Hospital scans help British Museum discover the secrets Egyptians took to their grave, including one woman’s intimate tattoo
Wrapped in bandages and caricatured as figures of terror in Hollywood movies, Egypt’s mummies have long captivated and bewildered scientists and children alike.
Now a new exhibition at the British Museum will disclose the human side of the mummies of the Nile.
Eight have been – scientifically speaking – stripped bare revealing secrets taken to the grave thousands of years ago.
Subjecting the corpses to the most advanced scientific techniques, including sending the mummies to hospitals around London for CAT scans – the museum’s Egyptologists have been able to build up the most detailed picture yet of what lies beneath the sarcophagi and bandage-wrapped bodies. Read more.
More than 74,000 historical items reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in 2012, in addition to 990 ‘treasures’ [x]
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said the scheme, which launched its annual report today, was “ensuring that finds found by ordinary members of the public are rewriting history.”
"Many of the most important finds have ended up in museum collections across the country, thanks to the generosity of funding bodies," added MacGregor, who launched the report with culture minister Ed Vaizey.
A total of 8,500 archaeological items have been classified as treasure - which signifies the presence of a precious metal, such as gold or silver - in the past fifteen years. [READ MORE]
I’m extremely wary of this article and the way the ‘amateur archaeology’ is being presented. The last time I checked, I’m pretty sure unsupervised public participation in archaeological excavations led to mass site destruction and decontextualization in the UK.
Part of a bronze tintinabulum in the form of a grotesque figure with two phalluses. There is a suspension loop on the figure’s back and further suspension loops on his two members. The feet are also pierced for attachments. The eyes may once have been inlaid with semi-precious stones and the hair and beard are indicated by short incisions as being close-cropped. The figure is sticking out his tongue.
Source: The British Muesuem
Ice Age art
A new exhibition at the British Museum features sculptures made up to 40,000 years ago. Dr. Alice Roberts meets curator Jill Cook to discuss three artefacts in the collection; the Lion Man, a group of female figurines from Siberia, and the oldest known flute. Despite being made thousands of years ago, the objects show that the minds of their creators - our ancestors - were incredibly similar to our own.
When the flute was first discovered the finding was published in Nature. Read the full article here:
‘Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind’ runs at the British Museum until 26 May 2013.
I love any coverage of this exhibit because I think it is very very cool. But I’m always uncomfortable with claims of the “oldest” anything found, especially with something as undefined as “art”
IdleNoMore: #J11 Solidarity Action inside the British Museum - Jan 11, 2013
Cylinder seals from the Old Babylonian period, third millennium BC. Images courtesy of the British Museum, London.
1. A royal figure faces a deity who has one hand raised, with between them a lion-scimitar and a bow-legged dwarf behind them. Old Babylonian period. Hematite, fair condition.
2. A kilted figure with one hand raised and a royal figure the god, clad in a striped skirt and with his arm extended. Old Babylonian period. Hematite, worn.
3. A god in a ladder-patterned robe faces a figure in a cap and striped kilt who raises one hand. Old Babylonian period. Serpentine, very worn.
4. A hero wrestling with a bull-man; a royal figure; and a nude goddess. Old Babylonian period. Goethite, fair condition.
The first known cylinder seals have been found in Susa in south-western Iran and at Uruk, south Mesopotamia, and date to around 3500 BC. These cylinders, carved in semi-precious stones such as hematite or serpentine, limestone, glass or faience, carry a pictorial story in negative relief. In later periods, versions with Mesopotamian hieroglyphs appeared. The seals were rolled onto wet clay, leaving behind an impression of the carvings in high relief. The picture stories often have a religious nature, are commemorative of a certain event or deploy a particular theme.
Cylinder seals were used for a variety of purposes, and were sometimes even worn as amulets and given to the deceased as a funerary gift. The most widespread use is of the seal as a administrative tool. For instance, storage jars of grain or a bale of goods intended for transport would be sealed off with a strip of clay onto which a seal was rolled to prevent theft. Envelopes were closed using a seal, or they would roll a cylinder on an unhardened brick for decoration.
Head from the mummy of an adult male, inlay survives in one eye, traces of ginger hair and beard survive where linen mummy-wrappings have peeled away.
Roman, 1st-5th century AD
Made in Egypt
This doll is fairly well-proportioned, and has a head and a body. The arms are made from a long roll of linen attached at the back. The doll is made of made of coarse linen and is stuffed with rags and pieces of papyrus. Coloured wool, now faded, was applied to parts of the face and body. The gender* of the doll is unclear, although the presence of a small blue glass bead attached to the proper left side of the head suggests a hair ornament and therefore that it is probably intended to be female. As well as dolls, children had a wide range of toys and playthings, such as toy animals, soldiers, doll’s houses with miniature furniture, spinning tops, hoops and marbles.
In the ancient world dolls were usually made of rags, wood, bone or fired clay, and ranged from simple home-made playthings such as this example to miniature works of art, with finely worked features and jointed bodies. There is no reason why dolls should not have been as popular in the Roman period as they are now, but relatively few have survived because of the perishable nature of their materials. This doll survived as a result of the very dry conditions in parts of Egypt, which helped to preserve organic artefacts of all types, from sandals, furniture and baskets to brushes, boxes and even hairpieces.
(Source: The British Museum)
Neo Assyrian, 811-792 BCE
The British Museum
Lachish Relief: Stone panel from the South-West Palace of Sennacherib.
This alabaster panel was part of a series which decorated the walls of a room in the palace of King Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 BCE). It tells the story of the siege and capture of the city of Lachish in 701 BCE. (Nineveh is located in modern day northern Iraq, then Neo-Assyria)
The story continues from the previous panel (no. 9) of the relief. This section decorated a corner of the room.
Having been exiled from their city, the people of Lachish move through the countryside to be resettled elsewhere in the Assyrian Empire. Below them high officials and foreigners are being tortured and executed. It is likely that they are being flayed alive.
The foreigners are possibly officers from Nubia. The Nubians were seen as sharing responsibility for the rebellion. Much of Egypt at this time was ruled by a line of kings from Nubia (the Twenty-fifth Dynasty) who were keen to interfere in the politics of the Levant, to contain the threat of Assyrian expansion.
As Sennacherib’s forces laid siege to Lachish, an Egyptian army appeared, led by a man called Taharqa, according to the Old Testament. He may be the later pharaoh of Egypt with the same name (690-664 BCE).
Sennacherib’s account claims that the rebels had called on the support of the kings of Egypt (Delta princes) and the Kings of Kush (Nubia). The armies clashed on the plain of Eltekeh. While Sennacherib claimed victory, he was still not able to capture Jerusalem.
**The Panels are now located at the Bristsh Musuem
The head of EA 32751 (“Ginger”) showing the preserved hair. Photo taken in 2011.
Statuette of Isis Protecting Osiris
Egypt, 590 BC
The British Museum
“This statue was dedicated by Sheshonq, a steward of the god’s wife Ankhnesneferibre, whose sarcophagus is also in The British Museum.
Isis holds her wings either side ofOsiris, her spouse, in a gesture of protection. She wears a modius, a crown of uraei, topped with the cows’ horns and sun disc worn by many goddesses. Osiris is, as usual, mummiform, wearing the crown with the two feathers known by its Egyptian nameatef.
The statue is thought to come from one of two chapels which were dedicated to forms of Osiris worshipped at Karnak. These chapels were built and extended by the god’s wives of Amun and the kings with whom they were associated.
This is probably the same Sheshonq as the owner of the large tomb (number 27) in Thebes, still to be seen at the east end of the area in front of the temple of Deir el-Bahari known as the Assasif.”