Posts Tagged With: egypt

MUSEUM PIECE: Ba bird? Or Nekhbet?

I decided this would just be a quick look at this quirky little Old Kingdom amulet, but as with most things, I managed to uncover more questions than answers!

I decided this was an interesting piece, as there seems to be a great amount of facial detail. I particularly loved the bulbous nose and chin. It looked a bit like a grumpy old man!

amarna potBritish Museum

So, this is a blue lapis lazuli amulet. It has the hybrid form of a vultures body and a human head. I personally had never seen anything quite like this, but I will admit it’s not my specialist area, more of a curiosity. So I began thinking, is it an amulet to represent the Ba bird? The character or uniqueness of someone, the aspect of a person the ancient Egyptians believed would live on after death. It certainly has character in the face! The Ba was represented as half human half bird, and would take flight from the tomb to re-join the Ka (soul). However, when I looked at other amulets that represented the Ba I was met with pictures of hybrid forms that seemed to take on more of a falcon like body, or alternatively the wings were outstretched (see below). While I am not ruling this out, I would need more evidence (and more time to research) to find out the answers.

Other examples of Ba amulets and figurines seem to have a more falcon like body, whereas on this amulet you can clearly see the back wings hunched over like a vulture.

Ba-bird, 6-4th century B.C. EgyptianEgyptian Ba statue

amarna potAmulet representing Ba bird

Perhaps instead, the amulet symbolised Nekhbet the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, however, she isn’t usually portrayed as a hybrid, instead she retains her vulture face as well as body. Her wings are almost always out in a protective way. I wonder if I could see the amulet face on whether there would be more to tell.

I will keep searching and researching on this one, but in the meantime if you have more information on this amulet or a similar piece, then please do get in contact and share!

Best wishes,

Ankh Nfr

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Care for some ‘meat mummies’ with your stale bread?

It would appear that the ancient Egyptians had a desire to preserve meat to take for sustenance in the afterlife. It would make sense seeing as they took almost everything else from their daily life with them, and if it wasn’t there in tangible form it appeared in artwork somewhere in the tomb. So, it seems only natural that the ancient Egyptians wanted to take all kinds of dietary goodies with them to the other side. Ancient Egyptians were masters of mummification and preservation so it will come as no surprise that they knew exactly what to do with a rack of ribs… mummify it of course! Above you can see a picture of one of these so called ‘meat mummies’ and an x-ray which shows clearly the ribs inside. King Tutankhamun went to his tomb with 48 cases of beef and poultry!

Little research has been done of these ‘meat mummies’ until recently, but now biochemical analysis has been conducted on four samples from varying time periods. It was interesting to see that a luxury resin from a pistacia tree (a desert shrub) was used on a beef cut from the tomb of Yuya and Thuya, the resin itself was usually reserved for varnishing high quality coffins and wasn’t even used in human mummification until 600 years later. However, Yuya and Thuya were the parents of the Queen of Amenhotep III, it goes without saying that they were affluent and influential and the funeral would have been conducted with no-expenses spared.

Full article Via Discovery

All the best,

Ankh Nfr

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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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Tutankhamun: a re-examination of age in Egyptian society

For too long people have referred to Tutankhamun as a “boy king”, today I discuss why in ancient Egyptian society, Tutankhamun was not a young boy!

It is true that Tutankhamun was young by our standards when he came to throne, and it is easy to assume that he would be no more mature than a boy of nine in our own society. However, this was a boy schooled in the royal palace as a potential heir to the throne. Due to Tutankhamun’s premature death, it has often been speculated that he was victim of murder. The most common hypothesis being that as he grew in to his role of Pharaoh and aged in to maturity, he was less likely to accept the word of his advisors and their power probably diminished as a result. A blow to the back of the head does seem to have been sustained at some point in the King’s life, with clear calcification and new bone formation being observed, proving a period a healing. We must remember, however, that average life expectancy for ancient Egyptians was approximately 40 years of age, with the elite sometimes living beyond this. We can then, not think of Tutankhamun as a boy King, as he would by Egyptian terms have reached puberty and “maturity” at fourteen years of age (when circumcision took place). So to assume that his advisors only saw him as an assertive adult at an age above 18 years is to totally misinterpret the social norms of a society who observed maturity at a different age to our own society. Tutankhamun actually probably died of Malaria Tropica, the most virulent form of malaria that is still prevalent today, as Plasmodium falciparum, a protozoan parasite that lives in its primary host, the Anopheles mosquito, was recently revealed by microscopic analysis in Tutankhamun’s aDNA. This has also been coupled with a fracture of his leg and several debilitating weaknesses that could have led to an immune-suppressed state, ultimately leading to his demise.

I have visited cultures where children have no childhood like western countries, where children help out in multi-generational households, and although they are cherished they know there place is to help. Ancient Egyptian’s were undoubtedly the same, with the term Xrd usually being applied to both children and servant, re-enforced with artistic depictions where children are often drawn to the same scale and stand near to servants. Also the Instruction of Ani suggests that children had a large debt to repay for the burden of their birth and upkeep and we have evidence from Deir el-Medina of offspring providing for elderly parents and an example of what happens if you don’t. (To be discussed another time). By modern standards a child usually passes as an adult between 18 to 21 years. They are of course, still the ‘child’ of their parents, but they are no longer classed as adolescents. Nowadays, with reference to most western societies, the life expectancy of a person has dramatically increased over centuries to around 80+ years. However, in ancient Egypt, as previously mentioned life expectancy (on the higher end) averaged at about 40 years. Therefore, we must make a reasonable judgment on what the Egyptians would have classed as a young child. It is reasonable, based upon what children were expected to undertake and how their roles changed that at around 12 they were probably considered adults. Even in modern bioarachaeological terms we normally talk of a juvenile as anybody under the age of 15, and biologically we class anyone between 15-20 as young adults.

Tomorrow I will discuss children in the context of education and learning.

I hope this has given you something to think about, I know my research is taking some turns and twists that I can’t wait to explore.

All the best,


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Working with human remains

Working with human remains can assist in ascertaining key demographics in a population. You can assess pathologies and mortality rates.

Forensic anthropology is one of the best known applications of physical anthropology. A good forensic anthropologist has to be skilled in numerous things, including, but not exhaustive, of archaeological field techniques, functional anatomy and paleopathology.

What usually comes first with any examination is identifying age, sex and stature where applicable. It is difficult to determine precisely how old an individual was when he or she died, based solely on skeletal remains. Instead, individuals are usually classified into general age categories such as foetal, infant, child, adolescent, young adult, middle adult and old adult. Assessing age in juveniles is done by the length of the bones, extent of fusion of the epiphysis (the caps at the end of long bones that fuse completely after the age of 20), and the status of teeth (dental eruptions). Where the skeletons are over 20, other techniques are employed again including but are not limited to, several changes and fuses within the body. Signs of deterioration are also used for individuals presumably over 30, which present as spinal pathologies, bones becoming less dense and more porous, osteoarthritis is more prevalent, and often there are more work-related injuries.

Gender can be identified by examining the pubis bone, which is elongated in women to allow for childbirth. Another good indicator of sex is the skull where males have larger skulls and females are more delicate (although this is usually applied tentatively). There are other techniques, which we discuss extensively in the course.

Stature can be ascertained by applying a mathematical equation known as a regression equation, to the measurement of the femur; the longest bone in the body. This data is combined with a similar measurement of the tibia, to provide a highly accurate estimation of height. Stature is an interesting one, and a great thing to asses across a demographic as stature is often linked to nutrition, thus consistently “short” populations may have suffered malnutrition during their developmental stages. We see this at Amarna, with an average female height of 5ft and a male height of 5ft 3 which when compared to other Egyptian samples is simply staggering. (Zabecki, M. 2008. 3.7 Human bones from the South Tombs Cemetery. Available from: Amarna provides a rich sample for the biological anthropologist and is looked at in detail in the bioarchaeology in Egyptian samples- first steps course.

We are limited to the techniques we can employ with human remains by the type of sample we are working with i.e mummy (soft tissue) vs skeletal remains. We look in more detail at the different techniques employed to asses the two types of remains, in the course.  Studies of isotopic ratios in bone, skin and hair can indicate major dietary components, and it has even been employed, interestingly, to understand weaning practices in the Dakhleh Oasis (Kellis 2). Human remains can reveal much data when examined by the non‐destructive method of radiography. Studies have used radiography rather than macroscopy (examination with the naked eye) to determine the full extent of skeletal conditions such as fractures, osteoarthritis and dental problems. Moreover, radiographs can reveal internal calcification in arteries in addition to diseases of the hepatobiliary system and have previously revealed the ova of Schistosoma haematobium (an endoparasite) in the kidneys of mummies from the second dynasty.  Radiographs can detect Harris lines which are produced in bone when the body undergoes a stressful period. Macroscopy in many samples can highlight such pathologies as cribra orbitalia (pitting of the eye sockets) and porous lesions found on the cranial vault known as ‘porotic hyperostosis’, which both suggest iron deficiency. There are a multitude of pathologies which we could discuss here including enamel hypoplasias, spinal pathologies, non-specific periostitis, endocranial lesions and fractures.

All the best,


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Egyptian Travel Bug?

No we’re not talking about sickness bugs, we’re talking about the bug you get when you go to Egypt and you want to go back and visit again and again and again!

Now, visitors to Egypt will be lucky enough to take a Nile cruise all the way from Cairo to Aswan. Previously, you had to go to Cairo, visit the sites and then take a flight to Luxor to embark on a Nile cruise to Aswan. Well no more, for those who want to see everything Egypt has to offer, several companies will be opening up liners that will travel the whole distance and stop at some of the rarely visited sites, such as Akhenaten’s and Nefertiti’s ancient capital at Tel el-Amarna (Akhetaten). For more information visit travelmole.

All the best,


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Amarna Big Give 2012


Here are the details of the fundraiser as stated by The Amarna Project on their facebook page:


We are delighted to announce that the Amarna Trust has been accepted into the Big Give 2012 Christmas Challenge, with a project to raise urgently needed funds for the conservation of the Great Aten Temple:

The Big Give Christmas Challenge is an annual matched-funding event in which online donations from the public are matched with pledges from major Trust supporters and funding from external philanthropic bodies (‘Charity Champions’).

The Challenge has two phases. Phase I requires us to collect pledges from our major supporters. Phase II is a period of online donation, beginning December 6th. During this time, online donations are matched with money drawn from pledges and Charity Champion Funds, until these are exhausted. An online donation of £5- becomes £10-; a £50 donation becomes £100, and so on.

If you are thinking of offering support to the Amarna Trust in what remains of 2012, please consider making a donation during the December online donation phase. It is a chance to make your donation go further.

Thanks for your continued support of our work.
– The Amarna Project Team”

You can follow the progress of the fundraiser and keep up-to-date with all things Amarna through their facebook page:
All the best,
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