Elginism in Greece and Egypt. Manuscripts, Mummy Masks, Ptolemaic Texts – and Cultural Repatriation

Elginism (ĕl’gĭnĭz’əm) n. 1801. [f. the name of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin (1766-1841); see —ISM. Cf. Fr. elginisme & Sp. elginismo.]  Source – Elginism

While the concept of Cultural patrimony has been gaining recognition over the past several decades, both concept and related action remain debated – at times contentiously.  Here are a few thoughts on the topic from Greece and Egypt, together with current debates and past activities.

Greece - 

Iris, from the west pediment of the Parthenon, now in the  British Museum. Source - British Museum.

Iris, from the west pediment of the Parthenon, now in the British Museum. Source – British Museum.

 Since the early 1980s Greek governments have argued for the permanent removal to Athens of all the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum. The Greek government has also disputed the British Museum Trustees’ legal title to the sculptures. For more information on the Greek Government’s official position, see the website of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture: www.culture.gr

British Museum, The Parthenon Sculptures

On the other hand -

Cultural treasures from ancient civilisations belong in the places they come from. Museums in Sweden, Germany, America and the Vatican have already acknowledged this and returned items taken from the Acropolis. The British museum should follow suit and put an end to more than two centuries of bad feeling in Greece. -

Source – Elginism, Arguments for & against the return of the Elgin Marbles 

And in more detail -

Decontextualised artefacts that end up in a museum or gallery are often given the name of the person who perpetrated their removal from their original setting (see Elgin Marbles). The French use the term elginisme to describe the practice of stealing antique fittings from old houses. The act of elginism has been going on for thousands of years, however the Elgin Marbles are now considered to be the classic case of elginism.

Source: Definition of Elginism 

http://bri.mu/Jb1Ja6

One rationale for keeping the Marbles at the British Museum -

http://bri.mu/xvZMuC

Egypt - 

In the heady days of Nineteenth Century colonialism and related Egyptological adventures in Egypt, excavations were generally conducted very quickly, as shown in the following picture of excavations at Tebtunis in the Fayum.  This dig was run by Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt; the the primary goal at that time was to procure papyri – Greek if possible.

Their finds are now kept at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, where there is an ongoing program about the papyri, as well as about Tebtunis and the Ptolemaic period. Results of this work can be linked to here. Other nearby sites included Crocodilopolis (Arsinoe) and Oxyrhynchus, where large caches of papyri were discovered.

This was an era of viewing the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history as somewhat degenerate – no longer ‘really Egyptian’; dig goals were often associated with goals of finding copies of both classical and biblical texts in the ruins (Summary information on the Tebtunis papyri can be found here, together with a number of excellent excursions and studies.)

EES Hunt  Excavating the town of Tebtunis in the Fayum, Southwest of Cairo.  Source - Egyptian Exploration Society, Hunt.

Excavating activities in the town of Tebtunis in Egypt by Grenfell and Hunt, 1899-1900.  Their search was primarily for manuscripts.  Tebtunis is located in the southern Fayum, Southwest of Cairo. Source – Egyptian Exploration Society, Hunt.

Also in the Nineteenth Century, portions of the important kinglist of Ramesses II located on the walls of the pharaoh’s  Abydos temple was chiseled out and exported to the British Museum..The king list of Ramsses II, 19th Dynasty, around 1250 BC Source - British Museum, EA117

The king list of Ramesses II, 19th Dynasty, around 1250 BC Source – British Museum, EA117

The memorial temple of Ramesses II (reigned 1279-1213 BC) survives today at Abydos [Egypt], the cult centre of Osiris. The temple contains superb decoration, including … a list of the kings of Egypt [portion depicted above]. It was excavated by W.J. Bankes and came to The British Museum in 1837.

Source – British Museum, List of the kings of Egypt from the Temple of Ramesses II

However, views of exportation are changing, even while looting activities are increasing.  A  public hearing has recently taken place in Egypt regarding imports from Egypt to the U.S.A. -

Public hearing on Egypt’s request for import restrictions of antiquities into the U.S. [5 June 2014]

A common sentiment expressed by the supporters [of import restrictions during] the hearing is that the implementation of US import restrictions would create a ripple effect that would lower market demand and thereby reduce the incentive to loot. An MoU with the United States will stimulate engagement among local communities and public educational programs in Egypt …

The speakers who opposed import restrictions argued that since Egypt’s problems are internal, and the will of the Egyptian people to solve this problem without foreign assistance is uncertain, it is unfair for US collectors and to dealers to be asked to curb their activities. While the MoU requires documentation and export permits in order for material to be imported into the US, opponents argued that it is unrealistic to expect small businesses to do this work… Source

In 2011, a Homeland Security official indicated [of the U.S. Government] … “the illicit sale of cultural property is the third most profitable black market industry following narcotics and weapons trafficking.” (Source)

But there are other types of exploitation of Egyptian artifacts that are currently taking place, such as  described below. This is a new form of artifact manipulation, following in the footsteps of Grenfell and Hunt over a century after their work in the Fayum but with some new twists.  The goal, similarly, is to extract papyri – biblical, if possible – here, from mummy masks  -

What we learn [from this video - see below] is that, apparently, McDowell is one of the main persons dismounting mummy masks. He states in the video that he doesn’t know what he is doing and has to rely on what scholars tell him. In his PowerPoint, he shows many of the same images that appear in Carroll’s PowerPoint in the video [below]

All of this is deeply disconcerting and I would ask readers of this blog to disseminate this post widely. The scholarly community needs to be more and more aware of these practices, how these artifacts are being used, and the religious agendas behind it all…

Source - The ‘First Century’ Gospel of Mark, Josh McDowell, and Mummy Masks: What They All Have in Common

A few pictures from the video, which I give below.

Extracting papyri from a Greco-Roman mummy mask, in hopes that early Biblical texts might be found.  Source - see following pictures.

Extracting papyri from a Greco-Roman mummy mask, in hopes that early Biblical texts might be found. Source – see following picture.

Screen shot of mummy mask (taken from video of Josh McDowell, ricecjones weeblyl.com Source - 'Faces and Voices'

Screen shot of mummy mask after being soaked (taken from video of Josh McDowell, below). Source -

A rationale given here – the destruction of largely unprovenanced artifacts - mummy masks in this case (purchased from largely unidentified artifact dealers) – is that the activity may result in discovering early manuscripts containing portions of the bible.

In the below video, the process of mummy mask-dissolving begins at 23.00 minutes into the video.  Using Palmolive Soap, it is claimed that the manuscripts are not destroyed, but, of course the mask is dissolved.  And is there really no destruction to the papyrus?

Is this not a form of looting; of destroying cultural property?  Supporters of this effort suggest that since the masks are privately owned, the owners can do as they please with them.  And indeed, there seems to be no law in the U.S. controlling these kinds of activities.  There are, however, other forms of control – or at least enclosure – that I will discuss in another blog.

Another video, by Dr. Scott Carroll, showing the mummy mask being dissolved; the dissolving pictures begins at 25.00 minutes.  Dr Carroll provides an interesting show-and-tell to his congregation; his goal in dissolving masks is the possible retrieval of biblical papyri.

I have much more to say on the topic, which will await another blog or two.  In the meantime, see what the papyrologist Dr Mazza of the University of Manchester has to say on the topic of Mummy Masks on her excellent blog, Faces and Voices, here.

Other information and links can be found here.

 

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Assyrian Agricultural Technology

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on Gates of Nineveh: An Experiment in Blogging Assyriology:
Assyria is famous primarily for its military innovations. Siege warfare, cavalry, and the integration and methodical organization of warfare were all advanced considerably by the Assyrian state in its…

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The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present): Call for Papers (submission deadline 15 June 2014)

dianabuja:

Papyrus on which segments of the Book of the Dead are written, together with drawings - here, Osiris overseeing the crucial act of weighing the heart of the deceased.  Source - Wikipedia

Papyrus on which segments of the Book of the Dead are written, together with drawings – here, Osiris overseeing the crucial act of weighing the heart of the deceased. Source – Wikipedia

Would be interesting to consider a similar conference – however, one that features the occurrence of papyri and their possible impact on both culture and politics. Here, I would focus on the Nile Valley and up into the Ptolemaic period.

Background you may want to check out - 

 

Originally posted on :

The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present): Workshop

Ertegun House, University of Oxford, 4 – 5 December 2014

The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present) is a two-day interdisciplinary workshop organised by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in conjunction with the English Faculty’s Postcolonial Writing and Theory Seminar, the Oxford Centre for Global History and the University of Oxford’s Ertegun Graduate Programme in the Humanities, to be held on the 4th and 5th of December 2014 at Ertegun House, Oxford.

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The Mouse becomes Vizier in Ancient Egypt

dianabuja:

For your weekend enjoyment, here is a blog that I have revised about what happens when a mouse becomes vizier to the king in Ancient Egypt. It is a lovely tale, humorous, but also a story that emphasizes the importance of justice.

The text was apparently used in scribal classes when teaching ancient Egyptian. Please enjoy!

A mouse-god being carried by jackal-priests.  Source -  H Ollermann Turin DelM

A mouse-god being carried by jackal-priests. Source – H Ollermann Turin Probably from Deir el-Medina. 

Originally posted on DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture:

Revised 23 May 2014
 
Examples of  hieroglypthic (top) and the same text in hieratic (bottom).  Source - www.schillerinstitute.org

Examples of hieroglyphic (top) and the same text in hieratic (bottom). Source –               http://www.schillerinstitute.org

Tales of mice and cats, such as the following, were popular in ancient Egypt, They were generally written in Middle Egyptian hieratic, a cursive form of hieroglyphic, and are excellent texts for aspiring scribes (or, as I was in the past, a student of hieratic in Egyptology classes).

 

Cartoons of cats and mice were as popular as were the fanciful stories about them, and appeared throughout Egyptian history. The portion of an ostracon that appears in the above header image is probably from the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina, near ancient Thebes. It shows a mouse sipping beer out of a large container, through a bent straw, while being attended by a cat. A few other examples appear in this fanciful text:

 
In the kingdom of the…

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Gift of a Shrew and Their Role in Graeco-Roman Egypt

Shrews were important creatures in ancient Egypt, seen as key ingredients for certain magical spells, discussed in this blog. Picture source - Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter sun reshafim

Shrews  and other small creatures were important in ancient Egypt, seen as key ingredients for certain magical spells that are discussed in the referenced blog. Picture source – Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter sun reshafim

This morning I was awakened by Bébé-Cat gifting me with a little shrew that was dead.  Not the most enjoyable way to start the day.

However, this reminded me of a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago about rats here in Burundi and the important role of shrews in Ancient Egypt, which I have now revised and provide a link, below, for your enjoyment.

The shrew (or related fellow) shown here, who is fabricating the sun, seems to be a potent fellow.

 

 

Bébé-Cat after a hard day of work.  He is an unrepentant sun-worshiper – not potent, however, like the fellow above.

Bébé

 

Now, please go on to the following link – and enjoy!

Rats and Related Creatures – Now, and in Graeco-Roman Egypt

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The Beautiful Coptic Murals in the Monastery of Surian in Egypt Revealed

dianabuja:

Very interesting blog on the cleaning of Coptic murals at the monastery of Surian, Wadi al-Natrun, Egypt, with a video on work to clean and preserve the murals that contains a Coptic chant – very nice. Wadi al-Natrun, a large depression located to the west of Cairo, contains some of the most interesting of Egypt’s monasteries and earlier pharaonic remains.

Cleaning and refurbishing at the monastery of Dayr al- Surian, Egypt.  Source - DeirAlSurianConservationProject FB

Cleaning and refurbishing at the monastery of Dayr al- Surian, Egypt. Source – DeirAlSurianConservationProject FB

Originally posted on ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية:

deir al surianOne of the beautiful murals revealed at Deir Al-Surian in Wadi Al-Natrun in Egypt

I would like to draw your attention to this important project of restoration by the Levantine Foundation. Start with this video:

Then visit the conservation project on Facebook and enjoy.

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Net Dresses in Ancient Egypt and Elsewhere – Then and Now

Beadnet dresses seem to have been common in ancient Egypt.  They are generally  made of several compounds (e.g., beads and shells), examples being found in the 21st Dynasty (1069-747 BC), as seen on the line drawing of a coffin painting of the Priestess Iwesemhesetmwt, which is shown in the above heading.  The practice of making or depicting  beadnet dresses continued for hundreds of years, as seen on a small, painted sarcophagi dated ca. 600 BC., discussed later in this blog.

This entry is especially for Karen Resta and her daughter Kristen Bateman, who has recently designed and made a lovely net dress combining several materials – a dress that is very much in keeping with dress style aficionados – both modern and Ancient Egyptian.  Adding historical depth to one/s couture enriches both understanding and value of the final product.  Tremendously.  Here is Kristen’s design -

Net dress designed by Kristen, via Karen Resta.

Net dress designed by Kristen Bateman containing several materials, via Karen Resta.

Now, on to the historical depth part -

Reconstructed beadnet dress,Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Khufu, 2551–2528 B.C. .  Source - Giza, tomb G 7440 Z. 1927: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1927: assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.

Reconstructed beadnet dress,Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Khufu, 2551–2528 B.C. . Source – Giza, tomb G 7440 Z. 1927: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1927: assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.  Accession No.  27.1548.1

Depictions of women in Egyptian art occasionally feature garments decorated with an overall lozenge pattern. This design is believed to represent beadwork, which was either sewn onto a linen dress or worked into a separate net worn over the linen.

This beadnet dress is the earliest surviving example of such a garment. It has been painstakingly reassembled from approximately seven thousand beads found in an undisturbed burial of a female contemporary of King Khufu.

Although their string had disintegrated, a few beads still lay in their original pattern on and around the mummy, permitting an accurate reconstruction. The color of the beads has faded, but the beadnet was originally blue and blue green in imitation of lapis lazuli and turquoise.

Source – Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Beadnet Dress

Another beadnet dress of the Old Kingdom, it was excavated by by Guy Brunton at Qau, Upper Egypt, in 1923-24 and now resides in the museum of University College London, where information on the dress states that -

Beadnet dress now in the museum of University College London.  Source - UCL

Beadnet dress now in the museum of University College London. Source - Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College London

The dress may have been worn for dancing in Dynasty 5 (c. 2400 BC). Each of the 127 shells around the fringe are plugged with a small stone so that it would have emitted a rattling sound when the wearer moved. When it was being conserved, it was thought to fit a girl of about 12 and to be worn naked.  

Guy Brunton commented that the dress reminds us of the story of King Sneferu going on a sailing trip on the palace lake, recorded on a papyrus dating from around 1800 BC. The King gets twenty young women to row a boat and, to relieve his boredom, orders:

“Let there be brought to me twenty women with the shapeliest bodies, breasts and braids, who have not yet given birth. And let there be brought to me 20 nets. Give those nets to these women in place of their clothes!”

Directions are given on the UCL site for making a similar beadnet dress, which contains both beads and shells (reference below) -

How to make a bead-net dress
By Janet Johnstone

Fabric
Beads (cylinder beads 1.5 to 3cm long and round beads)
Shells drilled with holes for threading (optional)
Strong polyester thread natural or cream and a long needle

See this link for the rest of the instructions and accompanying graphs.

Small mummy case of the 26th Dnyasty, ca. 600 BC.  Source - Swansia Egypt Center.

Small mummy case of the 26th Dynasty, ca. 600 BC. Source – Swansea Egypt Center.

Important to note – that linen dresses could be worn below net dresses in ancient Egypt.  This would enhance warmth during the winter cool months as well as (perhaps) rendering the dress more conservative.  Kristen/s net dress could also be modelled with a sheer shift underneath, perhaps of a contrasting color.

In addition to actual beadnet dresses in ancient Egypt, drawings of beaded costumes were painted on mummy coffins.  Examples of two ladies who seem to be wearing net dresses appear in the drawing at the very top of the blog.

Another example – the little wooden coffin shown to the left, now in the Swansea Museum, contains a foetus that is dated to the 26th Dynasty, ca. 600 BC.  It is decorated with what appears to be a beadnet dress - approximately 2000 years after the two museum examples pictured above.  So dressing in net remained the vogue for many centuries in Egypt.

The baby-mummy has recently been scanned and shown to contain a small foetus, a touching end to the near-life of an ancient infant.  The case was collected by Sir Henry Wellcome who, as commonly was the case during the era of Egyptomania and related artifact collecting in the 19th Century, did not provide the item with a provenance – with a place of origin, which helps enormously in determining just who was the child, to whom, and so forth.

(In fact, he may have purchased it locally from a dealer who himself was not knowledgeable of the items origin.  This unfortunate practice of  context-free artifact-collecting continued into the 20th Century and unhappily continues today.)

Interesting to note, the hieroglyphs on the little coffin are nonsense, having no meaning, but this was not an unusual practice and perhaps was employed in the less expensive coffins.

Here is pictured the recent scanning of the little mummy from Swansea, wearing her net dress -

Baby Mummy being scanned.  Source - Swansea Egypt Centre.

Baby Mummy wearing a net dress, who is being scanned. Source – Swansea Egypt Centre.

 Moral of the tale – I hope that Kristen will continue her lovely design work – both imaginatively and with historical depth.  Imaginative couture is so often historically grounded – being multidimensional, not just a simple paste-up.  Wearers of her items will surly appreciate purchasing an item that is described as being in a long and famous tradition – whether it is from Ancient Egyptian net dresses or another tradition.

 

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