Welcome To The Nile Gift in Egypt

Egypt Old MapEgypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, (ˈiː.dʒɪpt (help·info), Egyptian: Kemet; Coptic: Ⲭⲏⲙⲓ Kīmi; Arabic: مصر‎ Miṣr; Egyptian Arabic: Máṣr) is a country in North Africa. The Sinai Peninsula is part of Egypt, but forms a land bridge to Asia. Covering an area of about 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,660 sq mi), Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south and the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. The northern coast borders the Mediterranean Sea; the eastern coast borders the Red Sea.

Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East. The great majority of its estimated 80,300,000 people (2007 US State Department estimate) live near the banks of the Nile River, in an area of about 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi), where the only arable agricultural land is found.
The large areas of the Sahara Desert are sparsely inhabited. About half of Egypt’s residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely-populated centres of greater Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities in the Nile Delta. Continue reading Welcome To The Nile Gift in Egypt

Amenhotep IV

Amenhotep IV (throne name Nefer-kheperue-re) becomes Akhenaten, the famous “heretic” pharaoh.

Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC) was son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy. During his reign both the art and religion in Egypt were marked by rapid change. When he initially succeeded the throne he was known as Amenhotep IV, but changed his name to Akhenaten in his fifth regnal year, and began to build a new capital called Akhetaten (“horizon of the sun”), in Middle Egypt. This phase, encompassing Akhenaten’s and Smenkhkara’s reign and the beginning of Tutankhamun’s, is now referred to as the Armarna Period, and the site of the city of Akhetaten is now known as el-Amarna.

Images of Akhenaten
Late-Amarna style sculpture of Akhenaten, probably from the workshop of Thutmose Akenaten and his family, shown adoring the Aten sun-disc. Bust of Akhenaten, Cairo Museum

Continue reading Amenhotep IV

Nefertiti

Nefertiti by Winfred Brunton

Arguably, to those who are not very involved in the study of ancient Egypt, Queen Nefertiti is perhaps better known than her husband, the heretic king Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). It is said that even in the ancient world, her beauty was famous, and her famous statue, found in a sculptor’s workshop, is not only one of the most recognizable icons of ancient Egypt, but also the topic of some modern controversy. She was more than a pretty face however, for she seems to have taken a hitherto unprecedented level of importance in the Amarna period of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. In artwork, her status is evident and indicates that she had almost as much influence as her husband. For example, she is depicted nearly twice as often in reliefs as her husband, at least during the first five years of his reign. Indeed, she is once even shown in the conventional pose of a pharaoh smiting his (or in this case, her) enemy.
Continue reading Nefertiti

The Tomb of Tutankhamun

The Tomb of Tutankhamun

When Howard Carter uncovered the remarkably preserved tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, he created a worldwide sensation. The only tomb of its era found intact and full of indescribable treasures, it was also the first major discovery in the age of easy worldwide communication. That, along with rumors of a mysterious curse, helped make Tutankhamun the most popular of the Egyptian pharaohs in the modern world.

Right: the Golden sarca-phogus lid of Tutan-khamun

Thieves invaded Tutankhamun’s tomb fairly soon after his burial. The thieves were caught in the act and official inspectors reorganized the contents and resealed the tomb. Several generations later, workmen constructing the nearby tomb of another pharaoh built their huts over the young king’s place of burial, thus obscuring it. Later flooding in the area erased any evidence of its existence. Tutankhamun’s tomb would remain hidden for more than three thousand years.

Below: the golden throne of the young king found in his mortuary chamber.

On November 4, 1922, workmen uncovered the top step of a staircase which archaeologist Howard Carter followed to discover eleven stairs and sealed door. Stamped on the surface of the doorway was the Jackal-and-Nine-Captives seal of the official guards, but a royal name was not visible. The upper left-hand corner of the door had been re-plastered and resealed, which told Carter that robbers had broken into the tomb in antiquity, but that something important still remained inside. After making a small hole, Carter peered inside and saw a corridor filled with rubble. He curbed his impatience, had his men refill the stairway, and sent the momentous telegram to Lord Carnarvon in England.

Below: the sarcophogus in the tomb as it looks today.

He was not to realize the extent of his discovery until November 26th, when he held a small candle up to a breach in the doorway separating him from the first of the four rooms, checking for noxious gases and then a few seconds later enlarging the opening and peering inside. Carter recorded his first impression in his popular book, The Tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen:

“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold…I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”

TUTANKHAMUN’S LIFE

TUTANKHAMUN’S LIFETutankhamun lived over 3,300 years ago during the period known as the New Kingdom. Tut's MaskFor two centuries, Egypt had ruled as a world superpower, while its Royal family lived the opulent lifestyle. The powerful priesthood of the god Amun had controlled vast temples and estates.

All that changed during the reign of Amenhotep IV when he renounced the multitude of gods worshipped by the Egyptians and abolished the priesthood of Amun. Amenhotep established a new order to worship the sun god Aten and changed his own name to Akhenaten, meaning “servant of the Aten.”

A new capital was established well to the north of Thebes (modern Luxor) – the home of the main temples of Amun. His new city was named Akhetaten, meaning “Horizon of the Aten.” Akhenaten

It was here that Akhenaten (left) ruled with his chief wife, Nefertiti, who bore him six daughters, but no son to carry on as Pharaoh. It is now believed that Akhenaten and a lesser wife named Kiya were the parents of Tutankhaten, as Tutankhamun was known at first.

He would have spent most of his early years in the palaces of Akhetaten, being tutored in many skills, including reading and writing.

Much is uncertain about this period and, in time, both Nefertiti’s and Kiya’s names ceased to appear in written records. A shadowy figure emerged by the name of Smenkhkare – he may have been a brother of the king and briefly ruled alongside him.

In any case, soon after the deaths of Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, Tutankhaten became a Boy King at the age of about nine. He married a slightly older Ankhesenpaaten (below right), one of the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

Soon their names were changed to Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun to reflect the return to favour of the Amun hierarchy and the ousting of the Aten power base. The temples of Amun were restored.

At such a young age, Tutankhamun would not have been responsible for the real decision making. This would have been handled by two high officials called Ay (possibly the father of Nefertiti) and Horemheb, commander-in-chief of the army.

Sometime around the ninth year of Tutankhamun’s reign, possibly 1325 BC, he died and Ay is depicted in tomb paintings as overseeing Tutankhamun’s burial arrangements which lasted 70 days.

Meanwhile, Ankhesenamun was left in a dilemma – there was no heir to the throne. (Two stillborn female foetuses were found in the tomb). It is possible that she was the Queen who wrote in desperation to Suppiluliumas I, king of the Hittites, asking him to send one of his sons to marry her and become Pharaoh. Being an enemy of Egypt, the Hittite king suspected a trick and sent an envoy to check. The widow’s situation was confirmed and he then sent a son who was murdered at the border – probably by agents sent by general Horemheb. (It is also possible that the correspondence to the Hittites may have been written some years earlier by Nefertiti after the death of her husband, Akhenaten.)

The ageing Ay became Pharaoh and took Ankhesenamun as his queen to legitimise his rule. What happened to her after that is not known. Ay ruled for only four years and after his death Horemheb grabbed power. He soon obliterated evidence of the reigns of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ay and substituted his own name on many monuments.

X-rays taken in 1968 seemed to indicate the possibility of an injury to the skull that had time to partly heal. This was thought by some to be evidence of a blow to the skull – perhaps murder. Others thought it may have been the result of a fall from his horse-drawn chariot.

In January 2005, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities arranged for a van equipped with a portable CAT-scanner (the latter donated by Siemans Ltd and the National Geographic Society) to be driven to the Valley of the Kings as part of its Egyptian Mummy Project. Tutankhamun’s mummy was removed briefly from his tomb and caried to the van outside for the CAT scans. These detailed scans showed no evidence of a blow to the skull. They did provide a wealth of data about Tutankhamun, including that he had an impacted wisdom tooth. From the scans, it was estimated that he was about 168cm (5 foot 6 inches) tall, of slight build but well fed, and about 19 years old when he died.

The scans also showed that the Pharaoh had a fracture of the left femur with broken skin and bone. The left knee cap was also detacted. His injuries could have occurred as much as a few days before his death and, if infection had set in, it may have been fatal. Perhaps he was thrown from a chariot or injured in battle, but we will probably never know.

LUXOR MUSEUM


One of the best displays of antiquities in Egypt is located at the Luxor Museum opened in 1975. Housed within a modern building, the collection is limited in the number of items, but they are beautifully displayed.

Luxor MuseumThe admission price is high, but it is well worth the visit. Visiting hours can be somewhat restricted, so find out upon arrival in Luxor.

Upon entering the museum, there is a small giftshop on the right. Once inside the main museum area, two of the first items that catch one’s attention are an enormous red granite head of Amenhotep III and the cow-goddess head from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Spaced out around the ground floor are masterpieces of sculpture including a calcite double statue of the crocodile god Sobek and the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III (below right). It was discovered at the bottom of a water-filled shaft in 1967.

Sobek/Amenhotep III

A ramp leads upstairs to more marvellous antiquities, including some items from Tutankhamun’s tomb suc as boats, sandles and arrows.

One of the major items of the whole museum is located upstairs – a reassembled wall of 283 painted sandstone blocks from a wall in the dismantled temple built at Karnak for Amenhotep IV (the heretic king Akhenaten of the 18th Dynasty).

There are numerous other antiquities of interest including a couple of very nice coffins. The museum also houses items from periods after the demise of pharaonic Egypt.

On returning to the ground floor, there is a gallery on the left (outbound)where there is a wonderful collection stone sculptures found in 1989 under one of the courtyards within Luxor Temple.

The museum makes a great afternoon or evening stop for an hour or two after a morning over on the West Bank. Once again, check the hours as they can vary with the season.

Mummy Cartonnage
A painted cartonnage coffin that belonged
to the “Mistress of the House, Shepenkhonsu.”
Dynasties 21-23. Found in 1957.