Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Did ancient Egyptians trade nicotine and cocaine with the New World?

Imagine the perfectly mummified Egyptian princess and priestess, Henut Taui, “The Lady of the Two Lands.” She was beautiful, powerful and gently alluring.

Imagine you’re thrust back in time and immediately invited to her palace to enjoy the most luxuriating experiences of the day.

As you sit near her throne, you’re showered with new delights and substances, the likes of which you never imagined you might find in Ancient Egypt, like cocaine and tobacco…

While this fantasy defies the narrative of mainstream Egyptology, there’s evidence it actually could have happened.

That’s because Henut Taui and the controversial “cocaine mummies” revealed a vast global trade network that linked the new world with Ancient Egypt.

During a study of the mummy of an ancient elite Egyptian – nicotine, and cocaine – Dr. Svetla Balabanowa found it shocking.

Soon the question came up: What did Lady Henut Taui have access to elements from the tobacco and coca plants about 3,000 years ago?

The interesting thing is that these plants only grew in the Americas at the time – not until the 19th century, they were shipped across the Atlantic.

The confusion led researchers to wonder if the mummy was fake or the tests were contaminated. However, a thorough analysis of the results shows that they were authentic. Does this mean the ancient Egyptians had reached the Americas?

An examination in the 1970s of the mummy of Ramesses II revealed fragments of tobacco leaves in its abdomen.

Archaeological findings show that Egyptians were adept at navigating the seas. For example, Queen Hatshepsut is known to have funded an expedition to the mysterious Land of Punt around 1477 BC.

A relief depicting the journey has been found at Deir el-Bahri (in modern-day Luxor). That mural shows large ships packed with men, gold, trees, and exotic animals.

The flora and fauna shown in the artwork are thought to have existed along the coasts of African and the Arabian Peninsula. These findings show that the ancient Egyptians could complete some longer oceanic voyages.

Members of Hatshepsut’s trading expedition to the mysterious ‘Land of Punt’ from this pharaoh’s elegant mortuary temple at Deir El-Bahri.

A 2011 discovery made on the Red Sea coast, furthered the belief in the seafaring capacity of the ancient Egyptians.

An archaeologist working in a dried-up lagoon came across the ruins of an ancient harbor. Timber, rigging, reed mats, steering oars, cedar planks, and limestone anchors were all unearthed.

Original knots which were joining the main pieces of the Khufu Boat. The cedar timbers of the boat’s curved hull were lashed together with hemp rope in a technique used until recent times by traditional shipbuilders on the shores of the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean

Possible evidence of an unproven Egyptian voyage to the Americas has been found in the Marble Region of the Grand Canyon.

The Arizona Gazette reported on April 5, 1909, that two explorers funded by the Smithsonian found various Egyptian artifacts, including tablets with hieroglyphics, inside caves.

The problem is the Smithsonian has no known records of the discovery.

That find would provide strong evidence to support the belief ancient Egyptians reached the Americas – though it may also be considered inconvenient by some groups to go against the story of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, as it could drastically alter perceptions of events and the celebration of traditions such as Columbus Day.

Egyptian tomb painting from 1450 BC. Caption: “Officer with sounding pole…is telling crew to come ahead slow. Engineers with cat-o’-nine-tails assuring proper response from engines.”

El-Kurru’s Carved Graffiti Reveal Another Side of Ancient Nubia

El-Kurru’s Carved Graffiti Reveal Another Side of Ancient Nubia

Now, northern Sudan, which has mostly desert boundaries with Egypt. Moreover, this part of the Nile Valley was once the domain of Kush, a strong African civilization. It traded in Egypt and in the Mediterranean region gold and the products of inner Africa.

For over 2000 years Kush has been the largest power in this region, reaching its greatest extent in conquering Egypt as its 25th dynasty from about 725-653 BCE. Kush was ruled from the capital of Meroe in the years 300 BCE to 300 CE.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city was built on the Nile about 100 miles north of modern-day Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

The ancient royal cemetery of El-Kurru, with the modern town of El-Kurru and the Nile in the background.

Other regions of Kush remained important, however. These included the older capital region of Napata, which centered on the “holy mountain” of Jebel Barkal and included the nearby pyramid cemetery of El-Kurru.

There were a number of temples and other sacred sites in Kush. And, as per the research in El-Kurru has documented, visitors to these sites had one particular religious ritual that may strike some as strange: they carved graffiti in important and sacred places.

These graffiti can still be seen today at several sacred sites in what was the kingdom of Kush – on a pyramid and in a temple at El-Kurru, at a seasonal pilgrimage center called Musawwarat es-Sufra, and in the Temple of Isis at Philae, at the border with Egypt.

A graffito of a chicken facing two leaping horses in the temple of El-Kurru.
A graffito of a chicken facing two leaping horses in the temple of El-Kurru.
One of the numerous boats on the pyramid walls, likely made by a Christian pilgrim.
One of the numerous boats on the pyramid walls, likely made by a Christian pilgrim.

The curators of an exhibition detailing the recently discovered graffiti from El-Kurru.

The exhibition is on view at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan until March 2020. It features photographs, text, and interactive media presentations that unpack the practice and its importance in Kushite society. 

A catalog written in conjunction with the exhibition presents selected examples of graffiti from the Nile valley and beyond, including the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

All accustomed to understanding ancient cultures almost entirely through the activities of the powerful elite and the art they left behind in their palaces, temples, and tombs. But that creates a distorted picture of ancient life – as distorted as such a picture would be today.

The graffiti featured in this exhibition allows a glimpse into some of the activities of non-elite people and their religious devotion to particular places. It’s a reminder that society is more than the elite and powerful.

Marking place and time

The graffiti at El-Kurru were discovered by a Kelsey Museum archaeological excavation, on a pyramid, and in an underground temple at the site.

El-Kurru was a royal cemetery for the kings of the Napatan dynasty, who ruled Egypt as the 25th dynasty. But the graffiti date to several hundred years after the kings’ rule. By this time the pyramids and funerary temple were partially abandoned, yet people were visiting the site and carving graffiti.

The funerary temple and the largest pyramid at El-Kurru.

The graffiti includes clear symbols of ancient Kush, like the ram that represented the local form of the god Amun, and a long-legged archer who symbolized Kushite prowess in archery. There are also intricate textile designs as well as animals – beautiful horses, birds, and giraffes.

The most common marks are small round holes gouged in the stone. By analogy with modern practices, these are probably areas where temple visitors scraped the wall of the holy place to collect powdered stone that they would ingest to promote fertility and healing.

Medieval building found in Llandaff under public toilets

Medieval building found in Llandaff under public toilets

Located next to Llandaff’s Old Bishop Castle in the 13th century, the site tells experts that there would have been an important person who lived there.

A public dig began in September and participants quickly discovered an unearthed fireplace, chequered floor tiles, animal bones, and old horseshoes.

About 200 schoolchildren and 35 other volunteers assisted in the search, starting with excavations around the public toilets as they were turned into a community heritage site.

Archaeologists said they think the building dates back to around 1450. The toilets were built in the 1930s in an area known as the Pound – a reference to its housing stray animals since the 17th century.

Dr. Tim Young, a lead archaeologist, said: “This was a surprise to find a high-status building.” The house, around 10m in length, could be regarded as prestigious, according to Dr. Young.

This comes as Bath stone had been used to construct the fireplace, a distinctive appearing limestone notable for its warm honey colour. The stone was not commonly used at the time, though, it can be found at Llandaff Cathedral.

Despite the researchers not currently knowing who lived at the house, they said it was likely someone of high status because of its close proximity to the Old Bishop’s Castle, with bishops at the time holding manorial rights.

Dr. Tim Young unearthed several items

Counting tokens were widespread in the medieval world through to the 1600s and were used as counters for calculations on a counting board, similar to an abacus.

They also found uses in games, similar to modern casinos, in what we would now identify as poker chips.

The medieval building will be blanketed in a protective covering to make way for the construction of a new community venue set up by Llandaff 50+, a charity promoting social inclusion of over 50s in the community.

The toilets next to the ruins of the Old Bishop’s Castle are being converted into a community centre
Two sides of a 14th Century jeton counting token found at the toilets

Several theories of who may have lived in the building have floated since its discovery. Among them, a housekeeper for the nearby Manor of Llandaff or an official of the Llandaff Cathedral.

Dr. Young said: “The site is known as the pound as it was the animal pound for Llandaff and we have evidence of that dating back to about 1607.

“It had always been assumed that the area was also the pound before that so the discovery of a medieval dwelling on the site was quite unexpected.”

Items discovered from the site will now be sent to experts at Cardiff University and other national museums for analysis. This will, hope researchers, provide more details about who may have once lived there and what their life entailed.

Although, Dr. Young admitted: “It won’t be for another six months or even a year until we could come to any sort of conclusion.”

The community dig project was granted funding by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and Cardiff YMCA Trust. In August, researchers uncovered a number of historic items of significance at a separate site in Cardiff.

Nestled in the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely, shale bracelets were found at an Iron Age hill fort.

It was thought to once be the powerhouse for the city more than 2,000 years ago, with previous excavations have uncovered evidence of houses.

Egypt says it’s unearthed large animal mummy, likely a lion

Egypt says it’s unearthed large animal mummy, likely a lion

Egypt, Cairo: The Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt reports that locals have uncovered the remains of an exceptionally large animal possibly the lion or lioness.

On Monday, the Minister informed, the mummy that it had been excavated in Saqqara, a town south of Cairo that was a vast necropolis in antiquity and is home to the famed Step Pyramid.

Mummified cats are often found by archeology, but a lion recovery is rare.

A first lion skeleton was found in 2004 which revealed the animal’s sacred status in ancient times.

The ministry says it will expand on the discovery at a press conference after running radar scans.

Egypt has stepped up promotion of its archeological treasures in hopes of reviving a tourism sector slow to recover from the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Discovery of hidden 3,500-year-old warrior grave stuffed with treasure could re-write ancient Greek history

Discovery of hidden 3,500-year-old warrior grave stuffed with treasure could re-write ancient Greek history

The 3,500-year-old remains of a prominent ancient warrior who has been buried alongside an assortment of riches have been uncovered by an American husband-and-wife team working in Greece.

In more than 65 years, it is considered the most significant finding made in continental Greece.

The undisturbed tomb, found in southwestern Greece by the University of Cincinnati archaeologists Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis, was discovered the hidden treasure.

For some time, the news of the discovery had been kept under wraps after the Greek authorities made the announcement. Stocker and Davis made the discovery while working near the Palace of Nestor, a site initially discovered back in 1939.

Four solid gold rings were uncovered, which is more than has been found in any other single burial in all of Greece

A pit of 5 feet deep, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long revealed during the excavation by the team.

The skeletal remains of a single individual—an unknown male between the age of 30 to 35 years—was found buried alongside an astounding assortment of riches, a strong indication that he was likely a warrior of significant importance.

Analysis of his remains suggests he was, in the words of the archaeologists, “strong, robust…well-fed.”

The unnamed warrior may have been royalty, the founder of a new dynasty, or even a trader who acquired his riches through commerce.

A stunning solid-gold necklace, measuring more than 30 inches long. It features two gold pendants on each end, decorated with ivy leaves.

The warrior was laid to rest with his many belongings, including fine gold jewellry, an ornate string of pearls, signet rings, silver vases, ivory combs, and a bronze sword with a gold and ivory handle.

The fact that he was buried alone and not in a common pit with others is yet another indication of his social importance.

A bronze mirror featuring an ivory handle.

The jewellery, adorned with figures of deities, animals, and floral motifs, was crafted in the style of the Minoans, a civilization that lived on the island of Crete from around 2,000 BC.

One of nearly 50 seal stones discovered. In all, some 1,400 objects were recovered from the grave.

The Mycenaean people spread from the Peloponnese across the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium BC, and represent the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece.

Mycenaean Greece came to end with the collapse of the Bronze-Age culture around 1,100 BC and inspired ancient Greek society, literature, and mythology.

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