Category: Ann - Part 2

Unique Crown suggests Arsinoë II ruled as King of Lower Egypt

A relief depicting Queen Arsinoe II at the Philae-temple in Aswan. - Photograph by Maria NilssonA unique queens crown with ancient symbols combined with a new method of studying status in Egyptian reliefs forms the basis for a re-interpretation of historical developments in Egypt in the period following the death of Alexander the Great.

In the thesis ‘The Crown of Arsino II’, Maria Nilsson shows that Cleopatra VII was not the only Ptolemaic female pharaoh Queen Arsino II came first, 200 years earlier. Nilsson argues that Arsino (316-270 BC) should be included in the official pharaonic king list as Ptolemy II’s co-regent; her royal authority should be considered equivalent to Hatshepsut, Tawosret and Amenirdis II, as one of the most important royal women in Egyptian history.

Researchers largely agree on Queen Arsino IIs importance from the day that she was deified. The queen was put on a level with the ancient goddesses Isis and Hathor, and was still respected and honoured 200 years after her death when her better-known descendant Cleopatra wore the same crown. But the reasons behind Arsinos huge influence have been explained in many different ways.

Maria Nilsson, from the University of Gotenburg in Sweden, has studied her historical importance by interpreting the Macedonian queen’s personal crown and its ancient symbols. The crown, which has never been found but is depicted on statues and Egyptian reliefs, was created with the help of the Egyptian priesthood to symbolise the qualities of the queen. In her thesis ‘The crown of Arsino II. The creation and development of an imagery of authority’ (available online here), Nilsson questions the traditional royal line which excludes female regents, and defies some researchers attempts to minimise Arsinos importance while she was still alive.

My conclusion instead is that Arsino was a female pharaoh and high priestess who was equal to and ruled jointly with her brother and husband, and that she was deified during her actual lifetime, says Nilsson. It was this combination of religion and politics that was behind her long-lived influence.

As early as Predynastic times, ancient Egyptian rulers depicted themselves, in line with their gods, wearing different crowns. Six main forms are documented from at least the early dynastic period, and still regularly depicted although elaborated upon in the Ptolemaic and Roman periods; the khepresh (or blue crown), the white crown, the red crown, the double crown, the double feather plume and the atef (or ostrich feather) crown. So far archaeologists have not found any physical royal crowns, and Egyptologists have to make do with studying depictions of the various crowns on tomb paintings and reliefs.

The crown became an ideal tool for communicating individuality and status when all the other elements were fundamentally locked in artistic tradition and strictly regulated

Until the Ptolemaic period, the double crown was the most important and powerful royal crown, rarely receiving any pictorial additions. However, Arsino II’s crown was based on the composition of different pictorial elements; the red crown, ram horns, the double feather plume and the cow horns with solar disc. By wearing a traditional crown, the Ptolemaic queen would have associated herself with the previous pharaonic ruling couples, as well as the divine world of Egypt, but the new composition of elements can be seen as an expression of a more individualistic symbolic approach.

The crown became an ideal tool for communicating individuality and status when all the other elements were fundamentally locked in artistic tradition and strictly regulated, writes Nilsson.

According to Nilsson, the crown was created for the living queen, and reflects the main three aspects of Arsino’s positions her royal position as King of Lower Egypt, high priestess and God’s wife of Amun, and her status of goddess, both during and after her lifetime as thea Philadelphos can be clearly identified in the crown’s iconography. It indicates that she was proclaimed female pharaoh during her lifetime, and that she was regarded the female founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

Arsino’s crown can be found in at least 27 variations, and was later worn by Ptolemaic queens Cleopatra III and VII. However, it was not only Cleopatra who wanted to re-use Arsinos important and symbolic crown. Male descendants all named Ptolemy used her crown as a template when creating a new crown which they gave to the goddess Hathor to honour the domestic priesthood and so win its support when Egypt was gripped by civil war.

Evidently, this crown was accepted throughout the ages as an individual attribute of Hathor of Dendera, while the crown of Arsino, in its original form, disappeared with Cleopatra VII, writes Nilsson. The most important conclusion that comes out of this study of the later Hathoric crown is that the Ptolemies found an Egyptian divine couple that could complement their claimed Greek divine ancestry, that Hathor of Dendera and Horus of Edfu signified and personified the male and female side of the Ptolemaic dynasty at the time of the crowns’ introduction.

Nilsson’s thesis is structured around the crown and includes its wider context in the reliefs (with a most fascinating chapter about size and position, relative scaling and the ‘crown line’ (p 343-392), demonstrating that Arsino ‘s crown placed the queen as the most important figure in a majority of scenes) and paves the way for future studies of Egyptian crowns as symbols of power and status for instance the difference between crowns worn by Egyptian woman in their roles as queens and those worn by priestesses.

The creation of Queen Arsinos crown was just the beginning, she says.

New lighting system at Valley of the Kings means longer visitor hours for ancient Egyptian tombs

Dr Hawass said the new lighting system will aslo provide a beautiful and a dramatic scene at night for the pedestrians walking along the Nile cornice on the east bank in LuxorEgyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced that with a total of 922 units the installation of the new lighting system on Luxors west bank has been completed, allowing for people to visit the tombs in the evening.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the aim of this project is to preserve the tombs and temples located on Luxors west bank.

The thousands of tourists that daily visit the heritage site will now be distributed throughout the day, from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

This, he continued, will reduce the level of humidity inside the tombs, which negatively affect its paintings.

The humidity and fungus generated through breath and sweat is gradually eroding the soft stone chambers, and slowly destroying the ancient paintings and carvings.

Hawass added that the new lighting system will also provide a beautiful and a dramatic scene at night for the pedestrians walking along the Nile cornice on the east bank in Luxor.

The new lighting system is one of various measures taken in a bid to preserve the tombs, which include tomb closures, and maybe even the reconstruction of a 'Replica Valley of the Kings'.

Dr. Sabri Abdel Aziz, Head of the Pharaonic Antiquities at the SCA, said that that the project included the lighting of the mountains located on the west bank, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the noblemens tombs, the northern side of Al-Qurna, and Hatshepsuts temple.

The project, carried out by the SCA in collaboration with Egypts Sound and Light organization and the French lighting company Architecture Lumire, had a budget of 56 millions LE about 6.2 million, or almost ten million USD.

The installation of the ‘cool lighting’ system is just one of many steps taken to preserve the royal tombs.

Dr Hawass earlier announced that, in a bid to encourage tourists to visit the less popular tombs, some of the most famous tombs in the Valley of the Kings would be closed to those on a moderate budget.

“Whoever wants to visit the original tombs of Tutankhamun, Seti I and Nefertari must pay a huge amount of money,” he commented then.

Eventually, Dr Hawass hopes to create a ‘Replica Valley’, containing identical replicas of the three tombs for tourists to visit, as with Lascaux II has been successfully done for the caves of Lascaux.

These replica tombs will be based on laser scans and high-resolution photographs of the burial chambers and sarcophagi. These would incorporate missing fragments of the tombs that are now held at foreign museums. With King Tut’s replica mummy already looking scaringly real, and Sandro Vannini’s fabulous images of the tomb paintings as examples of what can be achieved with the right combination of equipment and knowledge, I have high hopes for the reconstruction results.

Until the physical replica of KV62 is finished, you can still have a look at a 3D replica of the tomb based on Sandro Vanninis photographs using Heritage Key Virtual, or visit a ‘real life’ – and truly astonishing – replica of how Howard Carter found King Tut’s tomb, at the travelling exhibition ‘Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures’ currently visiting Manchester. Watch a preview and learn how the replicas were made in this video.

Video: Replica King Tut Treasures offer Real Discovery at Manchester Exhibition

Bob Partidge and Mary-Ann Craig at 'Tuankhamun, His Tomb and His Treasures', Manchester. Last week I visited the ‘Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures’ exhibition in Manchester with Mary-Ann Craig (video), and well… saw wonderful things, and everywhere, the glint of gold. The moment I marvelled at the recreation of the set-up used to remove Tutankhamun’s sarcophagi from his tomb, any doubts still left about the power of replicas disappeared, and I would strongly suggest you visit the touring exhibition before it leaves the UK.

Yet, if you want an expert opinion the matter (as well as a great introduction to your visit), watch our Heritage Key video with Robert Partridge, editor of ‘Ancient Egypt‘.

As any good exhibition (especially one with many students, young and old, in its audience) should, ‘Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures’ starts by putting King Tut in context geographically, and most important on a timeline. Fast-forward to 1922, Valley of the Kings, where we join Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon for the most important archaeological discovery of all times KV62, or Tutankhamun’s tomb.

When Carter started clearing the tomb, he recorded each artefact (more than 5,000 in total), and made sure the most important treasures, and their location, were captured on glass plate (no film yet) by photographer Harry Burton. It is these detailed records and amazing black-and-white captures, that have allowed for ‘Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures’ to be produced, and when entering the recreation of Tut’s tomb chambers, you truly feel you are allowed a peek through Carter’s eyes. (See Burton’s images and the recreation of the chambers in the video below.)

Video: King Tut’s Replica Treasures with Bob Partridge & Mary-Ann Craig

Transcription of the video.

To my surprise, it was not the reproduction of the tomb scenes ‘as was’ that fascinated me most. Most enthralling was the life-size depiction of how Carter managed to, despite the limited space in the tomb, lift the heavy, golden coffins out of the sarcophagus something that is terribly hard to convey in just images or text.

After the recreation of Harry Burton’s pictures as Bob points out, in full-colour and 3D you see high-quality replicas of the pharoah’s burial shrines, his coffins and golden death mask (see King Tut’s mask in 3D and take the quiz to test your knowledge), the canopic shrine and chest, one of Tutankhamun’s gilded chariots and many of the Boy King’s grave gifts the famous ones, as well as some very personal ones. From these, my favourite must be the tiny wooden chair used by the pharaoh when he was just a little child; an object I would have definitely overlooked, were it not for Bob.

Tutankhamun's Treasures - Explaining how all fits togetherTutankhamun's Treasures - Robert, Mary-Ann and the little chair

Other often underappreciated treasures on display are the recreated coffins of two mummified foetuses (as they were found in his tomb, they are likely to be Tut’s), the trumpets and other music instruments, the beautiful miniature boats and a multitude of ritual figurines with their black, wooden coffins. Until I saw these statuettes all assembled, I did not realise just how many were amassed and repurposed for Tut’s burial.

There is more to be said for the exhibition than that it puts the discoveries made by Carter back in context. It is great to see Tut’s treasures, even if they are ‘mere’ recreations, given the space they deservewhich allows for looking at the artefacts from all angles, minus the annoyance of fingerprint-stained glass.

The impressive set-up does not only provide enough space for the boy king’s treasures, but also for their visitors. It is surprisingly pleasant to read* the detailed information signs without the breath of a dozen sweaty, smelly tourists on your neck.

Overall, a really gratifying visit (not the least thanks to Bob’s excellent tour), and if you are in charge of kids that need to be entertained or educated over the holiday season (or grown-up friends who could do with an introduction to ancient Egypt), DO take them to the Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures Manchester, rather than the Book of the Dead show currently on at the British Museum.

The journey through the afterlife is interesting, no doubt, but Tutankhamun’s replica treasures tell the story as well, with the addition of a personal touch and information and objects from the daily royal life in ancient Egypt.

For tickets, opening times and activity sheets for your kids to use, For the Christmas holidays, you can visit ‘Tut at Twilight’, have all your (ancient Egypt) questions answered by Egyptologists present in the galleries, and return home with your very own special Hieroglyphic exhibition mug.

* I am not a fan of audio guides. Although I consider a good narrative essential for an exhibition to be engaging, I do like to explore that storyline ‘at my own pace’, reading the information with objects I find interesting, skipping the parts (I believe) I already know off, or often return to a related object to take a better look. But Bob said the audio guide that accompanies the ‘Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures’ exhibition in Manchester is excellent, so please, don’t let my old fashioned ideas and inability to come to terms with new technology stop you from using it! 😉

Mysterious horse found at Pompeii is in fact an ass

The equine skeletons found at the 'House of the Chaste Lovers', Pompeii. - Image copyright Giovanni Lattanzi, archart.itEver since the remains of a seemingly unknown breed of horse were excavated at the ancient city of Pompeii, scientists have been puzzled over this find. Now, the riddle is solved: what was thought to be a horse, is actually an ass.

After DNA tests were done on a skeleton discovered amongst the ruins of an ancient Roman house in Pompeii in 2004, Italian scientists concluded they had discovered a new breed. Yet, after taking a closer look at the data, researchers from Cambridge and Munster say that in this study, a mistake was made. Their arguments the donkey DNA was contaminated with horse DNA, leading to an artificial hybrid DNA being formed are published in a letter to the editor of the Journal of of Cellular Biochemistry.

An ancient equine from Pompeii?

For the original study, five skeletons from the family of Equidae which includes horses, donkeys and zebras were analyzed. These skeletons had been unearthed at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii from the stables of the “Casa dei Casti Amanti”, the House of the Chaste Lovers. They were found well preserved, covered by the layer of volcanic ash that buried Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum when the Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

The mistake could have happened as early as during the excavation maybe DNA from one skeleton was transferred to another. It is also possible the error happened because of carelessness in the laboratory, or only later when the data was analyzed on the computer.

The research team that conducted the original study looked at the 2,000-year-old mitochondrial DNA of the horses DNA that does not belong to the nucleus, but to the “energy plants” (mitochondria) of cells. Four of the DNA types were easily assigned, they were consistent with typical mitochondrial horse genome. The fifth horse, however, seemed to be a horse-like indeed, but it possessed unknown DNA. The scientists concluded this was a previously unknown and probably extinct horse breed(Genetic characterization of Pompeii and Herculaneum Equidae buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD,abstract here).

It’s an ass

Now, Susan Gurney, PhD student at the Institute of Animal Physiology of the University of Mnster, and member of the Institute of Forensic Genetics and the University of Cambridge, reexamined the data of this study, and concluded an error was made.

Gurney says it is obvious that the mitochondrial DNA of a horse came in contact with the mitochondrial DNA of the donkey, forming the hybrid DNA which ‘came from an unknown breed’.

She showed that the first 177 blocks (nucleotides) of the DNA strand match with the nucleotide sequence of donkey DNA. The other 193 nucleotides are consistent with equine DNA.

It was easy to notice that, originally, it were two seperate DNA strands, Gurney says.

The mistake could have happened as early as during the excavation maybe DNA from one skeleton was transferred to another. It is also possible the error happened because of carelessness in the laboratory, or only later when the data was analyzed on the computer.

Though the scientists couldn’t confirm the discovery of a new breed of horse, the results are still exciting, they say.

If the donkey DNA indeed belongs to the ancient skeleton, this shows that at ancient Pompeii, donkeys were kept that are closely related to those typically found in Italy today a line that has the Somali wild ass as ancestor. The find would then confirm this lineage dates back to as early as the Roman time. In other European countries, asses are mostly descendants of the Nubian wild ass.

Ancient Egyptian ‘Avenue of Sphinxes’ gets twelve Sphinxes longer

The newly discovered part of the Avenue of Sphinxes, with the Mut Temple Gate shown in the far left. - Image courtesy the SCAArchaeologists have unearthed twelve ancient sphinx statues at Luxor, Egypt.

The sculptures were found at a newly discovered part of the Avenue of Sphinxes, an ancient road stretching from the temple at Karnak to the temple of the goddess Mut at Luxor.

The discovery, made as part of excavation and restoration works at the site by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), was announced by Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni.

The statues of the mythical creatures, inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Nectanebo I, were found in the last sector of the Avenue of Sphinxes, a part of the sacred pathway that although its existence was known to historians from ancient texts was never precisely located.

The sphinxes found are often shattered in multiple pieces. Here one is being put on his base again.Mansour Boraik, Supervisor of Luxor Antiquities, indicated this is the first time a new road that runs from east to west towards the Nile has been found.

The total length of the road to the Nile is estimated to be about 600 metres, with 20 metres excavated so far.

These 20 metres were built from sandstone, brought in from the quarries at Gebel Silsila, north of Aswan.

The discovery is not located within the known road of the Avenue of the Sphinxes between Karnak and Luxor Temples, but instead at the end of the newly discovered road of Nectanebo I, explained Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA.

Dr. Hawass added that along this way the sacred boat of Amun, king of the gods, traveled on the gods annual trip to visit his wife, Mut, at Luxor temple.

The Avenue of Sphinxes is about 2,700 meters long and 76 meters wide. Although the path was already in use during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, it was the 30th Dynasty Pharaoh Nectenabo I (380 to 362 BC) who constructed the avenue itself. He lined it with 1350 sphinxes, all inscribed with his name.

The sacred road was the location of important religious ceremonies, most notably the Beautiful Feast of Opet.

This festival was celebrated annually in Thebes, during the New Kingdom period and later. Hidden from sight in a sacred barque, the statues of the gods of the Theban Triad – Amun, Khonsu and Mut – were escorted down the Avenue of Sphinxes, from the temple of Amun in Karnakto the temple of Luxor, in order to relive their marriage.

Amenhotep III & sun god Re-Horakhti statue unearthed at pharaoh’s funerary temple in Luxor

Statue of Amenhotep III and sun god Re-Horakhti discovered a the pharaoh's funerary temple at LuxorArchaeologists today discovered the upperportion of a statue of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III at Luxor, Egypt.

The find part of a double statue featuring King Amenhotep III with the falcon-headed sun god Re-Horakhti was made at the pharaoh’s funerary temple, locatedon the west bank of the Nile.

In a press statement, Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny said that the discovery was made during routine excavations at Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple carried out by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

The dig issupervised byDr. Zahi Hawass, who thinks of the newly discovered statue as one of the best of the recent finds in the area, because of its expert craftsmanship which reflects the skills of the ancient Egyptian artisans.

Previously, the SCAmission alreadyuneartheda double statue of the pharoah and the god Amun, several sculptures depicting the king with solar god Amun-Re and an uniquegranite colossus, depicting the god of wisdom Thoth in the form of a baboon.

This is the first time that we have found a standing statue of the god Thoth, said Dr. Hawass about the baboon statue.

Video: Saving Amenhotep III’s Temple

18th Dynasty king Amenhotep III, (1390-1352BC) is well known for the overwhelming amount of statues dedicated to him, particularly group statuary featuring the king with the ancient Egyptian deities.

These include Amun-Re, Re-Horakhti, Bastet, Sobek, and most frequently Sekhmet, the ancient Egyptian goddess of healing (as well as destruction).

So far, more than 80 statues of the goddess have been unearthed by the Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project, directed by Dr. Hourig Sourouzian (watch the video about the project on the left).

It has been suggested that the Sekhmet statues were erected because Amenhotep’s failing health during the final years of his reign.

A number of group statues of Amenhotep III are still partially buried under private the farmland surrounding the temple. The government and the SCA are now trying to reach an agreement with the landowner to purchase the section so the statues can be fully excavated.

Amenhotep III’s funerary temple – famous for its Colossi of Memnon – was built closer to theNile than any other temple in Thebes, right on the edge of the floodplain.Consequently,less than 200 years after the pharaoh’s reign, it had almost completely collapsed, withmost of its stones being removed from the site to be reused in other construction projects.

TV: Psusennes I, the Silver Pharaoh (who ursurped Merenptah’s sarcophagus)

Dr. Fawzy Gaballah, who reopened the research on Psusennes I for the documentary. - Image credit Andy Webb, PBSThe royal tomb of Pharaoh Psusennes I is said to be one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in Egypt. So, why hasn’t the world heard about it? And what does it reveal about Ancient Egypt? Find out in ‘Secrets of the Dead:The Silver Pharoah’, premiering this Wednesday.

Tanis, Egypt, circa 1939. An excavation team led by French archaeologist Pierre Montet unearthed an intact royal burial chamber (NRT III), which containedtreasures that (almost) rivals the riches found in Tutankhamuns tomb almost two decades before.

One of the most spectacular discoveries inside the crypt was the exquisite silver sarcophagus of Pharaoh Psusennes I, an, up till now, obscure ruler who governed Egypt more than 3000 years ago during one of its most difficult periods.

But while the 1922 Tut discovery created an international sensation, the opening of the tomb in Tanis made barely a ripple in a world focused on the impending war.

After Montet made his discovery, he raced to get his family back to Europe before the outbreak of war and the treasures he found – including Psusennes I’s golden burial mask (currently on tour) – were transported to Cairo for safe-keeping. There, the Silver Pharaoh’s treasures remained vaulted and unstudied.

It is hard to imagine a worse time to make such a spectacular discovery,says Egyptologist Salima Ikram.

Now, a team ofscientists- including Dr Salima Ikram, Dr Fawzy Gaballah and Dr Peter Lacovara -has taken a second look at the pharaoh’s 3,000-year-old remains, his treasures and Montet’s excavation notes. This research is the topic of a one-hour documentary ‘The Silver Pharaoh‘ (part of Secrets of the Dead), which premieres in the US this Wednesday.

 PBS, Andy WebbReconstruction portrait of Psusennes I by Melissa Dring - Image credit PBS, Andy Webb

Secrets of the Dead: The Silver Pharaoh

Psusennes ruled at the end of the 2nd millennium BC, about 300 years after King Tut.

At that time, Egypt was a fractured kingdom divided between rival rulers of north and south. High priests seized power to command the southern region from Thebes while deposed pharaohs were exiled north to Tanis.

From Tanis, Psusennes ruled for animpressive 46 years;the study of Psusennes skeleton showed a hard-working man who suffered a debilitating rheumatic disease but lived well into his eighties.

‘Cumul des mandats’

The pharaoh’s cartouche offered the archaeologists clues as to how Psusennes amassed his fortune.

The first one was found on an ordinary silver dish, marked with Psusennes signature along with a series of hieroglyphic inscriptions citing his titles the king was not only a pharaoh but also a high priest.

Additional investigation showed that he had his daughter marry his brother, a high priest in the south. In doing so, he cemented his family power and united the country.

Ursurping Merenptah’s Sarcophagus

Psusennes’ sarcophagus held another clue to Third Intermediate Period Egyptian politics. On it, the egyptologists found a cartouche belonging to Merenptah, son of Ramesses the Great. Merenptah died 150 years before Psusennes came into power.

Research showed Psusennes was given Merenptahs sarcophagus as a gift and had his signature added on it. This strategic act solidified his familys association with historical greats for eternity.

Moving Pi-Ramesses to Tanis

The team also discovered more about the relocation of the metropolis of Pi-Ramesses, the riverside capital built by Ramesses II, to Tanis. Montet discovered its ruins in Tanis, however, archaeologists began questioning Montets assumption since the river Nile often changed course.

Using radar scans along a previously discounted delta settlement 12 miles from Tanis, they discovered the foundation of Ramesses lost city. Pi-Ramesses became unlivable when the Nile became too silted at this location. Around the same time, Psusennes took the throne and ordered part of the city be moved stone by stone to Tanis.

‘Secrets of the Dead: The Silver Pharaoh’ airs nationally Wednesday, November 3, 2010 on PBS.

‘Rare’ Bronze Age hoard unearthed at Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex

The pot in situArchaeologists have unearthed Bronze Age hoard containing 3000-year-old axe heads, spear tips and other metal objects in a field in the Burnham-on-Crouch area, Essex.

The objects foundat the fieldinclude an pottery container with heavy metal contents unearthed undisturbed.

The first finds at the location were all metal work and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in September.

At the same field, metal detectorists later discovered an in situ pottery vessel.

They covered up the pot, and reported this find tothe PAS as well.

A dig was planned, and early October,archaeologists from PAS joined the landowner and four metal detectorists to excavate the known area of the hoard.

The pottery container was found to have suffered some plough damage.

One side of the vessel was missing, the other side was fractured.

It is rare to find an Bronze Age hoard in situ, especially one that involves pottery, so the archaeologists decided to ‘block lift’ the fragile, fractured pot, which was only held intact by the mud on both sides.

So, out came the cling film to hold the pot together whilst we dug around it and undermined it so that it could be lifted. This was a rather slow and painstaking process, making sure the vessel was supported whilst digging around it, Laura McLean writes on the PAS blog.

Eventually the vessel was ready to be lifted, and for rather a small pot it was blooming heavy with all the metalwork inside!

The 3,000-year-old container will be x-rayed at the lab, to give the archaeologists a clearer understanding of the order in which the objects were deposited in the vessel.

The team also unearthed intentionally broken axe heads, spear tips and other metal objects.

The hoard is currently kept at the Colchester & Ipswich Museums, where it is further examined.

Melbourne Museum brings ‘Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of The Pharaohs’ to Australia

One of Tutankhamun's canopic coffinettes travelling with 'Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs'Treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamun will be seen in Australia for the first time, when the Melbourne Museum hosts ‘Tutankhamun and The Golden Age of The Pharaohs’, startingApril, 2011.

Up to 700,000 people are expected to visit the exhibition, which will feature more than 130 artefacts from Tut’s tomb and the gravesand temples of his ancestors from Egypt’s 200-year ‘Golden Age’.

Six months ago,Frank Howarth, director of Sydney’s Australian Museum, said the show’s $10 million price tag for six months, and its size were too big for Australian institutions to handle. In stead, the Australian Museum hosted the $1.5 million exhibition ‘Egyptian Treasures: Art of the Pharaohs’, from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Austria.

Now, the Melbourne Museum entered a partnership with sports and entertainment management company IMG, Victorian Major Events Company and the State Government to bring the Tutankhamun exhibition currently running in New York, with specials suchas King Tut’s chariot andan impressive 3D replica of King Tut’s mummy to Melbourne.

Among the artefacts that will visit Melbourne are fifty treasures* that belonged to Tutankhamun including his golden diadem, the falcon collar, golden daggers and jewellery.

Other King Tut masterpieces (preview) on show are a canopic coffin, Tut’s gilded chair and a beautifully crafted board game.

These will be accompanied by eighty more treasures found in other royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings (Keith listed his Top 10 things you shouldn’t miss here).

The exhibition heading for Australia is one of two King Tut spectaculars doing the rounds, both sponsored by National Geographic. The other exhibition, ‘Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharoahs’ currently runs at the Denver Art Museum.

After Melbourne, the exhibits in ‘Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs’ are likely to return to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

* The exhibition does not include King Tut’s golden death mask and burial coffins. The image that so far has been used on all of the posters for the ‘Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs’ exhibition is from a smaller coffinette holding King Tut’s liver. Tut’s death mask is safely kept in the Cairo Museum, which it will only leave to travel to the Grand Egyptian Museum, once this is finished.

Alternatives to a visit to Egypt for marvelling at these amazing burial items are our virtual death mask and sarcophagus at King Tut Virtual (or the 3DQuiz here), or for a glimpseof the treasures set in a replica of Tut’s tomb,a visit to the Semmel exhibition ‘Tutankhamun His Tomb and His Treasures’ (on display at Manchester until February 27th, 2011).

Silbury Hill’s true story – construction process was more important than design

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire (on a sunny after-summer-solstice day)Standing 30 metres high and 160 metres wide, Silbury Hill in England is one of the world’s largest man-made prehistoric mounds. It was constructed in the Neolithic, about 25 kilometres north from Stonehenge.

Silbury Hill Construction

It is estimatedtheconstruction of Silbury Hill involved half a million tonnes of material and around four million man-hours of work equivalent to about ten years for a crew of a hundred people working 7/7 for more than ten hours a day.

New and more precise dating of materials found inside the hill nowsuggests the main construction happened in about 100 years, involving some three generations between 2400 and 2300 BC right after nearbyStonehenge‘s thirty enormous sarsen stones were put in place.

But new evidence is increasing telling us that our Neolithic ancestors display an almost obsessive desire to constantly change the monument to rearrange, tweak and adjust it. Its as if the final form of the Hill did not matter it was the construction process that was important.

Early 2000, a large hole suddenly appeared on the top of Silbury Hill. It was soon clear what had happened: the head of an old excavation shaft, dug in 1776 to penetrate to the heart of the monument, had begun to collapse. Archaeological examination of the freshly exposed deposits showed that the top of the shaft had slumped and been filled up again several times before. In other words, the collapse was a recurring problem.

Shortly after, English Heritage began a multi-disciplinary research and restoration programme which led to some intriguing discoveries.

The survey suggeststhe prehistoricmound is not in fact truly circular: on the summit it appears to be more angular than circular, while at the base it is almost octagonal in form.

It is possible a spiralling ledge led up to the mound if so, this makes good sense in terms of access routes during the construction of the monument, and perhaps ritual processions to the summit.

The research has also shown that Silbury Hill was at the centre of a Roman-British settlement to the east and south, straddling the now nearby A4. Much pottery and other artefacts of this period have been found on and around the mound in the past. Indeed, the monument itself may have acted as a focus for the settlement and it could have been considered as sacred in the Roman period as when originally constructed.

Later, in the medieval period, the top of the hill was flattened and a building possibly defensive was constructed on the summit.

Placed on the junction of a chalk spur and the valley floor, Silbury Hill is integrally related to the springs and rivulets close to the source of the River Kennet. – Copyright: English Heritage, credit David Field

The digital model derived from the 2007 ground survey of Silbury Hill shows traces of what appear to be spirally arranged construction or access terraces and a prominent platform (centre) situated towards the base of the mound facing south-east. This is an artist’s impression ofSilbury Hill showing a spiral method of construction, possibly used for access to summit. – Copyright English Heritage, Picture Credit Judith Dobie

The Story of Silbury Hill

In the new book The Story of Silbury Hill, published by English Heritage, all this emerging evidence has given rise to a radical new theory: Silbury Hill was not a single construction project and that the builders did not have any blueprint in mind. Instead, the creators were building the mound as part of a continuous storytelling ritual and the importance of the shape that we see now is of secondary importance.

Jim Leary, English Heritage archaeologist and co-author of the book, explains: Most interpretations of Silbury Hill have, up to now, concentrated on its monumental size and its final shape. It has generally been thought to be a concerted effort of generations of people building something out of a common vision and spiritual zeal akin to that that spurred the creation of soaring medieval cathedrals. The flat top, especially, was often seen to be a platform deliberately built to bring people closer to the skies.

But new evidence is increasing telling us that our Neolithic ancestors display an almost obsessive desire to constantly change the monument to rearrange, tweak and adjust it. Its as if the final form of the Hill did not matter it was the construction process that was important.

This interpretation challenges mainstream Western way of viewing ancient monuments as architecture or structures that have a defined grand plan and purpose.

Further, analyses of the material composition of the mound have revealed that chalk, stones, gravel and antler picks were consistently used in an ordered fashion and combined in different ways to yield discrete patterns, textures and colours.

The most intriguing discovery is the repeated occurrence of antler picks, gravel, chalk and stones in different kinds of layering, in ways that suggest that these materials and their different combinations had symbolic meanings, Jim Leary says.

We dont know what myths they were representing but they must have meant something quite compelling and personal. What we do know is that by the time work on the hill had started in the later Neolithic period, the surrounding area was already saturated with evidence of past use; it was a place that was heavily inscribed with folk memories that recalled ancestors and their origins.

What is emerging is a picture of Neolithic people having the same need to anchor and share ideas and stories as we do now, and that built structures like Silbury Hill may not be conceived as grand monuments of worship but intimate gestures of communication.

Silbury Hill has now been restored to as near its original condition as possible. All the known voids inside the prehistoric mound, and the crater on the summit, have now been re-filled which took about 1,465 tonnes of chalk.