Over the last few days, I have been bombarded with questions regarding the “discovery” of Nefertiti’s tomb. People are asking me if it’s true, has Nefertiti’s tomb been discovered? (There are several articles online…)
So what do I think? Well, first off, nothing was discovered. My colleague, Nick Reeves, believes that he has detected fissures in the painted walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb that may be indicative of entrances to previously unnoticed chambers. His hypothesis is based on the study of photographs and scans made of Tutankhamun’s tomb in order to create a facsimile of it.
That being said, the (obvious) next step is to verify whether these chambers actually exist. (Reeves himself has stated that his hypothesis needs to be verified in the field.) Considering that these supposed chambers are located behind the only two painted plaster walls of Tutankhamun’ tomb, this necessitates much cogitation and the approval of the Minister for Antiquities of Egypt. A geophysical survey is probably the way to go in determining if the rooms do exist. Geologists have all sorts of ground penetrating radars, magnetometers, etc… that could help.
If they do exist, only archaeological excavation will tell us if we are in fact dealing with the tomb of Nefertiti–and that’s going to be problematic to say the least. Let’s not forget that these supposed rooms are extensions of Tutankhamun’s tomb; one needs to find a way to enter said chambers without destroying the most well-known royal tomb in Egypt. However, like many colleagues, I think it is premature to put forth the identity of the owner of these chambers. Several Egyptologists have commented on the ‘discovery’ and many doubt that the previously unknown rooms could actually belong to the famous queen. (Read hereand hereand here, for example.)
So. Has Nefertiti’s tomb been discovered? My answer is no. It is much to early to confirm anything about anything at this point. Let’s just wait and see what happens… but many of us actually doubt the chambers even exist because they wouldn’t fit in the traditional architectural plan of tombs of this period.
I was rather quiet this week as I decided to stay away from my computer and rest after spending an entire month working on my Egyptology seminar. And by an entire month, I mean working every weekday—often late in the evening—and every weekend. When I work on PowerPoint presentations, I need to devote good chunks of time to them, not just a few minutes here and there, in between meetings and other little tasks. This means working when there are fewer colleagues around and/or not even signing into one’s email account (which normally results in receiving phone calls from colleagues when you don’t respond to urgent messages).
The theme of this year’s seminar was daily life in ancient Egypt as depicted on tomb walls from the Old Kingdom to the early New Kingdom (Eighteenth Dynasty until the reign of Amenhotep III, after which decorative schemes change significantly). There is more than meets the eye on those decorated tomb walls! I prepared four different lectures focusing on this theme, starting with the construction of a tomb. (Can’t decorate a tomb if you don’t have a tomb!) We looked at what goes on at a nobleman’s estate, family life and personal affairs, and the relationship between the Egyptians and their environment, specifically related to fauna. (The Egyptians were very keen observers of nature and this is illustrated in their tombs.) I did not explore Egypt’s flora as this will be the topic of the Weinberg Lecture of Egyptology next week.
The day-long seminar included an Egypt-inspired lunch and a baklava reception, where a lovely tea and hibiscus syrup concoction was also served. There even was a flower at the bottom of the cup! Quite delicious! I believe it was the signature drink for the Art in Bloom event mentioned in previous posts.
I went home rather tired at the end of the day; however, I was happy that the participants really enjoyed themselves and want to do it again next year… with a different theme, of course! Now, I’m taking advantage of the long Easter weekend to charge my batteries…
Today, I’m combining two chronicles—Did You Know? and ARCHAEO-Crush—using one group of artefacts: the Chinese Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
Did you know that on this day back in 1974 two local farmers in Xi’an came upon this incredible discovery while digging a well? Archaeologists soon arrived to investigate and the rest is history…
Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s terracotta army, intended to protect him in the Afterlife. (Photo taken by my Dad during his trip to Xi’an.)
CHINESE TERRACOTTA ARMY Type: artefact (funerary statuary) Civilisation: ancient China Date: 210–209 BCE ARCHAEO-Crush: I love those terracotta warriors and other figures. There are so many of them (more than 8000 soldiers, horses, chariots and non-military figures) and remarkably each one has individual features. There aren’t two alike! What I find utterly fascinating (and horrifying) is that the statues were fully painted, but in just a few minutes the pigments dry up and flake away with exposure to the dry air at the time of excavation. After much research, scientists and conservators have been able to consolidate the pigments with polyethylene glycol 200 (PEG200) and electron beam polymerization. I find conservation absolutely fascinating… You may have hear of PEG before as it is also used in the consolidation of water-logged wooden artefacts like Viking ships. Bucket list status: I have seen a selection of soldiers, chariots and horses in The First Emperor: China’sTerracotta Army, an exhibition held at the High Museum in Atlanta in 2008-09. I would definitely like to see them again, this time in China. It’s at the top of my bucket list! Additional info: UNESCO World Heritage 441
The science geeks interested in learning more about the conservation aspect can read the Getty’s 2010 Conservation of Ancient Sites along the Silk Road(PDF available online, at the virtual library on their website), which features a scientific article (pages 35-39) on the consolidation of the colour pigments of the terracotta army.
Yesterday’s archaeological discovery of the day was the tomb of an unknown queen–a woman named Khentkawes III–at Abusir in Egypt. The lady may have been the wife of King Neferefre of the Fifth Dynasty. You can read more about it in the Washington Post or Art Daily (the articles have different photos).