Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Painted Geese of Djeutynakht

     One of the most beautiful scenes on Djehutynakht's coffin shows two geese inter-twining their necks. The photo here does not do this scene justice. The detail in the feathers of the geese is the work of a master. If you ever get to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, make sure to find this painting and look very carefully at it.

     The ancient egyptians often represented food offerings being presented to the deceased and this scene is an example of this. notice to the right of the geese, the small representation of a cow with its legs bound together in preparation for  slaughter. Below the cow is the foreleg of an animal (a cow?) that has been cut off. Cow forelegs were eaten or presented to a statue of the deceased as part of the "Opening of the Mouth" ceremony that took pace during the funeral.

     Notice to the left of the geese there are three dead geese that have been piled up as an offering to Djehutynakht. There is also the head of an Ibex, with its distinctive long horns, below and to the left of the geese.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Tomb of Djehutynakht (Part 2)

Figure 1 - painting from a coffin of Djehutynakht
The coffins of Djehutynakht contain a number of other painted scenes that are well worth looking at. Every egyptian wanted to have certain possessions in the afterlife and Djehutynakht had representations of many of his possessions painted on one of his coffins. In figure 1 we see an egyptian "kilt" that was worn by wealthy nobles. The kilt has bead decorations hanging down from it. Above the "kilt" there are two scribal palettes with brushes and two colors of ink. When writing, black ink was used for the body of the document, while red ink was used for "chapter headings", titles, etc.

Figure 2 - painting from a coffin of Djehutynakht
     In figure 2 we see a box in the lower right side that contained cloth(?), which is shown above the box as if it were on the lid of the box, rather than in the box. Above the box is a fan inside a decorated cover, while to the left of the box is a mirror in a cover with a strap attached (to allow it to be carried over a shoulder?). Egyptian mirrors were different from ours in that the mirror proper was made of a piece of highly polished metal (rather than being made of glass) that showed the user's reflection.

Photos copyright (c) 2013 by John Freed

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Tomb of Djehutynakht

Djehutynakht and a Servant
     Djehutynakht was probably a Nomarch (Governor) of the area around Hermopolis in Egypt during the early part of the Middle Kingdom. His tomb, which also originally contained the burial of his wife (who may have also been named Djehutynakht), was found by a Harvard / Museum of Fine Arts archaeological expedition in 1915. The objects found in the tomb were allocated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where some of them are currently on display.

     The most famous objects found in the tomb are the wonderful painted coffins that the couple were buried in. These coffins were made of cedar wood imported from what is now Lebanon. Many of the paintings on the coffins are absolutely exquisite and surely rank as some of the most beautiful paintings ever done in ancient Egypt.

     The scene shown here shows some of the standard iconography of Egyptian Art. Djehutynakht is shown seated as a servant brings food to the Nomarch. Djehutnakht is shown as being much larger than his less important (and unnamed) servant. His lordship wears a broad collar around his neck and has his staff of authority in one hand. The chair he is seated on has a cloth cushion draped over the low "back" and has four legs carved to look like animal legs.

Photo copyright (c) 2013 by John Freed

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Pyramids Found in Egypt?

     Analysis of satellite photos has lead some to believe that a couple of "lost" pyramids have been found. One of the "pyramid" complexes is in Upper Egypt, while the other is near the Fayum.

     The satelitte photos are suggestive, but someone will need to actually explore these sites to see what is really there.

     Here is a link to an article on this topic. This article also contains some links to other interesting articles dealing with ancient Egypt, so take a look.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Millionaire and the Mummies

Canopic jar found in Tomb 55 by Theodore Davis
     A new book entitled The Millionaire and the Mummies is the story of Theodore Davis, who is best known for finding more tombs in Egypt's Valley of the Kings than any other explorer before or since. But Davis' rise to fortune is a classic story of financial shenanigans that involved making money from an association with "Boss" Tweed and from the hard work of liquidating (looting?) an insolvent bank. 

     Davis knew poverty as a child and was determined to become rich. And so he did. He was also the subject of three congressional investigations, from which he escaped totally unscathed (how much money was paid to various members of Congress is unrecorded).It would be easy to label him a greedy thief, but quite contrarily he was generous with his friends and relatives. And today he is best known for spending large amounts of money looking for the burials of ancient Egypt's royalty.

     Davis' expeditions found the tombs of Yuya and Thuya, Horemhab and many others, but it is the discovery of Tomb 55 that Davis is best known for. To this day we are not sure who was actually buried there. Davis insisted for ages that the body was that of Queen Tiye, (even though the doctor who examined it claimed that the body was male). Unlike many of his predecessors, Davis felt that most of his finds belonged in Egypt and he actually took far less for his personal collection than his agreements with the Antiquities Service allowed him.

 John M. Adams has done a great job of writing this book. He has skillfully moved back and forth between Davis' rise to wealth and power as a young man and his adventures in Egypt as a retiree. He paints a fascinating picture of Egypt in the early twentieth century and America in the Gilded Age (late 1800's). The book is well written, nicely paced and is easy to read. Anyone who is interested in Egyptian Archaeology will find this book fascinating.

Photo Copyright 2013 by John Freed

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sphinx of Menkara Found in Israel

A sphinx carved with the name of the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkara has been found at Tel Hazor in northern Israel.

Archaeologists are uncertain how it got there, although it might have been a gift sent from the Egyptian court to the ruler of Hazor.

Here is a link to the story.