Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Website of the Week #3: Iconic Guides: Audio Tours to the Ancient World

For this week's "Website of the Week", I recommend a visit to the homepage of the Iconic Guides. This project was spearheaded by Dr. Benedict Davies, who holds a Ph.D in Egyptology and is a successful freelance author of several Egyptological volumes.

The beauty of the project is that it offers professional MP3 audio downloads, which you can then transfer to your MP3/IPod for a wide selection of sites in Egypt, Greece and Japan at reasonable prices, and the list of sites is constantly increasing. You also receive a printable PDF plan of the site you have chosen, and the numbers on the PDF correspond with sections of the audio.

The guides are much cheaper and easier to arrange than a professional tour at the sites, so do have a look at the website and hopefully it'll come in handy when you're preparing your next holiday.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Free Online Issue of Geoarchaeology Journal: Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley

Just a quick note to let you know of a free online issue of the Geoarchaeology Journal, which contains articles on climate change in antiquity and related issues including a paper on Holocene movements of the Nile at Karnak by Dr. Judith Bunbury (St. Edmund's College, Cambridge) et al. Do have a look, the articles are downloadable as PDFs and make for interesting reading.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

EES North Launch Event: Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley

Yesterday afternoon (October 23rd) marked the inauguration of the new EES North Lecture Series with a Day School entitled "Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley". The event took place in the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester, and was well-attended by over 60 delegates; the audience comprised of both academics and interested members of the public, many of whom belonged to regional Egyptology societies.

The afternoon commenced with an opening address from Dr. Karen Exell, and the first lecture was given by Dr. Penny Wilson of Durham University entitled:  "Fishing, Feasting and Famine: A Guide to Ancient Nile Delta Environments". Dr. Wilson is the Field Director of the joint Durham University/Egypt Exploration Society/SCA project at Sais (Sa el-Hagar) in the Egyptian Delta. She presented fascinating evidence for food acquisition, processing and consumption at Sais during the Prehistoric and Predynastic Period, based on her 10 year's work at the site. 

The 'Great Pit' filled with water
A key feature of this account is the so-called 'Great Pit' that has been excavated to the south of the site, which contained both Prehistoric and Predynastic pottery together with a very thick layer of burnt fishbones and vessels preserving a 'fishbone' motif. The team have recovered over 15,000 fish bones, and one hippopotamus bone, though only 5000 of the bones can be identified with any certainty. The bones included those of the Catfish, Tilapia fish and Nile Perch, and an analysis of the remains suggests that the fish were being processed. Another interesting feature of the site is a late Ramesside 'house' area in the Northern Enclosure, which preserved may smashed vessels and an assortment of burnt botanical remains. Dr. Wilson suggests that this may be evidence of a feast which took place before the roof of the house collapsed and destroyed the pottery vessels.  

Angus Graham then presented a paper entitled: "Islands, Marshes, Sloughs and the Nile: Karnak within a Dynamic Theban Floodplain" on behalf of the EES Karnak Land- and Waterscapes Survey, an Amelia Edwards Research Project. Angus is always a very entertaining speaker, and despite a few technical hitches the lecture was very well received and produced several intriguing ideas concerning the area in and around Thebes. The data was based on Angus' sediment coring work on the East Bank at Luxor; his team have investigated 27 augersites at Karnak alone in five seasons (2002-8). 

A fascinating point to note is that evidence may begin to emerge  in the coming seasons of an Old Kingdom settlement on higher ground at Karnak; I for one will be looking forward to those potential results. Angus concluded by stating that Karnak really was the 'ideal' location for a cult temple in ancient times: it had access to water, it was placed on land which was not eroded by the river, it preserves evidence of biodiversity and it was clearly an area where the natural and cosmological world are unified. 

Aerial photograph indicating the ancient Nile courses at Karnak
Dr. Judith Bunbury (St. Edmund's College, Cambridge) and Dr. David Jeffreys (UCL) then co-presented a paper entitled, "New Work at Memphis: White Walls in Text and Context". Dr. Bunbury began with an illuminating lecture based on the idea of climate change early in Egyptian history, and the effect that changing temperatures had on human movements and changes in the vegetation of desert regions. Dr. Bunbury's data, like Angus', comes from her auger-boring work at several sites, including Hierakonpolis, Giza, Gurob and Memphis. She reiterates the idea that throughout Egyptian history there must have existed a long-running dialogue between the people of the deserts, and the landscape, and that Memphis in particular certainly persisted from the Predynastic Period, but was constantly re-founded on account of it's highly important strategic position at the base of the Delta. 

Ruins of the Temple of Ptah at Memphis
Dr. Jeffreys ended the day with a fascinating lecture on his work as the Director of the Survey of Memphis since 1980. Several interesting ideas were presented, which focussed on the point that Dr. Jeffreys is determined to always challenge and question past presuppositions concerning Memphis and the surrounding area. He referenced the work of Joseph Hekekyan (1807-1875), an Armenian geologist - and perhaps the world's first geoarchaeologist - who illustrated possible reconstructions of Memphite features, including the great Colossus of Ramesses II on display at Mit Rahina

Dr. Jeffreys and his team recently excavated a area of Ramesside priest's houses, where interestingly they discovered a layer of sand, which is suggestive of climate change and the associated dessication of the landscape. It is clear that the team must work quickly: the land in and around Memphis is all privately owned, and buildings are being erected fast upon the archaeological site. But the results of the Survey to date have revealed much about the history of Memphis and the Nile movements in the area, and one can only hope that the authorities involved allow the team to continue their work at a reasonable pace over the coming seasons.

A wine reception then followed, which  was an excellent opportunity to meet the speakers and to socialise with members of the Society. Overall, the Climate Change Day School was a success - an outcome which was clearly a result of the excellent choice of speakers, who provided an  entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon of lectures.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Tutankhamun in Manchester: His Tomb and Treasures

I was lucky enough to attend the preview of the new "Tutankhamun: His Tomb and Treasures" exhibition at the Trafford Centre, Manchester, on Thursday 21st October. This is a touring exhibition that has previously visited Germany, Spain and Hungary, and offers the visitor over 1000 high-quality replica objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun. I have previously visited a similar display in Blackpool in 2002, and I must say this the quality of the Manchester exhibit and its objects far surpasses those which I saw then. 

Bob Partridge
The exhibition is set in a huge warehouse in the Museum of Museums at the Trafford Centre, and audio guides and guided tours of the exhibition are available. On entering the visitor first sees the only genuine 'artefact' in the exhibition: a  delicate bunch of papyrus stems set in the middle of the entrance.

The evening was certainly a success; over 200 visitors enjoyed Egyptian music and refreshments while they milled around the display. There were several speeches, including those of the German team behind the project, the Chairman of Ancient Egypt Magazine, Bob Partridge, and the Director of Manchester Museum, Dr. Nick Merriman.

The Treasury
The Antechamber
The great benefit of this exhibition is that the majority of the objects have been replicated twice, but displayed in different contexts: the visitor is able to see the Antechamber, the Treasury and the Burial Chamber as Howard Carter found them. Each room is recreated with precise attention to detail, based on the original Harry Burton photographs, though I must say that for me the Antechamber is the most spectacular, on account of the fact that the visitor is able to view the room from between the two 'guardian statues' - a vantage point that is not available in Cairo.

The Middle Coffin
The visitor then enters a succession of rooms containing a sizable collection of objects: the coffins and shrines have all been replicated, together with the burial mask of course, and objects from both daily life and the afterlife fill the enormous space. Some of the key objects include the golden throne, which has been copied in precise detail and displayed upon a dais, and one of the king's chariots, which is the centrepiece of a display on Egyptian Warfare. 

The Quartzite Sarcophagus
Finally, the visitor enters a room dedicated to the work of Howard Carter, in association with the Griffith Institute - here, detailed replicas of Carter's watercolours hang upon the walls, and a set of flat-bed cases contain facsimile letters addressed to and from Carter, together with a selection of his publications. A film of highlights of the excavation and of Carter's life is also projected in this room. A well-equipped gift shop is available at the end of the exhibition.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition, especially if you've not yet had the good fortune to see the real things in Cairo. I also recommend reading Jaromir Malek's review in this month's Ancient Egypt Magazine for a detailed and accurate account of the exhibition. 

Monday, 18 October 2010

Website of the Week #2: CultNat

This week's Website of the Week is that of the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CultNat) in Egypt. This extensive project is affiliated with Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the CultNat team are working at a fast pace to document every aspect of Egypt's heritage; both ancient and modern. 

It is a truly massive project, though it is extremely worthwhile as a documentation tool for scholars and amateurs alike. I was lucky enough to visit the Headquarters of CultNat in April 2010 with Dr. Judith Bunbury of Cambridge University. The CultNat project also houses the ongoing 'Eternal Egypt' project, and the website contains descriptions and 3D views of over 2000 ancient Egyptian artefacts. Do let me know what you think!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

"Hoo's Ta Gaan On": The Traditional Dialect of Old Lakeland

As you might gather from the name of this Blog I am very interested in the traditional Cumbrian dialect, especially in the region of old Westmorland, and I would like to play a small part in the preservation and promotion of this fascinating, yet rapidly declining local dialect. I was lucky enough to learn the traditional sheep counting numbers first-hand when I was a child from my grandfather, Mr. George Henry Rowlinson Esq., when he worked as a dairy farmer in the Dales, and I've had an interest in the history of the local dialect ever since.

The Cumbrian dialect contains Norse and Celtic influences, and there are distinct variations in the dialect between the county regions; for example the North/West Cumbrian accent was greatly influenced by the Scottish and Geordie dialects, in contrast to the South which preserves aspects of both the Lancashire and Yorkshire dialects.

The beauty of the dialect is that it even varies from village to village in the same region. One of the most noticable features of the Cumbrian dialect is the dropping of vowels and the shortening of adjoining words, especially when associated with the word 'The'; for example instead of 'On the', a Cumbrian would say 'Ont'.

I would highly recommend a visit to the webpage of the Lakeland Dialect Society, which was founded in 1939 to support the preservation of the Cumbrian dialect, and to hear a reading of a poem entitled "Use It or Lose It" by the President of the Society, Ted Relph. An article of Ted's in the Cumberland News makes for an interesting read. Another entertaining recital of the dialect can be found in the form of a Bible reading in the traditional Cumbrian dialect by Rene Roberts on BBC Radio Cumbria.

One of my favourite choice of words has to be:

 "Brossen - Adj. Bloated and round with food particularly as applied to a cow, sheep or other herbivore (Think of a Thelwell pony)", taken from Low Nest Farm's website.

Friday, 15 October 2010

EES North Event: Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley

I'd like to publicise an Egypt Exploration Society Day School that's taking place on Saturday 23rd October, entitled "Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley"

Speaking at the event are Dr. David Jeffreys, Dr. Judith Bunbury, Dr. Penny Wilson, Angus Graham and Dr. Karen Exell. This will be the first lecture of the Northern Branch of the society, and will take place in the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester.

I am particularly interested in the evidence for climate change in Egypt during the Pharaonic Period, and how the changes in the desert landscape during this time affected desert travellers and religious activity. So do buy a ticket and go along if you're able, I have attended entertaining lectures given by all the speakers on previous occasions and so it should be a good event.

Internet Explorer Technical Hitches...

Having a few hitches with the text format in Internet Explorer, please bear with me while I attempt to fix it!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Website of the Week #1

Head from a Shabti of Amenhotep III
I'd like to start a tradition of recommending a 'Website of the Week', the first being the site for Highclere Castle: the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon during the early 20th Century. The current 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon have opened an exhibition of genuine and replica ancient Egyptian artefacts, entitled "Wonderful Things", details of which can be found on the Highclere Castle site, together with a selection of images of key objects from the exhibition.

Dr. Elena Pischikova Lecture at MAES: "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes"

Following our visit to WAES on Monday 11th October I travelled with  fellow PG students Claire Ollett and Hayley Meloy to a lecture given by Dr. Elena Pischikova (Director of the South Asasif Conservation Project), entitled "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes", hosted by the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society at the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester. 
This audience was larger, though certainly no less entertaining than the group at that afternoon's WAES lecture, and the session kicked off to a good start with an auction of Egyptology-related books by the Chairman of the MAES, Bob Partridge. Everyone in the audience seemed to get into the spirit of the auction and it certainly appeared to be an effective idea for a fundraiser judging from some of the larger bids!
Relief of Karakhamun from the East Wall of the first Pillared Hall
The lecture centred on the previous season's work by Dr. Pischikova and her international team in the Late Period necropolis in the South Asasif on Luxor's West Bank, on behalf of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the excavation and conservation of the rediscovered Kushite tomb of the enigmatic priest Karakhamun (TT223). The construction of the tomb can be dated to the 25th Dynasty, between 710-690BC, and  it preserves an exquisite decorative programme which includes a relief of the tomb owner together with his dog, and painted elements including a cavetto cornice from the tomb entrance. This tomb is the largest in the Late Period necropolis, and preserves two pillared halls together with a five-roomed burial chamber.

The tomb was discovered in the 19th Century in an unstable condition, and since then the tombs of the Asasif necropolis have deteriorated significantly. During past seasons Dr. Pischikova and her team have been working to remove the ever-growing piles of rubbish which lay upon the tombs, while excavating section by section to reveal the tomb.

Image of the goddess Nut
from the ceiling of the Burial Chamber
Dr. Pischikova and her conservation team worked to a very high standard in order to reconstruct inscribed pillars and consolidate areas of painted and carved wall decoration. She is adamant that the materials used for the conservation and reconstruction should be as close to the ancient building materials as possible; for example using limestone cut from the area of Deir el-Bahri both for building stone and lime cement. This is very effective in making the repairs look as authentic as possible.

The team completed their fifth season at the site during May-August 2010, when the excavation took a fascinating turn. The team exposed the first steps leading down to the burial chamber in July 2010, and later during August the 8-metre deep burial shaft was revealed. The Press were quick to report the story, and it soon made headline news

The burial chamber was the first room in the tomb to be discovered with an intact ceiling, which preserves a detailed painted image of the goddess Nut together with a series of astronomical elements, including the circumpolar stars and the decans. The main constellations are also all in situ. This is a deserving find for the team, whose hard work over the past seasons has finally been rewarded. The ceiling will be completely consolidated by the conservation team, and Dr. Pischikova's main aim is to reconstruct the tomb in situ over the coming seasons.
The entrance to the tomb (
Dr. Pischikova presented a fascinating insight into Karakhamun's life and death, and owing from the reactions during the questions she certainly convinced the audience that Egyptian history does not simply 'end' at the Ramesside Period. She is a very entertaining speaker, who not only made light of a technical hitch or two but also encouraged her daughter to actively participate in the presentation. I highly recommend that you attend one of her lectures should you ever have the opportunity.

Dr. Paul Nicholson Lecture at WAES: "Glass and Faience at Amarna"

I travelled "across the water" on Monday 11th October with fellow SACE postgrad Claire Ollett to the Wirral Ancient Egypt Society (WAES), an Egyptology society based at Mayer Hall, Lower Bebington, for a lecture presented by Dr. Paul Nicholson, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Cardiff, on the Glass and Faience Industries at Amarna. We had a very warm welcome - the society members were very interested in our studies and I would certainly recommend their lecture series to anyone in the area.

Dr. Nicholson gave a fascinating lecture on his work at Amarna, carried out on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Society, which focused on the idea of an 'industrial estate' of faience, glass and pottery production at the site. It was interesting to hear more about the work of W. M. F. Petrie at Amarna (1891-2); whose interest in the 'glazing technologies' at the site was illustrated by an image of one of his notebooks, which contained a reference to over 1000 clay moulds used  in the production of faience amulets that he discovered during his excavations. 

Blue glass produced from
Dr. Nicholson's Experimental Kiln at Amarna
The area of Dr. Nicholson's research focus is O.45.1, which has preserved an industrial area consisting of two kilns for faience or pottery production, and a 'potting area' identifiable from the presence of fired bricks, unfired pottery and a trampling pit. Interestingly, these fired bricks were re-used from an earlier kiln and would originally have been covered with a solution of mud and water to increase the firing temperature inside the kiln.

The history of glassmaking/working in New Kingdom Egypt also featured in the lecture. Debate continues as to whether the Egyptians actually produced their own glass, or whether they had raw glass ingots imported from other glass-producing regions in the Near East which they worked into objects. Dr. Nicholson argues in favour of the local glass production, which was also Petrie's opinion. 
The Experimental Kiln during Firing at Amarna (  

Dr. Nicholson described and illustrated an experimental kiln that his team constructed at Amarna with firing features as close as possible to the ancient kilns. The structure was able to produce a firing temperature of 1100°C, which was encouraged by the north wind and a north-facing stoke hole. The team were able to produce blue glass in the kiln in one step without a fritting stage, which suggests that some glass may well have been produced in Egypt. Glass, faience and pottery production, i.e. high temperature objects, would have been controlled by the state at Amarna, and thus glass and faience especially would have been high-status products.
The lecture was followed as always with tea and a separate questions session. Dr. Nicholson presented a series of interesting new ideas, which were received with enthusiasm by the audience. Overall it was a thoroughly good lecture, and I would certainly recommend a visit to the WAES for an engaging and entertaining afternoon.

The Society meet on the second Monday of every month at Mayer Hall, so do check their events programme for a list of upcoming lectures.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Work in Progress: John Garstang and Kendal Museum

John Garstang (1876-1956)
The Press Release for a project that I'm currently working on - an Effective Collections initiative to reconcile objects from John Garstang's excavations in Egypt - has just been uploaded onto the Kendal Museum website, please feel free to have a look. 

I'll keep you updated on the news of the Travelling Exhibition of Garstang objects which will take place in Kendal, Blackburn and Burnley from March 2011.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New Ancient Egypt Magazine

The October/November issue  of Ancient Egypt Magazine arrived in the post today - I particularly recommend this issue to any interested readers for the excellent short article on the "lost" temple of Seti I at Wadi Kanais by the magazine's Egyptian Correspondant Ayman Wahby Taher. 

This well-preserved and unique temple is a key focus of my Ph.D research, and it is good to know that more people will be aware of its existence after reading this article. 

The Crosby Garrett Helmet

Although this is now old news, I thought you might be interested to know that I attended a lecture presented by Dot Boughton (Finds Liason Officer for Cumbria) on the now-famous Crosby Garrett Helmet at Kendal Museum on Friday October 1st. 

The Helmet
As you've all no doubt read in the news, the exceptional copper-alloy helmet was discovered by a metal detector in Crosby Garrett, Cumbria, and it is thought that the helmet would have been worn as part of a parade during the late 1st Century or early 2nd Century.  Dot suggested that streamers may have originally been attached to the back of the helmet in this context. This area was strategically located en route to the Northern frontier of Roman Britain. One may also recall the Newstead and Ribchester helmets that were excavated previously in Scotland and Lancashire respectively.

Dot gave a very informative and entertaining lecture, which (as you'd expect) focussed on Cumbria's wish to retain the helmet for permanent display in a Cumbrian museum, namely Tullie House Museum, where it would significantly boost the local economy as a tourist attraction for visitors to the county. She stressed the importance of the helmet for the local community as a missing piece of Cumbrian history, and was very successful in her pitch to raise the awareness of the locals in the audience, who had many questions for Dot regarding the future of the helmet. The audience were very generous with their donations to the "Roman Helmet Appeal", and at that point the situation seemed to be very positive.

Unfortunately however, the helmet was sold at Christie's Auction House on October 7th, 2010, for £2.3million to an anonymous telephone bidder. This is a devastating blow to the local community, and as a result the future of the helmet is speculative as it is not yet known whether the buyer is resident in the UK or overseas. 

Crosby Garrett's location
The good news is that Tullie House Museum hope to place an export ban on the helmet in a last-ditch attempt to raise the funds needed to keep it in Cumbria, so here's hoping that a second attempt at acquisition can be made possible. One can only hope that, should there be a positive outcome to this whole situation, the helmet will also be considered for exhibition, temporary or otherwise, in Kendal Museum. Because Crosby Garrett actually lies within the boundaries of South Cumbria, this would be a logical decision for the relevant groups to make.

A New Venture...

Welcome to my new blog!

I'm still rather inexperienced with such new-fangled technology as online networking (see my somewhat neglected Twitter page:), but I figure the best way to gain experience is to throw myself in at the deep end and start Blogging! 

I have several reasons for putting this Blog together; the key motivation being that I attend various Egyptological/Archaeological seminars on a regular basis, not to mention visits to Museums and new displays across the UK and elsewhere, and I'd very much like to present my notes and findings to a wider audience. 

So enjoy! Comments are very welcome, so please let me know what you think.
Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

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