Ancient Egypt Today


The iconic mask of Tutankhamun (Source: Wikipedia).

ITV commissions four part drama Tutankhamun

“ITV has commissioned the epic and compelling story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of one of ancient Egypt’s forgotten pharaohs, the boy-king Tutankhamun.

The four-part event mini series written by leading screenwriter Guy Burt (Jekyll and Hyde, The Bletchley Circle, The Borgias) will focus on the legendary personal story of Carter, a solitary man on the edge of society who became an iconic figure and an unlikely hero.

Set against the great sweep of ochre sands, looming cliffs and baking heat of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, the story unfolds from 1905 when Carter, an eminent British archaeologist who we meet in his early 20’s, is fervently leading an expedition. Amidst the chaos scattered across the Valley floor, Carter’s grim determination to find lost antiquities is only too apparent. He has an easy manner with the Egyptian men who work alongside him, but when tempers fray Carter is hotheaded and puts the dig and his career in jeopardy.

With his license to dig revoked by Cairo’s Antiquities Service, Carter spends years ostracised, dishevelled and living rough and resorting to selling previously discovered archaeological relics to buy food.

A chance meeting with British aristocrat, the very dashing, suave and eccentric Lord Carnarvon, brings a change of fortunes as the enthusiastic amateur needs an experienced archaeologist to help him with a series of random excavations. Carter and Carnarvon begin the most unlikely friendship, in spite of their differences of background and character. Privileged and fast living, Carnarvon keeps faith with Carter and continues to back him when no one else will. After years of searching for the tomb, Carter and Carnarvon successfully discover the last resting place of the boy-king in 1921 against all odds and at great personal expense.

The drama will be executive produced by ITV Studios Creative Director of Drama Francis Hopkinson (Home Fires, Jekyll & Hyde, Lucan, Wallander) and Catherine Oldfield (Home Fires, Collision, Foyle’s War). Simon Lewis (The C Word, The Paradise, Five Daughters) will produce with Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Hannibal Rising, The Stretford Wives) directing the series. Filming will take place in South Africa during the winter of 2015 and early part of 2016.

“Howard Carter’s discovery of the lost tomb of Tutankhamun is legendary,” said Francis. “His all-consuming, obsessive search for the tomb pushed his friendship with Lord Carnarvon to the brink, whilst the adventurous and extrovert aristocrat poured his inheritance into the excavation.”

Catherine added: “This is a fascinating and compelling story with real historical significance. It’s based on true events and reveals how Carter desperately tries to persuade his patron (Carnarvon) to continue to bankroll the excavation. Ultimately it’s the story of what happens when you stake everything on one last roll of the dice.”

ITV Director of Drama Steve November and Controller of Drama Victoria Fea have commissioned the series.

“Tutankhamun is a story of epic proportions,” said Steve. “Against the backdrop of World War One, conflict, murder, corruption, romance and the unlikeliest of friendships, Tutankhamun sees Howard Carter’s determination pay off in spectacular style when he discovers one of the greatest archaeological treasures of the modern world,” added Steve.”

Details of casting will be available in the coming months.

ITV Studios Global Entertainment will distribute Tutankhamun internationally. 


Thursday Photo


The Karnak temple complex

This week’s photo is courtesy of the Egyptology Facebook page.


Tuesday Tomb – KV23


View of the burial chamber of KV23 (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

KV23 is the Theban tomb of Ay, the penultimate pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Ay rose to prominence under Akhenaten and was permitted to build himself a tomb at Amarna. By this stage, he had risen to the very high rank of ‘Overseer of all of the horses of his Majesty’. He rose again to become Chief Vizier under Tutankhamun and acted as his advisor along with the General Horemheb. When Tutankhamun died without an heir, Ay took advantage of the power vacuum and quickly assumed the throne.

Scene from Tutankhamun’s tomb depicting Ay performing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony for Tutankhamun (Source: Wikipedia).

There are many theories surrounding Ay’s involvement in Tutankhamun’s death. It is widely accepted that Horemheb intended to succeed Tutakhamun but Ay managed to seize the throne instead. Horemheb finally because king upon the death of Ay. A campaign of damnatio memoriae (damnation of memory) was carried out and the images and cartouches of Ay were defaced (below).

Ay and his ka before Hathor (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

It is not certain whether KV23 was originally intended for Ay. Some scholars believe that the tomb was originally intended for Amenhotep IV, Smenkhare, or Tutankhamun. Whoever it was intended for, it was the last tomb used in the Western Valley.

The decoration in the tomb is unusual in the sense that only the burial chamber was decorated which appears to indicate a lack of time. The burial chamber is decorated with scenes from the Amduat and the Book of the Dead.

Scene depicting the Four Sons of Horus as deified kings of Upper and Lower Egypt (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

One scene shows the king fowling in the marshes (below). This is unusual as this type of scene was only used in the tombs of nobles and not in royal tombs of the New Kingdom. The scene has strong connotations of rebirth and fertility.

Ay fowling with a throwstick in the marshes (Source: Theban Mapping Project).

The red granite sarcophagus was found broken into fragments. This was almost certainly part of the campaign of damnatio memoriae. It was reconstructed and returned to the tomb in 1994 (facing the wrong way). Ay’s mummy has not yet been found.

Bibliography and further reading:

Theban Mapping Project – KV23: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_837.html – including photographs, description and tomb plans.

Tour Egypt – KV23, The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings: http://m.touregypt.net/featurestories/ayt.htm – including images and description.

Osirisnet – Ay: http://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/pharaons/ay/e_ay_01.htm – including images, description, tomb plans, and a virtual tour of the tomb.

Reeves, N & Wilkinson, R.H. 1996. The Complete Valley of the Kings. Thames and Hudson: London.

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NEWS: American archaeologists discover inscribed stelae at ancient mining site


(Source: Luxor Times).

“Dr. Mamdouh El Damaty, Minister of Antiquities, announced today the discovery of three Middle Kingdom steles bear important inscriptions.
The discovery is a result of the American-Egyptian expedition led by Dr. Kate Liszka and Bryan Kraemer in Wadi El-Hudi area. 

Wadi El-Hudi is an area 35km southeast of Aswan that is made up of many archaeological sites, consisting of fortified settlements, amethyst mines, and rock inscriptions. Egyptians mined this region during the Middle Kingdom and the Roman period. The state of preservation of the settlement areas is astonishing; the distribution of artifacts on the surface allows for a reconstruction of the various activities that took place at Wadi el-Hudi over three-thousand years ago. 

The area was first discovered in 1917 and has been intermittently studied by geologists and archaeologists since. In the 1940’s Ahmed Fakhry conducted a survey of the area, where he identified 14 archaeological sites and recorded over 100 inscriptions. Ahmed Fakhy identified the link to Pharaoh Mentuhotep IV of the 11th Dynasty. 
In the 1990s the sites were also visited by Ian Shaw, Robert Jameson, Rosemarie Klemm and Dietrich Klemm as part of large studies of Egyptian mining operations. The Wadi el-Hudi Expedition was launched in May of 2014 to continue studying the area and to yield answers to questions of settlement planning, organization of state-sponsored projects, the mechanics of semiprecious stone mining, interactions between Nubians and Egyptians, literacy among a soldiering class, and much more. Since the beginning of their work, the expedition has identified new, unknown archaeological sites and a dozen more inscriptions that were previously unpublished.
Dr. Mamdouh El Damaty said that the inscriptions on the steles suggest its link to a fortified settlement. Even though many of the inscriptions have faded with time by the expedition is using RTI technology (Reflectance Transformation Imagine) which helps to identify more of the less visible inscriptions.  
Dr. Mahmoud Afifi, head of the Egyptian antiquities department, said “The area of Wadi El-Hudi contains a number of amethyst mines and many Egyptian expeditions were sent to bring stones from there at the time of the Middle Kingdom to use for jewellery.”

“Two of the discovered steles mentioned the year 28th of Senusret I’s reign as well as information on the expeditions were sent to the site.” Dr. Afifi added.
The expedition is sponsored by Princeton University” – via Luxor Times.

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Hello, mummy!

This week’s instalment focuses on another of the Ramesside kings, Ramesses III.

The mummy of Ramesses III (Source: Eternal Egypt).

Ramesses III was the second pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty. He was the son of Setnakhte who was king before him. He had many children including three future kings: Ramesses IV, Ramesses VI, and Ramesses VIII.

Ramesses III ruled for around 31 years which is a relatively long rule in comparison to other ancient Egyptian kings. He is considered to be one of the last great Egyptian rulers as he maintained power over Egypt until the end of his reign when economic decline and invasions weakened the country’s power.

Scene from Medinet Habu depicting Ramesses III in battle with the Sea Peoples (Source: Teaching The Middle East).

Throughout his reign, Ramesses III managed to repel invasions from the Sea Peoples and Libyans, including two successful battles against the Sea Peoples in Year 5 of his reign. The cost of the battles contributed to the economic decline of Egypt seen at the end of Ramesses III’s reign.

Papyrus transcripts of trials held during this king’s reign indicate that there was a plot to assassinate him which was instigated by one of his wives, Tiye. Known as the ‘harem conspiracy’, the plot was developed in order to decide who would inherit the throne. Approximately thirty eight people were sentenced to death and the tombs of Tiye and her son were robbed and their names obliterated.

The temple at Medinet Habu (Source: Wikipedia).

One of Ramesses III’s greatest triumphs was his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu (above) which he completed around Year 12 of his reign. The walls are decorated with scenes depicting his victories over the invading Sea Peoples.

It is not clear whether Ramesses III was assassinated; however, he died the same year that the trial records were written. Ramesses IV succeeded him as planned. In 2011, a documentary revealed that the mummy of the king had excessive bandaging around the neck. A CT scan revealed a knife wound deep enough to reach the vertebrae, a wound that would have certainly caused death.

The sarcophagus of Ramesses III (Source: Wikipedia).

The mummy of Ramesses III was discovered in 1886 and his tomb, KV11, is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings. He was wrapped in an orange shroud. His body was discovered in DB320, a royal mummy cache, in a replacement cartonnage coffin which was placed inside the huge coffin of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. His own granite sarcophagus (above) is currently housed within the Louvre and his mummy rests in the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

You can view an artists’ reconstruction of his face here:


NEWS: New excavations in the Valley of the Kings


(Source: Luxor Times).

“Dr. Mamdouh El Damaty told Luxor Times today that an Egyptian mission will start excavation in the valley of the Kings on the 1st of August.
This will be the second time in history for an Egyptian mission to excavate in the Pharaohs’ burial place for over 500 years.
The first mission was led by Dr. Zahi Hawass.
The new mission will be under direct supervision of the minister of Antiquities and led by Dr. Mostafa Waziry with field director Salah El Masekh and will excavated in the areas to the north and south of Ramses IV tomb (KV2) which was last excavated in 1902″ – via Luxor Times.

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Thursday Photo


An Isis-priest holding a statue of Osiris-Canopus found off the coast of Alexandria.

This week’s photo is courtesy of the Franck Goddio Facebook page.


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