Friday, 27 May 2016

Egyptian Dance performed by Anna Pavlova & Laurent Novikoff

Image via Pinterest
Egyptian dance performed by Anna Pavlova and Laurent Novikoff, 
 Photograph by E.O. Hoppé.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

In the Spotlight...the President of the Egypt Exploration Society

President of the Egypt Exploration Society, Professor Alan Lloyd


Born in Wolverhampton on September 24th, 1941, Professor Alan B Lloyd attended Tredegar Grammar School from 1953 to 1960. He graduated from University College of Swansea (now Swansea University) in 1963 (Classics) and The Queen's College Oxford in 1965 (Ancient Egyptian and Coptic). He was Laycock Student of Egyptology at Worcester College Oxford from 1965-8, where he graduated with an MA, and then a DPhil (Herodotus on Egypt) in 1972.

Professor Lloyd retired from Swansea University in 2006 after 39 years of teaching and currently holds the title of Professor Emeritus in the Department of History and Classics. He was elected FSA in 1987. Currently he is President of the Egypt Exploration Society and was the first chair of the Higher Education Credit Initiative Wales.

As a member of the Saqqara Epigraphic Project, sponsored jointly by the British Museum and the EES, Professor Lloyd worked in the Teti Pyramid Cemetery during the 1970's. He is the editor of many books for the Egypt Exploration Society and Kegan Paul International and is also the author of many publications on Egyptological and Classical subjects. He is an authority on the writings of the historian Herodotus and has served as Editor of the EES Excavation Memoirs and edited the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology from 1979 to 1985.

Professor Lloyd has also participated in many television and radio programmes on Egyptological and Classical subjects. Most recently, he acted as an adviser on the Ridley Scott film Exodus.

How did you first become interested in Egyptology?
Through an illustrated Bible which my father had. This was strengthened by the first year history classes at the grammar school I attended.

If you hadn’t followed the Egyptology career path, what else do you think that you would have chosen to do? 

Probably the law.

What were your best/worst subjects in school?
Latin my best. Music my worst.

What do you find most rewarding/challenging about being an Egyptologist?
The food for the imagination and the problem-solving challenges. The most challenging aspect would be keeping up-to-date.

What is the most memorable moment of your career so far?

Getting my DPhil at Oxford.

What is the most memorable class/lecture/talk you have ever had and why does it stick in your mind?
Of recent talks I’d rate highly Professor Stringer’s address at the opening of the Demon Conference (Swansea University 2016). It broke through the barriers which so often impede the study of religion.

If you had been around in the early days of the Egypt Exploration Society’s foundation, which member of the (then) Fund do you think you would have got along with best?
Francis Llewellyn Griffith.

What’s your take on the possibility that Tutankhamun’s tomb may reveal much more to it than previously thought?
Profound scepticism.

Do you collect anything yourself?
Postcards depicting places where I have lived.

If you could select one person from history to ask them a question, who would you choose and what would be the question?
Nelson. Why did he expose himself so obviously at Trafalgar?

Who would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?

Rowan Atkinson.

How would your friends describe you in 3 words?
I have no idea. You’d better ask some of them.

What is your favourite word?

What would be a good theme song for your life?
‘It’s a lovely day tomorrow’, by Al Bowlly.

And finally….

What exciting things does 2016 hold in store for you?A cruise as guest lecturer in the Western Mediterranean.
A holiday in Crete in the summer.

My thanks to Professor Lloyd for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Perfume by Ramses

In 1916, a new perfume company called Ramses was established by M. de Bertalot.  The luxury brand soon became a major exporter and opened offices in Paris and Istanbul.  The Egyptian theme was also featured on their shop which had five monumental figures of pharaohs in marble on the facade.  The building was destroyed in 1929 after the company closed.

Ramses' range of of perfumes were Egyptian inspired and included the following:

1917  Secret of the Sphinx
1918  Lotus Sacre
1919  Rose Antique
1920  Sidon
1920  Ioldys
1920  Ambre de Nubia
1920  Sphinx D'Or
1920  Ivresse d'Amour
1920  Chypre
1920  Origan
1920  Jasmin d'Egypte
1920  Hycsos
1920  Folie de Fleurs
1920  Folie d'Opium
1920  Douce Melodie

Below is the perfume bottle for Ambre de Nubie.  The bottle is in the shape of a lion canonic jar and was made by Baccarat glass.  The poster advert is from 1920, the year it was launched.

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Book Review

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers 
by Mary Roach 
Penguin Books 2003

I have come rather late to reading this book; it was published way back in 2003.  It was recommended to me by a friend, who knew that it would interest me as a researcher of 19th century Egyptian mummies and the strange uses they were subjected to.  She was not wrong – I found it immensely readable and couldn’t put it down. Stiff is an unlikely compelling book about what happens to our bodies when we die.  For thousands of years corpses have been subjected to numerous uses, be it for safety experiments such as reducing the impact of car crashes, used as fertilizer (yes…really!), medical cures (spoiler: eating human remains was one method of “curing” illnesses), or for scientific studies to name just a few.  Mary Roach’s book covers them all with a bold, curious and at times witty, journey into this largely unspoken world.

Television shows such as C.S.I., Silent Witness and Six Feet Under, give us glimpses into autopsies and funeral preparation, but there is so much more to know about the fate of bodies once the people they once were have gone.  Roach covers them all, seeking interviews with people engaged in these fields, and not being afraid to ask questions that we all secretly want to ask.  It is a well-researched book whose chapters cover a wide range of areas such as using human remains in surgery, testing injury tolerance, there is a discussion on the history of body snatching and information on how throughout the centuries dead bodies have been used for the advancement of medical science.  There is a chapter covering the use of remains to determine the authenticity of the Turin Shroud.  Human decay is also covered, as is a captivating discussion on the moral argument of when death occurs and in what part of the body the soul is seated.  Roach also looks at what it means to donate your body to science and where you may eventually end up.  Her marvelous footnotes add to the narrative, providing fascinating (and often funny but respectful) asides.

Roach can often be colourful with her descriptions and her style may be somewhat flippant for some readers. Also Stiff pulls no punches and those of a delicate stomach may wish to veto it on these grounds.  I however found it fascinating – it made me laugh (unusually, given the subject matter!), made me angry (experiments on animals strangely enough) and gave me plenty of food for thought, especially as to how I want my own body to be disposed of.  The book gives a unique approach to talking about issues that surround the subject of death and Roach really touches on what makes us human.  Ultimately Stiff leads you to ponder over the human race’s often-irrational attachment to the physical self. 

Mary Roach has written six books including Stiff:

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) (published in some markets as Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife)

My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places

Monday, 25 April 2016

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Research into Ancient Egyptian Shrews Reveal Species

Interesting article about shrews in Ancient Egypt in the Smithsonian Insider.  Here is a taster:
"Nocturnal, solitary and fiercely territorial the adult Egyptian pigmy shrew—one of the smallest mammals on earth—weighs just 7 grams. French zoologist Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire first described this tiny-eyed, pointy snouted insect eater in 1826 from 2,000-year-old mummified specimens excavated inside an ancient temple in Thebes, Egypt. He named it Crocidura religiosa, or the sacred shrew.
“Egyptian pilgrims coming to worship a god would buy a mummified shrew from the temple priest and present it as a votive offering,” explains Neal Woodman, shrew expert and U.S. Geological Survey Curator of Mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. “One way of getting your request to the gods was to have a messenger.” A mummified shrew or other animal associated with a particular god served as that messenger.
Today, C. religiosa and other ancient shrew mummies are the emissaries of a different message. Using X-rays to penetrate their linen-wrapped bodies, with “the right angle and a good image of the skull,” Woodman is able to identify what species they are. “I’ve been working with an Egyptian archaeologist who is also interested in animal mummies and animal mummification. I have been identifying shrews from the images that she sends me. It’s been interesting.”
Six species of mummified shrews have been identified, Woodman explains. “Of these, one species is extinct, and another no longer occurs in Egypt.” He is now attempting to create a simple identification key to the various shrew species of Egypt, one that archaeologists who find shrew mummies in temples around Egypt can use."
Image via Smithsonian Inside
Read full article here

Afternoon Tea at the Pyramid

This photograph really evokes a past elegance of travel to Egypt

View from a guest room in the late 1920s at Mena House, Egypt
Image via Mena House Hotel