Tag Archives: Egypt

The Fall of Zahi Hawass (via Smithsonian)

On the wake of the recent Zahi Hawass story, Smithsonian Magazine has done an in-depth analysis of the man, the politics, and the state of Egypt.

The Fall of Zahi Hawass – The Smithsonian Magazine

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.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Fall-of-Zahi-Hawass.html#ixzz1SUm4yKHA

 

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Egyptian Archaeologist Zahi Hawass Leaves Post Amidst Controversy

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.

 

New York City & Egypt Tussle over Cleopatra’s Needle

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.

To learn more about this debate, you can read the article in the New York Times.

Patrick McGovern – the “Beer Archaeologist”

Photograph by Landon Nordeman

Any student of ancient civilization recognizes the importance that alcohol has played on the development of our cultural past. When we all started living together densely (a.k.a. – civilization), food and water became immediate, problematic needs as pollution (generally in the form of human waste) destroyed our resources. Water was generally a dangerous drink (as any traveller to Mexico has discovered) and alcohol was a safe alternative – the fermentation process often killed or prevented the growth of dangerous bacteria and parasites. In fact, in ancient Egypt, a common breakfast was a hunk of bread and a bucket of beer.

One man has made his name on the study of alcohol in the ancient world, specifically the role it played in our own cultural and social evolution – Patrick McGovern. “Dr. Pat” is the world’s foremost expert on ancient booze, but his expertise expands beyond the rate of hops or blended barleys. As an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, he has travelled the world, poured over manuscripts, and excavated the remnants of ancient distilleries, breweries, and wineries in his quest to further understand humanity’s relationship with intoxicating beverages.

To read more about this topic and learn about Patrick McGovern’s work, check out the article in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine.

Steven Sidebotham’s “Spectacular” Egyptian Site

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:

Women Warriors – A History of Real Women in Combat

Thanks to my friend Michael who prompted me to write an article with more ‘meaty’ content. In honor of potential 2012 Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich, I thought I would focus on women in combat. Those of us old enough to recall well remember Newt’s stated opinion on women in combat:

If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don’t have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they’re relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, doesn’t matter, you know. These things are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes. — Newt Gingrich, Adjunct Instructor, Reinhardt College,1995 “Renewing American Civilization”

Newt has always stood by this statement, emphasizing his belief that women are incapable of being in a combat situation and drawing heavily on disproven gender stereotypes to buff up his opinion that women do not belong in the military and in fact are physically incapable of its demands.

Now, America still bars women from serving on the frontline or in ‘combat positions.’ However, the modern wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are in a state of insurgency, which blurs the lines of combat, there is no true “front line” as violence can and does break out anywhere. The reality is that throughout human history, women have been soldiers and leaders of armies alongside their male counterparts. I decided to take some space on this blog to highlight famous female warriors and wartime leaders.

Joan of Arc – While still a teenage girl, Joan of Arc inspired French troops and successfully led men into battle during the Hundred Years’ War. Joan lived on the front lines, fought with the men, and was even wounded in battle on more than one occasion. In spite of being born an uneducated peasant girl in the French countryside, her tactical instincts proved more successful than many of her educated male counterparts. In fact, it was her immense popularity with the (male) army that likely led to her betrayal to the English and subsequent execution for witchcraft. In spite of her trial and condemnation by the Catholic church for witchcraft, she was later canonized by the same church 1920

Artemisia of Caria – Artemisia was a ruler in the 5th century BCE over a client kingdom in the Persian Empire. She was one of the most trusted advisors of King Xerxes and is best remembered for the role she played in the Battle of Salamis. Her skill was such that even the Greek Historian Herodotus commented on more than one occasion about her prowess in his Histories. Her skilled naval tactics, in the wake of failure of her male colleagues, prompted Xerxes to state: “My men have become women and my women, men.”

Gudit – A legendary queen of Ethiopia in the 10th century who ransacked the countryside, destroyed churches, and attempted to exterminate the members of the previous ruling dynasty.

“She is said to have killed the emperor, ascended the throne herself, and reigned for forty years. Accounts of her violent misdeeds are still related among peasants in the north Ethiopian countryside.” – Paul Henze

Gladiatrix – The female counterparts of Roman Gladiators, Gladiatrix were a popular draw in the arena and the historical sources are replete with references. Tacitus recorded in the Annals and Dio Cassius in his Histories that the Emperor Nero regularly held shows with female gladiators from the upper classes. The poet Statius recorded the popularity of Gladiatrix in Domitian’s shows. Septimius Severus unsuccessfully tried to ban female gladiators in the second century, but they continued to show up in history, art, and literature throughout the history of combative shows until their loss of prominence and popularity in the 6th century.

Nandi – A Zulu princess and the mother of famed African Warrior Shaka-Zulu was a warrior princess who fought slave-traders in 19th century Africa and raised her son to be a leader and a warrior. In fact, when Shaka became King, he established an all-female regiment in her memory.

Tomoe Gozen – the concubine of a Samurai master, Tomoe herself was trained in the arts of the Samurai and considered a master. She was an honored warrior during the Genpei War:

“Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.” – The Tale of the Heike

Ahhotep I – Was an Egyptian Queen of the 16th century BCE. She led an army against the Hyksos, an Asiatic people that had invaded the Egyptian Delta, and was pivatol in establishing the 18th dynasty. An Egyptian stele referencing her states:

“She is the one who has accomplished the rites and taken care of Egypt… She has looked after her soldiers, she has guarded her, she has brought back her fugitives and collected together her deserters, she has pacified Upper Egypt and expelled her rebels.”

Harriet Tubman – While not a combat veteran per se, Harriet Tubman was an abolitionist, served on the front-lines of the Underground Railroad (where she spent a good share of time in ditches), a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, an advocate for Women’s Suffrage, and a great American Humanitarian. She spent most of her life on the front lines and risking her life for her moral beliefs and her country. She was listed in the Smithsonian’s recent recognition of Female Spies During the American Civil War. She was fully aware of the risks she was taking and continued to push the boundaries of her gender and her race in 19th century America.

Queen Boudicca – My favorite and my dog’s name-sake. Boudicca, Boudica, Boadicea (and all the spellings in – between). The Warrior Queen of the Britons was a well-discilined fighting animal. Born into the the British Iceni Tribe, Queen Boudicca would lead an uprising against the Roman occupation of Britain and burn London. She inspired her people to take up arms against a larger and more powerful force. The Iceni did not make distinctions in the battlefield – both men and women fought (except women who were pregnant or lactating). She struck fear in the hearts’ of Roman soldiers, generals, and statesmen.

The reality is that history is replete with examples and stories of female warriors. They did not fight in wars or lead armies in spite of their Biology but in reality, their anatomy itself did not provide a hinderance. The existence of the vagina does not make women more prone to ‘infection’ in a ditch than a man’s prostate does to him. Women’s menses do not make them emotional, vulnerable, or physically incapacitated (do your female coworkers and classmates miss a week every month?). The reality is that women, like men, are a valuable resource for the military and their service should not be limited.

King Tut Buried Hastily

Some dark, mysterious spots found on the art and remains in King Tut’s tomb indicate that the Boy King was buried hastily. The spots, which were evident in 1922 when the tomb was uncovered, are still one of the mysterious aspects of the burial. Microbiologists at the Getty Conservation Institute have yet to match the melanins in the spots to any living organism.

Dark Spots on Art Inside the Tomb

Egyptologists believe that the young Pharaoh died suddenly which lead to a hasty burial. The dark spots seem to indicate that the painted plaster on the walls was not dry when the tomb was sealed, allowing microbes to grow on the moist regions fed with the accompanying incense and food provided for the Boy King to accompany his journey to the afterlife.

Read more about the mysterious spots in this MSNBC article and here at LiveScience. You can also listen to the Scientific American podcast.