Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Facial Changes Made When Nefertiti Bust Created

Photos show slight differences in the two faces, including creases at the corners of the mouth and a slight bump on the nose, as found with the CT scan. Photo below shows the Nefertiti bust on display in Germany.

German researchers have determined that a well-known bust of Nefertiti actually has two faces, one a layer deeper than the visible face.

Alexander Huppertz, director of the Imaging Science Institute at Berlin's Charite hospital and medical school, headed up a team that discovered a detailed stone carving that differs from the external stucco face when they performed a computed tomography (CT) scan on the bust. "Until we did this scan, how deep the stucco was and whether a second face was underneath it was unknown," he said. "The hypothesis was that the stone underneath was just a support."

The differences between the faces, though slight — creases at the corners of the mouth, a bump on the nose of the stone version — suggest to Huppertz that someone expressly ordered the adjustments between stone and stucco when royal sculptors immortalized the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten 3,300 years ago.

John H. Taylor, curator for Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum in London, told the Associated Press the scan raises interesting questions about why the features were adjusted, but that answers will probably remain elusive. 

"One could deduce that the final version was considered in some way more acceptable than the 'hidden' one, though caution is needed in attempting to explain the significance of these changes," he said.

Click here for the complete Associated Press article.
Click here for an AFP article.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Egypt Seeks Return of Pharaoh's Stolen Coffin

Egypt expects U.S. authorities to return a 3,000-year-old wooden coffin illegally smuggled out of Egypt more than a century ago. Zahi Hawass, head of Egyptian Antiquities, said the nearly 5-foot-long coffin was stolen in 1884 from a tomb in Luxor, an ancient pharaonic capital in southern Egypt.

The ornamented coffin belonged to Pharaoh Ames of the 21st Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt from 1081-931 B.C.

According to the Associated Press, the coffin is currently in the hands of customs authorities in Miami, who confiscated it after it was shipped to the United States from Spain. Egypt has launched a drive to recover its antiquities taken abroad, including some residing in famous museums.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Antiquities Boss Tells of Pyramid Restoration

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

Zahi Hawass is the head archaeologist for the Egyptian Department of Antiquities and has been instrumental in many of the recent discoveries in Saqqara and other ancient sites. Anyone interested in restoration of treasured Egyptian tombs will find his blog post “Saving the Step Pyramid” fascinating. Here are three selected paragraphs:

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara dates back almost 5,000 years, to the reign of Djoser (2630-2611), the first king of Egypt’s 3rd Dynasty. The centuries have taken their natural toll on this remarkable monument, but in recent years the deterioration has accelerated with the rising water table and other changes to the environment. One year ago, the SCA initiated a major effort to save the Step Pyramid for future generations.

I am so happy to be able to tell you that our work to save the Step Pyramid is progressing well. We will soon begin to shore up the ceiling of the burial chamber. I feel as though we are truly helping to cause the name of the great king Djoser and that of his architect, the genius Imhotep, to live for generations to come.

When I was young, I was afraid of the dark, and when I first crawled into the narrow space under the sarcophagus I remembered this feeling. I lay on my back on the floor of the tunnel, with my face almost touching the sarcophagus, and my heart was beating fast. The thrill of adventure, however, immediately made me forget any fear, and I was able to look in amazement at the achievement of the ancient workmen who were able to assemble the sarcophagus from huge pieces of granite.

Click here for Zahi Hawass’s post.

Ancient Triangular Temple Found on Cyprus

Archaeologists in the ruins of Prygos, near where the temple was situated.

Italian archaeologists believe they have discovered the oldest religious site on Cyprus, a triangular temple that matches Biblical descriptions of temples in Palestine.

Maria Rosaria Belgiorno, who heads an Italian archaeological mission in Cyprus, said the 4,000-year-old triangular temple predates any other found on the east Mediterranean island by a millennium.

"For sure it's the most ancient religious site on the island," she told The Associated Press. "This confirms that religious worship in Cyprus began much earlier than previously believed."

The 2,150-square-foot temple ruins were discovered last year outside Pyrgos, a village near the south coast where previous digs unearthed a settlement dating to 2,000 B.C. Belgiorno said evidence points to a monotheistic temple with a sacrificial altar that resembles Canaanite places of worship described in the Bible.

"The temple has a very peculiar shape for a building, which is very rare," she said.

Although it is difficult to say with certainty, she said the Pyrgos settlement was home to around 500 people. Their origins are unclear, but they had trade links with ancient Egypt and Palestine. A major earthquake destroyed the settlement in 1,850 B.C.

Click here for the complete Associated Press article.
Click here for the Pyrgos/Mavroraki archaeological website.

Archaeologists Ponder Stone-Age Cannibalism

One of the 7,000-year-old skeletons unearthed at the Herxheim village.

Archaeologists are speculating on what could have led to an extensive occurrence of Stone Age cannibalism among villagers near Herxheim, Germany.

"It is impossible to establish direct proof of cannibalism,” says Bruno Boulestin, an anthropologist at Bordeaux University. “But here we have systematic, repetitive gestures, which suggest that the bodies were eaten."

According to a report in The Guardian, thousands of human bones have been unearthed at Herxheim, near Speyer. About 7,000 years ago farmers ~ who grew wheat and barley and raised livestock ~ built a village of four to 12 houses, the post holes of which have survived.

During the first series of excavations at the end of the 1990s, numerous injuries visible on the skeletons were taken as evidence that the victims had been massacred. But in 2008 Boulestin examined the fragments recovered from one of the trenches, pointing out that nearly 2,000 samples belonged to fewer than 10 individuals.

The marks of breaking, cutting, scraping and crushing indicate that the bodies were dismembered, the tendons and ligaments severed, the flesh torn off and the bones smashed. The vertebra were cut up to remove the ribs, just as butchers do today with loin chops.

What can this bloodbath mean? The potsherds found among the human remains suggest it must have occurred over a period of no longer than 50 years. There is nothing to imply the victims were killed for food. Only under extreme conditions would 100 or so farmers have been able to overcome about 10 times their number. The archaeologists have therefore concluded that this was some form of ritual killing.

Click here for the complete article in The Guardian.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Scholarship Shows Kinder Vikings

Odin's Wild Hunt, by P.N. Arbo, 1872.

Revisionist scholarship portrays Vikings as cultured settlers of faraway lands who were good at “immigrant assimilation.” A conference last week at Cambridge University discussed more than 20 studies that reveal how the Vikings “shared technology, swapped ideas and often lived side-by-side in relative harmony with their Anglo-Saxon and Celtic contemporaries."

"Some may have come, plundered and left, but those Vikings who decided to settle rather than return to Scandinavia learned the language, inter-married, converted to Christianity and even had ‘praise poetry’ written about them by the Brits,” according to the experts. 

Says the British newspaper, the Independent:

They were prolific seafaring explorers, warriors and merchants from Denmark, Norway and Sweden who colonized swathes of Europe from the late 800s to the 12th century. In Norse, the word Viking means piracy and therefore the Vikings have become known as raiders who terrorised Europe instead of disciplined conquerors who established settlements as far afield as Constantinople, Greenland and Newfoundland.

There is archaeological evidence they discovered the Americas 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Their famed narrow longships allowed them to enter countries through rivers and it is this access which allowed them to settle and trade throughout Europe. A stereotyped image as a noble savage emerged in 17th century British texts and then again during the Victorian era. This image later turned into a cartoonish caricature of Vikings as barbarian invaders.

"What is clear is that the popular picture of Vikings is not quite as it seems, and when viewing their long-term presence, it is quite untrue," says Dr. Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, a conference organizer. "The communities were mutually transformed in the process. Of course, there was plundering and pillaging, but those who started to build camps and started to settle began interacting in a very different way."

Click here for the complete article in the Independent online.

Burial Site Intent Again Confirmed

Digital depiction of Stoneghenge showing monoliths' configuration.

With all of the recent archaeological activity ~ including new theories ~ regarding England’s famed Stonehenge, TIME magazine on Friday published a brief compendium of the various beliefs regarding the site’s origins and purpose. Here is TIME’s conclusion:

The current consensus (if such a thing even exists) is that Stonehenge was used as a burial site. Archaeologists have found skeletal remains at the site dated to a 500-year period beginning in 3000 B.C. One dubbed the site a "domain of the dead" and say the bodies found likely belong to a select group of elite ancient people. It's the most solid evidence yet, but it doesn't preclude Stonehenge having a dual purpose as an astrological calendar or as a religious site. The only thing certain is that as the sun rises and sets to mark another equinox, another day will pass with the complete answer of the site's origins still firmly lodged in the past. Perhaps that's how it's meant to be.

Click here for the complete TIME magazine article.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More on Dead Sea Scroll Debate

Another scroll fragment found in 1947 near the Dead Sea.

The contention by Hebrew University Prof. Rachel Elior that the Essenes sect never existed continues to stun the world of Biblical scholarship, since the Essenes are reputed to have written the 900 Dead Sea Scrolls and to have influenced the philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth.

TIME magazine has picked up the story, which I'd featured on Ancient Tides earlier this week.

"Sixty years of research have been wasted trying to find the Essenes in the scrolls," Elior tells TIME. "But they didn't exist. This is legend on a legend."

Here, in green, are paragraphs I’ve lifted directly from the TIME article.

So who were the real authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Elior theorizes that the Essenes were really the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C. When they left, they took the source of their wisdom ~ their scrolls ~ with them.

"In Qumran, the remnants of a huge library were found," Elior says, with some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest known version of the Old Testament dated back to the 9th century A.D. "The scrolls attest to a biblical priestly heritage," says Elior, who speculates that the scrolls were hidden in Qumran for safekeeping.

Why fabricate the Essenes?

Elior, who teaches Jewish mysticism at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, claims that the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus and that his faulty reporting was passed on as fact throughout the centuries.

Elior contends that Josephus, a former Jewish priest who wrote his history while being held captive in Rome, "wanted to explain to the Romans that the Jews weren't all losers and traitors, that there were many exceptional Jews of religious devotion and heroism. You might say it was the first rebuttal to anti-Semitic literature." She adds, "He was probably inspired by the Spartans. For the Romans, the Spartans were the highest ideal of human behavior, and Josephus wanted to portray Jews who were like the Spartans in their ideals and high virtue."

Click here for the TIME magazine article.
Photo above is Prof. Rachel Elior

Thousands of Cave Paintings Found in Jungle

A painting from Peru’s Toquepala caves, similar in style and content to the newly discovered paintings near the Tambolic caves.

In the past two years, a Peruvian archaeologist has discovered more than 10,000 cave paintings ~ dating back more than 6,000 years ~ in the Peruvian section of the Amazonian jungle. The paintings have been hidden by lush vegetation for centuries, in caves near the village of Tambolic.

“Over the past two years,” says archaeologist Quirino Olivera, “we have found 6,000-year-old cave paintings, especially in the Cuaco and Yamón mountains, located in the Lonya Grande district. These are in addition to those recently found in Tambolic, where many of these ancient images are concentrated.”

According to Olivera, most of the Tambolic paintings depict hunting scenes and are similar to those found in Toquepala. The artists used mainly red, brown, yellow and black pigments.

The Toquepala caves are located in the western Andes at 9,000 feet above sea level. They are noted for cave paintings depicting scenes of hunters corralling and killing a group of guanacos, a camel-like animal native to South America. Known as “chaco” in the Peruvian Andes, this hunting technique consists of forming human circles to corral the animals and either capture or kill them.

Click here for the Peruvian Times article.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Scrolls Debate #1: Authorship Called into Question

A sample of a Dead Sea Scroll fragment.

(The Dead Sea Scrolls have been the subject of intense scholarship for 60 years, but now questions are arising regarding their true authorship and whether the presumed authors ~ a sect some say Jesus may have joined ~ even existed at all. I believe this debate is potentially significant enough to warrant these multiple posts for today.)

The world of commonly accepted Biblical history is being rocked by new scholarship contending the Dead Sea Scrolls are the writings of ancient Jewish priests in Jerusalem and that the cult long-believed to have authored the scrolls never existed at all.

The 930 so-called Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a shepherd in a cave at Qumran ~ on the edge of the Dead Sea ~ in 1947. The discovery is regarded as one of the most important archaeological finds of the past 2000 years.

Since the discovery, scholars have believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were the work of an ascetic Jewish sect called the Essenes (see post below), who lived in the 1st century in the mountains and recorded their religious observances on parchments.

According to the London Times, a new theory challenging the broadly accepted history is sending shockwaves through the archaeological community, even leading to the arrest of one prominent scrolls scholar’s son in the United States (see second post below).

Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, claims in a forthcoming book entitled Memory and Oblivion that not only were the 930 scrolls written by Jewish priests living in Jerusalem but that the Essenes as a sect did not exist.

  • Elior says that the scrolls were written by the Sadducees, a class of Jewish priests dating back to the time of King Solomon.
  • She believes they were taken to Qumran some time during the 2nd century BC after the Sadducees turned their backs on the Temple of Jerusalem, which they said had been defiled by the conquest of the Seleucid Greeks, the descendants of one of the generals of Alexander the Great, in 175 BC.

The professor also noted that when the texts were unearthed in 1947, the area around Jerusalem was caught up in the war that created the Jewish state, and that early hurried assessment of their origin set scholars on the wrong track for decades. The theory has stirred controversy in academic circles, with established scrolls experts vehemently rejecting the new interpretation.

Click here for the complete London Times article.

Scrolls Debate #2: Essenes Cult May Be Fictitious

A portion of the ruins near Qumran, long considered to be an Essenes settlement, near the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.

Religion scholars seeking evidence of the historical Jesus frequently claim he could have been a member of the Essenes, a Jewish ascetic cult. Now new scholarship by Rachel Elior of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem contends the Essenes may never have existed.

Scholars have long believed that the obscure sect may have had an impact on early Christianity, positing that John the Baptist or even Jesus may have spent time with them. Elior argues, however, that an analysis of the scrolls shows that the authors were recording the routines and practices of the cohanim, or priests, descended from Zadok, the first high priest in Jerusalem after the conquest of the city by the Israelites hundreds of years before.

“I believe any serious scholar truly can’t but admit that the law reflected in the scrolls is a Sadducee law,” she tells the London Times, pointing out that there were no corroborating historical records ~ either in Jewish or early Christian literature ~ to indicate that a large sect of celibate men lived in the area over a long period of time.

“The Essenes are only a literary invention of a Utopian society that lived a most benevolent and chaste life,” she said.

According to the London Times article:

  • The Essenes are believed to have been a religious sect in Palestine from about the 2nd century BC to the end of the 1st century AD.
  • The New Testament makes no mention of them, and accounts by Pliny the Elder, Philo of Alexandria and Josephus differ in significant details.
  • Pliny, in his day, fixed their number at 4,000. They are thought to have moved to the desert in opposition to the powers in Jerusalem and lived in secluded monastic communities.
  • It is believed that they considered themselves to be a chosen elect and that messianic figures would appear to them and usher in a new age, and that they spent their days engaged in manual work or study of Scripture.

Confusion over existence of the Essenes arose from scholars using other, later texts as their sources, Elior said. She noted that the Jewish-Roman scholar Josephus mentioned them, but that he was writing hundreds of years later.

Click here for the complete London Times article.

Scrolls Debate Footnote: An Arrest in New York

The scholarly debate over authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls has led to the arrest of the son of one proponent of the theory that the Essenes did not write the ancient scriptures.

Raphael Golb, son of Norman Golb, a professor at Chicago University, was arrested in New York this month for allegedly creating online aliases and conducting a campaign of harassment against academic opponents of his father’s theories.

Father and son claimed that members of mainstream academia were trying to silence the professor. The younger Golb reportedly accused his father’s critics of being anti-Semites trying to deny the link between the scrolls and established Jewish institutions.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Superb Artifacts Found in Saqqara Tomb

Ancient Egyptian treasures have recently been unearthed by a team of Japanese archaeologists from Waseda University who’ve been digging in the Saqqara necropolis, south of Cairo. Two weeks ago they made significant discoveries in the 3,300-year-old tomb. Top photo shows one of four wooden sarcophaguses, richly engraved with symbols and hieroglyphics. The lower photo shows three canopic jars recovered among the tomb’s numerous grave goods.

Hun Faces Carved into Strange Stone

This photo taken two days ago shows a newly unearthed rectangular stone with human faces carved on all four sides. It was found in Zoucheng, in China's Shandong Province. The quadrel-shaped stone carving ~ 17 inches tall, 15 inches long and 10 inches wide ~ bears facial features believed to be the nomadic tribe of the Huns who roamed the area during the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD).

Romans Ready to Laugh at Themselves

Scene from 'Romans in the Decadence of Empire' by T. Coutoure, 1847.

Two men approached one another on the Appian Way.
“But you’re dead,” one tells the other. “Julius told me so.”
“How can I be dead?" the man says. "I’m standing here talking to you?”
“But Julius is much more reliable.”

It may lose a little in translation, but that’s a rough example of a joke from a 1,600-year-old book of ancient humor entitled Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover. I did an earlier post on the book last year, but Britain’s Guardian newspaper yesterday published an article about it, which has some additional detail.

According to classics professor Mary Beard in the article, the ancient Romans were a race ready to laugh at themselves.

Written in Greek, Philogelos, or The Laughter Lover, dates to the third or fourth century AD, and contains some 260 jokes which Beard said are "very similar" to the jokes we have today, although peopled with different stereotypes – the "egghead", or absent-minded professor, is a particular figure of fun, along with the eunuch, and people with hernias or bad breath.

"They're also poking fun at certain types of foreigners – people from Abdera, a city in Thrace, were very, very stupid, almost as stupid as [they thought] eggheads [were]," said Beard.

Researchers such as Beard continue to ponder how much the cultural differences between Ancient Rome and today may be altering the humorous aspects of the jokes.

Beard, who discovered the title while carrying out research for a new book she's working on about humour in the ancient world, pointed out that when we're told a joke, we make a huge effort to make it funny for ourselves, or it's an admission of failure. "Are we doing that to these Roman jokes? Were they actually laughing at something quite different?”

Click here for the complete article from the Guardian.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peking Man Now Believed 750,000 Years Old

Homo erectus skull from the Zhoukoudian caves.

A new and more accurate dating method shows Peking Man may be 200,000 years older than previously thought. Bones of Sinanthropus pekinensis ~ a Homo erectus commonly known as Peking Man ~ were discovered in the 1920s during cave excavations near Beijing and now believed to be 750,000 years old.

Scientists have used various techniques to try and date the fossils, but a lack of suitable methods for cave deposits has limited their accuracy. Shen and his colleagues used a relatively new method that examines the radioactive decay of aluminum and beryllium in quartz grains, which enabled them to get a more precise age for the fossils.

"The analysis dated the finds to around 750,000 years old, some 200,000 years older than previous estimates and indicates a hominin presence in the area through glacial and interglacial cycles. The results should help to build a more reliable chronology of human evolution in East Asia," the researchers wrote.

Click here for the Reuters article.
Click here for a more extensive LiveScience article.

Gold Jewelry Found in Treasurer's Tomb

Egyptian officials announced yesterday that archaeologists have found ancient golden jewelry in a pharaonic-era tomb that belonged to a senior official under Egypt's most powerful queen.

Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities says five golden earrings and two rings have been found in the tomb of Gahouti, head of the treasury under Queen Hatshepsut ~ Ancient Egypt’s most powerful queen ~ who ruled 3,500 years ago.(Photo at left shows a painted mural wall in Gahouti's tomb.)

The tomb is located on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, a southern Egyptian city famous for its Valley of the Kings and other ruins from pharaonic times. The tomb had been looted, and its gates were engraved with text from the "Book of the Dead," which Egyptians believed would be needed in the afterlife.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pottery Shard Has Verse from the Rubaiyat

A fragment of turquoise and black pottery from the Middle Ages found recently in Jerusalem’s Old City bears verse from the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, an astronomer, mathematician and one of the most famous Persian poets of the medieval period.

The fragment of Persian pottery dates to the Middle Ages (12th-13th centuries CE) and was discovered in an archaeological excavation in the Old City of Jerusalem, prior to construction by a private contractor. It is treated with a turquoise glaze and adorned with floral patterns and a black inscription.

While studying the artifact, Rivka Cohen-Amin of the Israel Antiquities Authority discerned that the inscription on the neck of the vessel is written in Persian. The inscription consists of a line that was taken from one of the Ruyaiyat's quatrains. The inscription, which was translated by Dr. Julia Rabanovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, reads: “Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat”.

Here is the complete translation of the quatrain:

This clay pot like a lover once in heat
A lock of hair his senses did defeat
The handle that has made the bottleneck its own seat
Was once the embrace of a lover that entreat.

Click here for the article from ArtDaily.org.

Early "Vampire" Exorcised to Stop Plague

A woman’s skeleton with a small brick in her mouth ~ exhumed in Venice, Italy ~ is being considered the first known example of a so-called “vampire.” The brick is believed to be part of an exorcism designed to stop the spread of the black plague.

The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576. At the time the woman died, many believed the plague was spread by "vampires" chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, according to Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence.

The belief in vampires probably arose because blood is sometimes expelled from the mouths of the dead, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear. Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined.

Click here for the New Scientist article.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mayan Frieze Shows Legendary Gods

A limestone frieze found recently at the El Mirado archaeological site in northern Guatemala shows Hunapu and Ixbalanque, the twin heroes of the Popul Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya Indians. The frieze ~ discovered by a team of investigators led by an American archaeologist, Richard Hanson, shown in these Associated Press photos released yesterday ~ is believed to date to 300 B.C.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Southwest Script" Still Baffles Experts

Tablet showing some of the rare Southwest Script.

Discovery last year of a 2,500-year-old slate in southern Portugal has added to knowledge ~ but not unlocked it ~ concerning one of the world’s most enigmatic languages, called Southwest Script.

Southwest Script is one of just a handful of ancient languages about which little is known. Its obscurity has provided fertile ground for competing theories about who wrote these words, but scientists generally agree the texts date from between 2,500 and 2,800 years ago.

Writing is Not Standardized

According to the Associated Press, most experts have concluded the tablets were authored by a people called Tartessians, a tribe of Mediterranean traders who mined for metal in these parts but disappeared after a few centuries.

If all the Southwest Script found so far were transcribed onto paper, it would still barely fill a single sheet.

A major translation difficulty is that the writing is not standardized. It seems certain that it was adapted from the Phoenician and Greek alphabets because it copied some of their written conventions. Experts have identified characters that represent 15 syllables, seven consonants and five vowels. But eight characters, including a kind of vertical three-pronged fork, have confounded attempts at comprehension.

May Have Been Gravestones

There's also the problem of figuring out what messages the slate tablets are intended to convey. Even when they can read portions of text, scientists don't really understand what it is saying.

There are clues, however. The symmetrical, twisting text gives the impression of a decorative flourish. Some stones also feature crudely rendered figures, such as a warrior carrying what appear to be spears. The lower part of the rectangular stones is left blank as if intended to be stuck in the ground.

That has led experts to a supposition: The tablets may have been gravestones for elite members of local Iron Age society.

Click here for the complete Associated Press article.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Statues of Amenhotep III are Unearthed

Egyptian and European archaeologists have discovered two statues of King Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt 3,400 years ago, the Supreme Council for Antiquities said yesterday. Chief Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawaas said the first statute was made of black granite, while the second depicts the king in the shape of a Sphinx.

Amenhotep III presided over an era that saw a renaissance in Egyptian art, according to the Reuters report. His son, Akhenaten, was the sun-worshipping pharaoh credited with starting the world's first known monotheistic religion.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tongan Petroglyphs Resemble Hawaiian Ones

Photo shows carved figure on one of the Tonga petroglyphs.

Beach erosion on a remote island in Tonga have revealed petroglyphs archaeologists say are similar to those found in Hawaii ~ 3,000 treacherous ocean miles away.

More than 50 petroglyphs were buried for centuries under several feet of sand until heavy seas exposed them late last year. The carvings were spotted by two Australian visitors who notified Tonga artist and amateur archaeologist Shane Egan, who in turn contacted archaeologist and ethnohistorian David Burley, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Burley has conducted a number of field surveys and excavations in Tonga, which is about 3,000 miles southwest of Hawaii.

"Initially I was a bit stunned, knowing the distance and difficulty of travel between the two groups of islands," Burley says. "The evidence, however, is visual and difficult to ignore or explain in ways other than direct contact."

The stick figures have open body forms, but one has a closed triangular body not identified anywhere outside of Hawaii, according to Burley. One human form appears with a headdress that is also similar to a Hawaiian form. Another image resembles a kapu stick, a tapa-covered ball on a stick carried as a sign of approaching royalty, indicating it was created by someone knowledgeable in Hawaiian cultural protocols, he said.

Because the Tonga images are carved in beach rock within a tidal zone, any sheen typical of rock art is gone, making it impossible to radiocarbon-date the petroglyphs. However, the style corresponds to Hawaiian petroglyphs dating from A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1500.

Click here for the complete Honolulu Advertiser article.

Egyptian Tomb Identity is Disputed

A section of the tomb Japanese archaeologists believe belongs to the noblewoman Isisnofret, granddaughter of Ramses II.

There is archeological disagreement over a 3,000-year-old tomb of an Egyptian noblewoman recently unearthed in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo.

Japanese archaeologists who found the tomb believe it belongs to Isisnofret, a granddaughter of Ramses II, the famed 19th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned over Egypt for about 68 years from 1304 to 1237 BC.

The tomb contained a broken limestone sarcophagus bearing the name of Isisnofret and the title "noble woman", three mummies and fragments of funerary objects. Isisnofret's last resting place is in an area of Saqqara where a team from Waseda University were excavating the tomb of Prince Khaemwaset, a son of Ramses II.

However, Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told AFP he believes the tomb dates from the 18th dynasty instead of the 19th, because of the style of construction. He also dismissed the "similarities in the names" saying that there were many women called Isisnofret in ancient Egypt.

Click here for the AFP article.

More Fragments of Ancient List Are Found

The new fragments will help complete the papyrus Turin Kingslist document archaeologists have been trying to assemble for more than a century.

Newly recovered 3,000-year-old papyrus fragments ~ discovered in a museum basement in Turin, Italy ~ may shed considerable light on early Egyptian history. Found stored between two sheets of glass in the basement of the Museo Egizio in Turin, the fragments belong to a unique document known as the Turin Kinglist.

"This is one of the most important documents to reconstruct the chronology of Egypt between the 1st and 17th Dynasty," Federico Bottigliengo, Egyptologist at the Turin museum, told Discovery News. "Unlike other lists of kings, it enumerates all rulers, including the minor ones and those considered usurpers. Moreover, it records the length of reigns in years, and in some cases even in months and days."

Written in an ancient Egyptian cursive writing system called hieratic, the papyrus was purchased in Thebes by the Italian diplomat and explorer Bernardino Drovetti in 1822. Placed in a box along with other papyri, the parchment disintegrated into small fragments by the time it arrived in Italy.

Now made of 160 fragments, the Turin Kinglist basically lacks two important parts: the introduction of the list and the ending.

Click here for the complete Discovery News article.