The Bible Unearthed (The Documentary)


“Prof. Israel Finkelstein & Neil Silberman, Two of archaeology’s leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened.”

 

Israel Finkelstein

For the first time, the true history of ancient Israel as revealed through recent archaeological discoveries-and a controversial new take on when, why and how the Bible was written. In the past three decades, archaeologists have made great strides in recovering the lost world of the Old Testament. Dozens of digs in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have changed experts’ understanding of ancient Israel and its neighbours- as well as their vision of the Bible’s greatest tales.

Yet until now, the public has remained almost entirely unaware of these discoveries which help separate legend from historical truth. Here, at last, two of archaeology’s leading scholars shed new light on how the Bible came into existence. They assert, for example, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never existed, that David and Solomon were not great kings but obscure chieftains and that the Exodus never happened.

They offer instead a new historical truth: the Bible was created by the people of the small, southern nation of Judah in a heroic last-ditch attempt to keep their faith alive after the demise of the larger, wealthier nation of Israel to the north. It is in this truth, not in the myths of the past, that the real value of the Bible is evident.

The Bible is both a religious and historical work, but how much is myth and how much is history? When and why was the Old Testament written, and by whom? What do contemporary archaeologists know about the Patriarchs? The Exodus? The Conquest of Canaan? Kings David and Solomon? Where do the people of Israel originally come from? Why were the historical accounts of the Bible written down?

A masterful archaeological and biblical investigation, The Bible Unearthed visits digs in Egypt, Jordan and Israel – including Megiddo, the cradle of biblical archeology, where 7,000 years of history have been excavated.

This far-ranging exploration of biblical history also makes use of archival footage of previous archaeological excavations, maps, biblical illustrations and computer animation, revealing ancient architecture, cuneiform tablets and other rare artifacts.

Based on the best-selling book (The Bible Unearthed) by prominent Israeli archeologist Israel Finkelstein & coauthored by American historian Neil Asher Silberman, this enthralling documentary features interviews with archaeological specialists and biblical scholars from all over the world, including experts from the Louvre, the Museum of Cairo, the Museum of Jerusalem, and the British Museum.

The Bible Unearthed does something which has never been done before: it reveals a still-unraveling revolution of what we know of the society, the history, and the men who wrote the Bible.

Egypt Closes pyramid Over 11/11/11 Suspected Masonic Rituals


Egypt’s antiquities authority closed the largest of the Giza pyramids Friday following rumors that groups would try to hold suspected spiritual rituals on the site at 11:11 am on 11 November, 2011.

The authority’s head Mustafa Amin said in a statement Friday that the pyramid of Khufu, also known as Cheops, would be closed to visitors until Saturday morning for “necessary maintenance.”

The closure follows a deluge of unconfirmed reports in local media that unidentified groups would try to hold “Jewish” or “Masonic” rites on the site to take advantage of mysterious powers - many like to believe – will be emanating from the pyramid on the rare date.

Amin called all reports of planned ceremonies at the site “completely lacking in truth.”

The complex’s director, Ali al-Asfar, said Friday that an Egyptian company requested permission last month to hold an event called “hug the pyramid,” in which 120 people would join hands around the ancient burial structure.

The authority declined the request a week ago, Asfar said, but that did not stop concerned Egyptians from launching internet campaigns to prevent the event from taking place.

“It has been a big cause now on Facebook and Twitter for many people to write about,” Asfar said.

Passageway to king Khufu's burial chamber, one of the mysteries of the great pyramid.

Freemasonry is a totally strange and obscure subject to most Egyptians but when linked to the Jews it, all of a sudden, attains a whole new definition splashed with sharp shades of a long history of fierce wars and cold peace.   

The closure was unrelated to the rumors, he said, adding that the pyramid needed maintenance after the large number of visitors during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday last week.

The rest of the complex, which includes two other large pyramids, numerous tombs and the Sphinx, remained open Friday, though security appeared to be heavier than usual.

The pyramid of khufu, the only site of the seven wonders of the ancient world that still exists and defies time, is a continuing source of contemplation, spiritual wonder and spontaneous awe.

Sources: Al Masry Alyoum & Youm7

Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Aten


O sole god without equal !
You are alone, shining in your form of the living Aten.
Risen, radiant, distant and near.
                                                             Great Hymn, 47 & 73-74.

colossus of Amenhotep IV(Akhenaten) Gem-pa-Aten temple at East Karnak “the Aten is found” – Cairo Museum

The Great Hymn to the Aten is an ancient Egyptian hymn to the sun god Aten.

In the tomb of Ay, the chief minister of Akhenaten (and later to become king after Tutankhamun’s death, p. 136), occurs the longest and best rendition of a composition known as the ‘Hymn to the Aten’, said to have been written by Akhenaten himself. Quite moving in itself as a piece of poetry, its similarity to, and possible source of the concept in, Psalm 104 has long been noted.

Akhenaten was not a usual character. He was an intellectual and philosophical revolutionary who had the power and wealth to indulge his ideas. He tried to change the Egyptian people to a concept of godhead which was both monotheistic and abstract.

He worshiped the sun (Aten) as the one true god and it is possible that the Hebrew prophets’ concept of a universal God was copied in part from this cult. The hymn gives us a glimpse of the artistic renaissance characteristic of the Amarna period.

Hymn

The hymn suggests that Akhenaten considered Aten (the disk, orb, sphere, globe of the sun) as the only god, and creator of the universe, particularly in the verses translated as:

How manifold it is, what thou hast made!

They are hidden from the face (of man).

O sole god, like whom there is no other!

Thou didst create the world according to thy desire,

Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts,

Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet,

And what is on high, flying with its wings.

The countries of Syria and Nubia, the land of Egypt,

Thou settest every man in his place,

Thou suppliest their necessities:

Everyone has his food, and his time of life is reckoned.

Their tongues are separate in speech,

And their natures as well;

Their skins are distinguished,

As thou distinguishest the foreign peoples.

Thou makest a Nile in the underworld,

Thou bringest forth as thou desirest

To maintain the people (of Egypt)

According as thou madest them for thyself,

The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,

The lord of every land, rising for them,

The Aton of the day, great of majesty.

Composed by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935);
Performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir;
Conducted by Paul Hillier;

Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth


“Perhaps the legacy of Akhenaten, that changer of religion yet “Dweller in Truth” (with a capital “T”), lies in that all humans ought to search for the truth; it may be that then they will discover religion quite unexpectedly.”

Weakling or Warrior? An Analysis of Mahfouz’s Akhenaten

“You will never accuse me of meekness hereafter, Father, for I am swept by a sacred desire, strong as the northern winds, a desire to know the truth and record it, as you did in the prime of your youth,” declares Meriamun, the protagonist of Nobel Prize-winning Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth.

Meriamun is a man on a quest: he wishes to understand the mysterious circumstances of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s rule in the days of his father in the eleventh century, B.C.(2)  Akhenaten is known to Meriamun as “the heretic,” the crazed Pharaoh who brought destruction to his kingdom by declaring monotheism. To understand the life and rule of the infamous Akhenaten, Meriamun travels throughout Egypt with a letter of introduction from his father and interviews fourteen people closely associated with Akhenaten, including a high priest, relatives, friends, harem member, advisers, and the former queen herself, Nefertiti.

Reminiscent of Wilkie Collins’ format in his classic The Moonstone, the case to determine Pharaoh Akhenaten as sage or madman is intricate and even contradictory at times. Mahfouz helps readers negotiate the evidence through his treatment of religion, his integration of Egyptian cultural-historical norms, and his challenge against a modern tendency to believe every dilemma can be answered with a single value judgment.

Right Religion?

Religion is absolutely a major theme of Akhenaten. Meriamun’s interviews are often reduced to characterizations of Akhenaten as a pious martyr or as a weak madman unworthy of the throne.

Religion itself is treated respectfully, but the real (and intrinsic) question is whose religion is right? Though many criticize Akhenaten harshly for his failures as a Pharaoh, something any honor culture understands, Mahfouz also integrates terminology similar to that of modern Abrahamic religions. Ancient Egypt’s unusual monotheistic King Akhenaten, the “first priest of the One and Only God” (as Meri-Ra, a devout priest of Akhenaten’s God says) (106), is particularly ridiculed for his closure of the temples; Akhenaten declares, “The priests are swindlers” and the “temples are brothels, and there is nothing they hold sacred but their carnal desires” (107). The phrase “One and Only God” seems to have a high correlation with Egypt’s predominant religion—Islam—today, as it exemplifies the fundamental concept of Tawhid (the oneness of God) as based on the one hundred and twelfth Surah of the Quran, Surah al-Ikhlas: “He is Allah, [the] One”(Hilali and Khan). Deuteronomy 4:35 also confirms monotheism: “Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (ESV).

What is the secret behind this frail, repulsive and rather feminine nature of Akhenaten's depiction in Amarna art-style.

With his clear monotheistic motifs, Mahfouz creates an impasse. He is no longer speaking just of an obscure Pharaoh and a decision to change his country’s religion; he is raising the more universal question of the acceptability of religious compulsion. One can believe the accounts of so many people who paint Akhenaten as a “heretic” (11, 79, 131, 133) and who emphasize his “frail” constitution (133), his “repulsive appearance” (11), his “feminine nature” (11),and his “ugliness” (80). One can believe that Akhenaten was indeed a “mouse that fancied himself a lion” (80) (read: “a fool”); in this case, the minister of Akhenaten’s chamber, Nakht, is right in his sad lamentation, “This is a story of innocence, of deception, and infinite grief” (131).

But Nakht also believed Akhenaten a man “noble, truthful, and compassionate” (93). Like Akhenaten’s personal physician, Bento, he believed that the Pharaoh was more than met the eye . . . “no gentle spring breeze, but a winter storm” (137). Bento remembers Akhenaten’s last words to him before his passing: “They think my God and I are defeated. But he never betrays not does he accept defeat” (142). These are the last words of the book, and they reveal something about the way people treat religion today.

Meriamun’s quest for truth is an approach with which many can identify. Every man negotiates his idea of truth in one way or the other; if he does not “choose” his religion, he at least makes decisions informed by a worldview that he accepts. Before beginning his quest, Meriamun quotes Qaqimna when he says,“’Pass no judgment upon a matter until you have heard all testimonies’” (3).

It is interesting that Meriamun searches for truth, not religion. While in the end he is uncertain if he has found the truth, he has discovered more religion. The book ends with only two real conclusions—Meriamun is certain of his “growing fondness for the hymns of the One God, and [his] profound love for the beautiful Nefertiti” (172)1. Perhaps the legacy of Akhenaten, that changer of religion yet “Dweller in Truth” (with a capital “T”), lies in that all humans ought to search for the truth; it may be that then they will discover religion quite unexpectedly. Akhenaten may be soft, but perhaps this is precisely what distinguishes him from his ancestors. The Pharaoh of the Biblical Exodus account hardened his heart again and again, exchanging the truth of God’s miracles in exchange for the lies of his magicians (Exodus 7:222, Romans 1:253). For anyone who has found himself following tradition before truth, Meriamun and Akhenaten make striking, if difficult to judge, characters.

Cultural-Historical Context

Beyond common human experience, Akhenaten provides glimpses into a more specific cultural-historical context. Mafouz’s choice of setting seems calculated; it is at once identifiable with the Egyptian people, yet so far removed from daily experience that it provides the same veiled pith of a critical joke. Someone familiar with Cairenes might recognize archetypal characteristics of an honor culture. Indeed, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s choices seem criticized the most because they are shameful to his people. For instance, the high priest ruefully recalls the young Pharaoh: “He was rather dark, with dreamy eyes and a thin, frail figure, noticeably feminine. His features were grotesque and disturbing. He was a despicable creature, unworthy of the throne, so weak he could not challenge an insect, let alone the Master Deity. I was disgusted but said nothing” (18).

Egypt is a visual culture, and appearances, particularly in public, are emphasized. There are certain conventions people must follow, even if it is as simple as the statuary domestic cup of tea. No wonder Mubarak remains ever-young, or that people keep silent until the time that they can call out dishonor without endangering their own reputations. It happens with shopkeepers. It happens with government. And it happens with Akhenaten.

The beauty of literature, and particularly Mafouz’s novel, is that people and ideas have some universal qualities. The only ambiguity for the casual reader might be the events themselves, as they are rooted in the politics of the period. Nevertheless, Mafouz makes his book highly accessible and imprints it with a particularly Egyptian ethos. The point hardly seems to be the events themselves, since they are often told out of sequence and from many different perspectives; more important is the search for truth and the characters who believe they know it. The players only become more difficult to judge, however, when they are more than figures on a search for truth—they are reflections in a modern mirror.

Values and Moral Dilemma

Queen Nefertiti, beauty and brilliance combined.

The universal qualities of religion and culture in Akhenaten also extend to values. Although cultural values can be relative (precisely because they are uniquely cultural), value judgments made by individuals in the novel are similar to the values many hold today. For instance, every interviewee volunteers his own (often differing) opinion of Akhenaten. As Ay, the sage and former counselor of Akhenaten says, “[Life] is a sky laden with clouds of contradictions” (27). Meriamun’s search reveals shared value systems—systems that value strength, religion, and loyalty.

Some condemn Akhenaten as weak; others recognize a quiet strength. Some see Akhenaten’s move to monotheism as religious suicide; others see it as the beautiful and right religion. Some see Akhenaten a betrayer of the people’s trust, an Oedipal adulterer, and his wife Nefertiti conniving, unloving, and disloyal (99); others see Akhenaten as a friend despite differences, a steadfast husband who neglected his entire harem (72) for Nefertiti, “beauty and brilliance combined,” who believes in his cause and does everything she can to stand by her husband (124). Throughout these conflicts, Mahfouz weaves his tale such that readers can empathize with any one of the characters because their actions may be dictated by experiences to which readers would respond no differently. The plot, as the cliché goes, thickens.

If Akhenaten lived so basely, then those who stuck by him because it was their duty are laudable for their sacrifice in service of the system; those who abandoned him entirely did what they thought was best for the kingdom.

For instance, the most captivating woman of Akhenaten’s inherited harem, Tadukhipa, is revolted by his weakness and decision to neglect the concubines, for harem women lived “an unbearable and utterly degrading life that bred further perversity,” and “when it became known that the idiot king wanted to fight sin with love instead of punishment” the women turned to each other and to the palace guards (74).

So who is right, the man Akhenaten who says he knows who God is, or the gregarious, hardened woman Tadukhipa, disgusted with the moral decline resulting from the Pharaoh’s rule? Few chose the former, and those who did live in the shadows of others’ doubt for the remainder of their lives.

The enigmatic Nefertiti says that she left her husband’s side only when she thought it would save his life; she thought that if she left, “he might falter and take the advice of his men” (170). Akhenaten did not falter. Those who followed Akhenaten to the end seemed to believe in conscience, they believed in God before and despite of His weak messenger (142). The people of Akhenaten could be anyone, for while history changes, moral dilemmas do not.

Conclusion

Most famous stone relief depicting the royal family of Akhenaten,Nefertiti and their three little daughters in a radically new and realistic trend.

Meriamun’s interview with the high priest ends with a long silence. Finally, the priest concludes, “We are still healing. We need time and serious effort. Our loss, inside and outside the empire was beyond estimate. [. . .] That is the true story. Record it faithfully. Do carry my sincere greetings to your dear father (25). Mahfouz imitates life when he does not give readers all the answers; he simply provides the records necessary for the gnawing discomfort of uncertainty.

Sure, arguments can be made to favor the dichotomy. Akhenaten was a weakling because he said thus! Akhenaten was a warrior because he did thus! But then, too, maybe he was both weakling and warrior. Or neither at all. As Iranian author Azar Nafisi notes in Reading Lolita in Tehran, “A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil” (131). Through Mahfouz’s craft, suddenly Akhenaten has little to do with the dilemma at all, for the conflict lies in the hearts of the people interviewed and splashed undecidedly in the minds of the readers.

Thanks to Shadows & Dust website

THE PYRAMIDS


“And then I looked farther, beyond the pallid line of the sands, and I saw a Pyramid of gold, the wonder Khufu had built.”

                                                                                From “The Spell of Egypt” – 1911

Robert Hichens

 

Why do you come to Egypt? Do you come to gain a dream, or to regain lost dreams of old; to gild your life with the drowsy gold of romance, to lose a creeping sorrow, to forget that too many of your hours are sullen, grey, bereft? What do you wish of Egypt?

The Sphinx will not ask you, will not care. The Pyramids, lifting their unnumbered stones to the clear and wonderful skies, have held, still hold, their secrets; but they do not seek for yours.

The terrific temples, the hot, mysterious tombs, odorous of the dead desires of men, crouching in and under the immeasurable sands, will muck you with their brooding silence, with their dim and sombre repose.

The brown children of the Nile, the toilers who sing their antique songs by the shadoof and the sakieh, the dragomans, the smiling goblin merchants, the Bedouins who lead your camel into the pale recesses of the dunes–these will not trouble themselves about your deep desires, your perhaps yearning hunger of the heart and the imagination.

Yet Egypt is not unresponsive.

kheper, the scarab God, the embodiment of the sun.

I came back to her with dread, after fourteen years of absence—years filled for me with the rumors of her changes. And on the very day of my arrival she calmly reassured me. She told me in her supremely magical way that all was well with her.

She taught me once more a lesson I had not quite forgotten, but that I was glad to learn again–the lesson that Egypt owes her most subtle, most inner beauty to Kheper, although she owes her marvels to men; that when he created the sun which shines upon her, he gave her the lustre of her life, and that those who come to her must be sun-worshippers if they would truly and intimately understand the treasure or romance that lies heaped within her bosom.

Thoth, says the old legend, travelled in the Boat of the Sun. If you would love Egypt rightly, you, too, must be a traveler in that bark.

You must not fear to steep yourself in the mystery of gold, in the mystery of heat, in the mystery of silence that seems softly showered out of the sun. The sacred white lotus must be your emblem, and Horus, the hawk-headed, merged in Ra, your special deity.

Scarcely had I set foot once more in Egypt before Thoth lifted me into the Boat of the sun and soothed my fears to sleep.

Continental Hotel, Cairo,1910's

I arrived in Cairo. I saw new and vast hotels; I saw crowded streets; brilliant shops; English officials driving importantly in victorias, surely to pay dreadful calls of ceremony; women in gigantic hats, with

Niagaras of veil, waving white gloves as they talked of–I guess—the latest Cairene scandal.

I perceived on the right hand and on the left waiters created in Switzerland, hall porters made in Germany, Levantine touts, determined Jews holding false antiquities in their lean fingers, an English Baptist minister, in a white helmet, drinking chocolate on a terrace, with a guide-book in one fist, a ticket to visit monuments in the other.

I heard Scottish soldiers playing, “I’ll be in Scotland before ye!” and something within me, a lurking hope, I suppose, seemed to founder and collapse–but only for a moment. It was after four in the afternoon. Soon day would be declining. And I seemed to remember that the decline of day in Egypt had moved me long ago–moved me as few, rare things have ever done.

Within half an hour I was alone, far up the long road–Ismail’s road–that leads from the suburbs of Cairo to the Pyramids. And then Egypt took me like a child by the hand and reassured me.

It was the first week of November, high Nile had not subsided, and all the land here, between the river and the sand where the Sphinx keeps watch, was hidden beneath the vast and tranquil waters of what seemed a tideless sea–a sea fringed with dense masses of date-palms, girdled in the far distance by palm-trees that kept the white and the brown houses in their feathery embrace.

Above these isolated houses pigeons circled. In the distance the lateen sails of boats glided, sometimes behind the palms, coming into view, vanishing and mysteriously reappearing among their narrow trunks. Here and there a living thing moved slowly, wading homeward through this sea: a camel from the sands of Ghizeh, a buffalo, two donkeys, followed by boys who held with brown hands their dark blue skirts near their faces, a Bedouin leaning forward upon the neck of his quickly stepping horse.

Sky slowly sets, silheutting the palms and the pyramids.

At one moment I seemed to look upon the lagoons of Venice, a watery vision full of a glassy calm. Then the palm-trees in the water, and growing to its edge, the pale sands that, far as the eyes could see, from Ghizeh to Sakkara and beyond, fringed it toward the west, made me think of the Pacific, of palmy islands, of a paradise where men grow drowsy in well-being, and dream away the years.

And then I looked farther, beyond the pallid line of the sands, and I saw a Pyramid of gold, the wonder Khufu had built. As a golden wonder it saluted me after all my years of absence. Later I was to see it grey as grey sands, sulphur color in the afternoon from very near at hand, black as a monument draped in funereal velvet for a mourning under the stars at night, white as a monstrous marble tomb soon after dawn from the sand-dunes between it and Sakkara. But as a golden thing it greeted me, as a golden miracle I shall remember it.

Slowly the sun went down. The second Pyramid seemed also made of gold. Drowsily splendid it and its greater brother looked set on the golden sands beneath the golden sky. And now the gold came traveling down from the desert to the water, turning it surely to a wine like the wine of gold that flowed down Midas’s throat; then, as the magic grew, to a Pactolus, and at last to a great surface that resembled golden ice, hard, glittering, unbroken by any ruffling wave.

The islands rising from this golden ice were jet black, the houses black, the palms and their shadows that fell upon the marvel black. Black were the birds that flew low from roof to roof, black the wading camels, black the meeting leaves of the tall lebbek-trees that formed a tunnel from where I stood to Mena House.

 And presently a huge black Pyramid lay supine on the gold, and near it a shadowy brother seemed more humble than it, but scarcely less mysterious. The gold deepened, glowed more fiercely. In the sky above the Pyramids hung tiny cloud wreaths of rose red, delicate and airy as the gossamers of Tunis.

As I turned, far off in Cairo I saw the first lights glittering across the fields of doura, silvery white, like diamonds. But the silver did not call me. My imagination was held captive by the gold. I was summoned by the gold, and I went on, under the black lebbek-trees, on Ismail’s road, toward it. And I dwelt in it many days.

The wonders of Egypt man has made seem to increase in stature before the spirits’ eyes as man learns to know them better, to tower up ever higher till the imagination is almost stricken by their looming greatness.

Robert Smythe Hichens

Climb the great Pyramid, spend a day with Abdou on its summit, come down, penetrate into its recesses, stand in the king’s chamber, listen to the silence there, feel it with your hands–is it not tangible in this hot fastness of incorruptible death?–creep, like the surreptitious midget you feel yourself to be, up those long and steep inclines of polished stone, watching the gloomy darkness of the narrow walls, the far-off pinpoint of light borne by the Bedouin who guides you, hear the twitter of the bats that have their dwelling in this monstrous gloom that man has made to shelter the thing whose ambition could never be embalmed, though that, of all qualities, should have been given here, in the land it dowered, a life perpetual.

Now you know the Great Pyramid. You know that you can climb it, that you can enter it. You have seen it from all sides, under all aspects. It is familiar to you.

No, it can never be that. With its more wonderful comrade, the Sphinx, it has the power peculiar, so it seems to me, to certain of the rock and stone monuments of Egypt, of holding itself ever aloof, almost like the soul of man which can retreat at will, like the Bedouin retreating from you into the blackness of the Pyramid, far up, or far down, where the pursuing stranger, unaided, cannot follow.

Zahi Hawass, Egyptian ‘Indiana Jones’, Fired


 

 Fox News

CAIRO – He’s hanging up the hat.

Zahi Hawass

After decades of popularizing Egyptology — from exploring the pyramids to studying mummies to digging for buried treasure — Egypt’s top archaeologist has lost his post, fired Sunday under pressure from critics who attacked his credibility and accused him of being too close to the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Zahi Hawass, long chided as publicity loving and short on scientific knowledge, was well known for his trademark Indiana Jones hat, an icon that made him one the country’s best known figures around the world. He and about a dozen other ministers were fired in a Cabinet reshuffle meant to ease pressure from protesters seeking to purge remnants of Mubarak’s regime

“He was the Mubarak of antiquities,” said Nora Shalaby, an activist and archaeologist. “He acted as if he owned Egypt’s antiquities, and not that they belonged to the people of Egypt.”

Despite the criticism, Hawass has been widely credited with helping boost interest in archaeology in Egypt and tourism, a pillar of the country’s economy.

But after Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11 in a popular uprising, pressure began to build for him to step down.
Hawass was among a list of Cabinet ministers protesters wanted to see gone because they were associated with the former regime.

And archaeology students and professors blasted him for what they saw as his lack of serious research.
Shalaby said Hawass didn’t tolerate criticism. She said most his finds were about self-promotion, with many “rediscoveries” in search of the limelight.

Hawass prided himself in being the “keeper and guardian” of Egypt’s heritage. He told an Egyptian lifestyle magazine, Enigma, in 2009 that George Lucas, the maker of the “Indian Jones” films, had come to visit him in Egypt “to meet the real Indiana Jones.”

Hawass, 64, started out as an inspector of antiquities in 1969 and rose to become one of the most recognizable names in Egyptology. He became the general director of antiquities at the Giza plateau in the late 1980s, before being named Egypt’s top archaeologist in 2002.

In one of Mubarak’s final official acts as president, Hawass’ position was elevated to that of a Cabinet minister. After Mubarak’s ouster, Hawass submitted his resignation but he was reinstated before finally being removed Sunday.

His name has been associated with most new archaeological digs in Egypt, with grand discoveries such as the excavation of the Valley of the Golden Mummies in Bahariya Oasis in 1999 and the discovery of the mummy of Egypt’s Queen Hatshepsut almost a decade later.

He was also a staple on the Discovery Channel, which accompanied him on the find of Hatshepsut’s mummy. He started his own reality show on the History Channel called “Chasing the Mummies.” The channel introduces him as “the man behind the mummies.”

Hawass was replaced by Abdel-Fattah el-Banna, an associate professor in restoration. He was frequently present in Tahrir Square during the protests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Notes of Karnak


“Karnak has no distinctive personality. Built under many kings, its ruins are as complex as were probably once its completed temples, with their shrines, their towers, their courts, their hypo-style halls”

From “The Spell of Egypt”

Robert Hichens

 

Karnak gateway - David Roberts

Buildings have personalities. Some fascinate as beautiful women fascinate; some charm as a child may charm, naively, simply, but irresistibly. Some, like conquerors, men of blood and iron, without bowels of mercy, pitiless and determined, strike awe to the soul, mingled with the almost gasping admiration that power wakes in man. Some bring a sense of heavenly peace to the heart. Some, like certain temples of the Greeks, by their immense dignity, speak to the nature almost as music speaks, and change anxiety to trust. Some tug at the hidden chords of romance and rouse a trembling response. Some seem to be mingling their tears with the tears of the dead; some their laughter with the laughter of the living.

The traveller, sailing up the Nile, holds intercourse with many of these different personalities. He is sad, perhaps, as I was with Denderah; dreams in the sun with Abydos; muses with Luxor beneath the little tapering minaret whence the call to prayer drops down to be answered by the angelus bell; falls into a reverie in the “thinking place” of Rameses II., near to the giant that was once the mightiest of all Egyptian statues; eagerly wakes to the fascination of record at Deir-el-Bahari; worships in Edfu; by Philae is carried into a realm of delicate magic, where engineers are not. Each prompts him to a different mood, each wakes in his nature a different response. And at Karnak what is he? What mood enfolds him there? Is he sad, thoughtful, awed, or gay?

 An old lady in a helmet, and other things considered no doubt by her as suited to Egypt rather than to herself, remarked in my hearing, with a Scotch accent and an air of summing up, that Karnak was “very nice indeed.” There she was wrong–Scotch and wrong. Karnak is not nice. No temple that I have seen upon the banks of the Nile is nice. And Karnak cannot be summed up in a phrase or in many phrases; cannot even be adequately described in few or many words.

 Long ago I saw it lighted up with colored fires one night for the Khedive, its ravaged magnificence tinted with rose and livid green and blue, its pylons glittering with artificial gold, its population of statues, its obelisks, and columns, changing from things of dreams to things of day, from twilight marvels to shadowy specters, and from these to hard and piercing realities at the cruel will of pigmies crouching by its walls. Now, after many years, I saw it first quietly by moonlight after watching the sunset from the summit of the great pylon. That was a pageant worth more than the Khedive’s.

 I was in the air; had something of the released feeling I have often known upon the tower of Biskra, looking out toward evening to the Sahara spaces. But here I was not confronted with an immensity of nature, but with a gleaming river and an immensity of man. Beneath me was the native village, in the heart of daylight dusty and unkempt, but now becoming charged with velvety beauty, with the soft and heavy mystery that at evening is born among great palm-trees. Along the path that led from it, coming toward the avenue of sphinxes with ram’s-heads that watch for ever before the temple door, a great white camel stepped, its rider a tiny child with a close, white cap upon his head. The child was singing to the glory of the sunset, or was it to the glory of Amun, “the hidden one,” once the local god of Thebes, to whom the grandest temple in the world was dedicated? I listen to the childish, quavering voice, twittering almost like a bird, and one word alone came up to me—the word one hears in Egypt from all the lips that speak and sing: from the Nubians round their fires at night, from the little boatmen of the lower reaches of the Nile, from the Bedouins of the desert, and the donkey boys of the villages, from the sheikh who reads one’s future in water spilt on a plate, and the Bisharin with buttered curls who runs to sell one beads from his tent among the sand-dunes.

 “Allah!” the child was singing as he passed upon his way.

 Pigeons circled above their pretty towers. The bats came out, as if they knew how precious is their black at evening against the ethereal lemon color, the orange and the red. The little obelisk beyond the last sphinx on the left began to change, as in Egypt all things change at sunset–pylon and dusty bush, colossus and baked earth hovel, sycamore, and tamarisk, statue and trotting donkey. It looked like a mysterious finger pointed in warning toward the sky. The Nile began to gleam. Upon its steel and silver torches of amber flame were lighted. The Libyan mountains became spectral beyond the tombs of the kings. The tiny, rough cupolas that mark a grave close to the sphinxes, in daytime dingy and poor, now seemed made of some splendid material worthy to roof the mummy of a king. Far off a pool of the Nile, that from here looked like a little palm-fringed lake, turned ruby-red. The flags from the standard of Luxor, among the minarets, flew out straight against a sky that was pale as a primrose almost cold in its amazing delicacy.

I turned, and behind me the moon was risen. Already its silver rays fell upon the ruins of Karnak; upon the thickets of lotus columns; upon solitary gateways that now give entrance to no courts; upon the sacred lake, with its reeds, where the black water-fowl were asleep; upon sloping walls, shored up by enormous stanchions, like ribs of some prehistoric leviathan; upon small chambers; upon fallen blocks of masonry, fragments of architrave and pavement, of capital and cornice; and upon the people of Karnak–those fascinating people who still cling to their habitation in the ruins, faithful through misfortune, affectionate with a steadfastness that defies the cruelty of Time; upon the little, lonely white sphinx with the woman’s face and the downward-sloping eyes full of sleepy seduction; upon Rameses II., with the face of a kindly child, not of a king; upon the Sphinx, bereft of its companion, which crouches before the kiosk of Taharga, the King of Ethiopia; upon those two who stand together as if devoted, yet by their attitudes seem to express characters diametrically opposed, grey men and vivid, the one with folded arms calling to Peace, the other with arms stretched down in a gesture of crude determination, summoning War, as if from the underworld; upon the granite foot and ankle in the temple of Rameses III., which in their perfection, like the headless Victory in Paris, and the Niobide Chiaramonti in the Vatican, suggest a great personality that once met with is not to be forgotten: upon these and their companions, who would not forsake the halls and courts where once they dwelt with splendor, where now they dwell with ruin that attracts the gaping world.

 

Karnak landscape, David Roberts

The moon was risen, but the west was still full of color and light. It faded. There was a pause. Only a bar of dull red, holding a hint of brown, by where the sun had sunk. And minutes passed–minutes for me full of silent expectation, while the moonlight grew a little stronger, a few more silver rays slipped down upon the ruins. I turned toward the east. And then came that curious crescendo of color and of light which, in Egypt, succeeds the diminuendo of color and of light that is the prelude to the pause before the afterglow. Everything seemed to be in subtle movement, heaving as a breast heaves with the breath; swelling slightly, as if in an effort to be more, to attract attention, to gain in significance. Pale things became livid, holding apparently some under-brightness which partly penetrated its envelope, but a brightness that was white and almost frightful. Black things seemed to glow with blackness. The air quivered. Its silence surely thrilled with sound–with sound that grew ever louder.

In the east I saw an effect. To the west I turned for the cause. The sunset light was returning. Horus would not permit Tum to reign even for a few brief moments, and Khuns, the sacred god of the moon, would be witness of a conflict in that lovely western region of the ocean of the sky where the bark of the sun had floated away beneath the mountain rim upon the red-and-orange tides.

The afterglow was like an exquisite spasm, is always like an exquisite spasm, a beautiful, almost desperate effort ending in the quiet darkness of defeat. And through that spasmodic effort a world lived for some minutes with a life that seemed unreal, startling, magical. Color returned to the sky–color ethereal, trembling as if it knew it ought not to return. Yet it stayed for a while and even glowed, though it looked always strangely purified, and full of a crystal coldness. The birds that flew against it were no longer birds, but dark, moving ornaments, devised surely by a supreme artist to heighten here and there the beauty of the sky. Everything that moved against the afterglow–man, woman, child, camel and donkey, dog and goat, languishing buffalo, and plunging horse–became at once an ornament, invented, I fancied, by a genius to emphasize, by relieving it, the color in which the sky was drowned. And Khuns watched serenely, as if he knew the end. And almost suddenly the miraculous effort failed.

Things again revealed their truth, whether commonplace or not. That pool of the Nile was no more a red jewel set in a feathery pattern of strange design, but only water fading from my sight beyond a group of palms. And that below me was only a camel going homeward, and that a child leading a bronze-colored sheep with a curly coat, and that a dusty, flat-roofed hovel, not the fairy home of jinn, or the abode of some magician working marvels with the sun-rays he had gathered in his net. The air was no longer thrilling with music. The breast that had heaved with a divine breath was still as the breast of a corpse. And Khuns reigned quietly over the plains of Karnak.

 Karnak has no distinctive personality. Built under many kings, its ruins are as complex as were probably once its completed temples, with their shrines, their towers, their courts, their hypo-style halls. As I looked down that evening in the moonlight I saw, softened and made more touching than in day-time, those alluring complexities, brought by the night and Khuns into a unity that was both tender and superb. Masses of masonry lay jumbled in shadow and in silver; gigantic walls cast sharply defined gloom; obelisks pointed significantly to the sky, seeming, as they always do, to be murmuring a message; huge doorways stood up like giants unafraid of their loneliness and yet pathetic in it; here was a watching statue, there one that seemed to sleep, seen from afar.

Yonder Queen Hatshepsu, who wrought wonders at Deir-el-Bahari, and who is more familiar perhaps as Hatasu, had left there traces, and nearer, to the right, Rameses III. had made a temple, surely for the birds, so fond they are of it, so pertinaciously they haunt it. Rameses II., mutilated and immense, stood on guard before the terrific hall of Seti I.; and between him and my platform in the air rose the solitary lotus column that prepares you for the wonder of Seti’s hall, which otherwise might almost overwhelm you–unless you are a Scotch lady in a helmet.

 And Khuns had his temple here by the Sphinx of the twelfth Rameses, and Ptah, who created “the sun egg and the moon egg,” and who was said—only said, alas!–to have established on earth the “everlasting justice,” had his, and still their stones receive the silver moon-rays and wake the wonder of men. Thothmes III., Thothmes I., Shishak, who smote the kneeling prisoners and vanquished Jeroboam, Medamut and Mut, AmenhotepI., and Amenhotep II.–all have left their records or been celebrated at Karnak. Purposely I mingled them in my mind–did not attempt to put them

in their proper order, or even to disentangle gods and goddesses from conquerors and kings. In the warm and seductive night Khuns whispered to me: “As long ago at Bekhten I exorcised the demon from the suffering Princess, so now I exorcise from these ruins all spirits but my own.

To-night these ruins shall suggest nothing but majesty, tranquillity, and beauty. Their records are for Ra, and must be studied by his rays. In mine they shall speak not to the intellectual, but only to the emotions and the soul.”

And presently I went down, and yielding a complete and happy obedience to Khuns, I wandered along through the stupendous vestiges of past eras, dead ambitions, vanished glory, and long-outworn belief, and I ignored eras, ambitions, glory, and belief, and thought only of form, and height, of the miracle of blackness against silver, and of the pathos of statues whose ever-open eyes at night, when one is near them, suggest the working of some evil spell, perpetual watchfulness, combined with eternal inactivity, the unslumbering mind caged in the body that is paralysed.

 

There is a temple at Karnak that I love, and I scarcely know why I care for it so much. It is on the right of the solitary lotus column before you come to the terrific hall of Seti. Some people pass it by, having but little time, and being hypnotized, it seems, by the more astounding ruin that lies beyond it. And perhaps it would be well, on a first visit, to enter it last; to let its influence be the final one to rest upon your spirit. This is the temple of Rameses III., a brown place of calm and retirement, an ineffable place of peace. Yes, though the birds love it and fill it often with their voices, it is a sanctuary of peace. Upon the floor the soft sand lies, placing silence beneath your footsteps. The pale brown of walls and columns, almost yellow in the sunshine, is delicate and soothing, and inclines the heart to calm. Delicious, suggestive of a beautiful tapestry, rich and ornate, yet always quiet, are the brown reliefs upon the stone. What are they? Does it matter? They soften the walls, make them more personal, more tender.

That surely is their mission. This temple holds for me a spell. As soon as I enter it, I feel the touch of the lotus, as if an invisible and kindly hand swept a blossom lightly across my face and downward to my heart. This courtyard, these small chambers beyond it, that last doorway framing a lovely darkness, soothe me even more than the terra-cotta hermitages of the Certosa of Pavia. And all the statues here are calm with an irrevocable calmness, faithful through passing years with a very sober faithfulness to the temple they adorn. In no other place, one feels it, could they be thus at peace, with hands crossed for ever upon their breasts, which are torn by no anxieties, thrilled by no joys. As one stands among them or sitting on the base of a column in the chamber that lies beyond them, looks on them from a little distance, their attitude is like a summons to men to contend no more, to be still, to enter into rest.

Come to this temple when you leave the hall of Seti. There you are in a place of triumph. Scarlet, some say, is the color of a great note sounded on a bugle. This hall is like a bugle-call of the past, thrilling even now down all the ages with a triumph that is surely greater than any other triumphs. It suggests blaze–blaze of scarlet, blaze of bugle, blaze of glory, blaze of life and time, of ambition and achievement. In these columns, in the putting up of them, dead men sought to climb to sun and stars, limitless in desire, limitless in industry, limitless in will. And at the tops of the columns blooms the lotus, the symbol of rising. What a triumph in stone this hall was once, what a triumph in stone its ruin is to-day! Perhaps, among temples, it is the most wondrous thing in all Egypt, as it was, no doubt, the most wondrous temple in the world; among temples I say, for the Sphinx is of all the marvels of Egypt by far the most marvellous. The grandeur of this hall almost moves one to tears, like the marching past of conquerors, stirs the heart with leaping thrills at the capacities of men.

 Through the thicket of columns, tall as forest trees, the intense blue of the African sky stares down, and their great shadows lie along the warm and sunlit ground. Listen! There are voices chanting. Men are working here–working as men worked how many thousands of years ago. But these are calling upon the Mohammedan’s god as they slowly drag to the appointed places the mighty blocks of stone. And it is to-day a Frenchman who oversees them.

     “Help! Help! Allah give us help!

     Help! Help! Allah give us help!”

The dust flies up about their naked feet. Triumph and work; work succeeded by the triumph all can see. I like to hear the workmen’s voices within the hall of Seti. I like to see the dust stirred by their tramping feet.

Robert Hichens

And then I like to go once more to the little temple, to enter through its defaced gateway, to stand alone in its silence between the rows of statues with their arms folded upon their quiet breasts, to gaze into the tender darkness beyond–the darkness that looks consecrated–to feel that peace is more wonderful than triumph, that the end of things is peace.

 Triumph and deathless peace, the bugle-call and silence–these are the notes of Karnak.

King Tut Mysteries Solved: Was Disabled, Malarial, and Inbred


King Tut Mysteries Solved: Was Disabled, Malarial, and Inbred

Ker Than

for National Geographic News

Published February 16, 2010

One of several, this golden "coffinette" (detail pictured) held part of King Tuts organs.

King Tut may be seen as the golden boy of ancient Egypt today, but during his reign, Tutankhamun wasn’t exactly a strapping sun god.

Instead, a new DNA study says, King Tut was a frail pharaoh, beset by malaria and a bone disorder—his health possibly compromised by his newly discovered incestuous origins. (King Tut Pictures: DNA Study Reveals Health Secrets.)

The report is the first DNA study ever conducted with ancient Egyptian royal mummies. It apparently solves several mysteries surrounding King Tut, including how he died and who his parents were.

“He was not a very strong pharaoh. He was not riding the chariots,” said study team member Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at Germany’s University of Tübingen. “Picture instead a frail, weak boy who had a bit of a club foot and who needed a cane to walk.”

Regarding the revelation that King Tut’s mother and father were brother and sister, Pusch said, “Inbreeding is not an advantage for biological or genetic fitness. Normally the health and immune system are reduced and malformations increase,” he said.

Short Reign, Lasting Impact of King Tut

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh during ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom era, about 3,300 years ago. He ascended to the throne at the age of 9 but ruled for only ten years before dying at 19 around 1324 B.C. (Pictures: “King Tut’s Face Displayed for First Time.”)

Despite his brief reign, King Tut is perhaps Egypt’s best known pharaoh because of the wealth of treasures—including a solid gold death mask—found during the surprise discovery of his intact tomb in 1922. (See pictures of King Tut tomb treasures or see them in person in  Toronto through April 30.)

The new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the first time the Egyptian government has allowed genetic studies to be performed using royal mummies.

“This will open to us a new era,” said project leader Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

“I’m very happy this is an Egyptian project, and I’m very proud of the work that we did.”

(See “King Tut: Unraveling the Mysteries of Tutankhamun”—a 2005 National Geographic magazine report on forensic studies that recreated Tut’s face, among other developments.)

King Tut’s Close-Knit Family

In the new study, the mummies of King Tut and ten other royals that researchers have long suspected were his close relatives were examined. Of these ten, the identities of only three had been known for certain.

Using DNA samples taken from the mummies’ bones, the scientists were able to create a five-generation family tree for the boy pharaoh.

The team looked for shared genetic sequences in the Y chromosome—a bundle of DNA passed only from father to son—to identify King Tut’s male ancestors. The researchers then determined parentage for the mummies by looking for signs that a mummy’s genes are a blend of a specific couple’s DNA.

In this way, the team was able to determine that a mummy known until now as KV55 is the “heretic king” Akhenaten—and that he was King Tut’s father. Akhenaten was best known for abolishing ancient Egypt’s pantheon in favor of worshipping only one god.

(Pictures: “Who Was King Tut’s Father?” [2007].)

Furthermore, the mummy known as KV35 was King Tut’s grandfather, the pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose reign was marked by unprecedented prosperity.

Preliminary DNA evidence also indicates that two stillborn fetuses entombed with King Tut when he died were daughters whom he likely fathered with his chief queen Ankhensenamun, whose mummy may also have finally been identified. (See “King Tut Tomb Fetuses May Reveal Pharaoh’s Mother.”)

Also, a mummy previously known as the Elder Lady is Queen Tiye, King Tut’s grandmother and wife of Amenhotep III.

King Tut’s mother is a mummy researchers had been calling the Younger Lady.

While the body of King Tut’s mother has finally been revealed, her identity remains a mystery. DNA studies show that she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and thus was the full sister of her husband, Akhenaten.

Some Egyptologists have speculated that King Tut’s mother was Akhenaten’s chief wife, Queen Nefertiti—made famous by an iconic bust (Nefertiti-bust picture). But the new findings seem to challenge this idea, because historical records do not indicate that Nefertiti and Akhenaten were related.

(See “Nefertiti’s Real, Wrinkled Face Found in Famous Bust?”)

Instead, the sister with whom Akenhaten fathered King Tut may have been a minor wife or concubine, which would not have been unusual, said Willeke Wendrich, a UCLA Egyptologist who was not involved in the study.

“Egyptian pharaohs had multiple wives, and often multiple sons who would potentially compete for the throne after the death of their father,” Wendrich said.

Inbreeding would also not have been considered unusual among Egyptian royalty of the time.

King Tut Plagued by Malaria, Required Cane

The team’s examination of King Tut’s body also revealed previously unknown deformations in the king’s left foot, caused by the necrosis, or death, of bone tissue.

“Necrosis is always bad, because it means you have dying organic matter inside your body,” study team member Pusch told National Geographic News.

The affliction would have been painful and forced King Tut to walk with a cane—many of which were found in his tomb—but it would not have been life threatening.

Malaria, however, would have been a serious danger.

The scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria in the young pharaoh’s body—the oldest known genetic proof of the disease.

The team found more than one strain of malaria parasite, indicating that King Tut caught multiple malarial infections during his life. The strains belong to the parasite responsible for malaria tropica, the most virulent and deadly form of the disease.

The malaria would have weakened King Tut’s immune system and interfered with the healing of his foot. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king, the authors write.

Until now the best guesses as to how King Tut died have included a hunting accident, a blood infection, a blow to the head, and poisoning.

UCLA’s Wendrich said the new finding “lays to rest the completely baseless theories about the murder of Tutankhamun.” (Related: “King Tut Not Murdered Violently, CT Scans Show” [2005].)

King Tut’s Father Not “Egyptian Quasimodo”

Another speculation apparently laid to rest by the new study is that Akhenaten had a genetic disorder that caused him to develop the feminine features seen in his statutes, including wide hips, a potbelly, and the female-like breasts associated with the condition gynecomastia. (See “Men With Breasts: Benign Condition Creates Emotional Scars.”)

When the team analyzed Akhenaten’s body using medical scanners, no evidence of such abnormalities were found. Hawass and his team concluded that the feminized features found in the statues of Akenhaten created during his reign were done for religious and political reasons.

In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten was a god, Hawass explained. “The poems said of him, ‘you are the man, and you are the woman,’ so artists put the picture of a man and a woman in his body.”

Egyptologist John Darnell of Yale University called the revelation that Akhenaten’s appearance was not due to genetic disorders “the most important result” of the new study.

In his book Tutankhamun’s Armies, Darnell proposes that Akhenaten’s androgynous appearance in art was an attempt to associate himself with Aten, the original creator god in Egyptian theology, who was neither male nor female.

“Akenhaten is odd in his appearance because he belongs to the time of creation, not because he was physically different,” said Darnell, who also did not participate in the DNA research.

“People will now need to consider Akenhaten as a thinker, and not just as an Egyptian Quasimodo.”

(Read more about Akhenaten in National Geographic magazine’s “Pharaohs of the Sun.”)

“Beautiful DNA” Found in King Tut Study

The generally good condition of the DNA from the royal mummies of King Tut’s family surprised many members of the team.

Indeed, its quality was better than DNA gathered from nonroyal Egyptian mummies several centuries younger, study co-author Pusch said.

The DNA of the Elder Lady, for example, “was the most beautiful DNA that I’ve ever seen from an ancient specimen,” Pusch said.

The team suspects that the embalming method the ancient Egyptians used to preserve the royal mummies inadvertently protected DNA as well as flesh. (Related: “King Tut Move Designed to Save Mummy.”)

“The ingredients used to embalm the royals was completely different in both quantity and quality compared to the normal population in ancient times,” Pusch explained.

Preserving DNA “was not the aim of the Egyptian priest of course, but the embalming method they used was lucky for us.”