Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Gerzeh-bead

Think iron jewellery is down-to-earth? Not for the ancient Egyptians, it wasn’t. A 5300-year-old necklace bead found in an Egyptian tomb was made with iron from a meteorite.

Evidence for iron smelting in Egypt dates back to the 6th century BC, but archaeologists have found much older iron artefacts in the region, including in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Such artefacts are “pretty much exclusive to high-status tombs”, says Diane Johnson of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. Previous analyses of the oldest of these – nine iron beads from a cemetery near the Nile – proved inconclusive on their origins.

Now Johnson and colleagues have taken another look at one of the beads (pictured) and concluded that it is indeed from a meteorite. The surface of the bead had low levels of nickel, but the levels inside were as high as they would be in a meteorite.

But the clincher was evidence of a distinctive crystal structure – known as the Widmanstätten pattern – that only forms when iron and nickel cools very slowly, as it does in meteoroids (Meteoritics & Planetary Science, doi.org/mmb).

It is “very convincing” that the beads come from a meteorite, says Meenakshi Wadhwa of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21829195.500-ancient-egyptian-jewellery-carved-from-a-meteorite.html?cmpid=RSS|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news

sphinx-27small

The builders of the famous Giza pyramids feasted on food from a massive catering-type operation, the remains of which scientists have discovered at a workers’ town near the pyramids. The workers’ town is located about 1,300 feet (400 meters) south of the Sphinx, and was used to house workers building the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure, the third and last pyramid on the Giza plateau. The site is also known by its Arabic name, Heit el-Ghurab, and is sometimes called “the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders.”

So far, researchers have discovered a nearby cemetery with bodies of pyramid builders; a corral with possible slaughter areas on the southern edge of workers’ town; and piles of animal bones. Based on animal bone findings, nutritional data, and other discoveries at this workers’ town site, the archaeologists estimate that more than 4,000 pounds of meat – from cattle, sheep and goats – were slaughtered every day, on average, to feed the pyramid builders, Discovery News reported.

This meat-rich diet, along with the availability of medical care (the skeletons of some workers show healed bones), would have been an additional lure for ancient Egyptians to work on the pyramids.

“People were taken care of, and they were well fed when they were down there working, so there would have been an attractiveness to that,” Richard Redding, chief research officer at Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), a group that has been excavating and studying the workers’ town site for about 25 years, said.

“They probably got a much better diet than they got in their village,” he said.

At the workers’ town, which was likely occupied for 35 years, researchers have discovered a plethora of animal bones.

Although the researchers are still unsure of the exact number of bones, Redding estimates he has identified about 25,000 sheep and goats, 8,000 cattle and 1,000 pig bones, he wrote in a paper published in the book “Proceedings of the 10th Meeting of the ICAZ Working Group ‘Archaeozoology of southwest Asia and adjacent Areas’” (Peeters Publishing, 2013).

About 10,000 workers helped build the Menkaure pyramid, with a smaller work force present year-round to cut stones and complete preparation and survey work, the AERA team estimates.

This smaller work force would have ramped up for a few months starting around July of each year.

“What they would do is, for about four or five months a year, they would bring in a big work force to move blocks, and they would do nothing but move blocks,” Redding, who is also a research scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and a member of the faculty at the University of Michigan, said.

Needless to say, pyramid building is hard work. The workers would need at least 45 to 50 grams of protein a day, Redding said.

Half of this protein would likely come from fish, beans, lentils and other non-meat sources, while the other half would come from sheep, goat and cattle, he estimated.

Milk and cheese were probably not consumed due to transportation problems and the cattle’s low milk yield during that time, Redding said.

Combining these requirements and other protein sources with the ratio of the bones (and the amount of meat and protein one can get from an animal), Redding determined about 11 cattle and 37 sheep or goats were consumed each day.

This would be in addition to supplying workers with grain, beer and other products.

In order to maintain this level of slaughter, the ancient Egyptians would have needed a herd of 21,900 cattle and 54,750 sheep and goats just to keep up regular delivery to the Giza workers, Redding said.

http://www.phenomenica.com/2013/04/builders-of-giza-pyramids-ate-more-than-4000-pounds-of-meat-everyday.html

tanks

Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army’s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

“The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country,” said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant.

The Abrams dilemma underscores the challenge that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces as he seeks to purge programs that the military considers unnecessary or too expensive in order to ensure there’s enough money for essential operations, training and equipment.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, faces a daunting task in persuading members of Congress to eliminate or scale back projects favored by constituents.

Federal budgets are always peppered with money for pet projects. What sets the Abrams example apart is the certainty of the Army’s position.

Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress should listen when one of the military services says no to more equipment.

“When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them,” Kennedy said.

Congressional backers of the Abrams upgrades view the vast network of companies, many of them small businesses, that manufacture the tanks’ materials and parts as a critical asset that has to be preserved. The money, they say, is a modest investment that will keep important tooling and manufacturing skills from being lost if the Abrams line were to be shut down.

The Lima plant is a study in how federal dollars affect local communities, which in turn hold tight to the federal dollars. The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Jordan, a House conservative leader who has pushed for deep reductions in federal spending, supported the automatic cuts known as the sequester that require $42 billion to be shaved from the Pentagon’s budget by the end of September. The military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.

The plant is Lima’s fifth-largest employer with close to 700 employees, down from about 1,100 just a few years ago, according to Mayor David Berger. But the facility is still crucial to the local economy. “All of those jobs and their spending activity in the community and the company’s spending probably have about a $100 million impact annually,” Berger said.

Still, said Jordan, it would be a big mistake to stop producing tanks.

“Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that,” he said. “But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.”

The tanks that Congress is requiring the Army to buy aren’t brand new. Earlier models are being outfitted with a sophisticated suite of electronics that gives the vehicles better microprocessors, color flat panel displays, a more capable communications system, and other improvements. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army.

Out of a fleet of nearly 2,400 tanks, roughly two-thirds are the improved versions, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2, and service officials said they have plenty of them. “The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s,” Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army budget office, said this month.

The tank fleet, on average, is less than 3 years old. The Abrams is named after Gen. Creighton Abrams, one of the top tank commanders during World War II and a former Army chief of staff.

The Army’s plan was to stop buying tanks until 2017, when production of a newly designed Abrams would begin. Orders for Abrams tanks from U.S. allies help fill the gap created by the loss of tanks for the Army, according to service officials, but congressional proponents of the program feared there would not be enough international business to keep the Abrams line going.

This pause in tank production for the U.S. would allow the Army to spend its money on research and development work for the new and improved model, said Ashley Givens, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Ground Combat Systems office.

The first editions of the Abrams tank were fielded in the early 1980s. Over the decades, the Abrams supply chain has become embedded in communities across the country.

General Dynamics estimated in 2011 that there were more than 560 subcontractors throughout the country involved in the Abrams program and that they employed as many as 18,000 people. More than 40 of the companies are in Pennsylvania, according to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., also a staunch backer of continued tank production.

A letter signed by 173 Democratic and Republican members of the House last year and sent to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demonstrated the depth of bipartisan support for the Abrams program on Capitol Hill. They chided the Obama administration for neglecting the industrial base and proposing to terminate tank production in the United States for the first time since World War II.

Portman, who served as President George W. Bush’s budget director before being elected to the Senate, said allowing the line to wither and close would create a financial mess.

“People can’t sit around for three years on unemployment insurance and wait for the government to come back,” Portman said. “That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant.”

Pete Keating, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the money from Congress is allowing for a stable base of production for the Army, which receives about four tanks a month. With the line open, Lima also can fill international orders, bringing more work to Lima and preserving American jobs, he said.

Current foreign customers are Saudi Arabia, which is getting about five tanks a month, and Egypt, which is getting four. Each country pays all of their own costs. That’s a “success story during a period of economic pain,” Keating said.

Still, far fewer tanks are coming out of the Lima plant than in years past. The drop-off has affected companies such as Verhoff Machine and Welding in Continental, Ohio, which makes seats and other parts for the Abrams. Ed Verhoff, the company’s president, said his sales have dropped from $20 million to $7 million over the past two years. He’s also had to lay off about 25 skilled employees and he expects to be issuing more pink slips in the future.

“When we start to lose this base of people, what are we going to do? Buy our tanks from China?” Verhoff said.

Steven Grundman, a defense expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the difficulty of reviving defense industrial capabilities tends to be overstated.

“From the fairly insular world in which the defense industry operates, these capabilities seem to be unique and in many cases extraordinarily high art,” said Grundman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations during the Clinton administration. “But in the greater scope of the economy, they tend not to be.”

http://news.yahoo.com/army-says-no-more-tanks-115434897.html

last-supper-mosaic

A newly deciphered Egyptian text, dating back almost 1,200 years, tells part of the crucifixion story of Jesus with apocryphal plot twists, some of which have never been seen before.

Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text tells of Pontius Pilate, the judge who authorized Jesus’ crucifixion, having dinner with Jesus before his crucifixion and offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus. It also explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus — because Jesus had the ability to change shape, according to the text — and it puts the day of the arrest of Jesus on Tuesday evening rather than Thursday evening, something that contravenes the Easter timeline.

The discovery of the text doesn’t mean these events happened, but rather that some people living at the time appear to have believed in them, said Roelof van den Broek, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who published the translation in the book “Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ”(Brill, 2013).

Copies of the text are found in two manuscripts, one in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City and the other at the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Most of the translation comes from the New York text, because the relevant text in the Pennsylvania manuscript is mostly illegible.

Pontius Pilate has dinner with Jesus

While apocryphal stories about Pilate are known from ancient times, van den Broek wrote in an email to LiveScience that he has never seen this one before, with Pilate offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus.

“Without further ado, Pilate prepared a table and he ate with Jesus on the fifth day of the week. And Jesus blessed Pilate and his whole house,” reads part of the text in translation. Pilate later tells Jesus, “well then, behold, the night has come, rise and withdraw, and when the morning comes and they accuse me because of you, I shall give them the only son I have so that they can kill him in your place.”

In the text, Jesus comforts him, saying, “Oh Pilate, you have been deemed worthy of a great grace because you have shown a good disposition to me.” Jesus also showed Pilate that he can escape if he chose to. “Pilate, then, looked at Jesus and, behold, he became incorporeal: He did not see him for a long time …” the text read.

Pilate and his wife both have visions that night that show an eagle (representing Jesus) being killed.

In the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, Pilate is regarded as a saint, which explains the sympathetic portrayal in the text, van den Broek writes.

The reason for Judas using a kiss

In the canonical bible the apostle Judas betrays Jesus in exchange for money by using a kiss to identify him leading to Jesus’ arrest. This apocryphal tale explains that the reason Judas used a kiss, specifically, is because Jesus had the ability to change shape.

“Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man …” This leads Judas to suggest using a kiss as a means to identify him. If Judas had given the arresters a description of Jesus he could have changed shape. By kissing Jesus Judas tells the people exactly who he is.

This understanding of Judas’ kiss goes way back. “This explanation of Judas’ kiss is first found in Origen [a theologian who lived A.D. 185-254],” van den Broek writes. In his work, Contra Celsum the ancient writerOrigen, stated that “to those who saw him [Jesus] he did not appear alike to all.”

St. Cyril impersonation

The text is written in the name of St. Cyril of Jerusalem who lived during the fourth century. In the story Cyril tells the Easter story as part of a homily (a type of sermon). A number of texts in ancient times claim to be homilies by St. Cyril and they were probably not given by the saint in real life, van den Broek explained in his book.

Near the beginning of the text, Cyril, or the person writing in his name, claims that a book has been found in Jerusalem showing the writings of the apostles on the life and crucifixion of Jesus. “Listen to me, oh my honored children, and let me tell you something of what we found written in the house of Mary …” reads part of the text.

Again, it’s unlikely that such a book was found in real life. Van den Broek said that a claim like this would have been used by the writer “to enhance the credibility of the peculiar views and uncanonical facts he is about to present by ascribing them to an apostolic source,” adding that examples of this plot device can be found “frequently” in Coptic literature.

Arrest on Tuesday

Van den Broek says that he is surprised that the writer of the text moved the date of Jesus’ Last Supper, with the apostles, and arrest to Tuesday. In fact, in this text, Jesus’ actual Last Supper appears to be with Pontius Pilate. In between his arrest and supper with Pilate, he is brought before Caiaphas and Herod.

In the canonical texts, the last supper and arrest of Jesus happens on Thursday evening and present-day Christians mark this event with Maundy Thursday services. It “remains remarkable that Pseudo-Cyril relates the story of Jesus’ arrest on Tuesday evening as if the canonical story about his arrest on Thursday evening (which was commemorated each year in the services of Holy Week) did not exist!” writes van den Broek in the email.

A gift to a monastery … and then to New York
About 1,200 years ago the New York text was in the library of the Monastery of St. Michael in the Egyptian desert near present-day al-Hamuli in the western part of the Faiyum. The text says, in translation, that it was a gift from “archpriest Father Paul,” who, “has provided for this book by his own labors.”

The monastery appears to have ceased operations around the early 10th century, and the text was rediscovered in the spring of 1910. In December 1911, it was purchased, along with other texts, by American financier J.P. Morgan. His collections would later be given to the public and are part of the present-day Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The manuscript is currently displayed as part of the museum’s exhibition “Treasures from the Vault” running through May 5.

Who believed it?

Van den Broek writes in the email that “in Egypt, the Bible had already become canonized in the fourth/fifth century, but apocryphal stories and books remained popular among the Egyptian Christians, especially among monks.”

Whereas the people of the monastery would have believed the newly translated text, “in particular the more simple monks,” he’s not convinced that the writer of the text believed everything he was writing down, van den Broek said.

“I find it difficult to believe that he really did, but some details, for instance the meal with Jesus, he may have believed to have really happened,” van den Broek writes. “The people of that time, even if they were well-educated, did not have a critical historical attitude. Miracles were quite possible, and why should an old story not be true?”

http://www.livescience.com/27840-shape-shifting-jesus-ancient-text.html

 

What should have been a solemn occasion to mark the Egyptian man’s passing rapidly turned into a celebration once everyone got over the shock of him still being alive.

The 28-year-old suffered a heart attack while at work and doctors at a local hospital concluded he had died.

His family took the body back to his home village of Naga al-Simman in the province of Luxor and intended to bury him on Friday evening.

They washed and prepared him for the funeral, but when a local doctor arrived to sign the death certificate, she found something strange – the body was still warm.

A more detailed examination revealed he was still very much alive.

Al-Nubi’s mother fainted after being told the news, but the doctor soon managed to wake both the mum and son, so that they could join in a party with the rest of the funeral guests.

Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/898938-egyptian-man-declared-dead-but-wakes-up-before-funeral#ixzz1utstaFd8