
he has made sickness seize hold of me.
Now he is near the house of my mother,
and I cannot even tell that he has been.
It is good of my mother to order me like this,
‘Give it up out of your sights’;
see how my heart is torn by the memory of him,
love of him has stolen me.
Look what a senseless man he is
– but I am just like him.
He does not realize how I wish to embrace him,
or he would write to my mother.
Brother, yes! I am destined to be yours,
by the Gold Goddess of women.
Come to me, let your beauty be seen,
let father and mother be glad.
Call all my people together in one place,
let them shout out for you, brother
.

…or the struggle of heartache….

My heart bares itself instantly,
at the memory of your love.
It does not let me walk like a person,
it has strayed from its shelter.
It does not let me put on a dress,
I cannot even wrap my scarf,
No kohl can be put on my eye,
I am not anointed with oil.
‘Don’t stand there – go in to him’
it tells me at each memory of him.
Don’t, my heart, be stupid at me:
why are you acting the fool?
Sit, be cool, the sister has come to you’
but my eye is just as troubled.
Don’t make people say of me
‘she is a woman fallen by love’
Be firm each time you remember him,
My heart, do not stray.

The love poetry of Ancient Egypt is a rare and beautiful “sneak peek” into the more emotional side of life in the ancient world.  Although the techniques of verbal flirting that these works represent may be considered a little “old-fashioned” by today’s standards, take notes boys—I’m certain any girl—ancient or modern–loves a poem that calls her a goddess.

 

Sources:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3261159?seq=3

http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/literature/lovesongs.html

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Spring Semester (Scribal) Slump

As we begin our first full week of the Spring Semester, I can’t help but revel in my usual Winter “Back to School Slump.” The holiday season has ended, it is freezing cold, and spring seems nowhere in sight. I wonder…is this how it has always been? Did King Tut dread going back to school after a festival? Did Hatshepsut ever choose an Ancient Egyptian equivalent of a Netflix Movie Marathon in bed instead of attending class?

Little is truly known about the Ancient Egyptian education system. But the main difference we can identify when comparing their system to our own is that being an educated Ancient Egyptian was extremely rare. Only a small minority of the elite children, sons of scribes and noblemen, received a formal education that included reading, writing, and arithmetic. As a prince, one was given the highest form of education, including the “arts of war”—horse riding, the use of weapons, and guiding a chariot.

Young men in Ancient Egyptian society did not typically choose their own career paths, but instead followed the family trade or profession. Unless they were a child of the King himself, most children were personally tutored by their parents, through apprenticeships.

(courtesy of library.thinkquest.org)

Scribal schools were an exception. Young men wishing to follow in their father’s footsteps and become scribes entered a very intensive program of training in a formal school setting. As we know, the Egyptian writing system is extremely intricate and unique. Many student scribes were occasionally inattentive or just plain unmotivated, and expressed a desire to quit school altogether (sound familiar?). As one may expect, teachers were frustrated with their students, claiming:

“They tell me that thou forsakes writing, and departest and dost flee; that thou forsakes writing and usest thy legs like horses of the riding-school. Thy heart is fluttered; thou art like an axj-bird. Thy ear is deaf; thou art like an antelope in fleeing.“ (Warnings to the Idle Scribe)

Sometimes, frustration with students got a little out of hand:

“But though I beat you with every kind of stick, you do not listen. If I knew another way of doing it, I would do it for you that you might listen.” (Instruction in Letter Writing)

When they weren’t suffering the occasional beating, students in scribal training learned the ins and outs of Egyptian hieroglyphics, practicing their writing on pottery shards or stone fragments. Scribal students would copy memorized texts over and over again until their grammar and execution were perfected. Only then could they graduate and take over their father’s position.

But what about the ladies? Unfortunately, the Ancient Egyptian education system had rules similar to a boy’s tree house: NO. GIRLS. ALLOWED. There is no concrete evidence that women were taught to read and write, or were involved in the education system at all. Women from semi-elite families were, at the most, given the opportunity to become temple musicians, or dancers. However, it is possible that royal status gave women more educational opportunities. They may have sat alongside their siblings and been exposed to literature, mathematics, writing, and grammar. The historical record does hold a very few examples of women who had obviously been educated. For instance, from the Third Intermediate Period on, the highest office within the cult of Amun-Re was held by a woman. She received the title of “God’s Wife”. (British Museum) We also know that Cleopatra was one of the most educated rulers of her time, knowing multiple languages including Ancient Egyptian (uncommon for Pharaohs of her time), math, poetry, and much more. Some women were responsible for running estates or manors, conducting certain levels of business such as owning or renting land, and could also take part in legal cases such as marriage and divorces. However, in general, women were relegated to domestic responsibilities such as weaving, baking, gardening, or farming.

So, as we endure the spirit-numbing winter weather that continues plaguing us this spring semester, let’s remember three things. One: Everyone (girl power!) should be grateful to have the opportunity of receiving an education. Two: Be thankful you have the option to study WHATEVER you want. And Three: Be thankful beating sticks are not allowed.

Sources:
http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/articles/w/women_in_ancient_egypt.aspx
http://www.historyembalmed.org/ancient-egyptians/ancient-egyptian-education.htm
http://www.rom.on.ca/en/education/online-activities/ancient-egypt/life-in-ancient-egypt/education

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Recycled Tomb Rewrites History

One of the questions I often hear immediately after I tell someone I want to be an Egyptologist (other than “What does that even mean?”) is always, “Didn’t we find everything already?”

This month, the Penn Museum team answered that question loud and clear.

Image

(courtesy of Penn Museum)

An archaeological team working at Abydos, a site in southern Egypt, have discovered the tomb of a previously undiscovered ruler: Pharaoh Woseribre Senebkay—and in turn have discovered the first material proof of a unknown Abydos dynasty ca. 1650-1600 BCE.

The excavation of this tomb began in the summer of 2013, when Dr. Josef Wegner, The Egyptian Section Associate Curator of the Penn Museum, led the Penn Museum team in the discovery of a 60-ton royal sarcophagus chamber at South Abydos (depicted above). The summer ended with little information on the sarcophagus—no known owner and only a possible dating to the late Middle Kingdom.

Then, during just the last few weeks of excavations, more and more information was discovered concerning this mysterious chamber. It is now known that the chamber is derived from a royal tomb built originally for Pharaoh Sobekhotep in the 13th Dynasty, but re-used for the previously unknown Pharoah Senebkay in Egypt’s Second Intermediate Period. Senebkay’s tomb dates from around 1650 BCE and is composed of four chambers (including a decorated limestone burial chamber). The tomb has multiple texts providing the king’s titulary.

As is the case for many Egyptian tombs, tomb robbers had most certainly hit the tomb of Senebkay. The king’s body was originally mummified, but his remains were torn apart during the assumed violent incursion that also likely resulted in the loss of the pharaoh’s tomb equipment. However, archaeologists were able to recover remains of the body (and reconstruct it—minus a jaw bone), coffin, funerary masks, and even the canopic chest. The canopic chest of Senebkay was made of cedar wood that had been reused from the nearby tomb of Sobekhotep I and still bore Sobekhotep’s name, covered by gilding. Along with the reused sarcophagus, the canopic chest provides historical evidence for the suggestion of limited resources during the economic situation in the Second Intermediate Period.

Image

(courtesy of discovery.com)

Yet the most important aspect of this discovery is best expressed by the Co-Founder/Owner of Past Preservers (and my former boss!) Nigel Hetherington, a British archaeologist in Egypt.

“There was a gap in the chronology for this period, so people presumed that these pharaohs existed but they had not found the graves. The history books will now be rewritten because of what [these archaeologists] have discovered.”

The excavation of this tomb has further proven that the tomb is just one of many that may be hidden in this area. Lead archaeologist Joseph Wegner predicts that around 20 previously unknown pharaohs may be buried near Senebkay’s tomb.

Who knows what the future holds for the Acropolis at Abydos and what wonderful discoveries may be made in the future? One thing that is certain, however, is that there will always be more to discover about the Ancient Egyptians.

Sources:

http://news.discovery.com/history/ancient-egypt/mystery-pharaoh-found-in-egypt-140116.htm

http://www.penn.museum/press-releases/1032-pharaoh-senebkay-discovery-josef-wegner.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/10592988/Egyptian-pharaoh-unearthed-after-3600-years.html

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Meux Than Meets the Eye

Museum Collections were  major catalysts in the development of my love of Ancient Egypt. The ability to take a day trip into the city (I grew up in a suburb of Chicago) and allow myself to become completely immersed in the culture of the ancient world was an amazing experience.  Yet, as I have grown older, I’ve learned that, for all the beautiful objects  on display in any museum in any part of the world, there are multitudes of additional artifacts hidden away within the museum walls. Furthermore, there are many, many items that are kept in the personal collections of archaeologists, historians, or private families—passed down through generations.

One such collection that has made semi-recent headlines is the collection once belonging to Lady Valerie Meux.

a

(courtesy of Egyptology News Network)

Lady Meux was born Valerie Susie Langdon in 1847. She met her husband, Sir Henry Meux, while she worked as a Banjo-playing barmaid in Brighton. Gossip tells that she may have worked as a prostitute under the name “Val Reece:”, and supposedly lived “in sin” with a Corporal Reece. All that Valerie commented on the subject was “I can very honestly say that my sins were committed before marriage and not after.” You go, Val.

At age 31, she married Sir Henry Meux, 3rd Baronet, in secret.  Sir Henry’s family owned a very successful brewery and had become fairly rich through trade. They were certainly unimpressed with his choice of spouse, never fully accepting Valerie into their social circle. She was a scandalous woman, known to drive herself around London, attend meetings of the Theosophical Society, host many glamorous parties, and—according to popular gossip—attend prize fights in disguise and ride around town in a carriage pulled by zebras. I repeat, ZEBRAS.

b

(courtesy Natural History Museum of London)

A frequent visitor to the British Museum, Lady Meux became fascinated with Egyptian artifacts and had soon acquired her own collection of over 1,700 items. Her massive collection is documented in two detailed catalogues, authored by Egyptologist Wallis Budge and published at the Meux’s expense.  One of these catalogues, entitled “Some account of the collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the possession of Lady Meux at Theobald’s Park”, describes in detail some of the most prized artifacts within the collection, including the coffin (mummy included)  of Nes-Amsu, a priest of the Ptolemaic period. Nes-Amsu was “acquired” in Egypt by Walter Herbert Ingram, who in turn gifted it to Lady Meux in 1886. Ingram was killed by an elephant in the following year, inspiring the rumor that he was a ‘victim of the curse’.

c

(courtesy of “Some account of the collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the possession of Lady Meux at Theobald’s Park”)

Yet almost as mystifying as the possibility of a mummy’s curse is the collection’s mysterious history after the death of Lady Meux in 1910. According to her will, the British Museum was offered the entire collection for £2,250, but the Board rejected the offer due to the conditions of the trust. Consequentially, the collection was auctioned off in 1911.

The location of the bulk of the Meux collection remains, to this day, a mystery. Some think it was acquired by American William Randolph Hearst, who had agents at the Meux sale and who purchased a showpiece of the collection, the pair statue of Nebsen and Nebet-ta. This statue was acquired by Lady Meux herself on a visit to Egypt, and now sits in the Brooklyn Museum. Two small artifacts sit at the Petrie Museum, while two others surfaced at an auction in New York in December of 2007 where an alabaster vase inscribed for Pepi I sold for $91,000 and a granite head from a block statue for $102,000.

The location of the remaining 1,695 pieces of the Meux collection remains a mystery.  And although we may never know their whereabouts, it is hopeful to think that one day, they, like the thousands of artifacts sitting behind closed doors of museums, will be brought to light, allowing us to uncover even more ancient secrets of the Valley of the Nile.

Works Cited:

http://egyptologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2010/07/lady-meux-banjo-playing-barmaid-who.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=Ky1PAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.virtual-egyptian-museum.org/Collection/FullVisit/Collection.FullVisit-JFR.html?../Content/STO.VL.01112.S.html&0

 

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Neb-Senu does the hokey pokey and he turns himself around…

In June, the social media world began buzzing when a time-lapse video from the Manchester Museum in Manchester England was released, depicting an Ancient Egyptian statue physically rotating on its own.

we

(courtesy of  Cavendish Press)

Although much research has subsequently been done looking into reasons why the statue might be spinning, scientific or magical, let’s start from the very beginning (I hear it’s a very good place to start.)

The statuette was donated to the museum in 1933 by Annie Barlow, a mill owner from Bolton who sponsored archaeological digs in the great era of discovery—King Tut’s tomb being discovered only a decade earlier by Howard Carter. Nothing is known about the specific tomb that the statuette came from, but by examining the figurine’s hieroglyphic inscriptions, it is possible to decipher a few bits of information about the tomb’s owner.  From the statue’s shoulder-length wig and knee-length civil-service kilt, it is gauged that the tomb owner, named Neb-Senu, was a senior civil servant.  Little is known about Neb-Senu other than that he was a man of means, given the quality of the 10 inch tall serpentine statuette created as a place for his ka, or spirit, to live when his body had passed into the afterlife. Neb-Senu is thought to have died around 1800 BC, and the inscription requests offerings of beer, beef, and a fowl—a standard prayer in Ancient Egyptian funerary texts.

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(courtesy of Campbell Price)

The statue has been housed at the Manchester Museum for 80 years, and was brought to the global stage after Campbell Price, the curator of the Egyptian Artifacts at the institution, noticed that the statue had been moved from its original position.  This continued for multiple days, sparking the interest of Price. In order to formally investigate, he returned the statuette to its original position in a locked glass case and set up a camera to film the time-lapse video that has since become an internet sensation.

Scientists have taken many different approaches to explaining the self-spinning statue. Some attribute the movement to the vibrations in the room caused by foot traffic, due the revelation that the statuette only moved during the day, when visitors were present. Other experts claim that “differential friction” is the culprit, but even then, some kind of force must be exerted on the statue for it to move. In fact, all of the scientific explanations have major flaws. For example, on one occasion, the statue moved 45 degrees in 90 minutes when there were no visitors or staff members in the chamber. And, even more oddly, the statue has rotated in a perfect circle without “wobbling off” in any other direction while none of the other statues in the case, most notably on the same shelf, have shifted at all.

Other possible explanations state that it is simply the individual placement and character of the statue itself, that a magnetic force is working on the figure, or that the spirit of Neb-Senu himself has returned to his ka statue and waiting for offerings to be brought.

Unfortunately, the spinning of the Neb-Senu statue may remain a mystery for all eternity due to museum renovators being forced to move the case from its current location. But before they do, perhaps someone should give Neb-Senu the beer he’s been requesting for over 2000 years?

 

 

Works Cited:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2013/06/ancient-egyptian-statue-mysteriously-rotates-at-museum/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/museums/10141238/On-the-trail-of-Manchester-Museums-moving-Egyptian-mummy.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/25/world/europe/uk-spinning-statue-mystery/index.html

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Tut’s Tasty Treat

As October comes to a close and autumn settles in, many children are focused on just one thing: Halloween. They dream of costumes and of bringing home their favorite candies (mine being the classic Hershey’s kiss).  Thinking of candy, I began to wonder: what sweet treats did the Ancient Egyptians enjoy?

The answer came in a care package from my parents. Inside I found a box of tea in a flavor that I had never encountered before (those who are close to me understand the shock factor): A Yogi tea labeled “Egyptian Licorice”.

Image

The description on the box detailed how “The great kings of Egypt treasured licorice root for its natural sweetness, rich flavor and restorative properties.” Could it be true? Of all things, LICORICE is a treasure?

Manuscripts dating to 360 AD have been found discussing the use of licorice to treat skin diseases, coughs, and eye ailments. There is even record of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar endorsing the benefits of eating licorice, Caesar using the plant as a treatment for his epilepsy.  Napoleon was also an avid supporter of licorice, which he was said to find “soothing” during battle. It is said that he supposedly ate so much that his teeth turned black. (Never fear, the amount found in today’s candies will not leave you looking like you were cast as Imhotep in “The Mummy”)

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But what IS licorice? Technically speaking, licorice is considered a weed. It grows to around 4 ft high and sprouts purplish flowers. The plant’s botanical name, Glycyrrhiza glabra, comes from the Greek word meaning “sweet root”, and the plant is grown in hot, dry locations.

Licorice in Ancient Egypt is described as being used as a medicinal cure for ailments such as stomach and liver problems,” said Dr. Mohamed Nafady, an expert in alternative medicine, who practices herbal medicine.  There is further hieroglyphic record of licorice being in a popular men’s beverage up to the time of the writing of the bible!

Perhaps the best evidence of licorice use in Ancient Egypt came during the discovery of the tomb of the Great Pharaoh Tutankhamun, “King Tut”.  Licorice was found in copious amounts in the tomb, amid his jewelry, gold, and other treasures. The sweet drink created from licorice, called “Mai Sus” was considered to be so precious to the young pharaoh that a large quantity was buried with him so he could enjoy it on his journey into eternity.

So as you trick or treat this Halloween, pick up a cup of “Mai Sus” and make a toast to your favorite Mummy, King Tut!

Citations:

http://www.yogiproducts.com/products/details/egyptian-licorice/

http://www.licoriceinternational.com/licorice/pc/About-Licorice-d25.htm

http://www.licorice.org/Health___History/History/history.htm

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