Archaeology and Heritage

Abstract only

Angela P. Thomas

This paper discusses the rock-cut Middle Kingdom necropolis at Deir Rifeh, the location of the 'Tomb of the Two Brothers'. The first part of the paper reviews the history of archaeological activity at Deir Rifeh with a view to reconciling the differing published accounts of work carried out at the site (including published plans/maps of the area) in the late 19th and early 20th century, before Deir Rifeh became inaccessible to scholars. The second part of the paper is a preliminary report of the joint expedition from the universities of Liverpool and Assiut, whose first aim is to map this important and hitherto neglected necropolis.

Abstract only

Penelope Wilson

The contribution aims to assess the current evidence for the cemetery areas and, specifically, the Royal Tombs at Sais, with the publication of recently found and excavated pieces of evidence, including an ushabti figure of Psamtek I (?) and an inscribed granite block, perhaps from a royal sarcophagus. This is based on fieldwork at Sais from 1997 onwards and represents a consideration of a vexatious question that it may not, in fact, be possible to answer. The material will be considered against earlier finds and material from museum collections. The issue of the location of the tombs will be discussed in relation to the current condition of the site. A discussion of the cultic areas of Sais with the Temple of Neith and Temple of Osiris Hemag will suggest several possible scenarios for their location, although it is not likely that a final determination will ever be possible.

Abstract only

Proving Herodotus and Diodorus?

Headspace analysis of ‘eau de mummy’ using gas chromatography mass spectrometry

David Counsell

Historical accounts of the mummification process from Herodotus (5th century BC) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) report the use of a wide range of aromatic plant materials, including many common herbs and spices. Mummified remains consistently emit a musty odour, likely derived from residues of these materials. Using a sampling technique, novel in archaeology, the constituents of this odour were analysed using GCMS. The sample utilised was from a particularly pungent mummy from the Leicester Museum collection; Bes-en-mut, a priest in the temple of Min at Akhmim c. 700 BC. The results revealed the presence of a wide range of turpenoid and other compounds derived from a range of aromatic plants, including well known herbs and spices such as Cinnamon and Rosemary. The abundance of these compounds in nature make it difficult to identify in most cases exactly which plants were actually used in the embalming of Bes-en-mut, with one exception. The identification of juniperol, which is unique to the common juniper, Juniperus communis, confirms the use of juniper oil in the mummification process. Overall the results support the accuracy of the historical reports particularly that of Herodotus, who's authenticity has often been called into question.

Abstract only

‘Palmiform’ columns

An alternative design source

J. Peter Phillips

Of the various column types encountered in the stone-built architecture of Pharaonic Egypt, those used in temples seem to have been constrained by religious tradition to a limited number of canonical forms that changed in design only slowly over the millennia. One type of column first appears in stone in the Old Kingdom, and was still widely used in Ptolemaic and Roman structures, where it can be seen alongside the highly elaborate capitals of the Egyptian ‘composite’ forms in the same portico. This is the type known as ‘palmiform’ because of its resemblance to Egypt’s ubiquitous date palm trees. By Ptolemaic and Roman times, it is clear that these columns were indeed seen as imitations of date palms: for example, the carving of their capitals sometimes included the representation of bunches of dates, and the top of the column shaft below the capital was in some instances carved to imitate the trunk of a palm tree. However, there are a number of factors that point to an alternative origin for their design, and the placement of the columns in prestigious locations at the entrance to Old Kingdom temples brings into question the palm-tree interpretation. The author contends that it is possible that they were intended to imitate much-prized and decorative ostrich feathers bound around a wooden pole. This article explores the development of this column type and the reasons for proposing this alternative design source.

Abstract only

One and the same?

An investigation into the connection between veterinary and medical practice in ancient Egypt

Conni Lord

The study of ancient Egyptian medicine has been greatly assisted by the discovery and subsequent translation of twelve known papyri concerned with matters of human healing; one of the earliest of these dates to approximately 1875 BC and concentrates on gynaecological issues. The papyrus was found as part of a cache in the important Middle Kingdom township of Kahun near the Fayum, alongside papyri concerned with administrative and personal issues, legal matters, temple archives, mathematics and one unique document now called the Veterinary Papyrus of Kahun. The discovery of this veterinary treatise alongside the gynaecological document, its early origins, as well as its similarity in approach to the Edwin Smith Papyrus raises the question of a possible relationship between animal and human healing in ancient Egypt. The aim of this paper is to investigate this association and to address a number of other questions. Was medicine and animal healing related? Did medical and veterinary practices evolve together, separately or did one inform the other? Were the same personnel charged with human healing also those who cared for ailing animals? Were the treatments corresponding? Study of this material improves our understanding of the relationship between ancient Egyptian human and animal healing practices.

Abstract only

Campbell Price

The so-called ‘healing’ statues form a relatively small but well-studied category of monuments attested chiefly from between the 26th Dynasty and early Ptolemaic Period. They represent men of elite status, generally shown in a standing pose supporting a Horus cippus. Scholarly attention has tended to focus on the magico-medical texts of the statues, rather than the function and perception of the statues in context. The visual impact of the densely-inscribed statues, when viewed in temple spaces amidst other more traditional elite statue types, is likely to have been significant. Such a departure from the ‘norm’ is seen in New Kingdom chauves d’Hathor statues, where the peculiarity of the sculptural form was a means of attracting attention. ‘Appeal to the living’ texts on the healing statues make clear that the intended audience for the statues was among temple staff. Claims made in the statues’ inscriptions to ‘save everyone’ are part of an age-old rhetoric to persuade passers-by to offer to the deceased; in contrast to modern, egalitarian expectations about access to healthcare, those with physical and intellectual access to the statues are likely to have been restricted to a knowledgeable few, rather than a broader ‘public’ proposed by many commentators.

Abstract only

Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt

Multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David

Edited by: Campbell Price, Roger Forshaw, Andrew Chamberlain, Paul T. Nicholson and Robert Morkot

Combining approaches to ancient Egyptian religious expression, medical practice and the modern scientific study of human and material remains from Egypt and Sudan, this volume celebrates the multidisciplinary career of Prof Rosalie David OBE. The UK’s first female Professor in Egyptology, Rosalie David’s pioneering work at the University of Manchester on Egyptian mummies, magic and medicine has attracted international attention.

This volume presents research by a number of leading experts in their fields: recent archaeological fieldwork, new research on Egyptian human remains and unpublished museum objects along with reassessments of ancient Egyptian texts concerned with healing and the study of technology through experimental archaeology. Papers try to answer some of Egyptology’s biggest questions - How did Tutankhamun die? How were the Pyramids built? How were mummies made? – along with less well-known puzzles.

Rather than address these areas separately, the volume adopts the so-called ‘Manchester method’ instigated by Rosalie David and attempts to integrate perspectives from both traditional Egyptology and scientific analytical techniques. Much of this research has never appeared in print before, particularly that resulting from the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Project, set up in the 1970s. The resulting overview illustrates how Egyptology has developed over the last 40 years, and how many of the same big questions still remain.

This book will be of use to researchers and students of archaeology or related disciplines with an interest in multidisciplinary approaches to understanding life and death in ancient Egypt and Sudan.

Abstract only

Carol Andrews

Although amulets in the form of the wedjat-eye, generally accepted to represent the left “lunar” eye of the falcon-headed sky god, are many and varied in detail, those in which the figure of a lion reclines along the top are few. Thus far only fourteen of this type are known. Moreover, this particular wedjat is the right “solar” eye which compounds the difficulty in certain identification of the deity represented by the lion. The solution suggested renders the manifestation unique, in this particular context at least. The lion reclines on a rectangular box within which is a standing crocodile, a feature unknown for any other wedjat. The presence of a malevolent entity, albeit caged, on a protective amulet requires an explanation which reinforces the unexpected identity suggested for the lion deity. Finally, on the front of the amulet, in the space delineated by the up-curling spiral below the eye is a roaring lion’s head, a unique feature for any wedjat. The reason for its presence in this context and its possible symbolism remain problematic.

Abstract only

The Manchester ‘funeral’ ostracon

A sketch of a funerary ritual

Peter Robinson

In 1913, Sir Alan Gardiner published a brief paper about an ostracon that he had bought from an antiquities dealer in Luxor and subsequently donated to Manchester Museum. The ostracon carries an image of a funeral ritual taking place in and around a shaft tomb and its burial chamber, and represents a number of figures within the ceremony. Gardiner ascribed the piece to the pre-Ramesside period, but as there was no contemporary text upon it, there are few clues that can give the present-day scholar any idea of its purpose or what it actually depicts. This paper will evaluate the image drawn upon the ‘Manchester Funeral Ostracon’, and by breaking down the image into its component parts; it will attempt to assess the meaning of the drawing in relation to funerary ritual and architecture from the Theban necropolis, and to parallel images in the Book of the Dead, in order to investigate its purpose amongst the artwork and ritual of the New Kingdom.

Abstract only

Making an ancient Egyptian contraceptive

Learning from experiment and experience

Rosalind Janssen

The name of Professor Rosalie David will forever be associated with her exploration of diverse aspects of Egyptian medicine, her pioneering work on Petrie’s Kahun material, together with her exemplary promotion of lifelong learning. This article seeks to acknowledge and seamlessly combine all three aspects. Using equivalent ingredients to those in prescriptions Ebers 783 and Kahun 22, namely acacia gum capsules, natural carob drops, dates and honey, together with modern pestles and mortars, a contraceptive was recreated as a paired task at classes conducted by the author at both Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Studies (OUDCE) and at the City Literacy Institute (City Lit). The concoctions produced as a result of this paired task were each placed on lint and engendered lively debate as to the contraceptive’s alleged up to three year efficacy. An educational analysis in the final section of the paper explores the value of experimental archaeology in encouraging mature students to engage in deep meta-learning.