Category Archives: AFRICA

2,500 Years Ago, Herodotus Described a Weird Ship. Now, Archaeologists Have Found it.

2,500 Years Ago, Herodotus Described a Weird Ship. Now, Archaeologists Have Found it.

Herodotus may be considered the father of history, but he is not specifically proven to be accurate. Still, Dalya Alberge reports for the Guardian, the discovery of an ancient vessel that matches one described in the chronicler’s Histories adds weight to a fragment of his lengthy account.

The hull of the ancient vessel

Archaeologists chanced upon the boat in question—officially dubbed ship 17—while excavating the sunken Egyptian port city of Thonis-Heracleion. First unearthed in 2000, Live Science’s Laura Geggel writes, the site has since yielded more than 70 vessels dating from the 8th to 2nd century B.C.

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realized Herodotus was right,” Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, which published a recent monograph detailing the find, tells Alberge. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”

Herodotus dedicates 23 lines of his Histories to the construction of a Nile cargo boat known by locals as a baris. This fragment, penned around 450 B.C., stems from the historian’s travels to Egypt and, according to Science Alert’s Michelle Starr, tells of a papyrus-sailed ship crafted in the style of brickwork with a rudder running through a hole in its keel.

In his account, Herodotus documents the creation of “thorny acacia” boats that “cannot sail up the river unless there be a very fresh wind blowing, but are towed from the shore.”

He continues, “They have a door-shaped crate made of tamarisk wood and reed mats sewn together, and also a stone of about two talents weight bored with a hole.” As the crate floats in front of the boat, the stone grounds it from behind; together, these opposing forces keep the vessel moving swiftly on a straight course.

Artist’s rendering of the shipwrecked vessel

Writing in a 2013 study, Alexander Belov, an archaeologist at the Center for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and author of the new Ship 17: A Baris From Thonis-Heracleion monograph, notes that the acacia planks evident in ship 17 “are staggered in a way that gives it the appearance of ‘courses of bricks,’ as described by Herodotus.”

The Guardian’s Alberge adds that the crescent-shaped hull’s pattern of thick planks connected with pegs and tenons, or smaller adjoining pieces of wood, aligns closely with the historian’s description of the baris’ “internal ribs.”

Prior to ship 17’s discovery, contemporary archaeologists had never encountered this architectural style. But upon examining the hull’s well-preserved remains, which constitute some 70 percent of the original structure, researchers found a singular feat of design.

An archaeologist examines how the ancient vessel's keel was put together.
An archaeologist examines how the ancient vessel’s keel was put together.

At the peak of its maritime career, ship 17 likely measured up to 92 feet—significantly longer than the baris described by Herodotus, as Science Alert’s Starr points out, making it differ slightly from the one detailed in Histories: Whereas Herodotus’ vessel had shorter tenons and no reinforcing frames, the recovered boat has longer tenons and several reinforcing frames.

Although ship 17 is believed to have sunk during the first half of the 5th century B.C., Robinson tells Live Science’s Geggel that it probably dates to the 6th century B.C. and was “reused as a … floating jetty at the end of its working life as a ship.”

Archaeologists believe the Thonis-Heracleion baris were used to move goods to and from emporiums along the Nile River. In addition to transporting imports from the Greek and Persian worlds to cities across the Nile valley, the ship and others like it would have brought Egyptian goods including grain and salt to the harbor for export.

Huge Statue of God Horus Found in Egyptian Temple

Huge Statue of God Horus Found in Egyptian Temple

Throughout excavations at the site of remains of The House of Millions of Years Temple for Amenhotep III, the Egyptian-German Joint Archeological Mission in the Koam-al-Hetan area of Luxor’s West Bank discovered an “enormous” statue of Horus.

The newly-discovered Horus statue. 

In a statement issued on Thursday, the statue, which shows the god Horus in the shape of a falcon, consists of black granite and measures 1.85 meters in length, said the Director-General of West Luxor Antiquities Mr. Fathy Yassin.

The statue is without legs and has broken arms as well, he added.

The find is part of a long-term restoration project of the Memnon statue and the Temple of King Amenhotep III, which began in 1998 under the supervision of the Ministry of Antiquities and the German Archaeological Institute.

The aim of the project is to preserve the remains of the temple and rebuild it again, said co-head of the Egyptian-German mission Horig Sorosyan.

Two statues of Amenhotep III (Memnon’s pillars) at the entrance to his temple

She stressed that the discovered statue was in good condition and of an important artistic, scientific and archaeological value, as it would contribute to presenting the full image of the temple, especially after its collapse after a devastating earthquake in the twenty-eighth century BC.

Stones were used to building temples and other royal statues in the Ramesside era, she pointed out, adding that the statue in question is currently undergoing restoration.

The mission, meanwhile, will continue to search for the missing legs of the statue.

The Egyptian-German archaeological expedition previously discovered a number of large statues depicting deities, Amenhotep III, and his wife Queen T, in addition to a significant number of statues of the goddess Sekhmet.

Amenhotep III accumulated various Sekhmet statues in his temple The House of Millions of Years in order to protect it from danger.

The Statue of Lady Sennuwy of Asyut Emerges from the ground at Kerma Sudan in 1913

The Statue of Lady Sennuwy of Asyut Emerges from the ground at Kerma Sudan in 1913

The flourishing, wealthy empires of Nubia have lined the nile in Southern Egypt and Sudan more than a thousand years before Jesus.

A century ago, in partnership with Harvard University, the Boston archeologist George Reisner, Made an excavation in the region and brought back to the American public an enduring sight of Nubian artifacts – the largest collection of Nubian artifacts outside East Africa.

This collection was viewed today for the first time as part of a museum theme to reexamine past archeologists’ conclusions and the biases that affected their work.

Kerma: Beads and pendants: faience, amethyst, glazed crystal, carnelian, shell, garnet, granite, August 10, 1914, Giza Camp

The Ancient Nubia Now exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston discusses some of what Reisner, one of their own archaeologists and curators, got wrong in his representation of history.

“He is considered the father of American Egyptology,” said curator Denise Doxey. “As an archaeologist, he was really superb.”

Ancient Nubia Now exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Oct. 13, 2019, to Jan. 20, 2020

But she says that Reisner based many of his assumptions on history that were written by Egyptians who were at war with Nubians for generations and described Nubians as barbarians.

When Reisner came across a beautifully carved, Egyptian stone statue in a tomb in Sudan in 1913, he classified the whole tomb as an Egyptian outpost — even though the statue known as Lady Sennuwy was surrounded by pottery and jewelry that was distinctly Nubian.

“He just couldn’t believe that the Nubians did all this themselves,” Doxey said. “He was a wonderful archaeologist, but he was not a forward-thinking man on social issues at all. So, he brings his own racial biases, which happened to dovetail nicely with the Egyptians’ image of the Nubians. And [it] causes them to completely misinterpret the site.”

Reisner didn’t believe that the Nubians had conquered southern Egypt for a time, and brought Lady Sennuwy back to Nubia as a prize. But Doxey says that’s what actually happened.

“In fact, he had it completely backward,” she said.

Doxey says Reisner contributed to a portrayal of Nubia as a conquered, marginalized culture somehow less important than Egypt, and eventually mostly forgotten by scholars.

“It’s a vicious cycle because people aren’t familiar with Nubia. So, museums are wary about doing exhibitions and [having] nobody come because they don’t know what Nubia is,” Doxey said. “So, it perpetuates this idea that nobody knows what Nubia is, and it helps to keep that imbalance that Egypt is somehow much more important.”

-Denise Doxey, Museum of Fine Arts, curator

“It’s a vicious cycle because people aren’t familiar with Nubia. So, museums are wary about doing exhibitions and [having] nobody come because they don’t know what Nubia is,” Doxey said. “So, it perpetuates this idea that nobody knows what Nubia is, and it helps to keep that imbalance that Egypt is somehow much more important.”

But it’s been clear for some time that Reisner got it wrong. French and Swiss teams did excavations in Sudan in the 1960s and 1970s and discovered that tomb Reisner found with the Lady Sennuwy statue was part of a thriving, Nubian metropolis at the center of a trading network that reached far into Africa.

“It’s a massive, fortified city with suburbs outside and ports and industrial areas and temples,” Doxey said. “So, it was actually a very powerful and important kingdom.”

A kingdom that left behind fine pottery that is eggshell thin and dipped in a distinctive translucent blue glaze; and gold jewelry, and sculptures depicting animals such as rams and lions. Items that were ahead of their time, and are possibly evidence of an advanced culture.

That reminds some people of Wakanda, the fictional, ultra-advanced African country in the movie, “Black Panther.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, who writes the “Black Panther” series for Marvel, has said he imagines Wakanda being pretty much where Nubia was.

In a video in the Nubia exhibit, Nicole Aljoe, director of Africana studies at Northeastern University, talks about Pauline Hopkins, an African American writer who, in 1902-1903, wrote a serialized novel, “Of One Blood; Or, The Hidden Self,” in which one of the main characters discovers a secret, advanced society of superhumans in the Nubia region.

“It is fascinating — it’s this weird kind of proto-science fiction, fantastic, but at the same time supernatural presentation that resonated a lot for me and my students with the film [“Black Panther”] after it came out,” Aljoe said. “It’d be really cool if she was prescient in that way.”

Begrawiya: North Cemetery at Meroe, Pyramids N 32 and N 19, April 12, 1921

Aljoe says the book is just one example of how African American artists have used the idea of Nubia as a symbol again and again. There were Nubian references during the Harlem Renaissance, the Black arts movement, and in rap music and the Black Lives Matter movement, she says. Right now, there’s a ballot measure in Boston to rename a historic spot Nubian Square. It’s currently named for Thomas Dudley, a governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony who signed laws that enabled the slave trade.

“So, Nubia as kind of representing a royal African history that folks can use to challenge European and racist colonial ideologies,” Aljoe said. 

Egypt: Experts discover pharaoh’s boat in perfect condition

Egypt: Experts discover pharaoh’s boat in perfect condition

Archeologists of Egypt uncovered a boat claimed to have been “perfectly preserved” by Pharaoh Khufu himself, which led to verified theories of how ancient civilization constructed their wonders.

Egypt: Experts discover pharaoh's boat in perfect condition
The boat was discovered near the Great Pyramid

Probably the most famous and well known of Egypt’s many ancient landmarks and includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. 

The Great Pyramid of Giza, or the Pyramid of Khufu, is a spectacle of the three still existing pyramids today, who marvel at how a society over 4,500 years ago managed to build such a colossal structure. 

But archeologists were able to slowly combine what this ancient civilization looked like and how ingenious and brilliant people have worked together, thanks to a find made more than half a century ago.

Amazon Prime’s “Secrets of Archaeology revealed some of those secrets. The 2014 series explained: “On this plateau, set on the edge of the desert, the story of the pyramids achieved its finest hour.

“It is here that we best appreciate the grandeur and majesty of these constructions, and the organizational skills and methods used to erect them.

“The workers here were organized into teams that hauled blocks of stones on huge sledges mounted on logs of wood. “Each team was made up of about 1,000 men organized along military lines and led by a master mason and various underlings.

The workers pulled together

“They were not slaves, they earned a regular wage, bed, and board and it is thanks to their work that these immense structures were ever completed.”

The series continued, explaining the clever tactics used by the ancient society to haul together in the building process. It added: “Even today, such imposing buildings would involve complex engineering problems.

“The Great Pyramid of Cheops, which was the first one to be built in Giza around 2500BC, has a base that covers over 12 acres (48,500 square meters). “More than 2,300,000 blocks of stone were needed to build the base and weighed between two and 200 tonnes each.

Evidence showed the workers were skilled, not slaves

“It may sound incredible, but this was once a lush green land, with neither desert nor buildings. “Irrigation canals linked the areas to the Nile, and some of the stones used in buildings were transported on these canals.”

The documentary went on to reveal how evidence of this was discovered more than 50 years ago. It added: “A boat made with cedarwood built almost 5,000 years ago was discovered here in 1954 near the Pyramid of Cheops, still in a perfect state of preservation.

Khufu’s boat was found in this hole

“Archaeologists found it belonged to the pharaoh Cheops himself, 140 feet long, equipped with 12 oars and was probably used by Cheops when he travelled along the Nile. “On those occasions, his subjects could get a glimpse of their Pharaoh and pay homage to him.”

At completion, the Great Pyramid was surfaced with white “casing stones” — slant-faced, but flat-topped, blocks of highly polished white limestone.

However, in 1303, a massive earthquake loosened many of the outer casing stones, which were taken away 50 years later to be used in the building of mosques and fortresses in Cairo.

Many other theories have been proposed regarding the pyramid’s construction techniques, disagreeing on whether the blocks were dragged, lifted, or even rolled into place. 

The Greeks believed that slave labour was used, but modern discoveries made at nearby workers’ camps associated with construction at Giza suggest it was built instead of thousands of skilled workers. 

Czech archaeologist, Miroslav Verner, claimed that the labour was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 100,000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 20,000 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.

Small Sphinx Uncovered at Egypt’s Necropolis of Khumun

Small Sphinx Uncovered at Egypt’s Necropolis of Khumun

On Saturday, 14 December in the archeological area of Tuna El-Gebel at Minya, Upper Egypt, a small royal statue of a sphinx was uncovered.

A small royal statue of a sphinx uncovered in Tuna El-Gebel
A small royal statue of a sphinx uncovered in Tuna El-Gebel

The recently found sphinx of limestone stone has been revealed by SayedAbdel-Malek’s Egyptian Archeological Team.

Middle Egypt’s Director General of Antiquities Gamal El-Samastawy said the sphinx was about 35 cm tall and 55 cm width on Saturday.

In addition to pottery of different shapes and sizes, the Mission also found collections of ancient amulets.

The area of Tuna el Gebel is part of the archeological sites of the Minya governorate, which contain numerous ancient Egyptian treasures not yet revealed.

Tuna el-Gebel in the city of Mallawi was the necropolis of Khmun. It contains monuments from the Greek and Roman eras, as well as the Late Middle Ages.

The area hosts the Boundary Stelae of Akhenaton, catacombs of falcons, baboons and ibises, and the tombs of Petosiris and Isadora.

Tuna el-Gebel village is famous for having many archaeological tombs, which contributed greatly to the revival of archaeological and touristic life and helped drive Arab and foreign tourists to the region once again. It is an archaeological village located in Al Minya Governorate. It has a population of more than 20,000 people.

A unique royal bust of King Ramses II made of red granite was unearthed on a private land in Mit Rahina village in Giza by an Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities on Wednesday, December 11.

The newly discovered bust is emblazoned with the “Ka,” a symbol of power, life force and spirit.

King Ramses II bust is carved in red granite and depicts Ramses II wearing a wig with the symbol of the “Ka” over his head. The bust is 105 cm tall, 55 cm wide and 45 cm thick.

The mission discovered this unique bust during excavations on privately owned land in Giza, after the landowner was caught carrying out illegal excavation work at his land.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that the uncovered King Ramses II bust is one of a kind because the only similar bust is one carved in wood and belongs to 13th Dynasty King Hor Awibre, which is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The mission has also discovered a group of huge red granite and limestone blocks engraved with scenes showing Ramses II during the Heb-Sed religious ritual, which indicates that these blocks could belong to a great temple dedicated to the worship of the deity Ptah.

The bust and the blocks have been transferred to Mit Rahina open air museum for restoration, and excavations will continue at the site.

One of the main achievements of King Ramses II is building Abu Simbel temple to impress Egypt’s southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of the Egyptian religion in the area.

Abu Simbel was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the ruling period of Ramses II and its construction took 20 years from 1264 BC to 1244 BC.

Abu Simbel is made up of two temples. The smaller one was built for Queen Nefertari and has two statues of her and four pharaohs; each about 33 feet (10 meters) in height.

According to many scholars, this great temple was created to celebrate the victory of Ramses II over the Hittites at the Battle of Qadesh in 1274 BC. This means that the temple was situated on the border of the conquered lands of Nubia after many military campaigns were carried out by the Pharaoh against Nubia.