Posts Tagged With: Egyptian Museum

Archaeologists Uncover Rare Leather Fragments from Ancient Egyptian Chariot

Nearly 300 leather fragments from an ancient Egyptian chariot, believed to date back to the New Kingdom, have been recently uncovered from the depths of the Egyptian Museum by a team of renowned archaeologists. Studying the technology and resources utilized in the building of such chariots, the team aims to reconstruct an ancient Egyptian royal chariot in 2014, using the same technology as that used by the ancient Egyptians.

Salima Ikram and Andre Veldmeijer retrieve extraordinary leather fragments of an ancient chariot from abandoned casings at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo Photo: The American University in Cairo

Salima Ikram and Andre Veldmeijer retrieve extraordinary leather fragments of an ancient chariot from abandoned casings at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Photo: The American University in Cairo

“The discovery of such leather fragments is extremely rare and unusual,” said Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology, who is among the team of archaeologists working to unravel the mysteries behind these recently uncovered leather portions. “Only a handful of complete chariots are known from ancient Egypt, and of these, only one heavily restored in Florence, and that of Yuya and Tjuiu in the Egyptian Museum, have any significant amount of leather. Even then, they are largely unembellished and not as well-preserved as the fragments we found.”

Although horse-drawn chariots are often illustrated in ancient Egyptian artwork, archaeological evidence that goes beyond wooden frames is scarce. Due to their organic nature, leather fragments seldom survive. “The pieces were in a much better shape than we originally anticipated, and we were able to achieve a sense of how the leather unfolds,” said Ikram. “The fine condition that the leather was in suggests that it may have been preserved in a tomb. Leather finds from urban contexts such as Amarna, although still relatively good compared to those from many sites elsewhere in the world, usually show signs of disintegration, are brittle and, overall, in far worse condition.”

In constructing an exact replica of the chariot, Ikram and the team aim to gain an understanding of the construction technology and the leather used in its fabrication, as well as to test hypotheses about the uses of the different pieces of leather, which may prove to be a challenging endeavor. “Some leather pieces are folded over in a crumpled state, and the reconstruction of certain portions while trying to maintain accuracy in reproducing the technologies used might be more difficult than we anticipate,” said Ikram.

Back in 2008, Ikram commenced work with Andre Veldmeijer, head of the Egyptology section at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo, on the Ancient Egypt Leatherwork Project, when they came across a 1950s publication by Robert Jacobus Forbes titled Studies in Ancient Technology. The manuscript spoke of a black and white photograph of ancient trappings and horse harnesses, evidently intact and said to exist at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Intrigued by Forbes’s findings, Ikram and Veldmeijer sought the help of museum curators to locate a cache of leather trays pertaining to an Egyptian chariot, including parts of the bow-case.

Ikram and Veldmeijer sought to document, examine and conduct analytical studies of the technology and resources utilized. They categorized the leather into two main groups based on color and sturdiness: red and green fine leather, and beige and green robust leather. Some of the uncovered leather pieces were highly decorated with leather appliqué work, while others were plainer. The leather fragments have been numbered and described, and include nave hoops, neck straps, gauntlets and parts of the bow-case. The remnants evidently comprised all parts of the chariot. “Everything we saw about the chariot leather was new,” affirmed Ikram. “It presented a revelation on how the chariot was put together, the technologies and materials used. Our examinations also disclosed how drawstrings served as the means of securing leather components over the skeleton of the chariot.”

By closely examining the findings, Ikram hopes to be able to better situate them within the backdrop of Egyptian chariotry. The Egyptian Museum Chariot Project findings fit in with a larger multidisciplinary and holistic research venture on leatherwork in ancient Egypt, which also includes the study of other fragmentary chariot pieces, such as those originating from the tombs of Thutmose IV (Carter and Newberry, 1904), Amenhotep II (Daressy, 1902) and Amenhotep III (Littauer and Crouwel, 1985, 1968 and 1987), as well as the leather finds from the Amarna period (Veldmeijer, 2010). This larger project is directed by Veldmeijer and Ikram.

“Chariots changed the way people looked at terrains and the way they interacted with them,” said Ikram. “Before the chariot, transportation means in ancient Egypt were limited to boats, donkeys and walking. It introduced the notion of roadways for faster wheel conveyance, revolutionizing the way Egyptians moved through the landscape and pioneering means of transportation and warfare.”

Aside from peaceable pursuits, the chariot was closely linked to the military, providing a moving platform from which the archer could shoot at the enemy. Hunting is also repeatedly depicted as a favorite sport of Egyptian royalty and nobility, and both are frequently represented pursuing desert games while riding in their chariots. Chariot processional scenes are believed to be popular from the 18th Dynasty onward, where the triumphant pharaoh is often shown to be returning alone from the battlefield.

From ancient eras to contemporary times, Ikram believes that chariots denoted one of the earliest personal transport concepts known to mankind. “The chariot is the precursor to the car,” she said. “The ancient Egyptians used it in the same way in which early motorized vehicles were used by us.”

Source of article: The American University in Cairo’s newsletter news@auc 
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Categories: Egypt, Pharaonic Egypt, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cairo tours for kids

Cairo is a haven for cultural tours for children. If you want to arrange a trip for your children in Cairo, forget about parks, cinemas, circuses and seaside resorts and go for a tour in Medieval Cairo. It is much more fun, especially, if it is accompanied by a photo contest.

All photos here are taken by the children, except for two, I took them myself

The kids in front of Al Sultan Hassan Mosque

The kids in front of Al Sultan Hassan Mosque

It was 8am when we all gathered, both kids and their long-suffering mothers, at the Wonderland Mall in Nasr City. Our purpose? To take the rented tour bus to a series of destinations planned for the day. We were all on time. The bus driver turns out to be punctual, too, and by 8.30 we are off — to the mosques of Al-Refaai and Sultan Hassan near the Salaheddin Citadel, the Gayer Anderson Museum annexed to Ibn Tulun Mosque, and the Abdine Palace in, well, Abdine.

The children are excited about the programme; they’ve started to ask questions about the places we are going to. Assuming the role of tour guide, I’m doing my best to give the simplest possible answers. This is not my first experience of the situation, after all. It’s largely due to the success of last year’s trip to the Citadel, the Egyptian Museum and the Pyramids of Giza that we’re doing it again. And it’s not just about entertainment. This group of mothers share the belief that such a trip is as important for their children as school curricula — and less trying.

It all started when my son, Adham, turned eight; in the course of a casual conversation it dawned on me how little he knows of Egyptian history: in the winter he does his school work; in the summer he plays by the sea. Ah well, I thought, remembering my own history with dread. Forget the last 17 years of my life, during which I’ve been a professional travel writer. The first time I set foot in the Egyptian Museum I was, erm, 21 years old. Nor did I even see Khan Al-Khalili until my first year as a travel writer: the foreigner who accompanied me, then, knew so much more than I did it was terribly embarrassing. Never! I cried inwardly, looking into Adham’s eyes. And so I started an Egypt-wide plan covering Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic and modern. Initial exploratory experiments revealed that, individually or in small numbers, children have the tendency to get bored. The answer? Take the whole class, preferably with parents, and visit more than one place and period at a time.

Al Refai and Sultan Hassan

The mothers of Adham’s classmates proved universally enthusiastic — and helpful. A task list was quickly drawn up and divided among us: planning the route, renting the bus and preparing an info sheet was my responsibility. Sherine compiled material about the architecture; Noha took on the formidable task of coordination, not only of times and venues but costs.

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The itinerary was tailored to the children, with the idea of maximum absorption as our guiding principle: at the Citadel, for example, the Mohamed Ali Mosque would serve as an introduction to Islamic architecture while offering stimulating surroundings and plenty of space, while at the Egyptian Museum we headed straight for the King Tut’s glittering mask. Following the Pyramids, Andrea’s overlooking the nearby Marioutiya Canal matched the mood with its authentic — and very tasty — Egyptian cuisine.

Inside Al Refaee mosque

Inside Al Refaee mosque

El Refai-kids

Lessons learned included making the next trip shorter — and, on the present occasion, I chose sites closer together. I concentrated on Islamic monuments and royal history: aside from the excitement of Al-Refaai’s interior, we visited the tombs of the Egyptian royal family and the shah of Iran. Then we moved on to the mosque in the Madrassa Mosque of Sultan Hassan — one of the biggest domes in the world. And only 15- minute drive brought us to Beit Al-Kiritliya: Gayer Anderson Museum, perhaps the truest model of a middle-class Cairene family home in Mameluke times, later acquired by the British officer-collector whose name it now bears. At the Abdine Palace we saw not only royal possessions but gifts given to President Hosni Mubarak by heads of state. The tour came to an end at the famous Felfela’s, not far from Abdine. Here too the food was rich, varied and in the spirit of that day.

Gayer Anderson- Kids 5

Gayer Anderson Museum-kids 2

Gayer Anderson- Kids 4

Gayer Anderson Museum- kids 3

This time we managed to make the trip even more interactive by organising a photo contest, choosing the best three from the whole day. Those who didn’t have a camera used their mothers’ mobile phones; and it was clickety- click all along. Most, in fact, took excellent photos. It was next to impossible to choose three, so we decided to enlarge and display them at their School. Alongside the photos were the kids’ impressions.

My son Murad, riding a donkey, at Andrea restaurant

My son Murad, riding a donkey, at Andrea restaurant

Categories: Cairo, Egypt, Giza, Islamic Egypt, Pharaonic Egypt, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Travellers of the senses

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to be a blind tourist; to see a country through touch, sound and smell. Yet, this is exactly what a group of blind German tourists did, several years ago, travelling from Cairo to Fayoum, Wadi Natroun and Upper Egypt.

“We always use the word ‘see’ when we describe something,” explained Carla Arning, the group organizer, who is specialized in tourism for the blind and the visually impaired. The verb used in this way means to get an impression of things through the other senses,” she said.

Wherever the group went, they would all listen very carefully to what the tour guide had to say before having their hands guided to the object described so as to trace its outlines with their fingers. When the monuments were too large to gauge by touch, as in the case of the alabaster sphinx at Memphis for example, they were given small reproduction statues to explore its shape.

“The blind have a right to travel and enjoy life, like any other people,” said Arning. “They should not be kept in dark rooms because they are blind, and nor should they be kept in the dark about other cultures.”

Arning has devoted her life to working with the blind. She explained that she is not paid for her work, feeling that God gave her special gifts to communicate with others and that it gives her pleasure to use these gifts.

Judging from the reactions of the 20 member group, Arning’s work is a great success. The group enjoyed every place they went to and felt that they had absorbed a great deal about the culture of Egypt.

“I was fascinated by Sakkara- the wide area, the many tombs, and the ability of the workers in ancient times to build such fantastic tombs with such wonderful paintings,” said Doris.

“I loved the Pyramids and the quarry and the unfinished obelisk in Aswan,” said another. “It is the contrast between the green and the brown, i.e., between the desert and the fields in Upper Egypt which attracted me most,” said a third.

The group spent a week in Cairo where they visited the Citadel, the mosques of Mohamed Ali, Sultan Hassan and Ibn Tulun, as well as Khan El-Khalili. They also went to Giza, Memphis and Sakkara. In Fayoum, they went to Lake Qarun, and then to the monasteries at Wadi Natrun. Finally, they spent a week on a Nile cruiser in Upper Egypt, where they visited Luxor, Aswan, Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna.

Mohamed Ali Mosquewww.art.com

Mohamed Ali Mosque
http://www.art.com

Sultan Hassan Mosque

Sultan Hassan Mosque

 

At Sakkara, the group visited all the places which are on the regular tours. They “saw” Zoser’s Step Pyramid, Unas’ pyramid, the tombs of Mereruka and Ptah- Hotep. Before entering the tomb of Unas, a king of the Vth dynasty, the tour guide, Ziad Anwar, read some of the pyramid texts inscribed on the walls of the burial chamber. They were believed to have magical powers and were written by the priests to ensure that the deceased would overcome all difficulties in the afterlife. Reading some parts of the text before entering the burial chamber prepared the visitors for the hieroglyphic inscription they are going to touch inside. Inside the tomb of Mereruka, they touched the reliefs which depicted life of ancient Egyptians: their clothes and their children’s games.

Zoser's step pyramid at Sakkarawww.treklens.com

Zoser’s step pyramid at Sakkara
http://www.treklens.com

The alabaster Sphinx at Memphis-Sakkarawww.ghandoury.wordpress.com

The alabaster Sphinx at Memphis-Sakkara
http://www.ghandoury.wordpress.com

The group was equally impressed by the Islamic monuments they visited. During their visit to the Mohamed Ali mosque, they admired the charming Turkish Baroque ablution fountain which, in its individual and collective features, they were able to compare with similar sabils of the Mohamed Ali dynasty around Cairo. They also touched the magnificent marble cenotaph which marks Mohamed Ali’s resting place as well as the minbars (pulpits) in the mosque, the larger one of wood decorated with gilt and the smaller one of alabaster, a gift from King Farouk in 1939.

Each blind visitor was accompanied by a sighted companion who helped him or her throughout the trip, sometimes explaining places where they passing on the way. These companions were sometimes relatives, friends or colleagues of the blind people and sometimes volunteers.

One companion described the experience: “It is very different from touring alone. I have to describe everything I see. The problem is not only to guide the blind but to try to describe things to them all of the time,” said Martin Roth, a student from Goettingen.

“The difficulty,” said another,” is that you have to be attentive all of the time. However, I think I gained considerable experience in describing things.”

Most of the visitors in the group not blind from birth- but later lost their site. This facilitates the task of the guide to some extent, as they are able to imagine the shape and the colors described.

Erika Knoop, a telephonist, has partial sight. “When I touch any monument I can imagine it,” she said. Petra, a teacher from East Berlin, also talked about the impression she can get of an object by touching it. She can tell the size of a statue from simply touching its foot or leg. “One or two touches are enough to imagine how big it is,” she said.

Some of the group was already well-travelled. Ortwin Eileors, a telephonist in Hildesheim, for example, has already been, among other places, to China and Florida.  “Every country is different from the next,” he said, “The taste, the smell and the noises are different.”

“From the sounds I could hear I would feel that Cairo is both crowded and noisy. However, I also get an impression that its people are very friendly,” said Doris.

Doris was accompanied by Gerd, who is partially sighted. “My problem is how I can lead the blind while I am partially sighted myself. But I think it is a bit easier in a group,” he said. “In a group I won’t get lost because there is always someone looking for us,” he added.

Most of the companions on the trip expressed their willingness to do the job again, especially with people they knew already. “I wouldn’t do it with just anybody because that would be extremely difficult,” one companion said.

These tours are obviously tailor-made for the blind. “We have a lot more colors and more detail in our explanations,” said Arning. “Our tours are not done in a hurry. We spend a longer time at each site than other groups.”

Ziad, the tour guide, mentioned the importance of measurements. “A blind person will not understand terms as ‘big’, ‘small’, ‘high’, ‘low’. Actual measurements have to be used instead.

According to Arning, sighted people, who often care about pictorial images, miss out on a lot that the blind pick up on.

A special trip was also made to the Kalabsha temple, which is rarely visited by tourists. They chose to go there because it is generally empty and gave the group the chance to touch as much as they liked. It also enabled them to get acquainted with the shape of the temples, the inner sanctuary and the open court yard. Kalabsha was a sort of an introduction in the explanation of other temples.

There were some problems which faced the group. The first was in the Egyptian Museum where the tourists were only allowed to touch statues made of granite and diorite. “It is always a problem in my trips and it is always frustrating,” said Arning. “We are allowed to touch everything in all of the museums in the world, including the Pharaonic monuments, but in the Egyptian Museum there are restrictions,” she said.

Another problem was on the cruise in Upper Egypt, when the group complained about the music of the parties they attended. “The blind have sensitive ears and they could not stand the level of the noise,” says Arning.

Arning is on the opinion that it is better to have a small group, not exceeding 25, on such a special tour, because this gives the travellers a chance to enjoy themselves, and to take things at their own speed.

Categories: Cairo, Egypt, Giza, Travelers with Special Needs, Uncategorized, Upper Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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