Category Archive 'Egypt'
21 Feb 2017

Ancient Egyptians Trained Baboons to Catch Criminals


Ancient Origins:

The ancient Egyptians were renowned for their worship of animals, and one of these was the baboon. In ancient Egyptian mythology, baboons are best known for their association with Thoth, the god of wisdom. In addition to their role in mythology, baboons also had a place in the society of ancient Egypt. They are commonly known to have been kept as pets, and mummified remains of these creatures have been discovered by archaeologists. In addition, baboons (or monkeys) have also been shown in Egyptian art to be participating in various human activities, including dancing and playing musical instruments, picking fruit, making wine and beer, and even catching criminals. …

As sacred animals, baboons were kept in temples, and cared for by their priests. Nevertheless, they were also kept as pets by those who could afford them, though for largely ritualistic purposes. Still, such pets were not always treated well by their owners. In Hierakonpolis, for instance, archaeologists have discovered a cemetery with the remains of various animals, including baboons, that were once kept as pets. The bones of the baboons suggest that they had been beaten repeatedly whilst they were alive. This cemetery is about 5000 years old, and dates to the end of the Pre-Dynastic period / the beginning of the Early Dynastic period. Therefore, it has been suggested that at this point of time, the ancient Egyptians were only beginning to learn how to keep animals as pets, and the beatings were meant to keep the baboons in line. As the Egyptians became better handlers, fewer beatings were administered to their pets, as seen in the remains of baboons from later periods.

In some works of ancient Egyptian art, baboons (or monkeys) are shown engaging in human activities. Some of these, like harvesting fruits from tall trees, could be plausible. In some parts of the world, monkeys are known to be trained to harvest fruits. In a tomb from the 12th Dynasty, baboons are even shown to be competing with humans for the collection of fruit. Other baboon jobs, such as helping with alcohol production or rigging boats, seem a little more fantastical. Nevertheless, given that baboons were considered to be intelligent animals, it would not then be too surprising if the ancient Egyptians imagined baboons could do such activities.

01 May 2016

Lion Devouring Nubian

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A lion devouring a Nubian, crafted during the 19th dynasty possibly as a fly-whisk handle, symbolizing the valiant ruler of Egypt subjugating the Nubians to protect his country and avert chaos. Metropolitan Museum.

Via Ratak Monodosico.

More views

25 Jun 2014

“Six Years of Continual Foreign Policy Failure”

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Walter Russell Mead delivers, what Andrew Sullivan calls, “a majestically sweeping indictment of everything [P]resident Obama has achieved in foreign policy over the last six years.”

One wishes we had a Republican President right now if only because when a Republican is in the White House, the media and the chattering classes believe they have a solemn moral duty to categorize and analyze the failures of American strategy and policy. Today that is far from the case; few in the mainstream press seem interested in tracing the full and ugly course of the six years of continual failure that dog the footsteps of the hapless Obama team in a region the White House claimed to understand. Nothing important has gone right for the small and tightly knit team that runs American Middle East policy. Most administrations have one failure in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking; this administration has two, both distinctly more ignominious and damaging than average. The opening to the Middle East, once heralded by this administration as transformative, has long vanished; no one even talks about the President’s speeches in Cairo and Istanbul anymore, unless regional cynics are looking for punch lines for bitter jokes. The support for the “transition to democracy” in Egypt ended on as humiliating a note as the “red line” kerfuffle in Syria. The spectacular example of advancing human rights by leading from behind in Libya led to an unmitigated disaster from which not only Libya but much of north and west Africa still suffers today.

Rarely has an administration so trumpeted its superior wisdom and strategic smarts; rarely has any American administration experienced so much ignominious failure, or had its ignorance and miscalculation so brutally exposed. No one, ever, will call this administration’s Middle East policies to date either competent or wise—though the usual press acolytes will continue to do what they can to spread a forgiving haze over the strategic collapse of everything this White House has attempted, as they talk about George W. Bush at every chance they get.

Now, from the ruins of the Obama Administration’s Middle East strategy, the most powerful and dangerous group of religious fanatics in modern history has emerged in the heart of the Middle East. The rise of ISIS is a strategic defeat of the first magnitude for the United States and its allies (as well as countries like Russia and even China). It is a perfect storm of bad policy intersecting with troubled times to create the gravest threat to U.S. and world stability since the end of the Cold War.

The mainstream press and the professional chatterboxes of the news shows need to set aside their squeamishness at poring over the details of a major strategic failure by a liberal Democrat. The rise of ISIS/ISIL is a disaster that must be examined and understood. How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lost—and why? What role did the administration’s trademark dithering and hairsplitting over aid to ISIS’s rivals in the Syrian opposition play in the rise of the radicals?

Read the whole thing.

14 Dec 2013

Sphynx With Snow Covering

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UK Independent, News > Environment, Charles Onians, Monday 20 March 2000:

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past

Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries.

The first two months of 2000 were virtually free of significant snowfall in much of lowland Britain, and December brought only moderate snowfall in the South-east. It is the continuation of a trend that has been increasingly visible in the past 15 years: in the south of England, for instance, from 1970 to 1995 snow and sleet fell for an average of 3.7 days, while from 1988 to 1995 the average was 0.7 days. London’s last substantial snowfall was in February 1991.

Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the international community. Average temperatures in Britain were nearly 0.6°C higher in the Nineties than in 1960-90, and it is estimated that they will increase by 0.2C every decade over the coming century. Eight of the 10 hottest years on record occurred in the Nineties.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

04 Nov 2013

Tuthankamun’s End

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Tuthankamun’s mummy caught fire in his casket after embalming.

Scientists haven’t confirmed the reality of the mummy’s curse, but they have got new information of Tutankhamun’s death (of injuries inflicted by a high-speed chariot crash), and they have additionally concluded that a poor job of embalming caused the pharaoh’s mummy to catch fire via spontaneous combustion.

Daily Mail.

03 Oct 2013


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Bronze flute. Egyptian, Ptolemaic period. Inscribed near the mouthpiece with: “The [divine] Nubian one and the gods of the resting place of the ibis to Thoteus son of Nekhtmonth.”

35.9 cm length x 1.6 cm diameter.

(Source: British Museum)

Hat tip to Ratak Mondosico.

18 Aug 2013

The Conspicuous Absence of a Policy on Egypt

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Richard Fernandez is worried that Putin might grab Egypt while Barack Obama bicycles and golfs on Martha’s Vinyard and his administration dithers over the decision to support secularism and the Egyptian Army or radical Islam, democracy, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Decisions, decisions.

So Obama remains hunkered down in Martha’s Vineyard, emerging periodically from his vacation home, like a cuckoo from a clock, to make a statement no one appears to hear, playing for time. No one in the Beltway seems to know what line to take. Shall they restore democracy in Egypt by supporting the Muslims Bros, knowing they too will take their revenge on the generals and the Copts? Suspend aid to the Egyptian military and open the door to Russia, who might do a hat trick and scoop up Saudi Arabia into the bargain?

Choices. Choices. What happened to the good old days when one could vote “present”? The Beltway is reading the tea leaves for a sign. And all they’re getting is Jay Carney.

I’m not worried. Frankly, I think Putin would do a much better job.

04 Jul 2013

Iowahawk, Always a Strong Competitor

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06 Apr 2013

Old, Old Socks

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Knitted socks, made 250-420 AD, found at Oxyrhynchus, donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1900

Smithsonian quotes the V&A description then comments:

    The Romano-Egyptian socks were excavated in the burial grounds of ancient Oxyrhynchus, a Greek colony on the Nile in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. They were given to the Museum in 1900 by Robert Taylor Esq., ‘Kytes,’ Watford. He was executor of the estate of the late Major Myers and these items were selected among others from a list of textiles as ‘a large number of very useful examples.’

Particularly intriguing about these “very useful examples” is the technique used to construct these red wool socks. Called nålbindning, or single-needle knitting, this time-consuming process required only a single thread. The technique was frequently used for close-fitting garments for the head, feet and hands because of its elastic qualities. Primarily from prehistoric times, nålbindning came before the two-needle knitting that’s standard today; each needle was crafted from wood or bone that was “flat, blunt and between 6-10 cm long, relatively large-eyed at one end or the eye is near the middle.”

We don’t know for sure whether these socks were for everyday use, worn with a pair of sandals to do the ancient Egyptian equivalent of running errands or heading to work—or if they were used as ceremonial offerings to the dead (they were found by burial grounds, after all).

For sandals? They look to me to have been made for someone (the ibis-headed god Thoth?) who had feet like a stork.

12 Sep 2012

How To Respond

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Islamist mob with some members wearing Guy Fawkes masks storms US Embassy in Cairo to tear down US flag on September 11.

On September 11th, the anniversary of the murder of 3000 innocent US civilians by Islamist fanatics, Muslim mobs attacked American diplomatic facilities in Cairo and Benghazi.

In Cairo, the mob merely tore down and desecrated the American flag, but in Benghazi a local militia stormed and burned the US consulate and murdered four diplomatic personnel (and several, at least two, Marine guards defending them).

So what should an American president do?

I have a few suggestions for Mr. Obama.

1) Freeze all Libyan and Egyptian assets.

2) Cancel all aid to Libya and Egypt.

3) Announce rewards for delivery to US military authorities of mullahs and militia leaders responsible for the riots and all prominent participants.

4) Launch cruise missile attacks on several principal Islamicist sites, including mosques, militia headquarters, &c. in Benghazi and Cairo. In the selection of targets, err on the side of excess.

5) Demand reparations of $10 billion from Libya, $1 billion from Egypt. (Russia received a very large and historic diamond in compensation in 1829 from Persia after the murder of its ambassador by a similar mob.

5) Announce a US Naval and Air embargo on flights and shipping from both countries to be sustained until the perpetrators have been captured and delivered and reparations have been paid. Shoot down any attempted flights, sink any ships trying to enter or leave the territorial waters of Libya or Egypt.

6) The President should make a speech informing the Islamic world that the United States will no longer regard extremist groups committing outrages against Americans or citizens of other civilized nations as distinct and separate from the governments of the same Islamic states which harbor them, fail to prevent their actions, and whose citizens provide their funding. Henceforward, any attack by Islamic extremists on Americans or citizens of allied civilized nations will be avenged promptly and with the utmost severity by similar acts of war directed at the governments, civil populations, national properties, and in particular Islamic religious sites on such a scale as which will cause Muslims everywhere to rue the day they permitted those extremists to act in their name. We are strong, Muslims are weak, and we will in future no longer refrain from avenging our people.

Islamist mob parades the body of murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.

A slightly enlarged version of this Google map of Benghazi identifies locations of mosques.



No Marines were killed, because evidently no Marines were present at the Benghazi Consulate to defend the ambassador. Politico.

Some commenters here have claimed that the photograph (which seems to have originated from a South Asian news source) shows Libyans trying to assist the ambassador. I think the photo image is indefinite. It isn’t clear whether Stevens is dead or barely alive, and the viewer cannot tell exactly what the men around him are doing. I simply quoted the original sources.

There are also reports today that Ambassador Stevens was raped by the mob before his death.

16 Aug 2012

Photograph of Cairo Skyline

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View of Cairo, photograph by Ahmed Abou-Zeid (click on image for larger version)

Quite a photograph.

Via Fred Lapides.

14 Jul 2012

The Blue Hole: Deadliest Dive Site in the World

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“There is no official list, but [Tarek] Omar [a local diver who recovers bodies] estimates that more than 130 divers have lost their lives in the hole in the last 15 years. He compares what is happening in the Blue Hole to the madness on Mount Everest.”

Spiegel profiles Egypt’s Gulf of Aqaba Blue Hole:

There are more attractive dive sites than the Blue Hole of Dahab, with more colorful corals, and more fish, shipwrecks, channels and caves. But the Blue Hole is considered to be most famous diving spot in the world — because it’s the most dangerous. …

The Blue Hole is easy to reach. It doesn’t take a boat to get there, and you don’t even have to swim out to it. You just hop in. It’s about 10 meters from a beach chair to the Blue Hole. The water is warm, there is no current and visibility is good.

Photo Gallery: “Compressed air can only be used to a depth of 56 meters. The tunnel’s exit is one meter lower than that.”

20 Apr 2011

King Tutankhamun’s Trumpets

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The Pharoah Tutankhamen ruled Egypt for nine years, from approximately 1355 to 1346 BC. He ascended the throne at age nine, and he remained in power until his sudden death at age 18.

His tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt on November 22, 1922, by Howard Carter, who described the discovery thusly:

“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flames to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold.

For the moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”‘

Among the wonderful things found in Tutankhamun’s tomb were two trumpets, one silver and one bronze.

The shorter silver trumpet is in the key of B natural. The bronze trumpet from the tomb is about 3cm longer, and is in the key of A flat.

In 2001 the BBC broadcast a series of programmes about Verdi’s operas to mark the centenary of the composer’s death; in the programme about Aïda, the conductor Edward Downes explained how two groups play on very long trumpets during the Grand March, one in A flat and the other in B natural, which is very unusual.

He commented on the amazing coincidence that Verdi chose these extraordinary keys for his trumpets, 50 years before the tomb was discovered and about 3,200 years after the two very long trumpets were buried with Tutankhamun.

When rioting broke out recently in Cairo, the silver trumpet was away on display at a touring exhibition, but the bronze trumpet was one of the objects looted from the Cairo Museum. It was, however, recovered, a little later, found discarded in a bag with some other items stolen from the museum in a Cairo metro station.

The trumpets have only been rarely played since the time of their discovery, but a recording of the kind of sounds which once must have signaled the advance to battle of the infantrymen and chariots of the pharoahs in Antiquity was made in 1939 for the BBC.

The trumpets were played by Bandsman James Tappern of the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own).

3:15 audio

The BBC story (characteristically and traditionally for journalistic pieces of this kind) ends with a bit of superstition.

Bandsman Tappern… played the trumpet shortly before World War II broke out. Cairo Museum’s Tutankhamun curator claims the trumpet retains “magical powers” and was blown before the first Gulf War, and by a member of staff the week before the Egyptian uprising.

But, which one?

One is inclined to guess the more opulent silver trumpet, but the bronze trumpet is longer, and reputedly more difficult to blow.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

17 Feb 2011

Returning Antiquities

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The Bookworm has some thoughts on the morality and practical consequences of returning antiquities from Western museums to their lands of origin.

The narrative has long been in place: For centuries, the predatory West raped the ancient world — Egypt, Greece, the Fertile Crescent, Persia — of her culture. Greedy treasure hunters and archeologists stole her mummies, her statuary, her carvings, her jewels and her wall paintings. Their museums gained world renown because of these ill-gotten gains, while the countries of origin moldered, deprived not only of their natural riches, but also of their historic legacy. With the end of colonialism after World War II, the situation started righting itself, as now-properly abashed Western countries began returning these stolen treasures to their true homes.

The actual story is a bit different. The cultures that had created those treasures had long vanished by the time the Western collectors showed up and started sniffing around. Where once had been glory, now was abysmal poverty. More than that, there was a profound disinterest in the past. The citizens of Egypt, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, etc., cared nothing for the treasures beneath their feet. Those that they couldn’t see, they forgot; those that they could see, they recycled. They broke down ancient structures and used their stones to build their homes; they melted down ancient jewelry, and refashioned the gold in modern design. The Egyptian mummies to which thieves had easy access had long since vanished — some within days of being interred — especially since their wrappings made good paper and, for centuries, their dust was thought to have curative powers.

What made these remnants of the past valuable was the interest the West had in the ancient world’s past. To the Middle East, they were raw material; to the Westerners, things of beauty and wonder. And so the West took them away, to museums and private collections. In terms of what was happening in the Middle East 200 years ago or 100 years ago, Western activity was akin to digging in the garbage to collect someone else’s discards. The only thing that bespoke value in the regions themselves was gold, so the archeologists figured out that, if they gave to the fellahin who unearthed the ancient gold a sum of money equal to that object’s weight, the latter cheerfully parted with their cultural past.

The relics, once in the West, were treated with a reverence denied them in the lands from which they emerged. They were cleaned, restored, maintained, studied and much visited. And of course, as their status rose, the people who had so cavalierly parted with them realized that they had lost something of value. When they had achieved some measure of moral power, they demanded them back. Often, the West complied with those demands. …

[M]any ended up back at home, in lands governed by dictatorships. These, no matter how long they last, invariably seem to end in a welter of violence, flames, vandalism and theft. Is it a surprise, then, that when a dictatorship ends, it’s often the case that the treasures, once ignored and abused, then revered in foreign lands, and then returned to their natal soil, should be amongst the first casualties?

Statue of 18th Dynasty Pharoah Akhenaton, circa 1336 BC, recently looted from Egyptian museum and found two weeks later discarded beside a garbage bin.

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