Monthly Archives: January 2011

Canopic Jar Topper

Update: January 31

After some more research, prompted by a discussion on the “Restore + Save the Egyptian Museum!” Facebook group, I’ve noticed a few things. First, this would have to be a topper from a canopic jar belonging to Thuya, NOT Yuya (Yuya’s canopic jar toppers have visible patterning, while Thuya’s do not).

Here is the link to Thuya’s canopic jars, as they were on display circa 2008.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28397988@N06/2713871030/

I was trying to identify other objects shown in the video of the looting at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. I think the small white/creme object seen on the left side of this still is the lid or topper to a canopic jar.

The video is not particularly high-resolution, but due to the lack of wig or headdress design, I don’t think the topper belongs to Tutankhamun or Kiya.

Since it was the mummies of Thuya and Yuya that were damaged, it’s likely this canopic jar topper belonged to them.

The images I’ve found of Yuya and Thuya’s canopic jars in their display case at the museum show that  the toppers were displayed in the same case as the jars, but separate from them, so it’s not clear which of the objects from this case have been disturbed or destroyed.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sergiothirteen/2231426715/in/photostream/

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Museum Looting Breaking News

This information is according to Dr. Zahi Hawass (secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities).

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/01/30/egypt.unrest.museum/index.html?hpt=T2

The looters entered from the fire escape. They opened 13 cases looking for gold, then threw antiquities on the ground. They opened one case from the Tutankhamun exhibit and  broke a statue. When they were caught, they were found with some “small artifacts” on them. Hawass says they did not escape with any artifacts and that the damage can be repaired.

However, it is clear from the video of the damage that more than one of Tutankhamun’s statues was damaged.

According to the former museum diredtor, Wafaa el-Saddik, those looting the museum included both museum security and the individuals who entered via a fire escape and a skylight.

Article in German–http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2011-01/interview-el-saddik

Article in English–http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=de&tl=en&u=http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2011-01/interview-el-saddik

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News Update: Looting at the Cairo Museum

Some of you may have already heard that in connection to the anti-government protests in Egypt, there has been looting  at various businesses and museums.

It’s a shame that in the quest for political freedom, some individuals have chosen to burglarize other individuals and plunder their own cultural heritage. While it has been reported that some protestors formed a human chain around the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to prevent looting, their efforts were, unfortunately, not enough to protect all of these priceless objects.

Video footage of some of the damage at the Cairo Egyptian Museum can be seen via YouTube at the following link:

In addition to the damage shown in the video, it is also reported that two mummies were destroyed, although I have not been able to find official word identifying which mummies these are.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo houses some of the most famous and unique antiquities from Ancient Egypt, including the bulk of the artifacts found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

You can see a good analysis of “before” and “after” images of some of the damaged objects from the Tutankhamun collection at the following website (hosted/written by Margaret Maitland):

http://www.eloquentpeasant.com

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“Did You Know?” Fun Fact: Stuffed Mummies

Here’s something you may not know about mummies.

The process used to mummify dead bodies throughout much of Ancient Egyptian history was effective in preserving the skin and bones because it dried out the entire body.

However, with no moisture to fill out the flesh of the mummy, it did not look nearly as human. To compensate, embalmers late in Ancient Egypt’s history routinely stuffed linen, mud, or sawdust in the body underneath the skin, to make the flesh look fuller.

This effort to give a lifelike appearance may also be the reason the mummy of Ramesses the Great has peppercorns stuffed up his nose.

Mummy of Ramesses the Great, complete with prominent nose.

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Modern Egyptian News

There are currently some very large anti-government protests in Egypt. If you’d like to read more about them, here are a couple of articles.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110127/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_protest

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/01/20111251711053608.html

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Egyptian Word of the Week

One of my favorite Egyptian words is the word for a housecat. Known modernly as the Egyptian mau, the Ancient Egyptian word for cat, miw, may very well be related to the “meow” the cat makes.

My own cat, Max.

The popularity and importance of both wild and domesticated felines in Ancient Egypt is notorious, especially among modern cat-lovers. Egypt was one of the first places to domesticate the cat; pet cats were sometimes mummified for burial and cats were also mummified to be presented as offerings to feline deities. There were dozens of feline deities worshiped in Ancient Egypt, although the two most famous modernly are Bastet and Sekhmet.

Statuette of the goddess Bastet (Gayer Anderson cat. Currently in the British Museum).

For your amusement, here is an abbreviated version of my favorite myth about the goddess Sekhmet, often referred to as the “Destruction of Mankind.”

Sekhmet--Don't mess with her.

When the goddess Hathor, the “Eye of Re,” was sent forth by the god Re to destroy the wicked members of mankind, she became enraptured of her role. Rejoicing in slaughter, she became Sekhmet, the destroyer. As she killed the inhabitants of Egypt, the blood covered her paws and flowed throughout the land; she desired to annihilate mankind.

Re, taking pity on mankind, resolved to stop the carnage he had initiated. He sent envoys to collect red hematite and caused 7000 jars of beer to be brewed. When the two were mixed, they were as red as blood.

When day dawned, the beer flooded the fields and ran like blood. When the goddess arose to finish her slaughter, she rejoiced in the sight of the mixture and drank with delight. And when she had drunk her fill, she forgot her mission of bloodshed and returned to Re, peacefully.

Thus the destroyer was appeased and mankind was saved.

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Welcome to HeartScarab

What is this blog about?

I hope that this blog will be a place where amateur Egyptologists can find reliable information about Egyptian history and culture and where both professional Egyptologists and those with a passing interest in Ancient Egypt can find something helpful and entertaining.

I intend to post entries on Ancient Egyptian art, language, and history, on Egypt-themed books and games, on modern archaeological discoveries in Egypt, and on resources in the field of Egyptology.

I use expert information on the topics I cover, but won’t make the blog overly formal; I fully intend to post fun, funny, and even ridiculous things.

Thanks for joining me. I hope you enjoy it!

Feel free to post notes or contact me personally.

 

Why “HeartScarab?”

The heart scarab was one of the ultimate “get out of jail free “cards in the Egyptian afterlife.

In Ancient Egypt, the scarab—or dung beetle—was a symbol of life and regeneration (apparently because the birth of young scarabs from balls of dung seemed to be creation out of nothing).  The scarab was frequently chosen as an amulet worn during life, designed to protect the wearer.

Ancient Egyptian scarab jewelry. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/10.130.910_27.3.206 (accessed January 2011)

One of the most important types of scarab amulet, however, was used after death, and was intended to protect the deceased from destruction in the afterlife (its purpose is described in Spell 30 of the Book of the Dead—the Ancient Egyptian guidebook to death and the afterlife).

In the Egyptian worldview, an individual’s life and deeds are judged in the afterlife by weighing their heart against the feather of ma’at (truth/order/justice).

"Weighing of the Heart" scene from the Book of the Dead of Hunefer.

If the heart is not weighed down by sin, it is lighter than the feather, allowing the deceased to enter the afterlife. If, however, the heart is heavier than the feather, the deceased cannot enter paradise (and his or her heart is devoured by a demon).

In theory, then, the heart could “testify” against its owner.  The purpose of the heart scarab, when it was placed on the chest of the deceased for burial, was to silence the heart’s witness of any bad deeds.

I chose HeartScarab for my blog title (out of the hundred titles I considered) because I love the sentiment it evokes—it’s about Egypt, and it’s close to my heart. So here I am, writing about Ancient Egypt; and if some of what I say is a bit fudged…well, that’s where a the HeartScarab comes in handy.

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