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

Ancient Egypt News 15 – 21 November 2021

Welcome to the latest Ancient Egypt stories that made the headlines over the third week of November.

 

Dr. Khaled El-Enany, the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, recently held a meeting about the development project of the Greek Roman Museum in Alexandria in preparation for its opening during the coming period.

 

The museum is 93% finished, with visitor’s walkways, cafeteria places, a library and lecture halls, as well as areas for scientific research and study activities, and educational activities for children.

 

On display will be nearly 20 thousand artifacts dating back to the Greek and Roman times, as well as a museum garden, and a centre for preservation and restoration. The area surrounding the museum will be developed with squares, street lighting and parking for cars and tourist buses.

 

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi directed on Sunday the government to use modern technology to secure the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) and apply the latest display techniques in a way that matches GEM’s value and importance as one of the world’s largest museums. 

 

The Presidency Spokesperson Bassam Rady said that Al-Sisi followed up on the project progress. He ordered the development of the buildings and roads surrounding the Museum, to take advantage of its distinguished location with a view of the Pyramids area. 

 

A team of archaeologists conducting excavations near Cairo have discovered material evidence that gives new insight into the Matariya sun temple in the ancient city of Heliopolis.

 

Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun” was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt that was occupied since the Predynastic Period. The city was the cult centre of the sun got Atum, who later became identified with Ra and then Horus.

 

The team from the Institute of Egyptology at Leipzig University, in combination with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, has excavated basalt reliefs and inscriptions from the Matariya temple built by Kheperkare Nakhtnebef, better known by his Hellenised name of Nectanebo I (380 to 363 BC) who founded the 30th dynasty.

 

A number of temple building components and statue fragments were also unearthed in the vicinity of the still-standing obelisk of Heliopolis, in addition to fragments of quartzite statues of Rameses II, an obelisk fragment from the time of King Osorkon I, as well as a sanctuary for the deities Shu and Tefnut from the time of Psamtik II.

 

Dr Dietrich Raue, curator of the Egyptian Museum at Leipzig University said: “The inscriptions provide an insight into the date when the temple was founded in the early summer of 366 BC, the dimensions of the temple, and the materials used. A number of unfinished blocks suggest that construction work abruptly ended following the king’s death and did not recommence”.

 

“This would make it one of the last, if not the final major structure built after a good 2400 years of continuous construction work by the kings of Egypt at the place where the world was created.

 

The Grand Egyptian Museum has received 68 more artefacts, including 16 pieces from the treasures of Tutankhamun. 

 

This was stated by Atef Moftah, the general supervisor of the Grand Egyptian Museum and the surrounding area.

 

Assistant Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for Archaeological Affairs at the Grand Egyptian Museum, El-Tayeb Abbas explained that the artefacts arrived safely amid tight security, and noted that the artefacts include 52 heavy pieces that will be displayed inside the main exhibition halls of the museum. 

 

The most important pieces include a group of statues depicting King Senusret I in the Osiris position and a limestone sarcophagus of a person named Ahmose Psamtik, which was discovered in the Tuna El-Gabal area in Minya Governorate, in addition to an alabaster sarcophagus of Queen Hetepheres from the Old Kingdom and a pink granite statue of the deity Serapis.

 

Abbas added that the 16 pieces of the Tutankhamun treasures consist of a distinguished group of alabaster pots, which are now installed inside their showcases in King Tutankhamun's hall.

 

Moreover, Director General of Executive Affairs for the Restoration and Transfer of Antiquities at the Grand Egyptian Museum Issa Zeidan indicated that before packing these pieces, the restorers carried out the proper scientific and archaeological documentation and wrote a report highlighting each piece's condition.

 

The artefacts were also mechanically cleaned and some of them were reinforced, under the supervision of the work team from the Grand Egyptian Museum and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

 

The heavy objects are now being restored and maintained in the Heavy Antiquities Restoration Laboratory, in preparation for their transfer to the main exhibition halls.

 

Archaeologists have unearthed what is believed to be one of Egypt's lost "sun temples," which dates to the mid-25th century BCE.

 

The team uncovered the remains buried beneath another temple at Abu Ghurab, around 12 miles south of Cairo, according to mission co-director Massimiliano Nuzzolo, assistant professor of Egyptology at the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute for the Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures in Warsaw. The dig is part of a joint mission by the University of Naples L'Orientale and the Polish Academy of Sciences.

 

In 1898, archaeologists working at the site discovered the sun temple of Nyuserra, the sixth king of the 5th dynasty, who ruled Egypt between 2400 and 2370 BCE.

 

Now discoveries made during the latest mission suggest that it was built on top of the remains of another sun temple. The finds include seals engraved with the names of kings who ruled before Nyuserra, which were once used as jar stoppers, as well as the bases of two limestone columns, which were part of an entrance portico and a limestone threshold.

 

The original construction was made entirely of mud bricks, said Nuzzolo, whose team also found dozens of intact beer jars during the dig. Some of the jars are filled with ritual mud, which was only used in specific religious rituals, he added, and the pottery has been dated to the mid-25th century BCE, a generation or two before Nyuserra lived.

 

The mud-brick monument was impressive in size, but the king ritually destroyed it in order to build his own sun temple. the main purpose of the temple was that of being the place for the deification of the living king.

 

While these temples were dedicated to the cult of the sun god Ra, the king legitimized his power through the temple and presented himself as the only son of the sun god on Earth.

 

Historical sources suggest six sun temples were built in total, but only two had previously been unearthed. From these sources we know that the sun temples were all built around Abu Gharib, he added.

 

Nyuserra's sun temple has a very similar layout to the mud-brick building but is larger and made of stone.

 

Further exploration and a study of the pottery found will allow the team to discover more about how people lived during this ancient period.

 

Research documenting ancient Egyptian art at the Chapel of Hatshepsut has shed rare light on how the reliefs were made.

 

The discovery was made at the temple dedicated to the famous female pharaoh. In the largest room of the temple, known as the Chapel of Hatshepsut, are mirrored reliefs of a procession bringing offerings to the pharaoh.

 

For nearly a decade, researchers worked to fully document these massive reliefs; each of which is nearly 13 metres long and features 100 figures of offering bearers, along with the enthroned Hatshepsut and the list of her offering menu. In the process of documentation, Dr Anastasiia Stupko-Lubczynska, from the University of Warsaw, discovered traces of most of the steps of the relief making process in the art. Her work is published in the journal Antiquity.

 

Archaeologists had long known how ancient Egyptian art was made thanks to half-finished pieces preserving the process in action. However, as each step in production covered up the previous one, evidence from finished pieces is rare.

 

“The chapel’s soft limestone is a very promising material for study, as it preserves traces of various carving activities, from preparing the wall surface to the master sculptor’s final touches,” said Dr Stupko-Lubczynska.

 

The seven-step process, with traces of most of them preserved in the Chapel, is:

1. Smoothing the wall and plastering of defects in the stone and joints between blocks.
2. Division of the wall surface into sections and application of a square grid.
3. The preliminary sketch is drawn in red paint, copied from a pre-prepared drawing.
4. Correction of the sketch by a master artist, who also added details in black paint.
5. Any text to accompany the images was inscribed.
6. With all the outlines done, the sculptors started their work, following the black lines.
7. The finished relief surface was whitewashed and coloured.
 

However, as well as finding traces of how the images were made, Dr Stupko-Lubczynska wanted to also study who was behind the impressive artwork. 

“By studying traces left in the stone by ancient chisels, it was possible to ‘grasp’ several intangible phenomena, which normally leave no evidence in the archaeological record,” she said.

This included identifying which parts of the image were made by apprentices, or people with less skill, and which were made by the masters of their craft. As in Renaissance workshops, it seems that those with lower experience worked on non-complex parts like torsos, arms and legs, whilst more experienced artists tackled the complex faces – and corrected the apprentices’ mistakes. 

Both groups would work together on the wigs as they were extremely time-consuming. It also offered a chance for the more experienced artists to try and teach others; in one area, a master started the wigs and an apprentice attempted to finish them to the same standard. 

“It is generally believed that in ancient Egypt, artists were trained outside of ongoing architectural projects,” she continued, “but my research in the Chapel of Hatshepsut proves that teaching also took place as reliefs were being executed – ‘on the job training.” Although this did not always work out – the research also spotted one wig only half-finished because the apprentice never did his part. 

Dr Stupko-Lubczynska had hoped that the detailed record of the art produced by this project could allow for the identification of the hand of individual artists. However, the artists were working to create a homogenous work that matched ancient Egyptian style, masking any signs of individuality. 

Nevertheless, it was possible to identify that a different crew worked on each of the mirrored reliefs, producing slight differences between them. For instance, a jug on the south wall is shown as a clay container on a rope, while on the north wall it is a metal container. 

There were also parts where these crews had to deviate from standard practice. Some of the hieroglyphic inscriptions near the wigs, for example, appear to have been added later in the process than usual. This means that sculptors began their work before all the outlines of those inscriptions had been placed in paint, perhaps because the scribes had no access to that part of the wall as it was occupied by the sculptors practising wig carving. 

Together, these reliefs offer not just a rare glimpse of how ancient Egyptian art was produced, but what life was like for the artists. How people with differing experiences had different roles and responsibilities, how crews divided up the work, how masters facilitated on-the-job training, and how those being trained would make mistakes, which had to be fixed. As such, these 2D reliefs provide a 3D snapshot of ancient Egyptians at work. 

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, recently visited the Pyramids area and were Dr. Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities. 

On the occasion of the 119th anniversary of the founding of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities launched the museum's website. 

Assistant Minister of Tourism and Antiquities for Digital Transformation Khaled Sherif said that the launch of this website comes within the framework of implementing the ministry’s strategy for digital transformation, in line with the state’s trend towards an unprecedented digital renaissance. Launching the website is considered a pillar of the second phase of the museum's development project, which is currently being carried out by an Egyptian company and is funded by the European Union. 

Director General of the Museum Sabah Abdel Razek said that the site allows its visitors to learn about the museum and the services provided to its visitors. This is in addition to the possibility of purchasing tickets via credit card, within the integrated system of electronic tickets. The website also contains a map of the museum from the inside, showing the locations of the halls, their names and numbers, helping visitors move around the museum easily during their visit. 

She added that the site also includes photos of the museum's most prominent pieces and a group of rare archival photos showing the museum's construction process and the shape of its halls when it was first opened, noting that these photos are part of the treasures preserved in the museum's archive as glass negatives. 

Moreover, the website contains a pictorial account of the history of the museum from the first Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Azbakeya,to the Bulaq Museum and Giza Museum until now. 

The museum includes restoration laboratories in addition to a library containing rare books and encyclopedia dealing with ancient Egyptian antiquities and civilization. 

The Egyptian Museum was opened in Tahrir in 1902 and is one of the first buildings in the world that was built to be a specialized museum.  

After King Tutankhamun’s statue of Amun, the French-Egyptian restoration team of the CFEETK have restored the statue of the goddess Amunet in the central part of the Karnak temple. 

The Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, inaugurated the temporary exhibition ‘Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs’ at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas. 

The event was attended by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian Consul in Houston, Khaled Rizk, the Assistant Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Lamia Kamel, and a group of Egyptologists, businessmen, officials and public figures in field of politics and culture. 

Waziri said that the exhibition received great attention before the official opening, adding that he had closely followed all preparations related to the exhibition. 

Hawass praised the exhibition and called it amongst the most beautiful dedicated to  Egyptian antiquities abroad. 

The exhibit  features videos discussing the history of King Ramses II and the battles he led, especially the Battle of Kadesh, as well as virtual visits to the exhibition that take visitors on a journey through the life of King Ramses II. 

The exhibition organizers indicated that 8,000 tickets were sold during the first few hours of opening, and it is expected that about 700,000 visitors will visit the exhibition during its stay in Houston. 

According to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the exhibition is held on an area of ​​3,000 square metres, and displays 181 artefacts, highlighting some of the most distinctive characteristics of ancient Egyptian civilization. The exhibition will continue in Houston for six months, and then move to San Francisco for another six months. 

And finally, the news everyone has been waiting for – The official opening of the Avenue of the Sphinxes, The Rams Road, will happen with all the pomp and ceremony it deserves on November 25th. 

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.