Welcome to the latest Ancient Egypt stories that made the headlines over the first days of December.
In November, the restoration work done by the Centre Franco-Egyptian d‘Etude des Temples de Karnak, in the "southern magazines" of the Akhmenu at Karnak continued, under the supervision of Manon Lefèvre and Lucie Antoine, with the support of the Kheops Fund for Archaeology.
After the successful implementation of a new e-ticketing system for the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir earlier this year, it has now incorporated an additional 30 of the most popular archaeological and touristic sites to the reservation system. As part of Egypt’s digital transformation master plan, the new system strives to streamline the reservation process while offering visitors greater accessibility to booking prior to arrival.
The system will include ticketing for the Pyramids, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings, and Sharm El Sheikh Museum. Through this electronic booking system visitors can reserve, pay and receive a digital barcode for entry, circumventing ticket windows and long lines.
Visitors can book their tickets through the online booking platform, a mobile app or specialised gates for electronic reservations located at sites and museums. This system is powered by E-Finance and its subsidiary, eAswaaq, which runs specialised ecommerce platforms created specifically for the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities.
As part of sweeping plans to renovate and upgrade the infrastructure at the Giza Plateau, Orascom Pyramids - a subsidiary of Orascom Development - has partnered with the National Bank of Egypt to provide banking services on-site for visitors. The banking services will cater to Egyptians and foreigners, accommodating international transactions.
Along with these banking services, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities' development efforts will introduce a wide variety of facilities and services including parking spaces, electric buses for internal transportation, restaurants, outdoor seating umbrellas, gift shops, a first aid clinic equipped with its own electric car, as well as areas designated for recreational and cultural activities.
Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have concluded an excavation of two tombs in the Bronze Age city of Hala Sultan Tekke in Cyprus. The finds include over 150 human skeletons and close to 500 objects – including gold jewellery, gemstones and ceramics – from around 1350 BCE.
Since 2010, the New Swedish Cyprus Expedition (The Söderberg Expedition) has had several rounds of excavations in Cyprus. In 2018, archaeologists discovered two tombs in the form of underground chambers, with a large number of human skeletons. Managing the finds required very delicate work over four years, since the bones were extremely fragile after more than 3,000 years in the salty soil.
In addition to the skeletons of 155 individuals, the team also found 500 objects. The skeletons and ritual funeral objects were in layers on top of each other, showing that the tombs were used for several generations.
“The finds indicate that these are family tombs for the ruling elite in the city. For example, we found the skeleton of a five-year-old with a gold necklace, gold earrings and a gold tiara. This was probably a child of a powerful and wealthy family,” says Professor Peter Fischer, the leader of the excavations.
The finds include jewellery and other objects made of gold, silver, bronze, ivory and gemstones and richly decorated vessels from many cultures.
"We also found a ceramic bull. The body of this hollow bull has two openings: one on the back to fill it with a liquid, likely wine, and one at the nose to drink from. Apparently, they had feasts in the chamber to honour their dead.”
One particularly important find is a cylinder-shaped seal made from the mineral hematite, with a cuneiform inscription from Mesopotamia (present day Iraq), which the archaeologists were able to decipher.
“The text consists of three lines and mentions three names. One is Amurru, a god worshiped in Mesopotamia. The other two are historical kings, father and son, who we recently succeeded in tracking down in other texts on clay tablets from the same period, i.e., the 18th century BCE. We are currently trying to determine why the seal ended up in Cyprus more than 1000 kilometres from where it was made.”
Among the finds are the red gemstone carnelian from India, the blue gemstone lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and amber from around the Baltic Sea, which shows that the city had a central role for trade during the Bronze Age. The gold jewellery, along with scarabs and the remains of fish imported from the Nile Valley, tell the story of intensive trade with Egypt.
By comparing similar finds from Egypt, the archaeologists were also able to date the jewellery.
“The comparisons show that most of the objects are from the time of Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten around 1350 BCE. Like a gold pendant we found: a lotus flower with inlaid gemstones. Nefertiti wore similar jewellery.”
The ceramic finds are also important. “The way that the ceramics changed in appearance and material over time allows us to date them and study the connections these people had with the surrounding world. What fascinates me most is the wide-ranging network of contacts they had 3,400 years ago.”
The next step will be DNA analysis of the skeletons. “This will reveal how the different individuals are related with each other and if there are immigrants from other cultures, which isn’t unlikely considering the vast trade networks,” says Peter Fischer.
reports that a garbage dump has been found in a tomb carved into the rock below the 3,500-year-old Chapel of Hathor at the Temple of Hatshepsut by researchers from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology. The team has been working to restore the chapel, which is dedicated to the ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky, women, fertility, and love. “We were concerned that our work could lead to the collapse of the tomb ceiling, which is why we wanted to secure it,” said team leader Patryk Chudzik.
“After entering we found that it had never been studied and cleaned because of the debris.” Among the rubble, the researchers discovered figurines of deities and priests, ceramic flasks adorned with a breast motif and floral patterns symbolizing rebirth, cow figurines, and a wooden carving of a man wearing a wig that may depict the tomb’s owner. Chudzik said the debris may have been offerings to the goddess that had accumulated and were then disposed of by the temple staff.
Women in Ancient Egypt were able to be scribes, priests and interpreters of dreams.
” Dreams were outlets to another life and a means through which the gods and the dead could communicate with the living; however, it was not that easy (to interpret dreams). It required a full understanding of the symbols of dreams and their meanings to become skilled interpreters,” said Egyptologist Rosalie David.
In the Deir el-Medina texts there are references to “wise women” and the role they played in predicting future events and their causes.
There are beliefs that such witches may have played a prominent role in the religion practiced during the New Kingdom, according to a study published by the World History website.
These wise women were adept at interpreting dreams and predicting the future. Most of the existing reports on dreams and their interpretations come from men such as Hor of Sbennoth (present-day Samannud), but inscriptions and extracts show that women were primarily consulted on these matters.
Some temples are known as dream nurseries where the interpreter, spends the night in a designated place and communicates with the gods or the deceased to gain insight into the future. The most famous of these places is the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, where the majority of those in charge of the religion were women.
The “Live Heritage, Live Communities” workshop, a project that engages the local communities of Historic Cairo and Luxor in crafting a program for cultural heritage and sustainable tourism, was launched earlier in the week.
The Integrated Management of Cultural Tourism (IMCT) project was inaugurated at the Al-Azhar Park with the aim of improving the environment for private investment in cultural heritage tourism with a special focus on the partnership between the public and private sectors.
The project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with Family Health International (FHI360) international nonprofit and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities as well as the Ministry of Culture.
The event started out with a speech from USAID Mission Director Leslie Reed who emphasized the significance of the project, explaining that “today’s partnership with EBRD demonstrates our commitment to supporting the vital tourism sector in Egypt and the thousands of people working in this sector. Together with our Egyptian partners, the United States has contributed more than $100 million over the past 25 years to preserve dozens of cultural heritage sites throughout Egypt, from Aswan to Alexandria.”
The EBRD’s Deputy Head Khalid Hamza stated, “the EBRD is proud to be working alongside the USAID-funded IMCT project in Egypt, which champions our strategic engagement in tourism in Egypt and our vision for economic inclusion for women, youth, and local communities. We look forward to engaging with IMCT and the private sector, to further strengthen access to finance and skills development programs, and promote sustainable tourism.”
Riham Arram, community engagement and product development specialist at IMCT, elaborated on the project, saying “when the tourist comes to Egypt, we aim that he/she lives the true experience, we want them to spend as much time as possible in the historic area and that will increase the money spent in the district. The development of the district shall be implemented by the hands of the people of this district. The project’s duration is four years in Historic Cairo and Luxor with the aim of enhancing the government efforts to attract investors in the realm of heritage tourism.”
Arram added, “we want to bring investment to Al-Darb Al-Ahmar and allow the locals to benefit, we want to rehabilitate the heritage and cultural sites. How many times have you passed across a monument that needed restoration and development? All of those elements will be part of our project. We aim to create a new touristic product from your heritage, one that only you know, how the traditional craft itself can create a touristic product, tourism is no longer limited to antiquities, now the tourist aims to see the origin of the craft, explore the authentic arts, traditional Egyptian meals or try authentic Egyptian activities. And the last thing is to promote the heritage and cultural tourism. the project shall enhance the marketing skills.”
And that’s it for this week.