Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mask of King Tutankhamun

Egyptian Museum, Cairo Dynasty XVIII,
1347-1237 B।C.

This marvelous mask of excellent workmanship protected the head of the mummy of Tutankhamun. Further protection was assured by a magic formula engraved on the shoulders and the back of the mask. The usual Nemes headdress knotted back at the nape of the neck, is a striped blue-green imitating lapis lazuli. The Uraeus and vulture head in gold inlaid with semi-precious stones and colored glass, ornaments the brow. The mask's eyes are made of obsidian and quartz with a touch of red at the corners: the cosmetic lines and the lids are of inlaid blue glass. The divine beard, plaited and turned up at the end, is of cloisonné work (colored glass held in a framework of gold.) The wide necklace collar is formed of rows of lapis lazuli, quartz, amazonite and colored glass beads attached at each shoulder to a gold falcon's head ornamented with obsidian. This mask presents us with a beautiful albeit idealized portrait of the young King.

Bust of Ramses II

The most celebrated of all Pharaohs, Ramses II, is well known for the length of his reign, the numerous temples he built and his military campaigns, such as the battle of Kadesh where Ramses II, facing the army of Muwattali, King of the Hittites found himself surrounded by 2500 Hittite Charioteers with only his personal bodyguard to help him. As the enemy closed in around him, Pharaoh leaped into his chariot, tied the reins around his waist to leave his hands free, sent forth a great cry for help to Amun and charged six times against the Hittites, finally breaking through and winning the battle. Ramses II was the son of Seti I and was crowned Pharaoh in 1290 b.c. when he was 18 years old. Ramses II had many wives but the first and favorite chief Queen was Nefertari. Ramses died at the age of 85 after ruling Egypt for 67 years. This bust from a seated statue of Ramses II is a portrait of the young King in which grace and grandeur are intermixed

Bust of Queen Nefertiti

Dahlem Museum, Berlin। 1365 B.C.

She was the wife of King Akhenaton who ruled from 1379 to 1362 b.c. She was an influential Queen but she is principally remembered for her personal beauty and the lovely statue that was carved centuries ago. Details of the life of the beauteous Queen are veiled by the mist of time. One of her six daughters was Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun's wife. Her tomb has never been discovered. Nefertiti's bust was taken out of Egypt under unclear circumstances to be taken to Berlin.

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Ancient Egyptian History

Before 4000 B.C. Prehistoric period
4000 - 3100 B.C. Predynastic Period.
3100 B.C. Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty I-II. Unification of Egypt, beginning of Dynastic Period.
2686 B.C. Old Kingdom, Dynasty III-VIII. Pyramid age, canons of art established, strong central state.
2160 B.C. First Intermediate Period, Dynasty IX-X. Collapse of central authority, period of civil war.
2040 B.C. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty IX-XIII. Egypt reunited, period of prosperity and stability.
1786 B.C. Second Intermediate Period, Dynasty XIV-XVII. Hyksos invaders from western Asia and Nubians from the south control large sections of Egypt.
1558 B.C. New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII-XX. Invaders expelled, Egyptian military power and influence extend from Nubia in the south to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the northeast. The arts flourish.
1085 B.C. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty XXI-XXIV. Egypt loses its foreign empire and splits into smaller sections.
760 B.C. Late Period, Dynasty XXV-XXXI. Egypt falls to conquering Nubians, Assyrians, and Persians, but also achieves final grandeur under native rulers of Dynasty XXVI and XXX.
332 B.C. Conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.
304 B.C. Ptolemaic Dynasty rules Egypt for nearly three hundred years.
30 B.C. Cleopatra, last ruler of the Greek, Ptolemaic Dynasty dies, Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire.
395 A.D. Coptic Period. Christianity becomes the major religion of Egypt.
640 A.D. Arab Conquest. Islam introduced

Houses of Nubia

Written by Louis WernerPhotographed by Michael Nelson
he region of Upper Nubia in Sudan, lying between the Nile’s Second Cataract near the Egyptian border and the river’s distinctive S-bend some 350 kilometers (200 mi) to the south, is a land where the clock ticks to non-Arab time. Within Upper Nubia, north of the Third Cataract near Kerma, where the Mahas district begins and the asphalt and electricity end, Nubian villagers maintain their linguistic and cultural differences with great pride. To be Mahasi means to be a true Nubian, to speak a pure Nubian language and to live in the Nubian heartland.
But Mahas was recently spared a project whose benefits would surely have despoiled it, a project aimed dead center at the village of Kajbar at the Third Cataract and the Nubian fields and homesteads upstream. The government had planned a hydroelectric dam at Kajbar that would have flooded out tens of thousands of families and covered countless archeological sites in and around Kerma, the ancient Kushite capital. This, all agree, would have been a tragic reprise of the losses in Lower Nubia, on the Egyptian side of the border, with the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960’s.
Luckily, the Kajbar dam never got past the blueprint stage. An international campaign publicized the threat and successfully petitioned the Sudanese government to reconsider. A dam now under construction at an alternative site, at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile near Karima, will displace fewer non-Nubian farmers and will not disturb the archeological sites at Napata and Jebel Barkal.
If the Kajbar dam had been built, perhaps its saddest casualty would have been not a site but a type: the Nubian house, a mud-walled, stand-alone family compound centered on a courtyard and surrounded by an extensive layout of men’s and women’s quarters. The Sudanese novelist Tayyib Salih has compared such a house, often built on heights above the flood plain, to “a ship that has cast anchor in mid-ocean."

Even more distinctive than the floor plan of a Nubian house is the decoration of its exterior doorway, or bawaba, which mixes vivid color, adobe brick filigree, figurative and geometric images in mud and white lime-plaster relief, and wall-mounted objects like ceramic plates, automobile headlights, mirrors, cow horns and dried crocodiles. While the full range of these decorative materials has shrunk in recent years, the impulse to draw attention to one’s home, and to its doorway as a symbol of the family, remains strong.

Farther north, this homegrown architecture did not survive the displacement of the Egyptian Nubians. Relocated into concrete, common-walled shells in a new-lands development at Kom Ombo, north of Aswan, this change in architectural space, more than anything else that happened to them in their move, has been a main reason for their gradual “arabization” over the last 40 years. Something similar has happened to a smaller number of Sudanese Nubians relocated from Wadi Halfa, at the southern reaches of Lake Nasser, to Khashem al-Girba east of Khartoum on the Atbara River.
Because of the clear demarcation of cultivable and uncultivable land along the Nubian Nile, houses there can be built right at the edge of the green fields, taking advantage of the view and the cooling humidity. Unlike, say, in the Nile Delta or in a new agriculture development off-river, a Nubian house could be amply proportioned and comfortably situated because it did not occupy otherwise productive land.
Abdallah Salih Suleiman, age 75, lives in such a house near Kerma. He was born on Badeen Island in mid-channel and remembers his old home’s outer wall adorned with a white lime-plaster image of a lion holding a sword, surrounded by sunbursts. “Whenever a child in the family lost a tooth, he would throw it at the wall, and where it struck, in that place we would then paint a sunburst as a wish for a new tooth. Our doorway also had a plaster cattle egret, which we call here sadeeq al-mazreeq, or friend of the fields, because it is always a welcome guest.” Egrets eat insect pests and make the farmer’s job that much easier.

Coffin, Coffin Board and Mummy of Tahat

Egypt. Twenty-first Dynasty, ca. 1070-946 B.C. Painted wood, linen, and human remains.1070-946 B.C.

This coffin is the most beautiful in the Niagara Collection and one of the finest to be found anywhere in the world। This exquisite coffin belonged to the Lady Tahat, a chantress in the temple of the god Amun at Karnak. Such women were usually of high rank, as this unusually fine coffin indicates. Women served in temples not as priests, but as chantresses, or singers, who presumably played instruments and recited hymns to the gods. On the coffin lid, the lady Tahat is bedecked in a full wig surrounded by protective gods and symbols and adorned with her finest jewelry. The breathtakingly lovely scenes delicately painted on the sides of the coffin depicted mythological scenes and Tahat being judged in the underworld and being reborn into eternal life. Over the mummy was placed a coffin board, that looked like and served as a secondary lid with more decorative elements to protect the mummy.

Shawabti of Neferibresaneith, Son of Shepenbastet

Twenty-sixth Dynasty, c. 664-525 B.C. Faience. Gift of the Atlantes Society by exchange. 1998.11
The Egyptians believed that the afterlife was essentially the same as the present life, so that an individual might enjoy the same possessions, people, and privileges in both realms. By the same token, the individual was also subject to the same responsibilities and burdens, such as mandatory labor for the government. An Egyptian was periodically called upon to labor for the state, primarily maintaining the extensive system of irrigation canals. During life, this was expected, though no one wanted to spend eternity performing manual labor. The shawabti figurine provided a magical solution to this problem, acting as a substitute laborer in the afterlife.
The figurines, most commonly made of faience, were inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead and placed in the tomb. When the deceased was called upon to do labor, the spell magically animated the shawabti, who then answered the call in the place of the deceased. The numbers of shawabtis included in the tomb increased over the years, until there was a figurine provided for every day of the year, to insure an eternity of relaxation for the owner of the tomb.

Face from a Coffin

Egypt. Early Third Intermediate Period, ca. 1070-712 B.C. Painted wood. 1999.1.145
Coffins of the Third Intermediate Period were made out of local soft wood with finer grained, imported wood reserved for carved faces that would be pegged onto the lid of the coffin. The face often survives when the rest of the coffin decays. This example is painted red to equate the deceased with the rising, reborn sun.

Wrapped Mummy with Cartonnage Trappings

Late Ptolemaic Period, ca. 167-30 B.C. Human remains, linen, cartonnage, paint, gilt. Funded by John A. Manget, 1921.6

In order to enter the afterlife, it was important that the deceased have a proper burial with all the correct rituals and traditional funerary equipment. First, the body had to be preserved through mummification, a process by which it was artificially dehydrated and then wrapped in linen bandages. The invention of mummification may have resulted from the practice of burying bodies directly in the ground during the Predynastic Period. The preservative properties of the hot, desiccating sand may have suggested to the Egyptians that survival of the body was necessary for continued existence in the afterlife. Later, in the Early Dynastic Period, when the body was no longer directly surrounded by sand, but was placed in a specially constructed burial chamber, the natural processes of decay set in. When they observed this effect, the Egyptians developed a method for keeping the body intact using resins and natron, a naturally occurring salt.
The mummy here has been shown through x-rays and CAT scans to be that of a middle-aged man. His name is not known. The body, wrapped in bandages with arms at the sides, is enveloped in a linen shroud. Trappings of painted and gilded cartonnage, a material consisting of layers of linen stiffened with plaster, have been placed over the shroud. A mask with a gilded face, identifying the deceased with the sun god, covers the head. Across the chest lies a panel in the form of a broad collar. Below the collar, another panel depicts a winged scarab beetle and a kneeling figure of the sky goddess, Nut, with outstretched wings. The hieroglyphic sign for "sky" is painted in blue above the head of the goddess. A third panel, covering the legs, contains a scene showing the mummy on a lion-shaped bed, mourned by the sister-goddesses Isis and Nephthys. The lower portion of the third panel consists of a series of mummiform figures representing the different forms of the sun god in the underworld. Figures of the jackal god Anubis atop a shrine appear on the foot covering. The toes are depicted in the form of rearing cobras crowned with sun disks which represent the toenails.

Egyptian Gods, Goddesses and Mythology

Ancient Egyptian society treated men and women equally. Women participated in the political, economic, and judicial world of ancient Egypt on the same terms as men. This social system reflects Egyptian mythology, where Goddesses played an equal, if not chief, role. The primeval mother figures in the earliest prehistoric Egyptian myths are female. Female deities were kept separate from the males, with their own temples and followers. Egyptian goddesses are also creator deities, and the protectors of the pharaohs in the form of the cobra, vulture, or lioness.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Egypt was created from the Watery Waste of Nun, a chaos god from whose body all things were born. The continuous mission of the daily temple services and strictly followed religious codes was to keep ordered Egyptian society from returning to the state of chaos in which it was born. Ma'at, the goddess in charge of law, balance and order, was one of the principal deities.
The two "protectors of the realm" of Egypt were originally Nekhbet, vulture goddess of Northern Egypt, and Wadjet, cobra goddess of Lower Egypt. The cobra and the vulture were chosen by the Egyptians as the royal symbols because they were thought to be self-producing and therefore creators, or divine.
Egyptian mythology is a complex collection of often-competing stories, traditions, and practices. This is partly because the culture is so ancient, and partly because each city had its own set of deities, whose unique personalities are lost as their cults age. Just as each city vied for supreme power before Egypt was a unified kingdom, the cities each tried to establish their gods as the supreme gods. Even after unification, each time the capital moved, the supreme god of the new city rose to be the supreme god of the kingdom.[2]
There are many versions of the stories about Egyptian gods and goddesses. Here's a myth which tells a story related to creation and will introduce you to many gods. You may either read, or listen to the story

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Geography of Ancient Egypt

Life in ancient Egypt, “Gift of the Nile,” was centered largely on agriculture. The majority of the people were involved in farming, and the growing season lasted eight-nine months. Wheat, fruits and vegetables were the principal crops, although there was some pastoral farming of cattle, sheep, or goats. Farmers in ancient Egypt worked to reach a level of subsistence so that they could feed themselves and pay their taxes. During the annual flooding of the Nile, which typically lasted from July through November, farming was impossible. But when the waters receded, a thick layer of fertile silt over the farmlands remained to insure rich soil for their crops and thick grasses for their grazing animals.
The country of Egypt consisted of two narrow strips of arable land lining either bank of the river Nile, from Aswan to the northern Delta. Just beyond the farmlands lay enormous deserts. The Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt. Its cycle of flooding -- growth, death, and rebirth to new growth -- became the cycle of everyday life, and also of Egyptian religion and understanding of an afterlife. The people of Egypt were dependent on the river for more than their food. It insured a line of communication and transportation among the provinces of the kingdom. The pharaohs took advantage of the Nile as a means to transport their armies, thus maintaining a strong, unified nation.

Ancient Egypt

Statue of Memi and Sabu,
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575–2465 B.C. E.
The Ancient Egyptians Egyptian irrigation created one of the first great civilizations