Category: malcolmj - Part 4

Stonehenge Winter Solstice Turnout Reduced by Weather-related Traffic Chaos

Most of you wont have relished venturing out from under the duvet at all on this snowy Tuesday morning, let alone doing it before the break of dawn. But around 600 intrepid souls were up before the birds today, and wrapped in the their woollens in time to trudge out into the middle of a frozen Wiltshire field for the rising of the sun shortly after 8am, and the celebration of the winter solstice at Stonehenge.

Attendance at the event a chilled-out, smaller-scale alternative to the much headier summer solstice is usually a lot higher (2000 people turned out in 2008), but weather-related travel chaos in the south of England must have prevented many from making the journey. Spirits were high nonetheless, as the first rays broke through the icy mist, and were greeted with customary chanting and dancing.

Pagans in full bonkers regalia were, as ever, out in force for what represents one of the key dates on their calendar, an occasion which according to archaeologists currently researching at nearby related site Durrington Walls was thousands of years ago marked by the sacrificing and roasting of hundreds of cattle and pigs. Also in attendance at the 2009 Stonehenge winter solstice was a healthy swathe of much more normal-looking observers regulars note that the event has become an increasingly popular public spectacle in recent years.

Pagans Have More Fun

Guardian journalist Steven Morriss quizzing of some of the non-Druidic element of the assembled throng revealed a plethora of reasons for the winter solstice piquing peoples interest. Among them seemed to be a desire to experience something rootsy and traditional, yet also out-of-the-ordinary, in the ever-more-commercial festive season.

Pagans seem to have more fun so wed thought wed give it a go.”

We’re here for an anti-religious reason, if any, said Alison Marcetic from Birmingham, who had travelled to Stonehenge with her husband and her two young children. Pagans seem to have more fun so wed thought wed give it a go. Well be celebrating Christmas but this is about showing the children that this season isnt just about getting presents. What goes on here is more basic, more tangible.

Jill, a Stonehenge regular, visited the winter solstice with her 10-year-old daughter Jasmine. For us this time of year is about starting to come out of the dark, she commented. Its a very positive time of year. I think people who arent pagans come here to enjoy that feeling too. As a mum and gran, shell be celebrating Christmas as well, albeit reluctantly. I dont have much choice, she added, but we do it as modestly as possible.

Seasonal Feasting, Prehistoric-Style

Its turkeys that traditionally get carved-up on the Christmas dinner tables of families such as Alisons and Jills around this time of year in Britain. But it seems that there were once other animals that had reason to fear December coming round too.

Stonehenge Riverside Project director Mike Parker Pearson who spoke to Heritage Key a while back about progress at the ongoing and thus-far remarkably successful archaeological investigation he leads recently revealed that large quantities of pig and cattle bones have been discovered among other remains at Durrington Walls, an inter-linking companion site to Stonehenge.

4,500 years back the Stonehenge landscape was apparently a scene of heady celebration and ritual feasting at the solstices.

Occupation and consumption were intense, Parker Pearson wrote in a report, quoted by Discovery News. The animal remains were found alongside pottery, flint arrowheads and lithic debris. It seems that Durrington Walls and Stonehenge were the scenes of pockets of intense activity, as prehistoric people celebrated and gorged at very specific times of year. The small quantities of stone tools other than arrowheads, the absence of grinding querns and the lack of carbonised grain indicate that this was a consumer site, Parker Pearson continued. The midsummer and midwinter solstice alignments of the Durrington and Stonehenge architecture suggest seasonal occupation.

The animals were apparently driven from hundreds of miles around to be slaughtered immediately at Durrington Walls in time for the winter solstice. Considering the treacherous travel conditions currently thwarting transport up and down the UK, the pagans of 2009 can be thankful that tradition has long since died out.

Treasures from KV62 – King Tut’s Funerary Figures

Dr Janice Kamrin explaining about the ritual figuresThe first two instalments of Nico Piazza and Sandro Vanninis four-part video series Tuts Treasures saw Dr Janice Kamrin introduce us to the boy kings canopic vessels (Watch the video) and the various fearsome representations of animal gods that guarded his embalmed body (Watch the video). Part three focuses on the many ritual figures found inside black resined wooden shrines in the treasury of Tutankhamuns lavish tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

34 ritual figures were located in total inside KV62, which was first opened and investigated by Howard Carter in 1922. Their function? Protection basically, and ritual use and all those things that we dont completely understand, Kamrin explains to interviewer Sharif Soaier, whom shes seen guiding around the many King Tut exhibits at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. They all have to do with religion, and especially funerary religion.

The Guarantor of Order

The first two statuettes that Kamrin picks out (both of which came in pairs) reveal King Tut to be an action man, not frightened to roll up his sleeves, grab his spear and go in search of some big game (as Dr Zahi Hawass revealed in another Heritage Key video interview, falling from his chariot while hunting may even have been what killed the young pharaoh). In this one the king is riding on a panther, explains Kamrin, pointing at the two beautifully detailed gold figures mounted on wooden pedestals, and in this one, hes harpooning an invisible hippopotamus in a papyrus skiff.

One of the ritual figures found in King Tut's tomb (KV62) showed him harpooning an invisible hippo. Image Copyright - Sandro Vannini.These representations of Tutankhamun are loaded with meaning. For the ancient Egyptians, many animals were associated with gods of different omens good and bad. Basically hes showing himself as the guarantor of order, says Kamrin, the proper order of the Egyptian universe. And how he does that is that he defeats the forces of evil. The hippopotamus is the representation of the forces of chaos or evil.

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Another very interesting thing about these statues and a lot of the other pieces in the tomb is that they were not originally made for Tutankhamun, Kamrin notes. Whoever was responsible for stocking the boy kings tomb with ritual figures and other spectacular valuables after his death evidently wasnt too precious about what they were or where they came from. Hes using pieces from maybe a couple of other kings funerary assemblages, she adds.

Tut had rather effeminate features, as modern reconstructions of his face have shown. A few of the ritual figures have a highly androgynous quality; others, some experts speculate, may simply be representations of women that look like Tut. Its very hard to tell males and females apart in certain ways, says Kamrin (evidently shes too polite to just take a look up the statuettes skirts). There are some things the shape of the belly button and other details. But, in the faces, you can see that not all of them are Tutankhamuns face.

A King Among Kings?

The question of why Tut was entitled to not only a wealth of his own unique funerary treasures, but also the pick of other kings and dignitaries afterlife stashes is a question that has troubled many an Egyptologist, Kamrin included. It makes you wonder was there something special going on? she ponders. Was Tutankhamun especially honoured?

One scholar, Ray Johnson, has speculated that Tut for some reason possibly his restoration of the cult of Amun, whose symbols were defaced and whose priests were stripped of power during the reign of his father Akhenaten may have been uniquely venerated by Egyptian society in an unseen way. Its very interesting, comments Kamrin, [Johnson] has a lot of way off the chart ideas. Thats one of them that maybe they loved him so much because he brought back the worship of Amun.

The generally accepted perception of King Tut is that he was a relatively unimportant royal, and that his tomb merely seems so lavish because its the only one to date discovered almost fully intact (the reasons KV62 escaped plundering are discussed by Hawass in another video). Perhaps this is wrong, and Carter in fact got doubly fluky by locating not just the only royal tomb to date in the Valley of the Kings that has evaded robbers, but also the finest royal tomb of them all? Only the discovery of un-plundered burial chambers of royals whom we know to have been of especially high-standing such as Amenhotep I or Cleopatra (Dr Kathleen Martinez believes shes close in this video) will provide the necessary grounds for comparison.

Keep a look out for the final installment of King Tut’s Treasures, which is coming soon!

HD Video: King Tut’s Treasures: The Ritual Figures

(Read the transcript on the video page)

If you liked this video, then youll love exploring Heritage Keys videos page. Youll find fantastic interviews with top heritage experts, such as Dr Zahi Hawass picking out his favourite treasures from the tomb of King Tut, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon discussing the relationship between their ancestor Lord Carnarvon and the great explorer Howard Carter and Abuna Maximos describing the restoration of the Coptic Monastery of Saint Anthony. New videos are posted every week sign up to our RSS feed and you wont miss a thing.

Face-off: King Tut’s Senet Board ‘v’ Lewis Chessmen

Touching Rosetta

In the age of video games, board games might not be the popular pastime they once were. But they have a venerable history.

Board games originate thousands of years ago as a spare-time preoccupation of the upper-castes of civilizations from South America to China, Egypt and northern Europe.

Each ancient civilization had their own board game of choice. In the Egyptians case it was senet, a complex contest of chance that dating from as long ago as 3500 BC represents the oldest board game in history. The most famous senet board yet discovered comes from the tomb of the legendary pharaoh Tutankhamun. Made of gorgeous hand-carved ivory with ebony veneers and fittings, its arguably the finest example of a board game ever found.

Its closest rival is the Lewis Chessmen a set of 93 chess pieces of Norse origin, also individually hand-carved from ivory. Dating from the 12th century AD, they were found on the Scottish island of Lewis, and may be the only complete medieval examples in existence of what would one day become one of the worlds most popular and enduring board games.

Which will be the first to bring its opponent to checkmate in a head-to-head? Decide for yourself as we pit these two beautiful board game artefacts against one another in a face-off.

King Tut’s Senet Board

King Tutankhamun's Senet Board. Image Copyright - Sandro Vannini.

Senet was more than just a game to the ancient Egyptians it was a matter of life and death. Great believers in determinism, the Egyptians came to regard senet boards as talismans for the journey of the dead, because of the element of luck involved in playing the game, which revolved around the throwing of knucklebones or casting sticks.

Successful players were believed to be protected by powerful gods such as Ra, Thoth and Osiris, and the game is even mentioned in the Book of the Dead. Their senet boards were often placed in their graves when they died, among various other handy tools for usage on the treacherous road to the afterlife.

was buried with four different senet boards evidently he enjoyed playing the game a great deal. Some of them were for ceremonial purposes, others were for day-to-day usage. The ivory board dating from 1333 BC and found by Howard Carter, among the many other spectacular treasures of Tuts tomb, in 1922 was the most beautiful of the lot.

Small and portable, with various highly personal design flourishes, it may have been the very set that King Tut used to sit down with of a warm summers evening to play against his queen Ankhesenamun. On one end, it bears a roughly-carved image of a seated Tutankhamun, with Ankhesenamun standing facing him, holding a lotus flower.

Designed as a box, the board contains a small drawer in which the senet pieces two ivory knuckle-bones, five red ivory reels and five white ivory pawns were kept. The drawer was originally fastened by bolts, but these are sadly missing. Carter speculated that the bolts were probably made out of silver and gold, and were possibly stolen by grave robbers.

Various inscriptions filled with yellow pigment are etched into the sides of the box, all of them immodestly proclaiming Tuts greatness. One reads: The Strong Bull, beautiful of birth, image of Ra, precious offspring of Atum, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, ruler of the nine bows, lord of all the lands, and possessor of might Nebkheperura.

Around the drawer, Tut is described as The good god, lord of the Two Lands, lord of crowns whom Ra created and Beloved of all the gods, may he be healthy, living forever. No wonder he liked it so much!

The whole thing is mounted on an ebony stand in the form of a bed frame, with feline paws resting on gilded drums. The drums themselves were attached to an ebony sledge. Senet was played on a board of 30 squares; on the reverse side of the box is a second board, of 20 squares, which was used for playing a different game called tjau, which would appear to translate as robbers.

Nobody can be sure exactly how either senet or tjau was played, although some historians have made educated guesses, and sets are manufactured, sold and played-upon today. Theyre but a mere shadow of Tutankhamuns favourite senet board, however, which can be viewed in all its splendour at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Plus Points:

  • The finest existing set of the oldest board game in history.
  • Once a prized and frequently used possession of a world-famous Egyptian royal.
  • Theres a tjau board on the reverse. Two games in one bonus!


  • No one can be sure how to play Senet.
  • Some parts may have been stolen by tomb robbers.

Lewis Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen. Image by Rebecca Thompson.

Its worth noting first of all that the Lewis Chessmen might be misleadingly-titled. According to recent research by a trio of Scottish heritage experts, the pieces may actually have been used to play Hnefatafl a medieval Scandinavian warfare game not dissimilar to chess, but contested on a bigger board with more pieces.

Whatever they were used for, it makes no difference as to the artefacts quality, which is indisputable. Individually scratched and chiseled out of walrus tusks and whales teeth by highly-skilled artisans in Trondheim, the capital of Norway until 1217, the Lewis Chessmen eight kings, eight queens, 16 bishops, 15 knights, 12 rooks and 19 pawns are totally distinctive. Their weirdly contorted, wide-eyed and melancholic faces are humorous and enchanting. Their enigmatic origins and complex and controversial history gives them an air of mystery and drama.

Many stories exist as to how and why the chessmen were deposited on Lewis, where they were found hidden inside a sandbank at the head of the Bay of Uig by crofter Malcolm Sprot Macleod, from nearby Pennydonald, in 1831.

One fanciful local myth has it that they were stolen from an unknown ship sheltering in the bay by an escaping cabin boy, who swam ashore, before being murdered by an onlooker and concealed in the bluff. More likely they were either lost or abandoned on the island by a passing Norse merchant, or were the prize possession of a wealthy local king, lord or bishop.

After their discovery, the Lewis Chessmens story immediately becomes a complex and slightly confusing one. Following their purchase by a disreputable antiquities dealer called TA Forrest, 82 of the pieces were sold to the British Museum in London, while another 10 were secretly kept in reserve.

These 10 chessmen changed hands a number of times with another single piece, a bishop, mysteriously added to the set at some stage before all 11 were eventually sold to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, who finally donated them to the Royal Museum of Scotland (part of the modern National Museum of Scotland). The chessmen today remain divided into two separate collections, owned by two different museums, in London and Edinburgh.
Calls have been made in recent years for the British Museum to return their quota of the Lewis Chessmen to Scotland, to allow the full set to be reunited on Lewis. The British Museum have resisted the Chessmen after all represent one of their most popular and precious exhibits. But they have conceded to a temporary loan of a handful of pieces, for a tour of Scotland through 2010 and 2011, alongside the National Museum of Scotlands 11 chessmen, which will visit Lewis among other destinations.

Not all of the Lewis Chessmen may have yet been discovered. There have been calls for new excavations on the island, to see if as many as 35 missing pieces may still be hidden there somewhere.

Plus Points:

  • Perhaps the only surviving medieval sets of one of the worlds most popular and enduring board games.
  • Beautiful and enchanting craftsmanship.
  • An intriguingly mysterious story full of myth and controversy.


  • You need to visit two different museums, in two different countries, to view all of the chessmen.
  • They may not actually be chessmen.
  • Some pieces are missing.

Which game wins? Let us know your favourite below, and email us directly to organise a face-off including your favourite artefact.

Christmas TV Guide: Our Pick of This Year’s Best Ancient World Telly

No Christmas would be the same without many a wasted hour spent buried in the couch wiped-out on a bellyful of turkey and stuffing, or nursing a hangover after a Herculean nights mulled wine consumption flicking the channels in a dozy haze. It’s a Christmas tradition (although we can’t guarentee that it dates back as far as some other ancient seasonal rituals)

This year you can spare yourself all those awful festive films and Christmas music videos youve seen a million times, by keeping Heritage Keys handy guide to ancient world-themed Christmas TV close at hand.

All the old-school three-hours plus historical epics are being dusted down again for the season of good will among them many of the biggest ancient world blockbusters of all time as well as a raft of comedy and family-orientated ancient world-related movies, and even a few interesting-sounding documentaries.

Our listings are UK-centric, but we’re pretty sure international readers will be able to track down plenty of the below highlights in their countries too seasonal staples many of them no matter where you come from.

We Wish You an Epic Christmas: Ancient World Screen Classics

Christmas TV Viewing Schedule:

Mon Dec 21
12.05pm The Ten Commandments (Channel 4)
Tue Dec 22
10pm Sex in the Ancient World (History)
Christmas Eve
11.30am and 9pm Ben Hur (Sky Movies Classics)
Christmas Day
8.35am The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Sky Action/Thriller)
11.15am and 9pm Spartacus (Sky Movies Classics)
7pm Herod: Behind the Myth (History, Christmas Day)
10.10pm Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
11.15pm Gladiator (ITV1)
2.05am One Million Years BC (ITV1)
Boxing Day
9pm Decoded: Dan Browns Lost Symbol (Channel 4)
10pm The Real Da Vinci Code (Channel 4)
10.05pm Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
Sun Dec 27
8pm 2012: The Final Prophecy (National Geographic)
10.10pm Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (Sky Movies Modern Greats)
11pm Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire (History)
Mon Dec 28
8pm Man on Earth (Channel 4)
12.35pm Carry on Cleo (ITV1)
Tue Dec 29
2pm Jason and the Argonauts (Channel 5)
Wed Dec 30
9pm The Turin Shroud: The New Evidence (Channel 4)
9pm Troy (Watch)
New Year’s Eve
6.45pm Meet the Spartans (Sky Movies Comedy)
9.05pm Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Watch)
New Years Day
8pm Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Sky Movies Screen)

Im Spartacus. No, Im Spartacus. No you’re mistaken Im Spartacus, etc. So goes the suicidally heroic banter, roughly speaking, in the iconic climactic scene of Stanley Kubricks all-time great (Sky Movies Classics, Christmas Day, 11.15am and 9pm), as Kirk Douglass band of rebellious slaves all get a bit schizophrenic after defying an emperor.

If its greased-up warrior chaps, going at it mano-a-mano in mortal combat youre after, then youd best not miss Gladiator (ITV1, Christmas Day, 11.15pm) either a modern classic which sees Romes toughest general Maximus battle to avenge the death of his family, who have been slaughtered at the order of bonkers Emperor Commodus (one of our TopTen Roman Emperors in the Movies). Warning: contains Russell Crowe (in small pants).

Well give Troy (Watch, Wed Dec 30, 9pm) a nod as well, another decent contemporary swordsnsandals affair, featuring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. One of the most famous scenes in Hollywood history crowns Ben Hur (Sky Movies Classics, Christmas Eve, 11.30am and 9pm), which sees Charlton Heston star as a Jewish nobleman sentenced to slavery returning to exact his revenge in a spectacular chariot race.

Jason and the Argonauts (Channel 5, Tue Dec 29, 2pm) is a Greek mythology-based fantasy from 1963, featuring all kinds of cool but extremely creepy stop-motion Hydras, Harpies and skeleton warriors, created by special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen. If you happen to have four hours spare, check out Biblical epic The Ten Commandments(Channel 4, Mon Dec 21, 12.05pm) too. Theres a mince pie in it for anyone who manages to stay awake the whole way through.

Video: Spartacus Theatrical Trailer:

Family, Funny and not-so Family Flicks

Do you like Indiana Jones? Do you really like Indiana Jones? Good in that case you can catch all four of the unorthodox archaeologists movie adventures to date over the holidays: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Christmas Day, 10.10pm), The Temple of Doom (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Boxing Day, 10.05pm), The Last Crusade (Sky Movies Modern Greats, Sun Dec 27, 10.10pm) and even the new one Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Sky Movies Screen 1, New Years Day, 8pm) although its a bit pants so wed advise just taping Raiders and watching it again.

Elsewhere in family Christmas TV-land, Indys female equivalent gets her big, um, guns out in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Watch, Hogmanay, 9.05pm), and theres yet more archaeological action Dr Hawass definitely wouldnt approve of going on in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Sky Action/Thriller, Christmas Day, 8.35am).

Zack Snyders gore-fest 300 gets smuttily-spoofed in Meet the Spartans (Sky Movies Comedy, Hogmanay, 6.45pm). For an even bigger laugh and bear in mind that this one isnt even meant to be a comedy check out John Wayne in one of his lesser-known roles as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror (Sky Movies Classics, Wed Dec 22, 7pm).

For a bawdy, camp giggle British-style, try Carry on Cleo (ITV1, Mon Dec 28, 12.35pm), or (dont worry, this ones on well after the kids have gone to bed) One Million Years BC (ITV1, Christmas Day, 2.05am) which stars iconic 70s lovely Raquel Welsh prancing about in prehistoric times with nothing but an animal skin covering her modesty, pretty much for that reason only. Ooh-er.

The Ancient World Unwrapped: Historical Documentaries

Youd best make the most of your Christmas – if the ancient Mayans are to be believed, youve only got two of them left before the world ends.

On the subject of ancient world naughtiness, find out all about the worlds first lads-mags in Sex in the Ancient World (History, Tue Dec 22, 10pm). Dont worry: its a documentary so you can chalk it up as research. Besides, youd best make the most of your Christmas, since if the ancient Mayans of South America are to be believed, youve only got two of them left before the world ends. 2012: The Final Prophecy (National Geographic, Sun Dec 27, 8pm) investigates the truth behind the outlandish theory that the world will fall to bits in two years, which as youll spot from the comments on this blog gets certain souls very excited indeed.

A collapsing world is incidentally the theme of Rome: Rise and Fall of and Empire (History, Sun Dec 27, 11pm), which looks at the first and last days of the civilization that brought you straight roads, a weird numbers system and throwing Christians to lions. Also straight-outta Rome, but from the days before things went a bit pear-shaped, comes Herod: Behind the Myth (History, Christmas Day, 7pm) a look at the remarkable engineering feats of a notorious king.

Tony Robinson examines ancient civilizations that took on climate-change and won including the Hauri of Peru, forefathers of the Inca in Man on Earth (Channel 4, Mon Dec 28, 8pm). Find out whether anyone knows what the circumpunct is when the Time Team man also takes the facts behind Dan Browns controversial best-seller to task on Boxing Day evening on Channel 4, in Decoded: Dan Browns Lost Symbol (Channel 4, Boxing Day, 9pm), followed immediately by The Real Da Vinci Code an hour later.

Another religious hoax may or may not be exposed in The Turin Shroud: The New Evidence (Channel 4, Wed Dec 30, 8pm), which sees Dr Raymond Rogers have a root around for the truth behind the famous relic written-off as a fake by some supposedly linked to Jesus Christ, whose birthday is fast-approaching.

A merry seasons viewing to one and all! To get your and yours really in the mood for some ancient viewing, you could try these recipes for the perfect Christmas dinner (ancient style). Oh, and if you’re still on the hunt for last-minute gifts, for youngsters here’s a few recommended toys, and for adults some great books. All of them of a you guessed it archaeological or ancient world theme.

How King Tut’s Tomb Avoided Robbery

When the tomb was found it was completely by accident, explains Dr Zahi Hawass, of Howard Carters discovery of KV62, at the start of the final instalment of Heritage Keys four-part video interview series King Tut Revealed, filmed by Nico Piazza and featuring still photography by Sandro Vannini.

Having already, in previous videos, disclosed the cause of Tutankhamuns death, shared his thoughts on the curse that apparently befalls all who tamper with the boy kings tomb, and revealed some of the jewellery and other treasures buried with the boy king, Hawass this time talks about tomb robbers in the Valley of the Kings, and why they werent ever able to locate and plunder Tuts treasure-strewn resting place.

As he mentions, Carters discovery of Tutankhamuns tomb was by pure chance, while making a general sweep of the area. For thousands of years, no one could be certain where Tut was buried, thanks to a fortuitous mistake by the carvers of the nearby tomb of Ramesses VI. It was this that caused KV62, when it was finally located and entered in 1922, to be almost completely intact, unlike almost every other ancient tomb found in the Valley of the Kings to date.

A Stroke of Luck

Tuts tomb did have its visitors, all in the pharonic era. The tomb was entered three times, says Hawass, after that the police of the cemetery sealed the tomb. It could still have been robbed again, though other tombs were sealed, yet still plundered.

As Hawass explains, KV62 enjoyed a particular stroke of luck. The tomb of Ramesses VI, which is next door to this tomb, when they were cutting this tomb, a stone fell down and covered the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun, he says. We have to thank the workmen who were working on the cutting of the tomb of Ramesses VI because of them, the tomb was saved. Not another soul would set foot inside KV62 for almost 2000 years.

More Intact Tombs?

The Tomb of King Tutankhamun (KV62) is the only tomb in the Valley of the Kings to have been found fully intact. Image Copyright - Sandro Vannini.If Tuts tomb got so lucky, then whos to say that others didnt too? Hawass points out that of the 63 tombs located so far in the Valley of the Kings, KV46 the grave of the powerful courtier Yuya and his wife Tjuyu, found in 1905 is the only other semi-intact one found to date, with KV62 being found fully intact. But there might be others out there, waiting to be discovered by an archaeologist as fluky as Carter.

And what if the residents of these tombs were even more important individuals than Tut? It wouldnt be hard he was a very minor king by the standards of the time. King Tut ruled for ten years, and look what we found inside his tomb of treasure, Hawass enthuses. Can you imagine if the tomb of Ramesses II, who ruled for more than 66 years, could be discovered intact?

East ‘v’ West

Some hints as to why so many tombs in the Valley of the Kings have been plundered can possibly be derived from a political spat that is known to have kicked-off in Thebes in the 20th Dynasty, around 1100 BC. The mayor of the east bank found evidence that the mayor of the west bank was robbing the tombs, Hawass explains. The dispute is outlined in the 20th Dynasty Abbott Papyrus, which is held by the British Museum in London.

An investigation was launched, but it back-fired on Paser mayor of the east bank since the Abbott Papyrus appears to admonish his rival Paweraa and instead cast Paser in a bad light. They wrote a report and they wrote everything is fine, says Hawass. Only the tomb of King Sobekemzaf II of the Seventeenth Dynasty (1650-1550 BC) is mentioned as having been violated. But theres a belief that Paweraa did have a hand in tomb robberies, and used this report as a way of covering his tracks by casting suspicion on Paser.

Whoever was guilty, the Abbott Papyrus is a very important document. It was the first account of a tomb robbery, Hawass points out.

The New Tomb of King Tut?

The tomb of Nefertiti is not found yet; the tomb of Amenhotep I is not found yet. Maybe we will repeat the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun?

Hawass rounds off by again stressing that, in the Valley of the Kings, there are tombs that we have not found yet. Within these hidden burial chambers may be some of the most famous figures of ancient Egypt. The tomb of Nefertiti is not found yet, says Dr Zahi, and the tomb of Amenhotep I is not found yet.

The discovery of KV62 took a massive stroke of luck, but its almost 80 years since it was found now surely archaeologists working in the Valley of the Kings are due another one soon? Hawass sounds hopeful that the big break is coming. Maybe we will repeat the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun? he concludes.

Perhaps it will be that of Cleopatra?

HD Video: King Tut Revealed (Part 4/4) Tomb Robbers

(Click here for the transcript of this video)

Videos, videos, videos and did we mention videos? Thats what we love bringing to you here at Heritage Key. Recently weve covered such fascinating topics as King Tuts canopic shrine, the mummification god Anubis as introduced by Dr Janice Kamrin, and Lord Norwich discussing historys great cities. There are loads more where they came from sign-up to our RSS feed for the latest new additions, or check out the videos page for our current selection.

Frazzled Hair and Clogged Arteries: Stress in the Ancient World

We, sitting comfortably in front of our computers here in the 21st century, a mocha-choca-frappe-latte possibly close at hand, like to complain a lot about stress.

Balancing the demands of work, family, health and the full range of entertainment offered our by multi-channel digital TV package, is after all a trying daily endeavour. Its blissful to believe that life was somehow calmer and simpler in the quaint days of ancient history. But the findings of some new studies have suggested that that firmly was not the case.

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been detected in the hair of ancient Peruvians considerably higher levels, it should be noted, than those detected in the hair of humans today.

A different investigation of CT-scans of Egyptian mummies, meanwhile, has suggested that atherosclerosis a hardening of the arteries that causes strokes and heart attacks, and can be brought on by stress may have been a major problem in the land of the pharaohs.

Both scans promise to add to a new line of anthropological investigation that is gradually telling us a lot not just about what the ancients did, but also how they felt and how it effected their actions.

Tearing Their Hair Out

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body when it experiences real and perceived threats. It can be found everywhere from blood to saliva, urine and hair. Anthropologist Emily Webb and her team at the University of Western Ontario measured cortisol in hair from 10 individuals discovered buried at five different sites in Peru. They found that in the years and months before their deaths these poor souls were literally tearing their hair out with worry.

Accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Webbs study cites various pressures including food availability, drought conditions and nutritional stress, as having potentially contributed to the ancient Peruvians agitated state. They may also have endured threats, real or perceived, to physical or social integrity, i.e., to health, safety and well-being, she told Discovery News. Wild animals, rival tribes, invading Spaniards who knows what fears might have been playing upon their minds?

Societal Pressures, New and Old

“Our society effectively protects us from extreme year-to-year differences in food availability, but as individuals, we still experience considerable stress in our lives for other reasons.”

The average cortisol levels in ancient Peruvians were shown to be higher than those found in the hair of modern Canadians. Are we to assume, then, that stress is less of a problem in the modern world than it was in the ancient? Not necessarily. While our globalised 21st century society serves to insulate us from primal threats, it also serves up new, modern anxieities. A recent survey by a British life assurance firm found that larger, more vague fears about issues such as identity theft, terrorism and health risks are what distress people most today.

A society serves as a protective buffer, said Webb, and while our society effectively protects us from, for example, extreme year-to-year differences in food availability, as individuals, we still experience considerable stress in our lives for other reasons. You can be sure that ancient Peruvians didnt lay awake at night sweating about things like credit crunches and global warming. (That said, the eco-friendly Maya of South America did worry about forest conservation).

Worried Mummies

Examinations of CT-scans of Egyptian mummies carried out by a cardiologist at Saint Lukes Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City have revealed that stress was perhaps a big problem among the upper classes of ancient Egypt too.

Out of sixteen mummies all of them of high social status, including priests and members of pharaohs’ households nine suffered from atherosclerosis. This could, of course, have been brought on by bad diets, lack of exercise or smoking. But stress may well have been a factor too.

Perhaps they represent some of the first examples of work-related stress? The mummy with the worst case of atherosclerosis was Lady Rai, a nursemaid to Queen Nefertiti. She died around 1530 BC between the age of 30 and 40 likely from her calcified arteries. Nefertiti was a powerful and beautiful queen in an age when such privileges generally werent enjoyed humbly. Quite possibly she was a bit of a slave-driver its maybe not out of the questions to speculate that she stressed her unfortunate nursemaid to death.

On the Couch With the Ancients

In a wider sense, studies such as these and others into such subjects as, say, tendencies towards sexual promiscuity in the prehistoric world represent a whole new avenue of anthropological study. Weve long been able to make educated guesses at what the ancients did and how they lived their physical actions. Now, in different ways, we can begin to investigate how they felt too, and how that effected the way they led their lives.

According to Webb: Combined with archaeological reconstructions of past communities and societies, and traditional bioarchaeological approaches to understanding stress, health and well-being, research like this will significantly enrich our ability to reconstruct ancient life histories, and let us explore individualized experiences of people who died hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

A new chance to stress about stressed people as if we werent all anxious enough already.

Treasures of King Tut – Tutankhamun’s Jewellery and the Love of a Queen

The Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun is one of the highlights of the treasures of KV62. Click the image to skip to the video.When Howard Carter said he spied wondrous things upon cracking open the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, he wasnt joking. KV62 was filled with probably the most fantastic collection of ancient treasures ever discovered in one place all from beautiful golden coffins, to giant statues, canopic shrines and a golden throne. Tuts own body was literally stuffed with precious jewellery.

In the third instalment of our four-part video series King Tut Revealed filmed by Nico Piazza, and featuring still photography by Sandro Vannini Dr Zahi Hawass, who you can watch in this video revealing the cause of Tuts death and sharing his thoughts on the curse of Tutankhamun(Watch this video by clicking here), tells us about his personal favourites among the many treasures of King Tuts tomb, a large number of which are currently on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The Golden Death Mask and the Coffins

I believe it is something that will never be repeated, says Hawass of his first selection, the golden death mask probably the most famous and iconic of all the artefacts found in Tutankhamuns tomb. No artist in the world will be ever be able to repeat it, he says, as were shown some of Sandro Vanninis wonderfully vivid shots of the radiant, enchanting 11kg likeness of the boy king, which was found laid over his face. It is a masterpiece of art, in my opinion, Hawass adds.

Tuts body was discovered lying inside a large nest of coffins. Seven coffins total were found in the tomb (all except one have been removed) its these that Hawass next selects among his favourite treasures. Each coffin can give you amazing and beautiful art, he says, before pointing out how the engravings upon them dont all necessarily portray Tutankhamun as he really looked some of them show Tut as he perhaps wished he looked (he wasn’t the prettiest of chaps, it must be said). Some of what you discover in the tomb is the idealistic life of what he wanted to be, Hawass explains, it is not really realistic art.

The Golden Throne

The most amazing thing they showed in that statue is the love between the king and the queen.

When Hawass himself visits the Cairo Museum, whats the first artefact he goes to look at? I go to the golden throne, he reveals, another masterpiece. Why? Because, beneath that gruff exterior, Dr Zahis a big old romantic at heart. The most amazing thing they showed in that statue, he explains, a small tear possibly forming in the corner of his eye, is the love between the king and the queen.

The eagle-eyed viewer will observe that, in the detailed raised image set on the back-panel of the golden throne, showing the boy king and his bride Queen Ankhesenamun relaxing in a garden pavilion, both figures are only wearing one sandal. So they both got dressed in a rush that morning, right? Wrong: Theyre wearing one sandal only to show that they are sharing everything, explains Hawass. The love was between them, and this is why when King Tut died, Queen Ankhesenamun was so upset. She put a flower it was discovered on his mummy. Sniff pass the Kleenex!

This winged scarab necklace is one of Dr Hawass' favourite King Tut artefacts. Image Copyright - Sandro Vannini.

The Jewellery

The jewellery is amazing, says Hawass, of his final selection among the treasure of King Tuts tomb. Over 104 individual pieces of jewellery including beads, bracelets, rings, amulets and necklaces were found crammed inside the mummy of Tut, as well as strewn around his treasury. They were made from combinations of the most valuable materials the kingdom of Egypt had to offer. The opulence of this pharaohs burial is not to be underestimated.

Hawasss favourite piece is a necklace with a winged scarab (some parts of which, it’s been speculated, come from glass created by a meteor), made from gold, silver, glass and semi-precious stones. Holding the Horus eye and this is a symbol of Osiris are the two cobras, he describes, protecting the king in between. And down, look at the lotus flower. This is in my opinion, a masterpiece. Such tiny, meticulous details in a jewellery item reveal a much larger picture about what inspired artists in ancient Egypt. Art in ancient Egypt was for the sake of religion, according to Dr Hawass.

Coming soon: the final instalment of King Tut Revealed, in which Hawass talks about why King Tuts tomb avoided robbery as others were plundered.

HD Video: King Tut Revealed (Part 3/4) The Treasure

(Click here for the transcript of this video)

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Preserving King Tut’s Guts: The Canopic Shrine and Jars Introduced

Dr Janice Kamrin talks about the Canopic Shrine and Jars, which are on display in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Click the image to skip to the video.As we described in our recent handy guide to how to make a mummy, the ancient Egyptians went to great and grizzly lengths to ensure that every last bit of a body was efficiently preserved. The internal organs had to be removed in order to effectively dry out a corpse. They would then be individually wrapped and preserved separately in canopic vessels.

King Tuts guts in keeping with the generally lavish and wondrous spirit of his mummification and burial were given extra-special treatment, as we discover in the first instalment of the new four part video series, Tuts Treasures. Shot by Nico Piazza, and featuring still photography by Sandro Vannini, it examines some of the finest artefacts found by Howard Carter in KV62 in the 1920s.

Prominent Egyptologist and archaeologist Dr Janice Kamrin (who you should watch in this video examining the Lost Tombs of Thebes with Dr Zahi Hawass) introduces interviewer Sharif Shoaier to the spectacular canopic shrine, in its display case in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Within this beautiful artefact, the Boy Kings viscera were elaborately laid to rest.

The Canopic Shrine

The lungs, intestine, stomach and liver needed to be removed in the process of mummification, Dr Kamrin notes, because they contained moisture and it added to the speed of the decay. The canopic shrine which stands almost as tall as a man and is made from solid gold was the outer casing of a nest of special ritual containers for Tutankhamuns regal innards.

Its ornately decorated, with lots of inscriptions and carvings of gods and goddesses (in both human and animal form) including the four sons of Horus Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi and Qebehsenuef, who were essentially the canopic jars personified.

Two deities that Kamrin highlights are matriarchal patron of nature and magic Isis (who handily has her name etched into her head) and Kamrins personal favourite, Serqet, the scorpion goddess (one of our Top Ten Animal Gods and Goddesses).

Among the inscriptions, quite remarkably are tips on how to put the canopic shrine together, IKEA-style. They took this stuff apart then put it back together using assembly instructions, says Kamrin. They really did think of everything, the ancient Egyptians.

The Canopic Chest

Kamrin next leads Shoaier and the camera to the canopic chest, located in an adjacent display case. This brilliant white box and lid both carved from solid blocks of Egyptian alabaster were found placed inside the canopic shrine.

They loved to nest things; its all layers of protection, Kamrin explains. The more you protect everything the better. The four individual viscera were stored in this chest, after they had been wrapped then sealed in beautiful inlaid miniature gold coffinettes (which can be viewed in the Egyptian Museums jewellery room). The canopic chest too is carved with goddesses, and inscribed with spells, which would be spoken by the goddesses, stating that they are protecting the gods which are protecting the viscera themselves.

This beautiful shrine was protecting the entrance to the treasury, Kamrin notes at the end, just after the credits in the video. She then neatly tees-up the forthcoming second instalment of Tuts Treasures. Shall we go look at Anubis? Kamrin asks, referring to the jackal-headed god which Egyptian mythology associated with mummification and the afterlife. A large statue of Anubis guarded Tuts tomb. To be continued… reads the final caption watch this space!

HD Video: Tut’s Treasures (Part 1/4) – The Canopic Shrine

(Read the transcript on the video page)

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How did King Tut die? Cause of Death Established

How did King Tutankhamun die at such a young age? Dr Zahi Hawass explains how modern science is helping to answer this question. Click the image to skip to the video.Hes the most famous figure in ancient Egyptian history, but theres still plenty of mystery surrounding King Tut. Who better to clear up a few of them for us than Dr Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities?

In part one of King Tut Revealed a four part video interview exclusive by Sandro Vannini Dr Hawass broaches the tricky and controversial subject of how the Boy King, whose tomb KV62 was famously discovered in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter in 1922, met his premature end in 1323 BC at just 19 years of age.

The Mummys Mummy

Dr Hawass begins by discussing King Tuts parentage, which is a matter of intense debate. Initially, as he explains, it had been thought that Tutankhamun a minor Egyptian king and a generally shadowy figure in the grand scheme of Egyptian history was the brother of Akhenaten and the son of Amenhotep III. Recent evidence, however, has indicated that he was in fact born in Tell el-Amarna the short-lived 18th Dynasty capital of Egypt and was most likely the son of Akhenaten.

Thats why we believe that his mother is Kiya, says Dr Hawass, referring to Akhenatens wife, a minor wife (the Royal wife was Queen Nefertiti of controversial Neues Museum bust fame).

Dr Zahi Hawass watches over the King Tut mummy as it undergoes a CT Scan. Image Credit - Supreme Council of Antiquities.Now we have evidence that [Kiya] was an Egyptian and she died when she was delivering him as a child. In another recent video interview with Heritage Key, Hawass told us that he believes KV63 the tomb discovered in 2005 near KV62 in the Valley of the Kings to have been the tomb of Kiya, before it was looted.

DNAtests on Tutankhamen’s mummy should soon offer more information on this issue.

The Mysterious Hole in the Head

The idea that Tutankhamun was murdered is one that has gained significant traction, with most homicide theorists pointing to a suspicious puncture in the back of Tuts head as proof he was bludgeoned to death. Yet, results of a CT scan on Tuts mummy carried out by a team led by Dr Hawass in 2005 has proven as conclusively as possible that the cause of his death was very likely another wound, one inflicted accidentally.

It was a hole that they opened in Dynasty 18 when they do mummification, Hawass explains of the skull fracture, as were shown fascinatingly detailed images of Tuts mummy captured by the CT scanner. Mummification was a complex business, that involved all kinds of strange and gruesome ritual treatment of the corpse, in particular when it came to the brain. Its definitely possible that the hole in Tuts leg was a deliberate post-mortem perforation.

On His Last Leg

A fracture in Tuts left leg is the most likely cause of the young pharaohs demise. His mummy was haphazardly handled by Howard Carter and his team, and ended up broken into 18 separate bits by the time his iconic golden death mask was removed.

The Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun, photographed by Sandro Vannini. Click through to see a 360 view of the Death Mask.Many people think that this [leg] fracture could happen because of that damage that Howard Carter did, says Hawass. But the CT scan again proved otherwise, by shedding new light on the injury. Radiologists found that this is not true, Hawass adds, and that this fracture happened to Tutankhamun one day before he died. Probably Tut contracted a deadly infection through the wound, and it quickly killed him.

A Tragic Accident?

The injury that may well have precipitated King Tuts death has been identified beyond reasonable doubt, then. But how did he come to suffer such a nasty wound? Hawass outlines two theories. Tutankhamun used the desert of Memphis for hunting, he says. He could number one have died when he was hunting in the desert. Or the second thing maybe in a war. Many he was participating in a war and he died?

There is no scientific way of testing such speculation, and well most likely never know how Tutankhamun suffered the fracture that killed him. But at least we can know now the cause of his death for the first time, Hawass concludes. Keep a look out for more installments of the King Tut Revealed interview on Heritage Key, including Dr Hawasss thoughts on the legendary curse of Tutankhamun.

HD Video: King Tut Revealed (Part 1/4) How He Died Featuring Dr. Zahi Hawass

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How To Make A Mummy

Want to know how to mummify a body but don’t know where to start?Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Following on from our video featuring Dr Zahi Hawass, in which he gives Heritage Key a fascinating insight into how mummies are made (see the video embedded below), and an enlightening interview with Bob ‘Mr Mummy’ Briers on mummification, we’ve condensed millenia of wisdom into 7 not-so-easy and certainly not pleasant steps.

Egyptian embalmers were masters of their craft, and while we possess a lot of clues about the long and laborious procedure they went through in order to ensure the deceaseds safe transit into the afterlife, much also remains unknown about how, exactly, they managed to wrap corpses so well that they have managed to survive for millennia.

Only one mummification using Egyptian techniques has been carried out in 2,000 years in 1994 by Egyptologist Bob Brier. Its a process so tricky Brier recently told us hed prefer to never go through it again.

Video: Mummification Featuring Dr Zahi Hawass

As Hawass points out, Its very important to talk about mummification. To explain what happened really. So weve decided to give you a rough guide with Dr Zahis help to how to make a mummy in seven frankly gruesome steps. Definitely dont try this at home kids its not for the faint of heart.

Step 1: Purify

Your dead Egyptian pharaoh or queen or priest or musician or highly-thought-of pet has just been laid down in front of you ready for embalming. Mess this up, and you may be headed for the afterlife soon yourself slowly and gruesomely. So where to start?

Purification of the corpse is the crucial first step. The body needs meticulously washed with spices and with special wine made from dates, then rinsed using water from the Nile. Next, an incision should be made down the cadavers front, and his liver, lungs and intestines removed. Everything inside his stomach, Hawass explains.

Dont throw the bits away though youll need them later. Nothing gets wasted every last trace of the deceaseds remains must be sent onwards to the next world.

Step 2: Dehydrate

Next up: the all important dehydration of the corpse. Natron a naturally occurring mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate found in dry lake beds in ancient Egypt is the crucial substance needed here, and lots of it. The body needs to be stuffed with piles of the little white, salt-like crystals, then buried in the stuff too. It acts as a drying agent that will eventually turn the flesh hard and leathery.

Not a drop of moisture should be allowed to escape while this is all happening the body needs to be placed on a slanted surface, so that any liquid that drips off can be collected beneath. Any rags used to mop up should also be kept theyll need to be buried with the corpse too.

How long should the corpse be left to dry for? This is something experts cant be certain of. Brier, in his modern-mummification, elected for 35 days, but the optimum period may be closer to 40 days, or vary from body to body.

Step 3: Treat the Organs

Canopic jars of Tutankhamun, Cairo Museum

Its time to deal with the liver, lungs, intestines and other contents of the stomacht. As Hawass reveals in the video, each one of the individual internal organs, (the Egyptians) put on natron to dry, then they covered with linen. They would then place the organ in a wooden or stone Canopic chest or jar, and set it aside for burial with the body (in later burials, they would stuff the dried, wrapped organs back inside the body).

They would leave the heart, says Zahi, because the heart is a place of knowledge. It gives knowledge that they need in the afterlife. The brain has to go though. If you leave the brain inside the mummy, the brain can be damaged, Hawass points out. Insert a long hook into the nasal cavities and mash the brain into a pulp, before pulling it out piece by piece back through the nose. We warned you this isnt for the faint of heart!

Step 4: Cleanse

After the dehydration period has passed, its time for more cleansing inside and out. Wine made from dates should be used again, and also oils and spices. This prevents the skin now all dry and shrunken from turning too hard and shriveled.

Step 5: Restore

The fifth step is all about returning the corpse to as life-like a state as possible. With much of its interior removed, its necessary to stuff the body to fill the deceased out again, using sawdust and leaves.

They would leave the heart because the heart is a place of knowledge. It gives knowledge that they need in the afterlife. — Dr Zahi Hawass

The cadaver then has to be sealed. They closed everything open in the body of the deceased, Dr Zahi explains, like the nose, and areas inside here, he adds, pointing at the nether regions. The mouth, in some cases, can later be reopened in a ritual to symbolise breathing or eating (a practice that has given rise to all kinds of legends about revived mummies).

You might opt to add some jewellery at this stage necklaces, rings and bracelets made from gold and precious stones before the wrapping begins.

Step 6: Wrap

Giving your mummy that iconic bandaged look is perhaps the most delicate and time consuming part of the process it can take up to a week to wrap the body. First cover it with shrouds, then use long, thin strips of linen, starting with the head and neck, moving onto the fingers and toes, then separately the arms and legs.

The arms and legs next need bound together, and a spell from the Book of the Dead placed in the palms of the hands (to give the deceased some useful tips on how to pass through obstacles in the afterlife). More and more strips of bandage then need to be added and glued together at every layer using special resin. Amulets and other lucky charms can be placed in between layers, and you might also want a priest on hand to read out spells anything to give the Ka (the mummys spirit) the best possible luck on its impending journey.

Finally, youll have to wrap a sheet around the whole body, painted with an image of the god Osiris deity of the afterlife. Hes the boss from here on in.

Step 7: Last Rites

Your corpse is now officially mummified theres just a few formalities to attend to. Theres always a danger that the spirit might not recognise the corpse in the next world, so to prevent the two from becoming estranged, place a portrait mask over the deceaseds face before burial first in a series of wooden caskets, then inside a large, ornate stone sarcophagus.

Before the tomb is sealed, grave goods need to be dropped off furniture, food, drink, clothes, valuables. Even shabti slaves armies of miniature skivvies, intended to serve the deceased should they be called upon to perform manual labour in the afterlife. No eventuality on the deceaseds journey to the land of the dead should be left unconsidered. Because, as Dr Hawass signs-off, this time in the tomb is for eternal life.

That’s it. Of course, it’s not only human bodies that can be mummified. You can apply the same process to any animal – as seen in this video featuring Salima Ikram of the Cairo Museum.

VIDEO: Making an Animal Mummy, Featuring Dr. Salima Ikram