Stories tagged Lost Egypt

May
02
2008

King or queen of Egypt: This statue depicts Akhenaten, a pharaoh of Egypt  who some believe suffered a rare genetic disease that gave him a very feminine appearance.
King or queen of Egypt: This statue depicts Akhenaten, a pharaoh of Egypt who some believe suffered a rare genetic disease that gave him a very feminine appearance.Courtesy Gérard Ducher
In the movies, Egyptian pharaohs have that manly-man look with rippling biceps, clean-shaved heads and steely eyes.

But upon further review, it’s considered that one of ancient Egypt’s leaders my have been – in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger – “a girly man.”

A recent conference that does posthumous analysis of the medical conditions of famous people through history, this year looked at the genetic make up of Akhenaten, a pharaoh whose reign was believed to be around 1353 BC to 1336 BC. He is also considered the likely father of Tutankhamun, better known to us today as King Tut.

Through analysis of statues and artistic renderings of Akhenaten, a Yale University doctor proposes that the pharaoh suffered from Marfan syndrome which makes males have a much more feminine appearance. The condition makes the body convert a larger share of male hormones into female hormones than what normally occurs in male bodies.

Through artistic depiction, Akhenaten strikes a more female pose, with long fingers, wider hips, larger breasts and female-shaped eyes. Also, Akhenaten had an egg-shaped head which might have been the result of problems of skull bones fusing at an early age.

Another view: Here's another statue of Akhenaten. Do you think he might have suffered from Marfan syndrome?
Another view: Here's another statue of Akhenaten. Do you think he might have suffered from Marfan syndrome?Courtesy Paul Mannix
Despite his female appearance, Akhenaten was a prodigious reproducer. His chief wife was Nefertiti, who is often depicted in Egyptian art. All total, Akhenaten was known to have fathered six daughters and may have also been the father of Tutankhamun.

But here’s the big caveat: The researchers acknowledge that these theories are based solely on their observations of Akhenaten from works of art. They’re hoping to get clearance from Egyptian officials to do DNA analysis on Akhenaten’s remains to see if there are signs of Marfan syndrome there.

BTW: Akhenaten is one of the more intriguing pharaoh’s from ancient Egypt. There are theories that he worked with, or even actually was, the Jewish prophet Moses. There is another theory that he was the source of the Greek’s creation of the Oedipus complex story. You can get more background on these Akhenaten theories at this Wikipedia page.

The historical medical conference, held this week at the University of Maryland, in past years as delved into the medical histories of such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander the Great, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Florence Nightingale.

Apr
17
2008

Walk to an Egyptian Pharaoh: This tunnel through another pharaoh's tomb in the Valley of the Kings gives an idea of the elaborate wall art that adorns such structures.
Walk to an Egyptian Pharaoh: This tunnel through another pharaoh's tomb in the Valley of the Kings gives an idea of the elaborate wall art that adorns such structures.Courtesy Sebi
Dig around in Egypt and you’ll never know what you’ll find. Archaeologists there have been poking around the huge tomb of Seti I, the largest known tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, only to discover that it’s 100 feet longer than originally thought.

The full details of the discovery can be found at this National Geographic link.

Seni I’s tomb was first discovered in 1817 and the burial chamber measured a whopping 328 feet long, about the length of a football field. Through the newly unearthed secret passages, an additional 100 feet of the tomb has now been discovered. And there could be more.

But in this new 100 feet of tomb space and tunnels, archaeologists have found more tomb wall art and other funerary artifacts. And there could be additional tunnels to discover branching off from these new passages.

An all-Egyptian team of archaeologists made this latest discovery. And they’ll keep on working in the Valley of the Kings. Graffiti found on walls of other tombs in the area state that there are nearby tombs for pharaohs Ramses VIII and Merenptah.

Mar
19
2008

Public project: Growing evidence in the Giza monument area of Egypt is showing that the work crews that built the pryamids were motivated by community or spiritual pride, erasing any lingering impressions that the work was done by slave labor.
Public project: Growing evidence in the Giza monument area of Egypt is showing that the work crews that built the pryamids were motivated by community or spiritual pride, erasing any lingering impressions that the work was done by slave labor.Courtesy en:User:Hajor
You know all about Habitat for Humanity, right? A huge group of people come together and under the guidance of a few experts, erect a house in just a few days for a needy family.

A variation on that same concept was very likely in play in building the great pyramids of the Giza Plateau. On going research at the archaeological site near Cairo, Egypt, is showing that a very organized process was at play in building those pyramids.

The clues are coming from the remains of a buried city south of the monuments. Archaeologists/Egyptologists Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass are overseeing the projects that are digging up this lost city and the adjoining graveyard.

They estimate that the city could have handled between 20,000 and 30,000 people. That population was made up a smaller group of permanent residents -– masons and artisans—who had the expertise in building and decorating the pyramids along with a crew of volunteer manual laborers who rotated into the workforce from their regular duties in the surrounding Egyptian countryside. Rounding out the population was a support crew that baked bread, processed food and handled other chores to keep a hard-working labor force fed and happy.

The latest evidence puts to rest any of the old “Hollywood” notions that the pyramids were built with slave labor toiling miserably under the hot sun.

So what are these new clues?

Hawass has found inscriptions inside of the pyramids that indicate that there were specific work crews on the job who were proud of their work. Graffiti found in out-of-the-way locations inside the pyramids bears that out.

“The workmen who were involved in building the Great Pyramid were divided into four groups, each group had a name, and each group had an overseer,” Hawass said in a recent interview. “They wrote the names of the gangs. You have the names of the gangs of Khufu as 'Friends of Khufu.' Because they were the friends of Khufu proves that building the pyramid was not really something that the Egyptians would push.”

Lehner adds that public production work has been a rallying point in other civilizations, including the Incas and Mesopotamians.

“I wonder if that wasn't the case with the Great Pyramid of Khufu. You know, it's almost like an Amish barnraising,” he says. “But you know, the Great Pyramid of Khufu is one hell of a barn.” And it took 20 years to complete instead of a few days.

He goes on to explain that Egyptian society likely was organized in a feudal system, where all members of the society owed some degree of service to their superiors. The concept, in Egyptian, is called bak. "But it doesn't really work as a word for slavery," Lehner says. "Even the highest officials owed bak."

Large-scale baking and meat-processing facilities have also been found in the buried town. Based on the large number of young animal bones and fish scales found on the site, workers ate well on the projects. The foundations of barracks, often as long as city blocks, show that there was a lot of temporary housing in the city.

Hawass’s work in the neighboring graveyards has also revealed some important clues. Regular workers were buried in simple graves near the town. Closer to the pyramids was a second graveyard where the high-skilled workers were buried. Their graves often contained markers that noted what special expertise they provided to the project.

Medical analysis of bones found in the cemetery show injuries that are consistent with working on a large-scale construction project. Says Hawass: “We found 600 skeletons. Number one, we know that they were Egyptians, the same like you see in every cemetery in Egypt. Number two, we found evidence that these people had emergency treatment. They had accidents during building the pyramids. We found 12 skeletons that had accidents with their hands. On another one, a stone fell down on his leg, and they made a kind of operation, and they cut his leg and he lived 14 years after that.”

In a day and age 5,000 years ago when most people’s lives were pretty simple, being part of building a pyramid could have served as a rallying point to bring people together. And with the prospect of building a great structure for the king who would become a god after he died, there was likely good motivation to curry favor in the afterlife in being part of such a project as well.

Links:
Harvard Magazine

National Geographic

PBS Nova

And here's a link to a seperate research project being done on graves of ordinary Egyptians further south of Giza.