Archaeologists have found the remnants of a 4,000-year-old "book" in a burial shaft in Dayr al-Barsha, Egypt. The oldest known copy of The Book of Two Ways, the story is related to Osiris, the Egyptian lord of the underworld. From The Brussels Times:
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven archaeologist) Harco Willems describes the document as a collection of sparse incantations and legendary drawings...
Two curved sinuous lines run through the book. They are interpreted by some researchers as a representation of the two roads that lead the deceased to safety through the dangers of the underworld to a happy life in the afterlife.
Archaeologists found the fragments in a sarcophagus attributed to Ankh, a woman of the family of a governor named Ahanakht.
As The Daily Grail half-joked, "Don’t. Read. The. Incantations. Aloud!"
More: "Harco Willems discovered oldest copy of The Book of Two Ways" (KU Leuven)
image: color manipulated photo of a fragment of the text
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An ancient gilded coffin once featured in an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is on its way back to Egypt, after having been determined to be a looted antiquity. Read the rest
Wolf Intelligence is a German state surveillanceware company founded by Manish Kumar, selling tools that independent researchers described as "very shitty and it’s just copy paste from open source projects," used by governments to spy on their citizens.
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Several years ago, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry said they were "90% sure" that new scans of King Tutankhamun's tomb revealed a hidden chamber. Following that, University of Arizona archaeologist Nicholas Reeves published a headline-making research paper suggesting that the secret room may be the burial chamber of Queen Nefertiti. Well, turns out that there's no there there. From the BBC News:
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Italian specialists from the University of Turin used new penetrating radar scans to reach their conclusion, saying they were confident in the results.
"It is maybe a little bit disappointing that there is nothing behind the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb, but I think on the other hand that this is good science," said Dr Francesco Porcelli, head of the research team..
Egypt's Antiquities Minister, Khaled al-Anani, said the authorities in the country accepted the results.
Repressive autocracies like Egypt, Oman, and the UAE ban Signal and other encrypted messaging apps, using national firewalls to try to block their traffic; Signal evades these blocks by using "domain fronting," in which the service's cloud provider shows up as the origin of its traffic, forcing countries to block Google or Amazon to get at a single service hiding behind them.
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To celebrate the 100th anniversary of discovering the tomb of King Tut, many of the Boy King's artifacts and other ancient Egyptian items will be touring the United States in the new year.
Lonely Planet writes:
The largest ever international exhibition of ancient Egyptian artefacts from the tomb of its most famous pharaoh will open early next year in Los Angeles. King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh will visit ten different cities as it tours the world starting off on the West Coast of America on 24 March.
More than 150 items from Tutankhamun’s tomb will be on display at the California Science Center. The exhibition will be an absolute treat for Egyptologists – both amateur and professional – as never before have so many ancient items associated with King Tut been on display together outside Egypt. Many of the items would have been used by the Boy King himself including golden jewellery, elaborate carvings, sculptures, and ritual antiquities.
Forty per cent of the objects will be leaving home for both the first and last time before returning for permanent display in the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is currently under construction.
You can first see the exhibit in Los Angeles before it heads to Europe and then to its new permanent home at The Grand Egyptian Museum (which is located near the Pyramids of Giza). Be sure to pre-register for the L.A. exhibit now.
Of course you can't talk about a King Tut without being reminded of Steve Martin's bit on Saturday Night Live in 1978. Read the rest
This NASA photo taken from the International Space Station shows crop circles in southwest Egypt's Sahara Desert. The crops thrive in the middle of the desert thanks to either secret alien technology or the amazing underground Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System that covers two million square kilometers. From the NASA Earth Observatory:
The crop circles are a result of center-pivot irrigation, an efficient method for water conservation in agriculture. Groundwater from the Nubian aquifer is drawn up from wells in the center of the circles, and it is sprayed or dripped out of long, rotating pipes that pivot around the center.
Most of the crops pictured here are likely potatoes (darker green circles), wheat (lighter brown circles), or medicinal and aromatic plants such as chamomile. The light, tan-colored crop circles likely have undergone controlled burning to remove excess plant matter and essentially clean up the land for the next crop.
"Crop Circles in Sharq El Owainat" (NASA via the Daily Grail) Read the rest
The British Museum has released this nifty 3D scan of the Rosetta Stone, which includes a nice autoplaying audio summary of its significance. Read the rest
Earlier this week we went to see a Los Angeles screening of Tickling Giants followed by a Q&A with Bassem Youssef, the subject of the film. The evening was presented by Ziya Tong's Black Sheep.
Bassem Youssef, often called the “Jon Stewart of Egypt,” was a prominent heart surgeon who became the creator and host of the Egyptian late-night comedy TV show Al-Bernameg (“The Show”), which began as an immensely popular YouTube channel. The live network show revolved around Bassem’s use of satire and sarcastic humor towards the corrupt and oppressive Egyptian government. As the only program on Egyptian television concerned with free speech and the voice of the people, “The Show” quickly rose in popularity and attracted 30 million viewers per show, significantly more than the 2 million who tuned in nightly to The Daily Show. Even though Bassem and the team behind the show were constantly living in fear that their jokes would put them in danger, they bravely continued to produce a show that criticized authority and the country’s politics. The satirical program ran from 2011-2014, until Egypt’s oppressive military regime made it impossible for the show to continue.
Tickling Giants is a documentary based on Bassem Youssef, “The Show”, and their role in Egyptian culture. The film provides a detailed view of how Youssef “finds creative, non-violent ways to protect free speech and fight a president who abuses his power.”
During the Q&A with Youssef following the documentary, Youssef shared experiences and advice not given in the documentary. Read the rest
Henk van Ess teaches workshops in online investigative techniques; he worked with colleagues and a team of students from Axel Springer Academie to analyze a viral news video that purported to show a discarded missile launcher that had been discovered near Cairo's international airport in 2011, but only published last month. Read the rest
Bruce Sterling's characteristically acerbic remarks on the US election gets to a really important point: internet-based movements have been amazing at tearing down corrupt establishment system, but have failed (so far) to create the kinds of stable governance structures that build up something better from the ruins. Read the rest
The lovely brown hues in Eugene Delacroix's 1830 painting above, titled "Liberty Leading the People," were actually pigments made from ground-up mummies from Egypt. From National Geographic:
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The use of mummy as a pigment most likely stemmed from an even more unusual use—as medicine. From the early medieval period, Europeans were ingesting and applying preparations of mummy to cure everything from epilepsy to stomach ailments. It's unclear whether Egyptian mummies were prized for the mistaken belief that they contained bitumen (the Arabic word for the sticky organic substance, which was also believed to have medicinal value, is mumiya), or whether Europeans believed that the preserved remains contained otherworldly powers.
What is clear to researchers is that early artist pigments were derived from medicines at the time, and were commonly sold alongside them in European apothecaries. And just as mummy was waning in popularity as a medical treatment, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century unleashed a new wave of Egyptomania across the Continent.
Tourists brought entire mummies home to display in their living rooms, and mummy unwrapping parties became popular. Despite prohibitions against their removal, boatloads of mummies—both human and animal—were brought over from Egypt to serve as fuel for steam engines and fertilizer for crops, and as art supplies.
By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the supply of quality mummies for pigment appears to have dried up. A 1904 ad in the Daily Mail requests one "at a suitable price," adding: "Surely a 2,000-year-old mummy of an Egyptian monarch may be used for adorning a noble fresco in Westminster Hall…without giving offence to the ghost of the departed gentlemen or his descendants."
Archaeologist Cédric Gobeil discusses how he used modern imaging technology to find dozens of animals tattooed on the mummy of an Egyptian woman, probably a priestess of Hathor. She also had a hieroglyphic neck tattoo that is pretty creepy-looking 3,300 years later. Read the rest
New analysis of the dagger buried with King Tut confirms that the weapon was made from an iron meteorite. They used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to study the dagger, found on Tut's mummified body by Howard Carter in 1925. Daniela Comelli of Milan Polytechnic's department of physics and her colleagues have even identified the most likely meteorite used to forge the dagger.
"We took into consideration all meteorites found within an area of 2,000 km in radius centered in the Red Sea, and we ended up with 20 iron meteorites," Comelli told Space.com. "Only one, named Kharga, turned out to have nickel and cobalt contents which are possibly consistent with the composition of the blade."
The study shows the ancient Egyptians attributed great value to meteoritic iron for the production of precious objects, possibly perceiving those chunks of iron falling from the sky as a divine message.
The most ancient Egyptian iron artifacts, nine small beads excavated from a cemetery along the west bank of the Nile tomb in Gerzeh and dated about 3200 BC, are also made from meteoritic iron hammered into thin sheets.
"It would be very interesting to analyze more pre-Iron Age artifacts, such as other iron objects found in King Tut's tomb. We could gain precious insights into metal working technologies in ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean," Comelli said.
"King Tut's Blade Made of Meteorite" Read the rest
Egypt blocked Facebook's Free Basics Internet service late last year after Facebook refused the Egyptian government's demands to build in the ability to spy on users. Reuters reported the story late Thursday, citing two people familiar with the matter. Read the rest
eL Seed, a Tunisian-French artist, painted a mural whose Arabic calligraphy reads "Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first," spanning 50 buildings across Manshiyat Naser, a neighborhood where the city's largely Coptic Christian garbage collectors live. Read the rest
Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El Damati announced today that there are almost certainly two hidden chambers in King Tutankhamun's tomb. A recent radar scan that indicates the existence of the secret rooms also "revealed metallic and organic material," according to CNN.
El Damati doesn't think that the body of Queen Nefertiti lies in those chambers, more likely other female royalty, but British archaeologist Nicolas Reeves, who has been surveying the site for hidden chambers, thinks it's a distinct possibility.
Experts plan to do additional scanning at the end of the month to determine the size of the chambers and the thickness of the wall, but there will be no digging unless authorities are sure the chambers exist, the minister added.
"We must find a way to protect the tomb of Tutankhamun," El Damati told CNN in October. "Does that mean we will dig from above, below or from the side? We don't know..."
But if it is Nefertiti's final resting place, experts say the finding would be monumental.
"When we find Nefertiti, I think it will be more important than the discovery of King Tutankhamun himself," said El Damati.
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