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Sarah Knapton, Science Editor on The Telegraph, reports on a newly discovered ‘Jumbo Jet-sized’ void discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The void is around 100ft long and the same height as the Statue of the Liberty.
A mysterious void has been discovered in the Great Pyramid of Giza and Egyptologists believe it could finally shed light on how the ancient tombs were constructed. The enigmatic gap, which is around 100ft long is situated directly above the Grand Gallery, an elaborate access route which cuts through the pyramid. It was found using a state-of-the-art scanning process called ‘muography’ which picks up tiny cosmic particles known as muons. Muons lose energy and eventually decay when they move through matter, so if large numbers are picked by a detector it means a hole must exist, which has allowed them to pass through unimpeded.
Today a team of scientists from France and Japan announced that months of scanning had shown a clear void in the pyramid, and they are hoping to drill a small hole and release a tiny flying drone to video the chasm.
Full Telegraph article here.

An Egyptian craftsman weaving a mat on a floor loom

Mohamed Badry Kamel Basuny, writing for UNESCO, reports on the Intangible Heritage of Egyptian mat-making –

Mat, as a traditional craft, is considered a local craft dating back to ancient Egyptian era. The local people had been developed this innovative production “Mats” to face the common problem of humidity and insects. There are numerous models and forms to Egyptian mats, which are displayed in Torino Museum, Italy, that was used in ancient Egyptian rural community. This craft is needed a group of material and tools such as reeds and grasses especially el-Summar herbs (Juncus), and flax to weave strongly these reeds together. Unfortunately, the craft of mats doesn’t be well-known and popular like the old periods. Now, it is known in few Egyptian governorates such as el-Qaliubiya, el-Sharkeya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Qena, Assiut, el-Monoufia. (Egyptian Archives of Folk Life and Folk Traditions (EAFLFT), 2013).

Detail of an Egyptian floor loom

Full article here.


The town was discovered across the Nile from Luxor
A 7,000 year-old lost town has been discovered near Luxor in Egypt –
Egypt has unearthed a city more than 7,000 years old and a cemetery dating back to its first dynasty in the southern province of Sohag, the antiquities ministry has said. The city is likely to have housed high-ranking officials and grave builders. Its discovery may yield new insights into Abydos, one of the oldest cities in ancient Egypt, the ministry said in a statement.
Experts say Abydos was Egypt’s capital towards the end of the predynastic period and during the rule of the first four dynasties. The discovery was made 400 metres away from the temple of Seti I, a New Kingdom period memorial across the Nile from present day Luxor.
More in today’s Guardian here. More images here.
The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2400 – 2300bce)
Image credit Mike Pitts
BBC News reports 15 October that –
A statue at the centre of an international heritage row is thought to have been exported to the USA. The Sekhemka figurine was sold by Northampton Borough Council for nearly £16m in 2014.
Auctioneers Christies had refused to state where it was going and there were rumours it may have ended up in a private collection in Qatar. However, it has emerged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport granted an export licence to the US in April. It had initially imposed an export ban – due to the statue’s cultural significance and “outstanding aesthetic importance” – but this was lifted after no UK buyer came forward.
The sale of the 4,000-year-old statue, believed to be of a high court official, had been opposed by Egypt’s antiquities ministry. Last week BBC News revealed how the council, which made £8m from the sale, had been warned by lawyers not to sell it for “financial motives”. The council said it sold the figurine to help fund a £14m extension to its museum and art gallery.
The Heritage Trust strongly opposed the sale and export of the Sekhemka statue (see our various features by typing Sekhemka in the search box above) and is dismayed by the news that it will leave Britain. There is no information yet on whether the statue will fall into private hands or go into a museum. What is certain is that the people of Northampton, and further afield, will no longer be able to see this stunning statue from ancient Egypt in their Museum.
BBC News article here.

The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2400 – 2300bce)
Image credit Mike Pitts

Mike Pitts, writing on his blog Digging Deeper, reports on Northampton’s Egyptian statue of Sekhemka which will probably leave the UK now that the Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s export licence deferral has finally expired –

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed a temporary export bar on the beautiful statue a year ago, after Christie’s sold it on behalf of Northampton Borough Council for a staggering £14m (though the council’s right to sell was far from clear). That bar was extended last October until March 29, “following notification of a serious intention to raise funds to save the Sekhemka statue for the UK”. Martin Bailey reports in the Art Newspaper that such funds never materialised. We don’t yet know where the statue is going, so we can still hope, perhaps, that it might emerge in a publicly accessible gallery or museum. This is a sad and shameful turn of events, but it’s unsurprising no one in the UK bought the statue. Thanks to Northampton Council’s actions, which included a murky deal with Lord Northampton, Sekhemka is tainted.

So here, as he embarks on another journey in his long history, is what he looked like when last seen in public. I’m pleased if anyone uses these photos (and I can supply higher resolution files on request, and have others). All I ask please (Art Newspaper) is a credit to Mike Pitts.

See our earlier articles on the Sekhemka statue by typing Sekhemka in the search box above.


An 1880 photograph showing the Alexandrian Obelisk (later to be known as Cleopatra’s Needle) being made ready for shipment from Egypt to the United States. The Obelisk was formally erected in New York’s Central Park in 1881

Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York “needles” were originally made during the reign of 18th Dynasty Thutmose III. The Paris “needle” dates to the reign of 19th Dynasty Ramesses II and was the first to be moved and re-erected as well as the first to acquire the nickname, “L’aiguille de Cléopâtre” in French.

The [Central Park] stone had stood in the clear dry Egyptian desert air for nearly 3000 years and had undergone little weathering. In a little more than a century in the climate of New York City, pollution and acid rain have heavily pitted its surfaces. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass, sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. If they are not able to properly care for the obelisk, he has threatened to “take the necessary steps to bring this precious artefact home and save it from ruin.”

Source the Wikimedia entry on Cleopatra’s Needle.


A guest feature by Mohamed Badry and Mohamed Abdalla.

Ancient Memphis (Mit Rahina): Human-induced Impact Assessment, Heritage Impact Assessment was conducted by Mohamed Badry Kamel Basuny and his colleague Mohamed Abdallah under the supervision of their professor, Dr Michael Schmidt and his assistant Mr Mohamed Ravankhah. This short Introduction to their Assessment is a welcome guest feature on the subject. For the complete report please click on the link here.

Encroachment on Kom el-Rabi’ at Mit Rahina
Mohamed Badry (16 January 2014)

Introduction for our case study:

Although the site is included in the list of World Heritage Sites, Memphis and its Necropolis, UNESCO is actually only interested of the Giza plateau site and other neglected sites from Saqqara to Dahshur. ​Mit Rahina is considered an adequate archaeological site for implementing Heritage Impact Assessment methodology providing an example of the Human-induced Impact on such archaeological sites. ​

The researchers used archaeological and Egyptological-related libraries, internet sources etc, together with oral sources obtained when interviewing Mr Mohamed Fathy Mansour of the Mit Rahina Inspectorate, during a fieldtrip conducted on Thursday, 16 January 2014. The visit evaluated the ground cover and potential for buried archaeological materials, as well as recording any standing or obtrusive archaeological and historical features.

This research will assess the current situation of Mit Rahina, the open air museum and the surrounding archaeological components which have been affected by human-induced impacts. It will then provide Heritage Impact assessment procedures, describe the current or proposed changes, and then identify the threats to the site in order to analyze its potential impact. Consequently, it will then suggest some mitigating measures.

Salinization close to archaeological remains at the Hathor Temple, Mit Rahina
Mohamed Badry (16 Jananuary 2014)


We are grateful to our professor Dr Michael Schmidt, Chair of Environmental Planning, BTU- Cottbus, Germany and his assistant Mr Mohamed Ravankhah, Research Assistant in the Department of Environmental Planning in Heritage Studies, for their guidance, encouragement and also, for their continuing support, and comments on the submitted paper. Moreover, we would like to thank Mr Mohamed Fathy Mansour, Mit Rahina Inspectorate, Mit Rahina Inspectorate register, who assisted us in doing direct on-site observations.

We are also grateful to the coordinators of both Helwan University (HU) in Cairo, Egypt and Brandenburg Technical University (BTU) in Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany in selecteding us for this prestigious Joint Master Program Heritage Conservation and Site Management (HCSM).

The authors:

​Mohamed Badry graduated from the Faculty of Arts, History Department, Cairo University (2009) and continued his education by graduating from Guidance Diploma, Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Helwan University (2011). He has a Master of Arts in Heritage Conservation and Heritage Site Management held jointly between two prestigious universities – Helwan University (Egypt) and BTU-Cottbus Senftenberg (Germany). His dissertation was in the field of heritage marketing under the title Developing Innovative Marketing Plan to Augment the Visitation of Egyptian World Heritage Sites: A Case Study of Saladin Citadel.

Mohamed Abdalla graduated from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Guidance Department, Helwan University (2000). He has much experience in the tourism industry through his position as Aviation Manager. He has a Master of Arts in Heritage Conservation and Heritage Site Management jointly between two prestigious universities – Helwan University (Egypt) and BTU-Cottbus Senftenberg (Germany). His dissertation was in the field of heritage marketing under the title Branding World Heritage Sites: Case of Egypt.


The British Museum has just announced plans for a new exhibition entitled Egypt: Faith after the pharaohs.
The exhibition begins in 30 BC, when Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire after the death of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and continues until AD 1171 when the rule of the Islamic Fatimid dynasty came to an end. The remarkable objects in the exhibition have been uniquely preserved in Egypt’s arid climate, and many have never been on display before. Their survival provides unparalleled access to the lives of individuals and communities, and they tell a rich and complex story of influences, long periods of peaceful coexistence, and intermittent tension and violence between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The changes in people’s private lives are shown through everyday objects – delicate fragments of papyrus preserve some of the earliest surviving Jewish scriptures and lost Christian gospels. Colourful garments and accessories show what people wore, and soft-furnishings show how they dressed their homes.
Together, the objects in the exhibition show how the shift from the traditional worship of many gods to monotheism – the belief in one God – affected every part of life. Egypt’s journey from Roman to Islamic control reflects the wider transformation from the ancient to medieval world, a transition that has shaped the world we live in today.
The exhibition runs from 29 October 2015 – 7 February 2016. More here.
The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2,400-2,300bce)
We’ve run several features on the controversial sale, last year, of the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka (type Sekhemka in the search box above to find them) but for those who might not know the history of the statue here’s a brief summary –
The statue dates from 2,400-2,300bce and shows the Egyptian royal chief, judge and administrator reading a scroll while his wife kneels by his side. It was gifted to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery by the 4th Marquis of Northampton in 1880. Last year it was removed from the Museum by Northampton Borough Council (amidst protestations from the Egyptian authorities, the Museums Association and others) and put up for sale at Christie’s in London where it sold to an unknown buyer for £15,762,500. The proceeds were then shared with the present Lord Northampton (the Eton-educated peer whose fortune is estimated at £120m and which includes two stately homes, land, valuable paintings, furniture and a disputed Roman treasure hoard). Lord Northampton received 45% of the proceeds, Northampton Borough Council the rest and Christie’s a handsome commission. The sale resulted in the Council being banned from the Museums Association and has also had a Heritage Lottery Fund bid rejected as a consequence. The statue itself has not been seen in public since.
If all this were not bad enough we learn today (see BBC News Services here ) that only a temporary export ban has been place on the statue. Why only a temporary ban? Surely an object of such beauty and importance should not only stay in this country but should be on public display – as it once formerly was.

 Egyptian sculpture of a cat dating from the 26th Dynasty (approx 600bce)
An Egyptian sculpture of a cat, dating from 600bce and perhaps once owned by archaeologist Howard Carter of Tutankhamun fame, would have ended up in a rubbish skip but for the sharp eyes of local auctioneer David Lay based in Cornwall, England. Realising that the bronze sculpture might be something special, Mr Lay consulted experts at the British Museum who confirmed it originated from 600bce. The Head of the Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan said he was thrilled to see such a finely modelled and beautifully proportioned piece, and dated it from the 26th Dynasty (approximately 700-500bce).
According to Mr Lay the sculpture had belonged to a Mr Liddell, the late father of the family who were selling the house where it had been kept. Mr Liddell had spent his career working at Spink & Son, a once famous London auction house that regularly handled sales of Egyptian antiquities. When Howard Carter died it was Spink and Son who handled the sale of his estate and it is thought that Mr Liddell bought the sculpture at one of Spink’s sales.
The sculpture may achieve as much as £50,000 in auction.
The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2,400-2,300bce)
Breaking news: The Northampton Chronicle and Echo reports today that –
The process leading to the multi-million pound sale of an Egyptian statue by Northampton Borough Council contravened museum accreditation standards, Arts Council England has ruled today. As a result of the £16 million Sekhemka sale in London last month, the two museums managed by Northampton Borough Council, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum, have been removed from the Arts Council’s Accreditation Scheme, effective as of today.
Full article here. See also Mike Pitts’ feature here and our earlier feature here.
The tomb of a priest discovered just 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the Great Pyramid at Giza
From Photo by Photo courtesy of Maksim Lebedev
Yahoo News reports –
A wall painting, dating back over 4,300 years, has been discovered in a tomb located just east of the Great Pyramid of Giza. The painting shows vivid scenes of life, including boats sailing south on the Nile River, a bird hunting trip in a marsh and a man named Perseneb who’s shown with his wife and dog. While Giza is famous for its pyramids, the site also contains fields of tombs that sprawl to the east and west of the Great Pyramid. These tombs were created for private individuals who held varying degrees of rank and power during the Old Kingdom (2649-2150 B.C.), the age when the Giza pyramids were built. The new painting was discovered in 2012 by a team from the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has been excavating these tombs since 1996.
Full article here.
On Friday, 11 July, the Art Fund released a statement on the sale of the Sekhemka statue. In part it reads –
The Art Fund supports careful collections management, which includes responsible deaccessioning, ideally with an item being freely transferred to another body so it can remain on public display. However, in line with the Museum Association’s Code of Ethics for museums, we remain strongly opposed to deaccessioning any item for financial reasons except in exceptional circumstances, where the funds will directly benefit the museum collection and only after all other options have been explored.
This is not the case with the sale of Sekhemka and as such, having gone against the sector’s ethical guidance, it risks being stripped of its accredited status. This is therefore a financially as well as morally harmful decision for Northampton Borough Council to take. Not only will they receive only 55% of the final hammer price of £15.8m, but Northampton Museum and Art Gallery will no longer be eligible to apply to us and other major funders for funding for acquisitions, capital projects (including the planned £14m extension), and artistic or educational programming.
Selling items from collections, as Northampton and Croydon have both done in recent months, does not just impact on one particular museum and its visitors; it reduces public trust and risks lessening donors’ desire to give items to museums for their long-term safe-keeping.
Full statement here. See also Mike Pitts’ feature Six things about Sekhemka, and our earlier feature here.

The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2,400-2,300bce)

BREAKING NEWS: The item sold for £15,762,500. High price, low morals. Shame on them. Read the feature by Andy Brockman in HeritageDaily here.
While Britain seems poised to enter yet another scandal centred around Westminster, and other sectors of the Establishment, so serious that it threatens to shake our society to its roots, we learn today that Northampton Borough Council is not above doing a bit of stooping itself, and is about to sell off one of the objects held by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. The object is the 2,400-2,300bce year-old Egyptian Sekhemka statue of a priest (or court official) and is said to be worth up to £6m. It will go under the hammer at Christie’s in London today (10 July). The sale begins at 7pm British Summer Time.

Northampton Borough Council claim that the sale is to help fund a £14m extension to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. However, ignoring protestations from Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty, and concerned bodies and individuals in Britain (the Museums Association  has sent a final warning to Northampton Borough Council saying it will review the authority’s membership status if it sells the statue), a spokesperson for Northampton Borough Council is reported as saying, “We contacted the Egyptian government two years ago regarding our plans to sell Sekhemka. According to Unesco’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no right to claim the recovery of the statue.”

Our understanding is that Egypt is not claiming ‘recovery’ of the statue at all; it is objecting (and rightly so) to the sale by Northampton Borough Council of a statue held by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, a statue that was gifted to the Museum by the 4th Marquis of Northampton in 1880. We learn, too, that if the sale of the statue does go ahead the proceeds will be shared with the present Lord Northampton (the Eton-educated peer whose fortune is estimated at £120m and which includes two stately homes, land, valuable paintings, furniture and a disputed Roman treasure hoard) who will receive some 45% of the proceeds.

This is another example of a dangerous trend in the selling off of public property (see also Croydon Council’s sale of Chinese ceramics last year here) and must be stopped before it is too late. If you feel that the sale of the Sekhemka statue should be halted please consider signing the Save Sekhemka Action Group petition here and the STOP THE SALE OF SEKHEMKA BY NORTHAMPTON COUNCIL petition here.

See also the Culture24 article and video here.
CT scanner yields details of an Egyptian mummy at the British Museum
The Trustees of the British Museum
Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent for BBC News Science & Environment, reports on the nonintrusive state-of-the-art CT scanner that is yielding details of eight Egyptian mummies at the British Museum –
The British Museum has carried out scans on eight Egyptian mummies, revealing unprecedented details about these people. Never before has anyone seen mummy hair, muscles and bone at such fine resolution. It is enabling scientists for the first time to tell the age of the mummies, what they ate, the diseases they suffered from, and how they died. Each mummy was put into a state-of-the-art CT scanner. Researchers probed them layer by layer to build up a high-definition 3D picture of each one. Once digitised, British Museum staff were then able to peel away each layer, to see the face of the person underneath the bandages.
Full article, photos and video here. The exhibition Ancient lives new discoveries is on show at the British Museum until the 30 November 2014.


May 2022
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