Bonus Blog

Over the course of this class we have learned about many interesting topics in Egyptian archaeology. Though everything covered in the course was of great importance, I personally believe the subject of language and its role in ancient Egypt was of particular importance. With great archaeological discoveries such as the Rosetta Stone and other pieces of text, the language of the ancient Egyptians has been preserved and a great deal has contributed to the understanding of the people of the ancient world.

The Rosetta Stone, currently residing in the British Museum, has been the greatest and most informative preserved text of the past, providing the world with three translations of the decree of the king. The text was written in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. With the many exchanges of power over Egypt, language also changed and some forms of writing died out. This document is one of the only existing translations of the ancient Egyptian language thanks to the Greeks. Though the information in the document itself is not of huge significance to the history of the ancient Egyptians, the translation into Greek has helped scholars unlock lost scripts of the ancient world. Without this key to the past, it would be almost impossible for archaeologists and other researchers to decipher other surviving documents and texts that appears on the walls of ancient tombs and other significant archaeological remains. Not knowing much about the language of the ancient Egyptians would leave many mysteries of the past unsolved. If not for the Greeks and their contribution to the Rosetta Stone, a great deal of archaeological information would have been lost or misinterpreted. I believe that language and the role it plays in Egyptian archaeology has had a significant impact on the field of study and without it, the history of the ancient Egyptians would be completely skewed. I myself have seen the Rosetta Stone in person and it was astonishing to me to be standing in front of such an important piece of history. It is incredible to be able to experience such a great part of the past and get the full sense of its importance to the history of the world.

Fake Egyptian Toes

I came across a really neat article about fake toes in the ancient world, “Ancient Egyptian Fake Toes Earliest Prosthetics”. Two fake toes were confirmed as being the world’s oldest prosthetics from Ancient Egypt. These two wooden toes were found at the necropolis of Thebes. These artificial toes were made of a paper mache like mixture using linen, glue, and plaster called cartonnage. The Greville Chester toe, currently housed in the British Museum, dates back to 600 BC. It is in the shape of a right big toe and part of the right foot. The Tabaketonmut toe is kept at the Egyptian Museum in Ciaro and dates back to somewhere between 950-710 BC. This toe was also a right toe. It was thought that this girl lost her toe to gangrene caused by diabetes. Both toes had holes in them so they could be laced up round the foot or a sandal. Because both toes had significant wear to them, it is believed that they were used in everyday walking unlike other cases of artificial body parts that were made for burial.

I found this article really interesting because I never really thought about how ancient Egyptians would have dealt with a missing body part. These ancient false toes are evidence of medical advancements I was unaware existed in the ancient world. Earlier in the semester I posted an article about ancient fillings, proving that Egyptians of the ancient world were pretty skilled in fixing health problems. These articles have shed some light on the subject. Medical practices of the Egyptians is a topic that seems to spark my interest more and more as time goes on. I’m very impressed by the creativity the ancient people had when dealing with medical issues, especially given the period of time they lived in and the limited resources they had. I hope to learn more about ancient medicine and find out what other neat tricks they had for coping with health problems.

http://news.discovery.com/history/ancient-egypt-wooden-toes-prosthetics-121002.html

Princess Sheretnebty and New Finds in Egypt

I recently read an article titled, “Tomb of ancient Egyptian princess discovered”. South of Cairo, hidden in the bedrock, archaeologists have found the tomb of and ancient Egyptian princess that has long been forgotten.The structure dates back to 2500 BC, during the 5th Dynasty. Archaeologists are confused by the location of this tomb for someone who was of royal status. The majority of members of the royal family of the 5th Dynasty were buried elsewhere. As research continues, archaeologist hope to discover the remains of the princess inside the tomb but currently what lies within is a mystery. A false-door was found at the tomb bearing the princesses name, Sheretnebty, and an inscription found in the limestone reads, “King’s daughter of his body, his beloved, revered in front of the Great God, Sheretnebty,” in hieroglyphics. The tomb of this princess was also surrounded by four other tombs cut into the rock. These tombs were for people of important affiliation with the royal family during the fifth Dynasty. A new door has been opened to learning and documenting information about the 5th Dynasty, the royal family, and others of historical importance of Ancient Egypt.

Through great new discoveries in ancient Egyptian Archaeology, such as the tomb of Sheretnebty, scholars are able to look deeper into the past of the ancient world, even more so than before. An increase in archaeological excavations in Egypt means an increase in knowledge of the past, this is why it is important for researchers to continue work in Egypt, even though the topic of ancient Egyptians may seem somewhat jaded. Though it seems that there may be no more to discover or explore in Egypt today, for the past hundred years of excavations in the country have produced thousands of significant fines, though it seems that great new discoveries are still popping up today, like in the case above.

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/11/08/tomb-ancient-egyptian-princess-discovered/

Paper Proposal

Rescue Archaeology in Egypt

For my research project I was thinking about writing on rescue archaeology in Egypt and how it compares to normal archaeology. I will look at the negatives and positives of emergency or salvage excavations and discuss rescue projects that have taken place in Egypt.

I plan on first discussing what rescue archaeology is, which is high speed excavation usually done in areas that are threatened by construction and land development of some kind. Often times projects for highways, flood plains of dams, and other types of construction call for rescue archaeology to record important archaeological data and salvage as much material culture as possible before a site is destroyed for land development. Because of time constraints for these projects, archaeologists may be called in to do a quick analysis and excavation to document important archaeological remains before they are wiped away for good. Unlike a normal excavation, these projects have to be executed very quickly so construction can commence.

Next I plan on discussing the positives and negatives of rescue archaeology. A positive is that the remains that are about to be destroyed get a chance to be documented and some material culture gets saved. This gives researchers the chance to take what they have found and analyze the information to learn more about the past in this area even after it is destroyed. As I do more research I will include examples of this from past projects. A negative is time. Because these projects must be carried out quickly, there is a chance for some sloppy archaeology to occur. Some things may be over looked or not properly documented. I plan on giving examples of issues of time in actual rescue projects.

I will discuss the rescue project when the High Dam at Aswan was built. This will include what the project was, the time frame, what was found and salvaged and what was destroyed or lost due to the project. One of the articles I plan on using for this is:

Neville, Tove. “Past Threatened by Aswan Dam.”The Science News-Letter , Vol. 78, No. 5 (Jul. 30, 1960), pp. 74-75 Published by: Society for Science & the Public Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3942203

This article discusses what the project was and what monuments were to be effected by the construction of the damn.

I will also discuss the Chinese-built dam, the Merowe, a controversial hydro-electric project in the Nile Valley. Two sources I plan on using for this are:

“Merowe Dam Project.” Merowe Dam Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. .

Bosshard, Peter. “China Dams the World.” World Policy Journal , Vol. 26, No. 4 (Winter, 2009/2010), pp. 43-51 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40468737

Through more research I may include another example of rescue archaeology and it’s significance in Egypt. I will also work on the organization of the paper more and may expand on some things.

I will wrap up this paper recapping the importance of rescue archaeology and how it has impacted Egypt and its history.

The Truth Behind the Great Pyramids

Today in class we learned about the Great Pyramids of Giza and their significance in ancient Egypt. It is amazing that the people of this time had the skills and resources to complete such great monuments. Though the pyramids them self are of great interest to me, I was especially interested in the motive behind their construction and the people who built these massive structure.

The Old Testament talks about Egyptian slavery and their work on the pyramids, and up until today, I didn’t know any better but to assume this was how the great tombs were constructed. We learned instead that the workers on these projects were in fact not slaves but free citizens required to work for the state. Each season, a crew of unskilled laborers jumped on the project and was swapped out with a new group when their season was over. Accompanied by skilled workers, these people lived in the Workers Village just on the other side of the Wall of the Crow, separating sacred and nonsacred land. Unskilled workers returned to their homes after the season ended but the skilled laborers remained at the site, showing great dedication to the states project. These people were also compensated, usually in distributed agricultural parcels, showing that these workers were not at all slaves as the Old Testament claimed.

I also thought it was very interesting that the motive of the state for building these great structures, besides the honoring of past royalty, was to basically show the world that they could. Egypt was able to draft and mobilized such a great number of people for such an extended amount of time. They were also able to show off their ability to acquire the necessary building materials and coordinate the construction of such immense projects. The success of each project gave a positive reflection of the height of centralized power and administration of the early state during the time of the Old Kingdom.

Today’s lecture really changed my outlook on the Egyptian state during the Old Kingdom. I had never really thought about the Great Pyramids of Giza as being almost a political tool. I also didn’t realize that the Biblical reference to Egyptians slaves was so inaccurate.

Ancient Fillings?

I was doing some Googling on ancient Egypt in the news and came across an interesting article entitled, “Mummy’s Sinus Infection, Tooth Problems Revealed by CT Scans”. The piece discusses how high resolution CT scanning technology has developed over twenty years and how it has impacted research.

In 1859, James Ferrier brought a mummified man in his 20’s from Thebes to Montreal. Until recent technological developments, the health condition of this unknown man was unclear. With advances in CT scanning, researchers have now been able to conclude that their mysterious mummy may not have died of age but of an untreatable sinus infection caused by tooth decay; the mummy had a mouth full of cavities and other tooth ailments. With high resolution CT scanning, researchers were able to see that these cavities had been packed with medicated linen to prevent food particles from getting trapped and to help ease the pain.

Modern day dentists believe that this severe condition would have been very painful and very hard to deal with during those times and even today with modern medicine. Because infections associated with the teeth cause many health problems it is believed that this is what cause the ancient Egyptians fatal sinus infection.

Though a scan was done in the 1990’s of this mummy, the resolution wasn’t high enough to properly identify the “fillings” in his teeth. Today, CT scans are six times more powerful than they were twenty years ago. High reslution scanning may help shed light on other cases, like the one of the mysterious man from Thebes with bad teeth, and may teach us more about the lives of people from the past.

This article sparked my interest because it talked baot medical practices of Ancient Egypt, stating that evidence of dentistry goes back to the time of the Great Pyramids. I think it is interesting to see how the ancient people dealt with health risks that we still experience in modern society and compare treatment methods.
I do not know much about ancient Egyptian medicine but I do know their diets consisted of coarsely ground grain that was had negative effects on their teeth. I am interested in learning about other health concerns that may have been negatively effected by the everyday lifestyles of the ancient Egyptians. To survive as a group of people, the Egyptians clearly knew how to treat medical issues, or else they wouldn’t have been such a successful society as we know of them today.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/mummys-sinus-infection-tooth-ct-scans_n_1953918.html?ir=Science

The Language of the Common Folk

I recently read an article about language and translation of ancient Egyptian life in the New York Times. It discusses how the people of this time in Egypt spoke different languages and wrote in different script that was mush simpler than the earliest hieroglyphs found from the ancient world. This was the language of the common people.
Demotic Egyptian, the language and writing was named by the Greeks, meaning the tongue of the demos and was of of the three languages found on the Rosetta Stone. Accompanied by hieroglyphs and Greek, Demotic has helped uncrack the lost language of the Ancient Egyptians and has defined the history of Egypt as we know it today.
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago has now published a 2000 page dictionary after 40 years of research. Because there are only half the amount of Demotic words known at this time, researchers believe that this dictionary may help translate ancient Demotic document. It is important that this language be fully researched because there are more unpublished Demotic texts than any other stage of Early Egyptian writing. By revealing the mysteries that lay on these ancient pages, scholars may be able to further investigate the ancient past of Egypt and may confirm or disprove the history of these people as we know it today.
I think it is very important that this language be researched so we can learn more about the social, cultural, and political life of ancient Egypt. Without a full understanding of this language we may be missing out on key event in history.
During the time Demonic Egyptian was used, Egypt was dominated by Persians, Greek, and Romans. By exploring the language of the common people, we will be able to better understand how they felt about these intrusive powers and what their daily lives were. We already know so much about dynastic rulers but we don’t know as much about everyday people at this time. This dictionary may open up a whole new world of research and history by being able to closely study the lives of common Egyptians during foreign dominance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/science/new-demotic-dictionary-translates-lives-of-ancient-egyptians.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Mortuary Practices

A large amount of archaeological findings in Egypt are mortuary remains. There is much we can learn from the ways in which people bury their dead. There are many cultural differences in putting people to rest through out antiquity that can be seen across Egypt.

In Tell el’ Omari, settlers practiced bury their dead below the floors of their circular houses, similar to Mediterranean cultures at this time. Only about two or three people were buried under these structures, most likely those who had resided in these homes and had past away while living there. Other places like Ma’adi practiced burying their dead in cemeteries like many other cultures at this time. This is comparable to Native Americans who buried the deceased in burial mounds near their settle meant.

While many buried their loved ones close to home, the ancient Romans had different practices. Like many Egyptians, they had tombs and cemeteries but they did not allow anyone to be buried inside the walls of the city to supposedly keep out diseases. It was not until Rome expanded that the dead were allowed inside the sacred walls of the city.

We can also learn a great deal by the artifacts found with buried bodies in these mortuary locations. Many believed that the deceased would need certain goods to help them get to the afterlife and to stay there in peace. For example, as I mentioned in my first blog post, Tutankhaman was buried with oars to possibly help him travel to the after life.

Burial rituals varied through out antiquity and as people mobilized and cultures intertwined, changes in customs occurred in Egypt. Mortuary beliefs reflected the social and spirituals ideas of a group of people and archaeological remains show patterns throughout regions of ancient Egypt that can tell us a great deal about the expansion of belief systems and how they have influenced other systems. Burial remains, their location and special goods, have helped archaeologists study the mortuary customs of not only Egyptians but culture all over the world.

Ancient Tools of Egypt

Paleolithic tools played a major role in the success of ancient Egypt. Because metal tools were hard to come by due to their cost, lithic tools were very common in Egypt at this time. Materials such as chert, sandstone, and quarts were all used to make stone tools. These tools were used in bead making, cosmetic palettes, stone vessels, and other crafts. But where did these raw materials come from?

In the Lower Paleolithic period, many tools were found near the source of the stone obtained by Egyptians. While in the Middle Paleolithic, tools were found to have been quite distant from the original natural resources they came from. Finding tools far from their original sources shows expansion and travel throughout Egypt at this time. There is evidence that there were surface and underground mines for stone where these pieces were made from.

This evidence shows how important context is in archaeology. If these tools had been dug up and removed before properly documented, which was a very common occurrence during European expansion, we would not know the sources of these stones. Context has been a huge issue with the removal of artifacts by self proclaimed archaeologists and looters who do not properly document their discoveries.

Over time, size, shape, and purpose of these lithics changed through specialization and new tools emerged. New techniques of flaking we introduced to improve the function of these stone tools for a particular task at hand. These specialized flaking techniques would have required particular skills needed to efficiently shape the blades of these tools.

Without stone tools, the people of ancient Egypt may not have been as successful as they were. By excavating communities and finding lithic remains, archaeologists can better understand who the people were at this time and how they survived, grew, and sustained as a whole.

Home sick or home sweet home?

With the 100 anniversary of the discovery of the famous Nefertiti bust coming up in the near future, it seems very appropriate that the topic of repatriation be discussed. When German archaeologists dug up this ancient piece of work at Amarna, Egyptian Queen Nefertiti soon found herself far from home in Berlin. There have been many years of debate on the topic of returning the Queen back to Egypt, her rightful home, but others feel that she belongs in Berlin, the land of her discoverers. Issues of repatriation are found all throughout archaeology and questions of “the rightful owner” are debated worldwide.

Like the bust of Nefertiti, Egypt has lost many archaeological artifacts to museums and private collectors all over the planet. The statue of Rameses II and the Rosetta Stone have also been removed from their homeland and now reside in the British museum along with other Egyptian relics of their time. But Egypt isn’t the only one effected by the relocation of ancient artifacts. The British Museum is also the home of the famous Parthenon Frieze of ancient Athens and the Roman Bronze head of Augustus, for example. Museums in London, Berlin, Cairo, Paris, etc all feature archaeological finds from every corner of the world.

Though these institutions are more than qualified to take proper care of these ancient artifacts, who’s hands should the really be in? Do they belong to their native lands? Or does “finders-keepers” stay in effect after the age of five? Though the German’s did find the bust of Nefertiti, many Egyptians feel that she belongs back home. The Neues Museum in Berlin will have an exhibition honoring the Egyptian Queen in December entitled “In the Light of Amarna – 100 Years of the Find of Nefertiti.” Though Cairo seems to be happy about the event, I can’t help but think after 100 years, Nefertiti should be returned home to Egypt and be celebrated among her people.

http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Show-honors-centenary-of-Nefertiti-find-3850861.php