This month’s Smithsonian highlights the Great Pyramid at Giza. The Pyramid has long been a focus of tourists, mystics, statesmen, and scholars a like. It has been featured in Hollywood films and is a regular staple on the History Channel’s Programming.
The Smithsonian Blog offers some interesting perspective on the history of the pyramid, its construction, the history of the research, and its role in exploring the Old Kingdom’s spiritualism and history.
The earliest known image of an Egyptian ruler wearing the “White Crown” associated with Egyptian dynastic power has been brought to light by an international team of archaeologists led by Egyptologists from Yale University.
Carved around 3200 BCE, this unique record of a royal celebration at the dawn of the Egyptian dynastic period was found at a site discovered almost a half-century ago by Egyptologist Labib Habachi at Nag el-Hamdulab, on the West Bank of the Nile to the north of Aswan.
The site had been partially damaged in recent years, and the Yale-led team — which also included Egyptologists from the University of Bologna, Italy and the Provinciale Hogeschool of Limburg, Belgium — relied on Habachi’s photos (now stored with the Epigraphic Survey in Luxor) and cutting-edge digital methodology to reconstruct and analyze the images and hieroglyphic text inscribed in several areas within the larger site.
One-hundred years ago, archaeologists uncovered thousands of papyrus scraps in a rubbish pit at Oxyrhynchus. Many of those pieces remain untranslated.
Scholars are calling on all arm-chair archaeologists to help them decipher the texts:
As untranslated fragments appear on the website, character-recognition tools will help people match the letters to symbols. Once the letters have been transliterated, the computer verifies whether the manuscript has been translated by an academic. If not, it passes it on to the scholars for further study.
This endeavor has already produced a great deal of success – including the decipherment of a previously undiscovered Gospel. To read more about the project, check out this article in Discovery News. To give a shot yourself, check out the Ancient Lives website (no knowledge of Greek necessary).
It is not as dramatic as the collapse of an ancient Egyptian dynasty, but the abrupt fall of Zahi Hawass is sending ripples around the planet. The archaeologist who has been in charge of Egypt’s antiquities for nearly a decade has been abruptly sacked in an overhaul of the country’s cabinet.
The antipathy toward Hawass in Egypt may be difficult to grasp in the West, where he is typically found on American television, fearlessly tracking down desert tombs, unearthing mummies and bringing new life to Egypt’s dusty past. But in Egypt he has been a target of anger among young protesters who helped depose President Hosni Mubarak in February. Hawass had been accused of corruption, shoddy science and having uncomfortably close connections with the deposed president and first lady⎯all of which he has vociferously denied. Many young archaeologists also are demanding more jobs and better pay⎯and they complain Hawass has failed to deliver. “He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, a young Egyptian archaeologist who has been active in the revolution.
Famed Egyptologist and Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, Zahi Hawass, is no longer serving in his governmental post. Whether he left or was fired is uncertain – sources are reporting both scenarios. The recent unrest in Egypt and the hostility towards the former Mubarak regime made his position tenuous. His close relationship with the Dictatorship made him a more polarizing and controversial figure in recent days.
Hawass is no newcomer to controversy. He has regularly been criticized for his fame-seeking and attention getting antics. His scholarship has also been called into question. His position became even more controversial as his ties to the Mubarak regime were questioned as well as his ability to truly conserve and protect Egypt’s antiquities.
Read more about the controversy surrounding his leaving office in this MSNBC article.
Most visitors of Central Park do not realize that they have a piece of Ancient History in the midst. In the 19th century, Egypt made a gift of Cleopatra’s Needle, one of three identical obelisks, to the Cities of New York, Paris, and London. The obelisks themselves are not related to the famed Queen, but rather were inscribed during the reign of Thutmose III.
Recently, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Council of Antiquities (and a controversial figure in his own right) condemned the city of New York for ill-keeping of the artifact – arguing that the heavy pollution and acid rain of the city has eroded the inscriptions and even suggesting that Egypt should confiscate the monument. New York has responded by pointing out the instability of Egypt and recent lootings of its museums and monuments as well as denying the accusation that New York City’s pollution is having any negative effect on the monument.
Today, Scientific American highlighted the archaeological work of Steven Sidebotham, Ph.D.’s at Berenike, Egypt. Sidebotham, a History Professor at the University of Delaware, has spent more than two decades uncovering the site of Berenike – a place that has experience thousands of years of habitation from the early nomadic peoples of Northern African, the Egyptian Empire, the Roman occupation, and up to the modern day.
“This is an amazing, huge site with excellent preservation” because of the desert climate, Sidebotham said. “We’ve probably covered about 2 percent of the surface, so there are still several lifetimes’ worth of work to be done. We’ll never be finished with it.”
The projected has yielded information on the daily lives of ancient peoples from around the Mediterranean. As a port town, it saw traders from the Near East, Italy, Greece, and all over Northern Africa. The project is the culmination of Dr. Sidebotham’s life work. Read more about the project in the University of Delaware article or check out the dig’s website.
Here is also a brief video and interview about the site: