Bonus Blog Post

Which aspect (topic, etc.) in Egyptian archaeology (that we either covered in class or didn’t cover in class) do you think is the most important?  Why?  

I believe that the Language and Culture section of the class is very important. With the analysis of the hieroglyphs and cartouches, we are able to learn more about how the ancient Egyptian society was structured. The analysis of their written language also allows us to learn about the ancient Egyptian’s religion and cultural practices. The ancient Egyptians written language has been found in so many different places, showing its importance in their society and traditions. We revisited the Rosetta Stone and the demonic language this week in class. I found that going back to how language is essential to understanding the ancient Egyptians tied the class discussions together.

Another section of the class that I found very important was the discussion about the importance of the NIle River and how it was essential to the way of life for the Ancient Egyptians. Before the class began, I was unaware of all of the resources that the Nile River provided. I also did not realize how all the Ancieint Egyptian settlements were all based on the location of the Nile River and its delta and fayums. Transportation, food, and water would have been much harder to obtain without the benefits of the Nile. Agriculture would also have been much harder to have consistent production.  I was also interested to learn about the structures that the Ancient Egyptians created to measure the level of the Nile River.

When most people think of Egypt and the ancient people who once lived in the region, the Great Pyramids appear in their mind, but there are several other portions of Ancient Egyptian life that are essential to understand.
Overall, I feel that the language section and the Nile River portion of the class discussions were critical to the understanding of the Ancient Egyptians lives. Without the analysis of their written language and how the used the Nile River, we would loose a great deal of information about the Ancient Egyptians.

 

Virtual Egypt

This week, I decided that I wanted to get another look at Ancient Egypt. As I was researching, I came across an article from the New York Times: Visiting Ancient Egypt, Virtually. “The result of that collaboration from Harvard and may other individuals is Giza 3D , a wraparound virtual environment introduced in May that lets visitors eavesdrop on Khufu’s funeral rites, skim over the waves in the ancient city’s harbor, or drop down into a pyramid burial shaft that has not been visited by humans in more than 100 years. With input from scholars in Germany, the United States, Italy, Austria and Egypt, the project “is a completely new portal for doing research, Dr. Manuelian said.”

Make sure that you open the link in a Firefox Browser, otherwise the site will not load. It says that if you have 3D glasses you can even see it in 3D on your computer. But you do not need 3D glasses to interact with the site!

I decided to take a look at what the site had to offer. There is a short introduction, interactive sequence, but if you download the 3D driver, then you are able to have more interaction in the second half of the site.

It was fascinating to be able to interact with a site in Egypt without having to actually step foot in the country.  One of my favorite parts of this interactive webpage is the ability to look through all of the artifacts found at all the sites and pyramids that are included. You are able to zoom in and out and rotate around the objects to get a closer look than you would be able to with a photograph. I was amazed that I was able to see the texture on some of the pottery that was included in the tomb of Hetepheres!

I hope everyone else enjoys this site!

“Mummy with Mouthful of Cavities Discovered”

As I searched the web about different ancient Egyptian medical techniques, I stumbled upon this article from Discovery News.

The individual that was discovered lived about 2,100 years ago. Instead of dying of old age, this individual most likely “succumbed to a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments, according to new research on the man’s odd dental filling.”

The amount of cavities and abscesses suggest that this individual suffered from a severe infection that was possible deadly. The ancient Egyptian dentists attempted to help this individual heal by “using a piece of linen, perhaps dipped in a medicine such as fig juice or cedar oil, the expert created a form of “packing” in the young man’s biggest and perhaps most painful cavity, located on the left side of his jaw between the first and second molars.”

The packing that the dentists used on the individual was placed there to prevent food entering the cavities, and the medicine that the linen was soaked in was used to lighten the individuals pain.

The cause of death for this individual is unknown, but the sinus infection that resulted from the cavities is a likely cause.

“To figure out the mummy’s story, researchers led by Andrew Wade, then at the University of Western Ontario, used new high-resolution CT scans of his teeth and body, reporting their dental-packing discovery recently in the International Journal of Paleopathology. Researchers said this is the first known case of such packing treatment done on an ancient Egyptian. Unlike a modern-day dental filling, this one didn’t aim to stabilize the tooth.”

The dental techniques are very different between the ancient Egyptians and modern-day dentists. Something that I found interesting from this article was the statement that modern-day dentists would also have difficulties with dealing with this individuals severe cavities.

What does everyone else think about how this individual died?

Surgical Practices in Ancient Egypt

This research paper will examine the Ancient Egyptians use of surgery in their medical practices. Surgery was considered to be a part of general medicine in ancient Egypt, not a specialty as we consider it today. Almost all of the evidence that exhibits surgical procedures is related to trauma.

There are several bodies of text that illustrate the different types of surgical practices that occurring in ancient Egypt. The Edwin Smith papyrus is an instructional text for treatment of trauma in the upper half of the body. This text and the Ebers papyrus allow for a greater understanding of Ancient Egyptian surgical procedures; what types of aliments elicited the use of surgery to heal or what did not. These medical papyri include many references to “knife treatments” and the many different names that were used for the word knife in surgical procedures. There are also many examples of the surgical tools that were used to complete the operations, including needles that were used to stich the wounds closed after the surgery was completed. The analysis of these texts will be of great importance in learning more about the different types of Egyptians surgical practices.

This paper will on focusing on the several types of surgery that occurred during this time. Many of the types of surgery were listed in the book, Ancient Egyptian Medicine by John F. Nunn, including trephining, tracheostomy, and circumcision. I was surprised to learn that there may have been trephining occurring in ancient Egypt; the evidence is not clear on it occurring. There are no surviving papyri that mention trephining, but there are several examples on skeletons that trephining occurred. Circumcision practices are much more clear, because of the relief on the doorway into the tomb of Akh-ma-hor, who was the vizier of King Teti in the sixth dynasty. This relief shows the process of circumcision in specific detail of the process. Ann Macy Roth analyzed this relief in 1991 and proposed a new interpretation for the scene. She believes that circumcision was not conducted for medical purposes, but during in initiation ceremony into manhood or phyles. Something else that I found shocking is that there is not a single mention of any form of anesthesia for any surgical operations. Only alcohol was used to numb the senses during the procedures.

I would also like to focus on what techniques were used in ancient Egypt that differ from what occurs today. Some of the most common surgeries today did not occur in ancient Egyptian times, such as dental surgeries, eye surgeries and surgeries involving childbirth. I was intrigued to learn that no evidence has been uncovered that shows definitively that surgery was used in dental practices, not even on the pharaohs. The lack of surgery on eyes in this time is interesting, because eyes played such a major part of Egyptian mythology. Only topical medication was applied, and no mention of surgical intervention for any eye maladies has been discovered. This research paper will examine the Ancient Egyptians use of surgery in their medical practices. Surgery was considered to be a part of general medicine in ancient Egypt, not a specialty as we consider it today. Almost all of the evidence that exhibits surgical procedures is related to trauma.

In conclusion, this paper will focus on the various types of surgeries performed in ancient Egypt. It will also look into the other medical procedures that ancient Egyptians used to correct medical ailments that require surgery today.

 

RESOURCES:

Nunn, J. F. Ancient Egyptian Medicine. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1996. Print.

Nerlich, Andreas G. “Ancient Egyptian Prothesis of the Big Toe.” The Lancet 356 (2000): JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.

Leek, F. F. “The Practice of Dentistry in Ancient Egypt.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 53 (1967): JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.

Sipos, Péter, Hedvig Gyõry, Krisztina Hagymási, Pál Ondrejka, and Anna Blázovics. “Special Wound Healing Methods Used in Ancient Egypt and the Mythological Background.” World Journal of Surgery 28.2 (2004): 211-16: JSTOR. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.

Ancient Egypt at the Field Museum

This past weekend I was in Chicago for a family wedding and decided to go down a day early to spend some time at the Field Museum! I thought I would share some things I found interesting throughout their Egyptian exhibitions and film.

This first image is one that I find highly amusing! The first time I was at the Field Museum several years ago, I was given a tour from one of the curators. The first thing that she wanted to show me was the bust in the Egyptian exhibit. She called it “their own Michael Jackson”! I still find it interesting that the Field Museum receives requests from museums around the country to have this bust on loan because of the resemblance to the King of Pop.

In one of there temporary exhibits on the second floor of the Museum is currently “Images of the Afterlife.” You can click here for the link for more information on it! The exhibit shows the use of CT scans and 3D imaging to reveal secrets about the mummies, such as what they looked like when the lived. My personal favorite section of this exhibit involved a hands-on activity. Visitors were encouraged to use a video game controller to manipulate a 3D rendering of one of the mummies in the room. I was able to rotate the mummy 360 degrees and zoom in and out of the mummies casket into the mummy itself! It was fascinating to see the details that were gained through CT scans.

Here are are few more images from the main Egyptian exhibit! The second image is from “inside the tomb” that you are able to walk through. The museum recreated the tomb of Unis-ankh; they purchased two of the chambers of the limestone tomb and shipped them to Chicago. In this tomb you are able to climb to the top and look at the types of construction techniques that were used to erect the structure.

If you have never been to the field museum, I would greatly recommend it!

Grave Goods

One of the topics from this past week that I have enjoyed reading about and listening to in our class lectures has been the grave goods. I love that it is possible to determine ascribed verses acquired status just from the goods that were left beside an individual.

In our reading we learned that the number of grave goods included in a burial increased through time. One of the burials that I found interesting was the one of the nine year old boy from the MAO IV. His was considered to be one of the richest burials, which indicated that his status was ascribed to him from his family, and that he did not earn his status throughout his lifetime.

The practice of burial with grave goods is still common. Individuals are buried with their finest jewelry and in their nicest clothes. Some people even decide that they would like to rest eternally with their stash of baseball cards! Whatever is deemed worthy enough to be brought to the next life, whatever it may be.

When I attended Michigan Archaeology Day this past weekend at the Michigan Historical Center in downtown Lansing, I learned a little bit more about Egyptian culture regarding grave goods. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology from the University of Michigan had an interesting booth about Egyptian archaeology. In a previous post I wrote about ushabtis statues that Dr. Bob Brier spoke about at the AIA talk and this past weekend I was able to handle a replica statue at the booth! They were much smaller than I imagined, only a few inches tall. That was surprising to me because they are supposed to come back to life to serve the mummy in their next life. Are they supposed to grow to full human size when the next life appears? Maybe I am just over thinking this, but I would have thought they would have been bigger, unless they are just the symbolic representation of the figure that will appear to serve the mummy. What does everyone else think?

AIA Mummification Talk

This past week I attended the AIA talk by Bob Brier. The title of his presentation was “Mummification: Resurrection of a lost art”. He began by speaking to us about the history of mummies in Egypt, and how Egyptians believed in resurrection. Brier described their belief as they would “get up and go in the next life”.

Bob Brier then spoke about his research project that began in 1994. He partnered with National Geographic to recreate an ancient Egyptian style mummy, with no modern tools or ingredients. This project began with researching the practices that the ancient Egyptians used to dehydrate and preserve their dead. Mummification was considered to be a trade secret; the exact process was never recorded. The only written record was from Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, from his travels throughout the Egyptian region. Herodotus mentions that the brains were removed with an iron hook, ‘the slitter’ would remove the organs and natron was used to dehydrate the body. The research team made all of their tools, in the exact process that the ancient Egyptians would have used. Bob Brier even traveled to Egypt to collect four hundred pounds of natron from Wadi Natrum, the same region that the Egyptians would have traveled to themselves.

There were several parts of the mummification process that I was unaware of. For instance, how the brain is removed from the skull. I always believed that the brain was pulled out of the brain with a hook, but it is actually poured out, after the brain has been liquefied by spinning the hook inside the skull. Another part of the Egyptian mummification method that I learned was about the ushabtis statues. Bob Brier informed us that the mummy would be buried with 365 ushabtis statues, which would then come back to life in the future to serve the mummy; one for each day of the year.

The researchers check on the mummy every two years to take a tissue sample and to determine if there is any decay. Seventeen years later there has been no decay. This artificial mummy has become the baseline for analyzing mummies found in Egyptian tombs.

This talk was fascinating and opened my eyes to the meticulous process of mummification.

Ancient Egypt Satellite Imagery

After class I was talking to a friend about our Ancient Egypt Archaeology class and she mentioned an interesting discovery that I though I would share.  The link to an article about this discovery is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13522957.

Last year a United States Egyptologist, Dr. Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama, used infrared satellite imaging to look at the region surrounding San El Hagar including Ancient Tanis. Infrared satellite imaging allows for denser soil to be visible. The ancient Egyptians used mud brick to build structures including their temples, houses and tombs. The mud brick is much denser than the surrounding soil, and allows for the structures to become visible.

Over 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements including 17 pyramids were found! After the imaging was analyzed, they performed initial excavations and confirmed some of the findings. These excavation validated the use of this technology. Dr. Parcak explained “these are just the sites [close to] the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.” The archaeological team used the satellite imagery to focus their archaeological field work. Another benefit from this technology is that the Egyptian Government can use the images to protect the countries antiquities!

What I found most interesting about this article was that they were able to tell from the imagery that if the tombs were looted. It is amazing that they can tell from a satellite image if a archaeological site is looted. What I would like to know is what details of the imagery allowed them to determine if looting occurred. I wonder if it has to do with the density of the soils. When looters loosen the soil to reach the artifacts, that could change the density of the soil; maybe this is what they are seeing in the infrared images.

Tutankhamun’s Tomb

During the lectures on this week we learned about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I had previously known that basics behind the discovery of his tomb, but I was unaware of the specific details that led to it. I found it interesting to learn that because of George Herbert’s breathing difficulties, he traveled to Egypt during the winter. The practice of taking up archaeology because of boredom was not something that I ever thought of occurring.

After class I attempted to find the photographs of the discovery and recovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I found the University of College London Archives website. When I searched for the photographs and the notebook I found this webpage: UCL Library Archives. The page that is linked, lists what this specific part of their collections includes. There are five boxes that are filled with papers of Douglas Frith Derry, that include files related to the Predynastic, Old Kingdom, Old Kingdom Giza, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom, Derry’s “master notebook” and Tutankhamun. What I would do to be able to look through those documents! Unfortunately, there is restricted access for “private research only at the Archivist’s discretion.”

I found a few more websites that actually have the photographs available to for viewing, the first was at the British Museum. This site led me to The Griffith Institute. All of these photographs were taken by Harry Burton and they are a part of The Howard Carter Archives. My favorite photo so far from the collection is P0707. It is a close up of Tutankhamun’s head inside the sarcophagus. I wish I could have seen the Tutankhamnun exhibit when it was in Chicago! Right now it is in Seattle, Washington until January 6th if anyone is interested in seeing it.

If you are at all interested in seeing more photographs from Tutankhamn’s tomb you should check out The Griffith Institute link. There are hundreds of photographs of the chambers as they were found, photographs of individual artifacts and the surrounding region.

 

 

Cabinets of Curiosity and Napoleon and Heritage Laws!

The discussion today about the curio-cabinet, or as I learned about it in my museum studies classes, the cabinets of curiosities, was very interesting to me. One of the required classes for my Specialization in Museum Studies is the ‘Foundations in Museum Studies’. This class taught us about the formation of museums. These curio-cabinets did not only form in Europe, they also came to America with those who migrated to the new world. This is how museums began to appear in the United States as well. The wealthiest of the Americans began to host parties to show off their wonderful collections to their friends. Then, they began to charge small amounts of money for a walk through their homes to observe their cabinets of curiosity.

 

Another part of the lecture today that was very fascinating to me was Napoleon’s invasion. I was unaware of the massive impact that Napoleon had on the beginning of museums and Egyptian archaeology. I would have never guessed that he would have hand chosen 167 scientists to record the land and its objects throughout their invasion of Malta and Egypt. Without his interest in ancient Egypt, so much information on the landscape, people and their objects would have been lost for all time. The vast knowledge the recorded in the 24 volumes of the ‘Description de L’Egypt’ written by the scientists hired by Napoleon, published in 1809 has lasted into the 21st century. I am having a hard time accepting the fact that if he didn’t enjoy learning about ancient Egyptians, our current knowledge of their history would be so much less.

 

The last point mentioned in the class was about the development of the first cultural heritage laws. I am interested to learn about what exactly these laws are and how they have persisted to this day and age. Also, if they have been altered, how and why did they amend them?