Posts Tagged With: 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

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