Social life- How to build a pyramid in style

giza discoveries, giza pyramidsThe excavation site via LiveScience

I am not talking about the manual labourers who built the great pyramids of Egypt, instead the men behind the labourers, advisers and such. Archaeologists excavating a city just 400 meters south of the Sphinx have uncovered a house presumed to have belonged to high ranking officials some 4,500 years ago.

Inside the remains of the mansion bones from young cattle and teeth from leopards have been discovered, suggesting that its residents ate and dressed like royalty.

Seals containing titulary include “the scribe of the royal box” and “the scribe of the royal school”. Thus, we are given insight in to the officials at Giza in terms of fashion and diet. From the sample of 100,000 bones from a nearby mound, archaeologists could not find a single cow bone over 18 months…so it seems they were eating veal. However, veal is seen as a “luxury” today and could be our inferences on the ramifications such a diet had on ancient Egyptian society. After all, a quicker turn over of cows means having to feed it less and made meat available quicker. The mound may not have just been the rubbish from that one house either, it could have served a wider area including evidently lower class housing. In Egyptian art, forelimbs were offered to deities and as the archaeologists have only recovered hind limbs, it could be asserted that the people of the house were eating remains of offerings.

It is believed that, based on Old Kingdom art, that some high ranking individuals wore leopards skins. If this was the case at Giza, it could explain why only the teeth were found as the skin would have less chance of preservation.

For more details click here: Livescience

Best wishes,

Ankh Nfr

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NEWS: Unique Neolithic child cemetery found in Egypt

The Egyptiana Emporium

20140106-202441.jpgChild burial at Gebel Ramlah (Source: Past Horizons).

“A burial ground containing the remains of dozens of children and infants has been uncovered in Egypt by a Polish team led by Prof. J Kabacińskiego of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznan.
Deep in the desert region of Gebel Ramlah, located near the southern border of Egypt, about 140 km west of Abu Simbel, the archaeologists examined a unique necropolis dated to around 6500 years.

To date, there are no known cemeteries in the Western Desert intended almost exclusively for children, infants and foetuses – some of these fragile and poignant remains were found during recent excavations.

“In several cases, newborns were buried along with an adult, probably representing the death during childbirth of the mother. In one case we were able to accurately determine the age of the mother – the woman was only 14 years old “…

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The uncovering of a shadow dynasty?

A 3600 year old “mummy” (or skeleton as a more accurate description) has been discovered at a site in Abydos, an ancient Egyptian cemetery.

The ancient human remains are believed to have belonged to a somewhat obscure Pharaoh named Woseribre Senebkay. Little is known about him or his dynasty, and the remains of his tomb as well as a cartouche which identifies him are really the only things which attest for his existence.

The site at Abydos is being hailed as the new Valley of the Kings, with the potential to find up to 20 more Kings from the time of Senebkay. The tombs are modest and despite the site being known to Flinders Petrie, the father of Egyptology, the site had not been excavated until recently.

So, who is Senebkay?

Pharaoh Senebkay hieroglyphicsCartouche of Senebkay (

Senebkay is thought to have lived and ruled a central area of Egypt during the 2nd Intermediate period, and his dynasty would be the third ruling faction in Egypt at that time, meaning the country and the political stability was even more fractious than was previously thought. Senebkay’s dynasty would be contemporary to the sixteenth and seventeenth dynasties, the two previously known.

The existence of the so-called Abydos Dynasty was first proposed by Detlef Franke and later further developed by Egyptologist Kim Ryholt in 1997, however, there was previously not enough evidence to sustain this theory.

I know I certainly await more news on the developments unfolding in Abydos. It is exciting to think that even now after many great discoveries, Egypt still has more to give!

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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Fabulous Luxor Snapped By A Fabulous Photographer

Since I started blogging, I have been fortunate to share ideas and generally have a chat with some great people, and I count the lady who took these fantastic photos as one of them! These photos are taken by Helen Bailey at Egypt Unveiled Photography

She provides absolutely stunning photography of both ancient and modern Egypt and here are a few of my personal favourites, visit the website to see more. Follow on:

Karnak Sound and Light

                                            Nile in Winter                                                                                          Breathtaking sunset over the Nile

View from the East over the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings. I can almost feel myself there.

Such fantastic colour, amazing preservation!

Sacred Lake, Karnak, wish I was there!

Stunning detail at Karnak

An important local!

That’s all for today but hopefully it has made you appreciate the beauty of Luxor both old and new, I know I miss it dearly! I will hopefully post again about Egypt Unveiled Photography in the near future, until then make sure you scroll back up, click the link, and follow them on facebook. And please…it should go without saying, do not use her photographs without consent!

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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Egyptiana Emporium-Tuesday Tomb – KV57

Another wonderfully written ‘Tuesday Tomb’ post by Egyptiana Emporium, this time on KV57, tomb of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Horemheb. He was the last in the line of the “Amarna Kings”, despite simply being an army general and not of royal blood. He succeeded Ay, who was the successor of Tutankhamun. The tomb really is fantastic!

The Egyptiana Emporium

KV57 is the tomb of the last pharaoh of the Amarna Period, Horemheb, located in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. It was discovered in 1908 by the English Egyptologist, Edward Ayrton, who was working for Theodore M. Davis, an American lawyer who funded excavations in the Valley of the Kings between 1902 and 1914.

The tomb is located on the valley floor, and when Ayrton made his discovery, he found a tomb filled with debris from the occasional flooding of the valley. The tomb had also been broken into in antiquity.

KV57 is notably different from the other royal tombs of the Amarna Period because the decoration is painted bas-relief rather than painted walls. The layout is also different, representing a transition from the bent axis plan, characteristic of the 18th Dynasty, to the straight axis plan, characteristic of the royal tombs of the 19th and 20th Dynasties.

The decoration…

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Lotiform Chalices

All of these are housed in the Metropolitan museum

These chalices date from the Third Intermediate Period in Egyptian history and are all made of faience with a turquoise glaze. All of these chalices depict lotus flowers, papyrus marshes full of life, all symbols of fertility and also abundance. Link this to the use of Hathor on one of the cups, a naked woman on another and the overriding theme of libation to Hathor, I believe we have cups used in some way for the procurement of fertility from the gods. Hathor after all, among many other roles, is goddess of fertility, childbirth and motherhood. Vessels found at Serabit el-Khadim are inscribed with “beloved of Hathor Lady, Mistress of Mefkat”, and are shown in scenes being used for libations and as containers of fruit or flowers. It is possible then that chalices were used as a permanent substitute for the daily offerings of flowers, fruit and vegetables. We also see in the tomb of Ameneminet from dynasty 19, a scene where a chalice of vegetables are offered to Hathor, in cow form. Lotiform chalices have also been found in the Hathor Temple at Timna’, Palestine and in level VIII/VII at Beth Shan. The lotiform chalice that depicts a naked woman, has a very well defined pubic area such as we see in many “fertility dolls”. The lotus became a symbol of creation and rebirth because it opened its petals each morning to the sun and therefore could have had a funerary context. The colour blue reaffirms the link to water and creation as well as emulating the much more “expensive” mineral lapis lazuli, which purportedly had life giving powers. Unfortunately, none of these lotiform chalices have provenances recorded, apart from auctions and museum acquisitions, so we cannot further stipulate what they were intended for.

Perhaps more simply these were just used as holders for lotus flower oil or perfume and it is our perception of the shape being something we use for drink, which has biased opinion. Certainly, some museums put lotiform chalices with cosmetic goods and toiletries. Egyptians often used the lotus for the decoration of toilet articles.

It is most frustrating that we do not have a context in which to put these chalices and therefore understand their use a bit better. All that is certain is, I will be researching these now for a lot longer than I originally thought, as I am intrigued as to their use.

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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To good health…

We are fortunate to know a lot about medicine and health in ancient Egypt due to excellent preservation of medical papyri, advanced scientific analysis of both skeletal remains and mummies, as well as using bioarchaeology.

The broad spectrum of techniques employed under the umbrella term ‘bioarchaeology’ allows for analysis of environment as well as human remains. I think ancient Egypt is so fascinating because of the excellent level of preservation and how evident architecture etc is to us. Even people who don’t know any thing about ancient Egypt can become quickly absorbed by its history when they visit the many ruins left in Egypt.

Macroscopic (visible) examination of skeletons allows us to assess pathologies that often leave osseous (bone) lesions. We can also ascertain spinal pathologies, dental malocclusion ( crowding and misalignment of teeth) and stress markers such as harris lines (particularly in juveniles) and cribra orbitalia.

CT scans of mummies have enlightened us about heart conditions, and parasites where calcified ova have been found in organs. Also, we see things like sand and ash on the lungs, the latter from close proximity to open fires for cooking in small rooms, we know from remains of a roof that things got fairly smoky in rooms for cooking.


We have to interpret the medical papyri, as they do not explicitly state ailments, instead they discuss symptoms and how to alleviate them, therefore we can make inferences from our own knowledge what conditions they suffered from.If you are interested in this area, you may want to search for the Lahun Papryrus, Ebers Papyrus, Hearst Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus.

As previously mentioned, the medical papyri discuss symptoms and remedies, so we know a great deal about medical practice and healing, The world of the doctor was never far from the world of the priest and magic and medicine intertwined so frequently that the aforementioned papyri are known as Magico-Medical papyri. Certainly, if the Egyptian’s did not have a known cure, presumably for a lot of diseases common to ourselves which have onle recently been ‘cured’; they would have turned to magic. We find a lot of stelae and amulets with magical properties linked to remedial aid.

Ailments range from things as simple (to us) as common colds, with garlic as a possible cure, to seeping buboes, which may even refer to plague in the bubonic stage. For a long time a ‘great pestilence’ has been known from the 14th Century BC from Hittite letters, during the Amarna period (the Amarna letters). Not only do the Asiatic letters attest a plague but we now see from the skeletal remains from the South Tomb’s cemetery at Amarna, a possible catastrophic burial assemblage instead of attritional mortality, with juveniles (1-15 year olds) making up a significant portion of the funerary demographic. We often see this when there are epidemics. My next blog post will talk about the Amarna epidemic in more detail including the possible aetiology of the pathogen responsible.

We know that certain diseases must have been endemic to Egypt, such as Malaria, with cases reported in royal mummies including Tutankhamun and Thuya and Yuya. The protozoan endoparasite plasmodium falciparum, was discovered in aDNA from several mummies, this parasite lives symbiotically with its host the Anopheles mosquito and causes Malaria Tropica, the most virulent form of malaria, that is still responsible for several thousand deaths a year even now.

Musca domestica, the common housefly, has been recovered through archaeoentomolgy at Amarna, and the flies habits of flitting from dump to human food and even people’s faces has been linked to gastrointestinal diseases and causing potential blindness.

I hope this has given you some insight in to the health of ancient Egyptians, I will further discuss remedies another time.

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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Look again…

Sometimes in life you have to look a little deeper…in Egyptology you always have to look deeper. You cannot take an artefact at face value, you must first observe, come to a conclusion in your head and then throw that conclusion away. The way our brains work when examining artefacts is to draw upon our own modern day objects and make inferences based upon that. (Which isn’t always bad and is how some great discoveries are made). However, sometimes, going with your gut in Egyptology, just doesn’t work. It is also good to get second, and third, and fourth and fifth opinions, without telling them your opinion so as not to cloud their judgement.

Aside from that, you must not just look at an artefact we know the use for, say a shabti for instance and say “yes, that’s a shabti, thousands of them about, lets move one.” It is important to understand the value it has to its own context and surrounding matrix, be it a tomb or temple. The very material it is made from can suggest at its owner’s wealth, as well as sometime revealing interesting trade links, i.e resin and wood, and also manufacturing processes be it hand made or moulded in a workshop. Inscriptions can enlighten us about traditions and I have even seen the role of the owner carved on there such as “Chantress of Amun”. The object is very important to understanding society as a whole, but it is also important to look at it from a personal level, what it meant for the owner etc.

All too often in archaeology in general I hear that something must have had ‘religious significance’, purely because it can not be explained. This is also another reason not to give up trying to solve the complexities of certain artefacts, ‘religious significance’ is just not good enough sometimes.

So basically, what I am trying to say is, never take anything at face value, constantly question why something was made, what it is made from, where it was found and so forth.

Something to think about I hope.

All the best,


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Education and Learning in ancient Egypt

Learning in ancient Egypt was delivered in pretty much the same forms we know today; learning from the family, a school education, apprenticeships and learning on the job. Perhaps one of the main differences is that not all avenues were open for everyone.

In modern western societies the world of the child and the adult does not mix in the same sense as it did in ancient Egypt. We have formal education until we are sixteen, when we get a job and provide for ourselves this is usably when we are considered an adult. So education and employment are a big indicator for our society of age and even maturity. This was the same for the ancient Egyptians’s, however, learning was solely for employment purposes, unlike ourselves who sometimes learn for pleasure, and would have started and ended a lot earlier than our own education. Practical skills and social skills would have been developed in the home, much like in our own pre-school years, however for most lower class girls this in house “education” was as far as it would go. With men out working and women in the house, we can be sure that the demand for help around the home was great. If we picture large households, perhaps even multigenerational, without any of the modern comforts we are so used to, we can assume that those children who were old enough would have earned their keep by helping out around the house.Girls from ordinary families only received minimal education, instead they were instructed by their mothers on the management of a household, ready for marriage and a household of their own. Among the elite classes, girls also learned to sing, dance and play musical instruments.  However, for boys, learning could have come in a practical form, such as an apprenticeship in a trade they would later work in or education in a scribal school. The latter, was usually reserved for the elite classes.

At the King’s palace, the princes and princesses learnt the elements of writing, grammar, style, literature and mathematics. We know princesses partook in these lessons because a princess known from excavations at Abusir is portrayed with a writing tablet in hand, we know also that Senenmut, the Vizier to Hatshepsut, taught her daughter Nefrure. We perhaps have to apply the latter evidence tentatively, as after all Hatshepsut was a female who would have wanted her own daughters to be raised the same as any boy. Yet, presumably Hateshepsut was a well educated woman herself.

Literature from the Roman period, elucidates interesting information about the training of weavers and spinning girls. They seem to have entered in to a lengthy, and unpaid apprenticeship, funded by their father’s.

Weavers from the tomb of Khnumhotep, Beni Hasan via MetMusem

 Farmers children, both male and female, would have entered the fields at a young age, and this was probably as far as their “learning” went. Boys were used in the army as grooms and batsmen. We even have fragmentary evidence of boys working in a butchers and with fishermen, probably learning the trade from their own father’s. It seems customary in ancient Egypt, for son’s to take on the trade of their father. Indeed, it is well documented at Deir el-Medina, the somewhat isolated community of New Kingdom tomb builders. It is true also of scribes, who schooled their own children in Egyptian language.

I hope this has given you a little to think about for ancient Egyptian education and learning.

All the best,


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“New pyramids” revisited and an archaeological background!

Unfortunately, the work of researchers who discovered “new pyramids” through space satellite imaging may have been a little…shall we say, wrong! Looking at the images, it is clear to see why one might think the square mounds near an Egyptian town called Dimai are pyramids, the smaller mounds almost seem to mirror the same constellation alignment as the great pyramids, and they certainly appear to have man made elements to their structure.

Mounds that showed up on satellite picture via cosmiclog

Alas, these “newly discovered pyramids” are in fact well known, and have been the subject of survey for a few years and the Soknopaiou Nesos Project intend to excavate the area soon. The Egyptologist’s who have been surveying the Fayoum area say that these are naturally forming mounds with possibly buildings surmounting them. Davoli, co-director of the Saknopaiou Nesos Project, said the prevailing view is that the structures might have been watchtowers, designed to look over “an agricultural area or a paleo-lake just in front of them to the east,” or perhaps tombs.

Many scholars have been quick to say that Micol, who headed the satellite imagery survey, was right to think they are man made structures, but she was blind to the fact that the structures weren’t newly discovered and were well known, with many archaeological sites around the area.

You can find out more here Cosmiclog.

I can’t wait to see what the new project finds!

All the best,


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