Monday, December 19, 2011

When Politics and Archaeology Meet

The most recent issue of Archaeology has an interesting article in it regarding a large number of cunieform tablets from the Persian Empire.

These tablets are being researched and published by archaeologists. The tablets are in the United States until they are published. Then they are supposed to be returned to Iran.

Attorneys for the victims of terrorist acts that the Iranian government allegedly is involved in, have sued to seize and sell the tablets to help compensate the victims and their families. This has led to the government of Iran demanding the tablets return.

I have no idea how all this will (or even should) work out. All I can say is that when politics get involved with archaeology (or pretty much anything else) a complete mess is sure to follow.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The (Fake?) Statue of Tetisheri (cont.)

There are some troubling aspects about the statue itself (in addition to the almost certainly forged inscription). Dr Davies points out in particular the style of the Queen's headdress. Notice how the lower portion of the headdress is carved with a gap between the shoulder and the bottom of the headdress (see the topmost picture in this post). This is not a normal style of carving in Egyptian art at all. Additionally, Dr. Davies had concerns about the Queen's hairstyle in the back (notice how the hair seems to "bulge out" in the back).

Another problem with the carving of the statue are the shoulder straps on her dress. Look at the second photo in this post and you can see that the straps are very narrow and would not have properly covered the Queen's breasts. This is also not normal in Egyptian art.

So is the statue a fake? Dr. Davies hesitated in his paper to call the statue a modern forgery, but he did admit to having some real reservations about the carving of the statue. As far as the inscription is concerned, Dr. Davies felt that it was likely a forgey, a conclusion that I must agree with. Sadly, I think the entire statue is a fake, not just the inscription.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Finding of Tetisheri's Statue

It is believed that two statues of Tetisheri were "found". We are not sure about the finding of these statues since they were not found in a properly conducted archaqeological excavation. Instead they simply "appeared" on the antiquities market.

One of the statues was a fragment which consisted of little more than the throne upon which the Queen sat. This fragment is now lost, but a copy of the inscription was made and is preserved to this day. The second of this pair of statues is the one in the British Museum.

Dr. Davies noticed that some of the characters in the inscription were badly formed, a frequent clue that an inscription was carved in modern times (by someone who actually could not read hieroglyphs). When he compared the inscription on the statue in the British Museum to the copy of the inscription on the "lost" statue, he noticed another problem.

On the lost statue, the inscription on the Queen's throne is broken off in the lower left corner. If you look at the photo in this article, you will see that the statue in the British Museum is also damaged in the same spot on the Queen's throne. But on the British Museum's statue, the damage is not caused by a break in the stone; instead, it looks like a chisel was used to remove a portion of the inscription.

It seems odd that two statues would have a damaged inscription in the same place and that the damage on one of the statues would look to have been deliberately done. Dr. Davies theory is that the broken statue had an inscription that was real, and that a forger copied the inscription onto the (previously uninscribed) statue that is now in the British Museum. Since the forger did not know hieroglyphs, he damaged the inscription in the lower left corner to hide the fact that he did not know what characters the original inscription contained there.

So, if the inscription is a fake (and I think that it is), does that mean that the statue is a fake as well? Or is the statue a real antiquity and only the inscription is forged?