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A weekly round up of the Ancient Egypt News stories that made the headlines

Ancient Egypt News 08 – 14 November 2021
Welcome to the latest Ancient Egypt stories that made the headlines over the second week of November.


An ancient funerary figurine whose well-travelled history includes links to Tutankhamun and the set of Downton Abbey has been donated to the Sydney University's Chau Chak Wing Museum. The Egyptian shabti dates to the 18th dynasty (c. 1550BCE) and was excavated by the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. The Earl was the owner of Highclere Castle, which rose to fame in recent years as the popular period drama's filmset. The newly acquired figurine was discovered in 1908 during the Earl's first archaeological expedition, at the Tomb of Tetiky in Thebes. It was taken from the tomb of Tetiky's mother, Senseneb.


Shabtis are small figurines placed in tombs to perform labour in place of their owner in the afterlife. Shabtis first appeared in the Middle Kingdom (c.2030-1640BCE) and were commonly used for 2000 years, fading out in the Roman period.


This one will be on permanent display at the Chau Chak Wing Museum from 8 November. The shabti of Senseneb was among eight discovered during excavations of Tetiky's tomb and one of almost 1700 artefacts comprising the Highclere collection, which also included objects from the Earl's famous 1922 uncovering of Tutankhamun's tomb.


It was thought the entire antiquities collection was sold to New York's Metropolitan Museum after the fifth Earl of Carnarvon's death in 1926. But the death of his son, the sixth Earl, in 1987 revealed several artefacts had been 'hidden' among the furniture at Highclere Castle.


A wooden cupboard from the Highclere estate, purchased by Maximilian Preston in 1926 or 1927, set the course for the shabti of Senseneb's journey to Australia.


Preston was born Maximilian Pollak in Prague. He moved to Australia in 1904 where, after being interned during World War I, he changed his surname. In 1926 he emigrated to England, where he lived for two years and purchased the cupboard from Sotheby's. After discovering the 'hidden' artefacts, Preston returned them to Sotheby's.


Lord Carnarvon (the Sixth) gifted him the Senseneb shabti and its model coffin in gratitude. After Preston's death in South Africa in 1937, his daughter Helene emigrated to Australia with her Australian husband. Her daughter, Preston's granddaughter, Suzanne Harris donated the objects to the Chau Chak Wing Museum's Nicholson Collection this year, to ensure their continued preservation.


The Nicholson Collection’s senior curator, Candace Richards, said, "Wealthy tomb owners could have a shabti for each day of the year plus an 'overseer' for each of the 36 weeks per year. "With its gilt face and hands, blue wig and a 'shabti spell' inscribed on its torso, the Senseneb shabti is an early example of an emerging design for these elite tombs.


The British Museum holds three shabtis from the same tomb, but this Senseneb is a unique acquisition for an Australian museum." "We're delighted to add this generous gift to our antiquities collection," said museum deputy director Paul Donnelly. "It will take pride of place in the Pharaonic Obsessions exhibition, a permanent exhibition in our Egyptian Galleries, and entrench the Chau Chak Wing Museum as the holder of the largest antiquities collection in this part of the world."


The Chau Chak Wing Museum is open free of charge to the public. Its Nicholson collection of antiquities is the largest in the southern hemisphere.


Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Dr. Khaled El-Enany recently  inaugurated “Exalted Spirits: The Veneration of the Dead in Egypt through the Ages” exhibition at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


The exhibition, which will run till the 9 February 2022, is a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the American Research Center in Egypt and the American University in Cairo. It aims to shed light on the veneration of deceased figures in Egypt from the Pharaonic period up to current times, using the diverse evidence available in terms of texts, images, and lived traditions.


Using a total of 41 objects from the collections of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the Coptic Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art, the exhibition traces traditions that link ancient Egypt to the modern day and explores who was venerated, why and how as the dead, whether kings, revered individuals, or family members, have been venerated in some way through the ages.


The exhibition features several selected objects including a stela dedicated to Amenhotep I, an Icon of St. Mena, two sleeves from a Clerical Costume, an Anthropoid Bust of Khandjer, Silk Textile from the Mosque-Mausoleum of Sayyid Ahmad al-Badawi, and Hilya Sharifa by the Master Calligrapher, Mustafa Ezzat Effendi.


A three-day conference at Tahrir Cultural Center in the American University in Cairo began on the 10th November 2021.


The conference featured academic papers as well as panel discussions focusing on current practices related to the veneration of the dead and their origins, which may be traced back to ancient Egypt, and was aimed at both academic and non-academic participants.


The American Research Center in Egypt was expected to reveal during the exhibition and conference the individuals that were revered. At the highest level were royal figures, the Holy Family, and the Prophet Muhammad. These were followed by prominent pious individuals with miraculous powers, including different saints. Lastly, certain deceased family members were also venerated.


The opening of the exhibition was attended by Nicole Shampaine, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy; Louise Bertini, executive director at the American Research Center in Egypt; Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities; Sabah Abdel-Razik, general director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo; in addition to a number of public figures and leaders of the ministry and the American Research Center in Egypt.


The archaeological unit at Safaga maritime port foiled an attempt earlier in the week, to smuggle 16 ancient Egyptian artefacts, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced.


The archaeological committee at the port examined the seized collection and confirmed they are ancient Egyptian, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in a statement on Wednesday.


The artefacts include bronze and wooden statues, a funerary cone inscribed with hieroglyphs, remains of cartonnage funerary masks, and amulets made of faience and gilded wood.


Authorities are investigating to determine who was behind the smuggling attempt.


Egypt’s Minister of Tourism & Antiquities Khaled el-Enany said that the ministry is providing Luxor Governorate with immense support to hold a grand celebration for the world to see it with its new look. 


This event comes in celebration of the completion of Luxor's significant restoration projects, including the project to reveal the path of major processions in ancient Egypt, known as the "Rams Road".


During his current visit to Luxor to follow up on the preparations for the grand celebration to promote tourism in Luxor, Minister Enany and Governor of Luxor, Mustafa Elham, inspected the ongoing development work in the streets and squares surrounding Luxor and Karnak temples, where the celebration will be held.


Enany began his tour in Luxor by inspecting the areas surrounding Luxor Temple and the Corniche Road, where he highlighted the necessity of raising the efficiency of roads and sidewalks, as well as paying more attention to the trees, palms, and plant basins located along the Corniche Road and various squares.


Furthermore, the minister instructed the completion of painting the fences, steetlights and facades of the tourist shops located on the road, to complete the upgraded appearance of the entire region.


Giza Governor, Ahmed Rashed, the Head of the Central Administration of Cairo and Giza, Dr. Mohamed Shiha, and the Director of the Technical Office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ General Secretary Dr. Atef Al Dabbah, opened the tomb of the Golden Mummies Vallثy that was unearthed by the renowned Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass in 2000.


Dr.Al Dabbah highlighted that the Golden Mummies were found in 1996, and it is considered the second biggest archaeological discovery after Tutankhamun’s tomb.


He added that the coffins date back to the Greco-Roman era, and it includes about 250 mummies, the majority of them belonging to the upper-class families that lived at that time.


The unearthed mummies, with masks and inscriptions in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, alongside religious texts, were found by Hawass, according to Essam Abdel Fattah, the head of Maritime Oases’ Antiquities administration.


The importance of this discovery is that it sheds light on a vital era in the history of Egypt, which is the beginning of the Roman era.


The story of the discovery is that it happened by chance when the donkey of Alexander the Great’s temple guard stepped in a hole and got stuck, which drove Sheikh Abdel Maugoud, the guard, to check the hole.


He saw a golden object shining in the darkness, so, he reported it to the director of the Maritime Oases Antiquities Administration. It was a golden mask on one of the mummies, and that is why it is called the Valley of the Golden Mummies.


After the archaeologists did an initial scanning of the site, Hawass started the excavation in 1999, eventually finding around 250 mummies.


All of them date back to the first or the second century when Egypt was under Roman rule, but still showed the use of Ancient Egyptian religious rituals.


And that’s it for this week.    

This weekly round-up is sourced from public sites on the internet and do not necessarily reflect the views of GnT Tours. Please feel free to contact us regarding these and any other stories posted here.