Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ancient Egyptians Cheated on Mummies!

It’s a wildlife scandal of historical proportions: It turns out, a significant number of animal mummies from ancient Egypt don’t hold any animal remains whatsoever.

“We always knew that not all animal mummies contained what we expected them to contain, but we found around a third don't contain any animal material at all,” Lidija McKnight, who lead the research team from the University of Manchester and Manchester Museum that made the discovery, said in a news release.

Full article here.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Archaeologist Finds 80 Lost Cities

(CNN) A sweat-smothered man in a wide-brimmed hat, knee-high leather boots and a khaki uniform machetes his way through lush jungle foliage.

As thick tangles of vine fall beneath his blade, he pushes into a clearing, then suddenly staggers back.

The fanged mouth of a primordial stone beast gapes toward him.

Full article here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The White Walls of Memphis

A Russian archaeological expedition spanning more than a decade has unearthed the enclosure walls of the first capitol of Egypt – the legendary city of Memphis that was the heart of Egyptian civilization for over 2,000 years.

Scientists from the Egyptology Studies Center of Russian Academy of Sciences (CESRAS) have excavated the foundation of what they believe once were huge walls that used to surround the ancient Egyptian capitol currently known under its Greek name, Memphis.

Full article here.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Alex Left Some Stuff Lying Around in the Holy Land

(CNN) Hen Zakai loves exploring darkness. In his spare time, he lowers himself into the underground world of hidden caves to navigate the nooks and crevasses of a very different environment. 

Zakai was recently spelunking with his father and a friend, all of whom are members of the Israeli Caving Club, when Zakai spotted a shiny silver object in one of the most well-hidden stalactite caves in northern Israel.

Full article here.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Early Copy of Gospel Found in Mummy's Mask

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist - a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 - is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Lost Egyptian Queen Found

(CNN) - A Czech archeology team in Egypt has uncovered an intriguing find: the tomb of a previously unknown queen.

The discovery was made in an Old Kingdom necropolis southwest of Cairo in Abusir, home to the pyramid of Pharaoh Neferefre, who ruled 4,500 years ago. The tomb was found in Neferefre's funeral complex, and it's believed that the queen was Neferefre's wife.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for sending this to me.

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Meaning of Animal Mummies

Millions of animal mummies — some elaborately dressed, others plainly wrapped — were buried by ancient Egyptians and the exact reason for the death ritual is an ongoing archaeological mystery.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Last month, my husband and I went to see the much anticipated Exodus: Gods and Kings, the final offering of 2014's Biblical movie line-up.
Both of us, it seems, left it with mixed reactions.

For me, it wasn't as awful as Noah, but neither was it as reverent as Son of God (the best of the three). It deviated quite a bit from the Biblical account.
Though I must say, the scene of the parting of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds?) was... interesting. To be honest, I was initially baffled with it until my husband, who is a well-read man, explained it to me.

On another factor, the Egyptology is done very well. Seeing the film in 3D was greatly enriching.

For sure, this is certainly a different kind of Moses retelling. For one thing, it does not begin with him as an infant in the basket. They also left out the dramatic line, "Let my people go!"

On an amusing note, Joel Edgerton looked too - well - tame to play Pharaoh Ramses II. Ramses was supposed to be intimidating and domineering, but Edgerton had a rather friendly face.
(By the way, I later discovered that he is Australian.)

My husband says more of this in his review, which is very knowledgeable and insightful. Without further ado, here it is.


A Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings
by Alfred D. Byrd

Anna's and my first reaction to Exodus: Gods and Kings was, "This is a gorgeous movie!" The parts of it set in Egypt filled the screen with lovingly rendered, detailed, authentic Egyptian outfits, furniture, chariots, buildings, etc., that made the characters who moved amid them come to life. The impression of gorgeousness remained with us throughout the movie. It was also fast-paced, engrossing, and dark -- something like The Ten Commandments meets The Lord of the Rings. Exodus: Gods and Kings made me wonder what kind of LOTR we would have gotten had Ridley Scott made it.

Any live-action movie that revisits the subject matter of The Ten Commandments must take the "Charlton Heston" and "Yul Brynner" tests. Christian Bale, as Moses, passed the "Charlton Heston" test with a less stagy, but more human performance than the trumpter of "Let my people go!" gave us. Perhaps to set Bale's performance off from Heston's, the actual words "Let my people go" never occur in Gods and Kings. Joel Edgerton flunked the "Yul Brenner Test," but was still an intriguing character, a lovable Teddy Bear forced to rule a kingdom. I don't know what statement Ridley Scott was making in directing Edgerton as Ramses the Not-So-Great -- maybe that no great man in real life is what partisan history makes of him.

Before I go further, let me praise Ridley Scott for something subtle, but clever, that he did. In the aftermath of an amazingly staged Battle of Kadesh, Ramses deliberately omits Moses' heroic role in it from the official history that we can still read today. Ridley Scott thereby shows us how the entire account of Exodus could have been cut out of Egyptian history.

Let me next air pet peeves. First, the Egyptians didn't hang criminals by the neck until dead; the Egyptians impaled them. Given the obvious depth of Ridley Scott's research as shown in the movie, he must have made the anachronistic choice of hanging by a noose as a concession to modern audiences (or perhaps the rating board). Anachronistic, too, was the "economics" talk between Moses and Ramses in the royal stable. As a student of the American Civil War, I must say that Ramses' justification for not freeing the slaves -- economic dislocation for Egypt and unreadiness for freedom of the Children of Israel -- could have come almost verbatim from a Southern gradual emancipationist on Fort Sumter's eve. The speech by Moses and Ramses was jarringly modern in its Ancient Egyptian setting, as as an earlier talk between Moses and Pharaoh Seti on skepticism and religious toerance.

The movie had many omissions from, additions to, and revisions of the original account in Exodus, but the core of the Biblical account was there. If you haven't yet watched the movie and plan to, get used to not seeing most of the recorded confrontations of Moses and Pharaoh, and the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night appears nowhere. Disappointingly for Anna, Moses never turns his staff into a serpent, and missed out on the always entertaining duel with Pharaoh's magicians. On the additions front, Moses as a Che Guevaraesque resistance fighter is a stretch, to say the least, though the guerrilla battle scenes were well done, in more than one sense of the word.

Oh, and don't expect the Red Sea to part. What it does do, however, is dramatic and even apocalyptic. If you just go with the flow of the movie's ending, as it were, I think that you'll be entertained, if not enlightened. And what was I saying? There were certainly pillars of cloud in Gods and Kings' Crossing of the Red Sea. Out of fear of spoilers, I'll leave out my biggest cavil with the scene. I expect you to notice it yourself.

One part of the movie that may give you real problems is God. In the movie, if he's real at all (Ridley Scott always leaves the door open to naturalistic interpretations) he's a little boy, identical in appearance to Moses' son Gershom. Only Moses can see God and fights with Him continually. I've seen the "God as a little boy" trope done before, and done well, in the Bible Collection Jeremiah, in which the trope stressed God's innocence. In Gods and Kings, I don't know what the trope represents, unless it's God's identification with the suffering of children under oppressive regimes. Yes, that interpretation might work. Still, Moses and God develop a quirky interesting relationship over time. It's good entertainment, even if it's shaky theology. Take it with a grain of salt -- maybe, a shaker.

Like most of Hollywood's Bible epics (think Noah), Exodus: Gods and Kings is better as entertainment than it is as a Sunday-school lesson. In the end, here's the highest praise that I can give the movie: it seemed to me far shorter than it was. If you can get past its omissions, additions, and revisions, you can watch an engaging film. Did I mention that it's gorgeous?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Jerusalem Archaeology

It started 15 years ago with plans to expand the Tower of David Museum. But the story took a strange turn when archaeologists started peeling away layers under the floor in an old abandoned building adjacent to the museum in Jerusalem’s Old City.

They knew it had been used as a prison when the Ottoman Turks and then the British ruled these parts. But, as they carefully dug down, they eventually uncovered something extraordinary: the suspected remains of the palace where one of the more famous scenes of the New Testament may have taken place - the trial of Jesus.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Akhenaton's Dad

(CNN) -- A massive statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III was toppled in an earthquake some 3,000 years ago.

It has risen again.

The 50-ton, 13-meter (42-foot) statue was unveiled on Sunday at the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt, restored to its former grandeur due to the hard work of Egyptian and German archaeologists.

The same team, including noted German archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, unveiled two other massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in March. Sourouzian heads the temple of Amenhotep III conservation project.

Full article here.

Many thanks to Al for showing this to me.