Saturday, 27 February 2016

Tutankhamun: Hidden chambers inside tomb could hold treasure

Secret chambers discovered inside the tomb of ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamun may be hiding a treasure trove, Egypt's Tourism Minister, Hisham Zaazou, has claimed. He said that Egypt will make a formal announcement about the contents of the chambers in April.

British archaeologist Dr Nicolas Reeves had hinted at the presence of a secret passageway within the tomb of Tutankhamun or King Tut, in August 2015.

In November Egypt's antiquities ministry declared that there could be many hidden chambers inside the tomb.

Infrared thermography showed differences in the temperatures registered on different parts of the northern wall of the tomb. Reeves speculated that the tomb of King Tut was not ready when he died unexpectedly at 19 in 1323 B.C. and he was buried in a rush in what was originally the tomb of Nefertiti, who had died 10 years earlier.

Reeves’s claim about Nefertiti being the occupant of the secret crypt left experts skeptical. A mummy found in 1898 by archaeologist Victor Loret in tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings may be Nefertiti. Inscriptions, and later genetic analyses identified the mummy as the mother of Tutankhamun. DNA tests confirmed that he was the son of Akhenaten. His mother was confirmed to be one of Akhenaten's sisters or cousin, most likely Nefertiti.

Canoptic jar of Kiya, a secondary wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten
The hidden chamber may contain the mummy of Kiya, a wife of the pharaoh Akhenaten. Other possibilities include the elusive pharaoh Smenkhkare, or queen Meritaton, the full or half sister of Tutankhamun. It's also possible that nothing at all will be found. The discovery of treasure within the hidden chambers of King Tut's tomb would be a "Big Bang of 21st century" according to Zaazou.

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Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great

Field Museum’s current exhibition is housed in a monumental, landmark building that resembles a temple from ancient Greece.

The venerable Chicago treasure house showcases rare artifacts culled from 21 Greek museums in The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great, an exhibition running through April 10, 2016.
"Take an extraordinary journey through more than 5,000 years of Greek culture, from the Neolithic era to the age of Alexander the Great. Featuring over 500 exquisite artifacts — many that have never been exhibited outside Greece — from 21 Greek museums, this is the most comprehensive exhibition on Ancient Greece to tour North America in a generation."

Many of the 500-plus priceless objects have never been displayed outside of Greece.

Alexander, at left, charges Darius III, Shahanshah (“King of Kings”) of Persia at right, who is fleeing.
The Mask of Agamemnon was discovered at Mycenae in 1876 by Heinrich Schliemann. The funeral mask, crafted in gold, and was found over the face of a body located in a burial shaft. Schliemann believed that he had discovered the body of Agamemnon, but the mask is from 1550–1500 BC, earlier than the life of Agamemnon.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

3,000-year-old fingerprints found on ancient Egyptian coffin

Researchers at a British museum found fingerprints on the underside of an ancient Egyptian priest’s coffin, believed to have been left by craftsmen who moved the lid before its varnish dried more than 3,000 years ago.

The intricate wooden coffin was part of a set made for Nespawershefyt, a priest who rose to the high station of supervisor for craftsmen’s workshops and scribes at the great temple of Amun-Re at Karnak — the major temple complex. He died around 1,000 BC.

A painting of a gazelle, taken from a 4,000-year-old fragment from an Egytian coffin, which shows the artist used fingertips to dab the paint on the hide, making it look textured.
The Nespawershefyt coffin set was one of the first donations to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1822 and has routinely been on display, so no one noticed the fingerprints under the coffin lid until 2005, when museum staff started examining the collection. They announced the discovery ahead of an exhibition that opened this week on Egyptian funerary art and practices.

The Nespawershefyt set — “one of the finest coffin sets of its type in the world” — is made up of three layers. A “mummy board” envelopes the body, then goes inside an inner coffin, which in turn fits into an outer coffin.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Amazing Artifacts

Mjöllnir amulets - In Norse mythology, Mjölnir is the hammer of Thor, a major Norse god associated with thunder. Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome weapons, capable of leveling mountains. In Norse mythology the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Sindri and Brokkr.

The discovery of a 10th century Viking artifact resembling the Hammer of Thor has solved the mystery surrounding amulets found across Northern Europe. The relics, known as Mjöllnir amulets, appear to depict hammers but this could not be concluded with certainty. In 2014 another similar pendant was found in Købelev, on the Danish island of Lolland, which contained the runic inscription “this is a hammer”. Cast in bronze, and likely plated with silver, tin and gold, the 1,100-year-old pendant shows that Thor’s myth deeply influenced Viking jewellery.

The Nebra Sky Disc is a 3,600-year-old bronze disc so extraordinary it was thought to be an archaeological forgery. Scientific analysis revealed that it is authentic. The Nebra Sky Disc was discovered in Ziegelroda Forest, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. It had been ritually buried along with two swords, two axes, two spiral arm-rings and one bronze chisel.

The disc measures approximately 30 cm in diameter, weighs 2.2 kg, and is decorated with a blue-green patina and inlaid with gold symbols. These are interpreted generally as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars. Two golden arcs along the sides were added later. The two arcs span an angle of 82°, correctly indicating the angle between the positions of sunset at summer and winter solstice at the latitude of the Mittelberg (51°N).

While much older earthworks such as the Goseck circle or Stonehenge had been used to mark the solstices, the disc is the oldest known "portable instrument" to allow such measurements.
The James Ossuary is believed by some to be one of the most precious Biblical artifacts of all time, as the limestone box is said to have held the bones of the brother of Jesus.

The first century AD burial box contains an Aramaic inscription that reads "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." The box was carved from a single piece of limestone, which was typical of burial boxes used by Jews of first-century Palestine. In those days, bodies were left in a cave for a year before the bones were collected and put in a box. The limestone box has been a controversy for decades.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) tried to prove in court that the item was forged by Oded Golan, but they failed. They then tried, and failed, to gain ownership. It is alleged that it was vandalized by the Israeli government before being returned.
Strange figurines were unearthed in 1919, during the first excavation of the Tell Al’Ubaid archaeological site in Iraq. 7,000-year-old artifacts depicting humanoid figures with lizard-like characteristics, including long heads, almond shaped eyes, long tapered faces and a lizard-type nose where found. Some appear to be wearing a helmet and have some kind of padding on the shoulders. Other figurines were found to hold a staff or scepter, possibly as a symbol of justice and ruling.

Male and female figurines were found in different postures, but the strangest of all are the female figurines holding babies suckling milk, with the child also represented with lizard-like features.

In 1808, William Cunnington discovered the crown jewels of the 'King of Stonehenge'. They were found within a large Bronze Age burial mound ½ mile from Stonehenge. Within the 4,000-year-old barrow, Cunnington found ornate jewellery, a gold lozenge that fastened his cloak, and an intricately decorated dagger. The dagger was originally adorned with up to 140,000 tiny gold studs just a third of a millimetre wide.

To create the studs, the craftsman had to first create an extremely fine gold wire, a little thicker than a human hair. The end of the wire was then flattened to create a stud-head, and cut with a very sharp obsidian razor, just below the head. This delicate procedure was repeated tens of thousands of times. Thousands of tiny holes were then made in the dagger handle and a thin layer of tree resin was rubbed over the surface as an adhesive to keep the studs in place. Each stud was then carefully placed into its miniscule hole.

The entire process – wire manufacture, stud-making, hole-making, resin pasting and stud positioning – would have taken thousands of hours to complete.

The Trundholm Sun ‘Chariot’ is a bronze and gold artifact pulled out of a bog on the Danish island of Sjælland in 1902. It is said to belong to the Nordic Bronze Age (c. 1700-500 B.C.)

The ‘chariot’ consists of a bronze horse, a bronze disc with a thin sheet of gold pressed into one side, and 6 four-spoke wheels made also of bronze. Apart from being a ritual object, it has also been suggested that the Trundholm Sun ‘Chariot’ may have functioned as a calendar. The golden day side has dimensions associated with one third of a Solar year, while the night-side of the large central concentric circle has dimensions linked to six lunar months.