The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged egyptology
8 million dogs mummified in Saqqara

The Daily Mail has this rather gruesome Egyptology story:

A labyrinth of sacred tunnels packed with the mummified remains of millions of dogs has been excavated under the Egyptian desert.

The catacombs are estimated to contain the remains up to eight million dogs, many of which would have been offered to the gods when they were just hours old.

Others would have been treated as living representatives of the dog or jackal-headed god Anubis and would have lived out their lives in the nearby temple before being preserved and laid to rest in the network of tunnels.

The fascinating details come from Cardiff University scientists, who along with Egyptian colleagues are the first to examine the structure and contents of the complex underground network built 2,500 years ago under the Saqqara desert.

The catacomb, which lies ten to 12metres underground, consists of a long central corridor and a series of smaller passages that branch off it.

Sampling of small areas and bone examination of their contents suggest that the entire network is home to eight million dogs, as well as a handful of cats and jackals.

Some of the dogs were killed and mummified just days or even hours after birth.

With the need to mummify so many animals, perhaps thousands per year, it is likely the animals were bred in puppy farms dotted around the ancient capital of Memphis.

Pilgrims, who were not necessarily particularly well-off, bought the dogs, then paid for them to be mummified, in the hope of currying favour with the canine-headed god, Anubis.

As one of the most important gods of the dead, Anubis was particularly worth pleasing.

Dr Paul Nicholson, of Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: ‘These animals were not strictly “sacrificial”.

‘Rather, the dedication of an animal mummy was regarded as a pious act, with the animal acting as an intermediary between the donor and the gods.’

Read more here.

Links for Jan.05.10
akhbare-rooz (iranian political Bulletin) | List of organizations considered "subversive" by Iranian ministry of inteligence [in Farsi].
The Daily Star - The Gaza scorecard, one year later | Rami Khouri.
Israel approves east Jerusalem building project | Yet another new settlement.
Library of Congress on Islam in Early America « Anonymous Arabist وين الناس | Fascinating.
Tweet freedom | On Twitter activism in Egypt, unfortunately confuses for
Cairo's US Embassy is Worse by Far | Mamoun Fandy: "The embassy has become an embodiment of the meaning of disgracefulness in Cairo, in terms of people's behavior, rudeness, and impoliteness."
gary's choices - The Decade's First Revolution? | Gary Sick on Iran.
لا لحجب الإنترنت بالجزائر - Non à la censure de l'Internet en Algérie - No to Internet Censorship in Algeria Petition | Petition.
Egyptian minister slams Al-Jazeera for 'instigating civil war' - Ynetnews | Over Gaza wall.
Video: Gaza war: One year on, Palestinians struggle to rebuild life from the rubble | |
CIA Bomber a Jihadi Blogger? — jihadica | Interesting background on Abu Dujana, as the bomber was allegedly known.
Dear Metallica | Letter asking the metal band not to perform in Israel.
Free Barghouti Now - Haaretz | OK.
The Daily Nuisance | News From The Frontier | New online site from Israel/Palestine
Three days in Iran - The Big Picture - | Great pics of Iranian protests.
Prisse d'Avennes and Ancient Egypt

A rendering of a purification ritual at the Necropolis at Thebes, from BibliOdissey:

Émile Prisse d'Avesnes (d'Avennes) (1807-1879) was an important mid-19th century French Egyptologist and something of a polymath. He was a soldier, engineer, writer, illustrator and talented linguist.

From 1827 to 1844 d'Avesnes resided in Egypt, teaching cartography and working as an engineer for a time, but eventually he devoted himself to documenting and studying the archaeological treasures from ancient Egypt. He became proficient in hieroglyphs, on the back of Champollion's translations of the Rosetta Stone, and learned to speak at least half a dozen languages fluently during his expeditions around Egypt and further afield in the Arab world.

Ransacking of the artefacts was rife in those days of course and d'Avesnes helped excavate and transfer a large shipment of portrait reliefs from the Valley of the Kings to France, ostensibly to prevent their theft and use as local building material. The brazen act would earn d'Avesnes the Legion of Honour award when he returned to his homeland.

I have vaguely related recent snapshots of the temples of Abydos and Denderra in Qena governorate, near Luxor, up on Flickr.

I just caught up and read the recent New Yorker profile of Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist-in-chief and showman extraordinaire. Unfortunately it's not one of the freely available articles.


The piece is full of classic Zahi scenes, but although some might see it as derisive, it confirms my general impression that Hawass does more good than harm for his country and his field despite all the criticism. The piece stresses that he seen as not corrupt (as opposed to other cultural officials), competent and hard-working. That seems to be worth some delusions of grandeur, kitschiness and less-than-accurate scholarly statements, especially when you look at the general quality of senior officials in Egypt. That being said, I have only a distant and frankly quite faint interest in Egyptology. In fact my interest in Egyptology is much more about the enthusiasm the field generates, its "discovery" in the 19th century and some of its colorful characters than the actual ancient history and archeology.

Here's the opening paragraph of the 10-page article, titled "The Pharaoh", from the 16 November issue:

Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian archeologist, is a lordly, well-dressed man of sixty-two, with white hair and small dark eyes. He likes to take the passenger seat in his chauffeured S.U.V., but he doesn't turn his head when he's talking to someone in the seats behind; he looks directly ahead, and shouts at the windshield. He often asks rhetorical questions along the lines of "God gave me this talent for public speaking—what can I do?" Visitors to his office, in Cairo, may hear him on the telephone to an airline representative, saying "No, madam! A first-class ticket, for a first-class passenger!"

Hawass is currently trying to get the Rosetta Stone to Egypt.