Ramesses III was murdered!

From WA:

Ramesses III was murdered in a palace coup led by his wife and son, archaeologists announced on 17th December.

A number of ancient Egyptian documents, including the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, record an attempt on the 20th Dynasty pharaoh’s life in 1155 BC, the final year of his reign, and that the chief conspirators were Tiye, one of Ramesses’ secondary wives, and her son Pentawere. The coup, known as the ‘harem conspiracy’ failed, with the throne passing to the king’s designated successor, Ramesses IV, but Egyptologists have long debated whether the assassination attempt was successful.

Now researchers, led by Dr Albert Zink from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman of the European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen in Italy, have carried out CT scans of the pharaoh’s mummified remains, revealing a deep cut across his throat that severed the trachea, oesophagus, and major blood vessels.

‘The extent and depth of the wound indicated that it could have caused the immediate death of Ramesses III,’ the team say, in their paper newly published in the British Medical Journal. ‘This study gives clues to the authenticity of the historically described harem conspiracy and finally reveals its tragic outcome. ’Our CT analysis provides evidence that the conspirators killed Ramesses III by cutting his throat.’

The researchers’ forensic investigations suggest that the damage to Ramesses III’s throat is unlikely to have been caused after his death, while no accounts of ancient Egyptian embalming methods suggest that opening the throat was part of the mummification process.

Sarcophagus box of Ramesses III, on display in Louvre

Further evidence of foul play came with the discovery of a wedjet (Horus eye) amulet which had been carefully placed inside the wound – perhaps by embalmers, hoping that its healing properties would restore the king in the next world, after which they covered the injury with a thick collar of linen layers.

At the same time, the team have announced the identification of a ‘possible candidate’ for the mummy of one of the culprits, Prince Pentawere – who reportedly took his own life after being found guilty of conspiracy against his father. The remains of 18-20-year-old ‘Man E’ were found in the same royal cache as Ramesses III at Deir el Bahari, but it had not previously been established who he was.

Bone samples taken from both mummies were analysed, revealing identical Y chromasomal DNA, and genetic similarities strongly suggesting a father-son relationship between the two individuals. While it is not possible to establish which of Ramesses’ many sons this could be, unusual aspects of his mummification suggest that he was not laid to rest with the honours expected for a 20th Dynasty royal.

There is no evidence that the man’s internal organs or brain were removed, the team say, and his body had been covered with a goatskin – a material considered to be ritually impure by the ancient Egyptians.  This could be interpreted as a post-mortem punishment, the team suggest, though his cause of death remains subject to speculation. His inflated thorax and compressed skinfolds around the neck could suggest violent actions such as strangulation preceding his death, though these effects could also be influenced by decomposition.

Dr.Hawass is back!

On Wednesday, March 30th, Dr. Zahi Hawass was called from the Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in his office to be appointed Minister of Antiquities. In this video Zahi Hawass is addressing a message to all friends of Egypt.

Here is his official video statement:

British Museum under pressure to give up leading treasures

The demand, issued in Cairo at the end of a two-day conference, is addressed to every country that holds ancient relics.

Western museum hold most of the items listed by countries ranging from China to Mexico. The British museum is the principal target because of the prominence of the artefacts it owns.

Egypt wants returned include the Rosetta stone in the British Museum and the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin’s Neues Museum. Both the British and Neues Museum have rejected the demand.

The conference was hosted by Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, who has been an outspoken campaigner for the return of lost treasures.

Mr Hawass acknowledged that there was no international legal basis for the demands but said a united stand between affected nations would bolster the claims.

“Instead of Egypt fighting on its own, let’s all fight together. let’s all come out with a wishlist,” he said. “We need to co-operate all of us especially with that wish list. we need all of us to come with one list and fight until we return this artefacts back.

“Forget the legal issue,” he said. “Important icons should be in their motherland, period.”

A spokeswoman said the British museum had not received an official request from Egypt.

“The British Museum has not received an official request for the permanent return of the Rosetta Stone,” she said. “The Museum has received a request from the Supreme Council of Antiquities requesting the short term loan of the stone for the opening of the new museum in Giza in 2012 or 2013. The Trustees of the British Museum will consider this request in due course.”

It has faced a long running campaign by the Greek government for the return of the Elgin Marbles which were taken from the Parthenon at the outset of the 19th century.

Elana Korka, a Greek culture ministry official said the marbles were its prime concern. “We would like to see some good faith,” she said. “They are the Parthenon marbles and that is where they belong.”

International conventions written since 1954 prohibited wartime looting, theft and resale of artefacts but the agreements don’t apply to items taken abroad before national or global laws were in force.

Nigeria has listed its claims for the Benin bronzes, which are also housed from the British Museum. Mexico has demanded the return of a feathered headdress of a tribal warrior and China has sought the handover of astrological items looted from the Summer Palace in Beijing during the Second Opuim War.

Artefacts that are on the looted list:

1 Elgin Marbles

(British Museum)

Greece has long fought to reclaim the frieze stripped from the Parthenon at the behest of the 7th Earl of Elgin in 1801

2 Rosetta Stone

(British Museum) Egypt demands the return of the 2,200-year-old stone tablet that holds the key to translating ancient hieroglyphs

3 Summer Palace

bronzes (private French owner)

China claims bronze heads from a zodiac clock were stolen during the Second Opium War in 1860

4 Benin Bronzes (British Museum) Nigeria lays claim to the royal treasures of Benin, saying that they were seized by British troops in 1897

5 Queen Nefertiti (Berlin Neues Museum)

Egypt wants the 3,500-year-old bust of the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten returned


Octavian Augustus named Egyptian Pharaoh in a stele

Scholars translating a Roman victory stele, erected in the Temple of Isis at Philae in Egypt in 29 BC, have discovered the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus’ name inscribed in a cartouche – an honour normally reserved for an Egyptian pharaoh

Octavian’s forces defeated Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and captured Alexandria soon afterwards. Historians believe that although Octavian ruled Egypt after the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC, he was never actually crowned as an Egyptian pharaoh.

The stele was commissioned by Gaius Cornelius Gallus, a Roman soldier and poet who was appointed by Octavian to run Egypt as a province, and who administered Egypt until he was recalled to Rome in 27 BC. The stele celebrates the end of the Ptolemaic kings and the defeat of the “king of the Ethiopians”. It is written in three languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Latin and Greek. The stele has been known to scholars for around 100 years, but translation of the hieroglyphic text has been difficult as the inscription is no longer clear. Previous work had suggested that the name of Gaius Cornelius Gallus had been inscribed in the cartouche (an oblong frame).

Historians don’t believe that Octavian Augustus was ever crowned as the Pharaoh of Egypt. However, Professor Martina Minas-Nerpel, who was part of the team translating the stele, said that the inscription clearly indicated that Octavian Augustus was treated as a pharaoh by the Egyptians.

“The name of Octavian is written in a cartouche – he’s treated as any other Egyptian king,” she said.

Professor Minas-Nerpel believes that Egyptian priests had insisted on this honour, and that it was in Octavian’s interests to comply.

“(The priests) had to have an acting pharaoh, and the only acting pharaoh (possible) under Octavian was Octavian,” said Minas-Nerpel. “The priests needed to see him as a pharaoh otherwise their understanding of the world would have collapsed.”

For Octavian, pleasing the priests would have been vital in keeping the province in order.

“He needed to have a calm province and the key element to keeping the province calm were the priests – they were key to the population,” said Minas-Nerpel.

This stele would not be the only example of the names of Roman rulers being written in a cartouche. Similar instances dating up to the 3rd Century AD have also been discovered. Professor even Minas-Nerpel cites another example of Octavian’s name being written in a cartouche. His name is found on a gateway dating to 30 BC, on the island of Kalabsha in Southern Egypt.


Archaeologists find door to the afterlife

The recessed niches found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. The nearly six-foot- tall (1.75 meters) slab of pink granite was covered with religious texts.

The door came from the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, a powerful, 15th century BC queen from the New Kingdom with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt.

User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of the city, according to the inscriptions. He may have inherited his position from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials tasked with the day-to-day running of the kingdom’s complex bureaucracy.

As a testament to his importance, User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where royal kings and queens were also buried. A chapel dedicated to him has also been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The stone itself was long way from its tomb and had apparently been removed from the grave and then incorporated into the wall of a Roman-era building, more than a thousand years later.

False doors were placed in the west walls of tombs and faced offering tables where food and drink were left for the spirit of the deceased.


Underwater museum for Egypt

Architect Jacques Rougerie -an expert when it comes to space and underwater structures- has designed the soon-to-be first underwater museum. It will be located off the coast of Egypt, near the new Library of Alexandria, where Cleopatra once had a palace on an island in one of the largest human-made bays in the world back in the day, submerged by earthquakes in the 4th century.

The ruins were discovered years ago, and include several sphinxes, statues, roman and greek shipwrecks and pieces believed to be from the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world).

This ruins haven’t been moved, since it would be a tremendous effort that could damage the ruins in the process. Also,  it follows the 2001 UNESCO convention for the preservation of underwater heritage.

With that in mind, the museum is designed as both inland and submarine. The building will have four tall structures shaped like the sails of fellucas, the traditional sailboats used in the Nile. From the inland building, underwater fiberglass tunnels will take visitors to structures where they can view antiquities still lying on the seabed.

Sounds like a big challenge, but since the bay is only about 16 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters) deep, the museum will not face strong water pressure on its walls, something that makes this idea more feasible. And with construction expected to take only three years, we could have this new concept of building ready pretty soon. But first, they need to secure funding.