Category Archives: Uncategorized

Green is for Regeneration

Color symbolism was a big deal in Ancient Egypt, and numerous books and articles have been written on colors in Egyptian art. In honor of the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations this weekend, I’ve decided to focus this post on the symbolic significance of one of these colors in ancient Egyptian art–green.

The Egyptian term for green could encompass both the modern Western concept of the color green as well as some shades of blue. The term was frequently used in association with vegetation; for the ancient Egyptians, who raised crops in a very limited amount of fertile land within a vast, largely uninhabitable dessert, the color green easily came to represent life, virility, and regeneration.  

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Fertile land vs. desert.

This also explains the very bizarre looking depictions of the god Osiris (god of resurrection and the Underworld) with vivid green skin. He’s not violently ill, he’s that color because he’s a resurrected being. 

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So if you’re flippantly wearing, eating, or drinking something green this weekend, now you know how significant the color green could be in ancient Egypt. 

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New Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities: Mostafa Amine

Obviously, there has been a lot going on with government positions since the revolution, and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is no exception.

The most recent development is that Mostafa Amine has replaced Hawass as the Secretary General of the SCA.

Amine was formerly serving as the head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department. Now, in his first week as Secretary General, Amine has already started dealing with the ongoing complaints about hiring policies in the SCA.

Stay tuned…

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Would You Like to Play a Game? Let’s Play “Decode Ancient Texts”

Truth be told, I am sad I only just learned about this “game.”

From the comfort of your home, YOU can help create the digital transcription of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (documents written in Greek and found in Egypt). All you have to do is check out images of the papyrus fragments and help recognize the Greek letters visible on the fragment; you don’t even have to be able to read Greek.

Wanna play?

Check out the Ancient Lives site and get started. They have a great tutorial to help you understand how it works.

You can also check out a good description of the project from Citizen Science here.

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Hawass Resigns

Various sources report that Hawass has apparently resigned (or been forced to resign by the current Prime Minister).

For more information, see the articles here and here.

Stay tuned for more information on the resignation and the appointment of a new Minister of Antiquities.

 

UPDATED July 20.

Apparently, it’s not a sure thing yet. It’s hard to get definitive answers about the whole situation. The latest reliable information I’ve found is that Hawass may not have officially lost his post, though a change may be in the works.

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Hawass Says He Might Resign

According to a New York Times Arts Beat article, Dr. Hawass is so frustrated with the situation in Egypt and his inability to protect the monuments and artifacts (since the police are no longer actively protecting the sites) that he is considering resigning.

I’d love to see a transcript of this telephone interview–I can’t imagine Hawass saying (and meaning) he wants to resign.

What do you think?

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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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