Monday, November 22, 2010

The End of the Minoan Civilization

If you ignore the distracting suggestions that Crete could be Atlantis, this is a very interesting documentary, setting forth very strong evidence that it was tsunamis created by the devastating eruption of the Thera volcano that ended the Minoan civilization. Scientists have estimated, by the evidence, that a tsunami 20 meters high crashed into the island at 10-20 mph and was, in fact, just one of a series of great waves generated by the blast. You can watch the entire program on your computer.
Meanwhile, I'm still of the opinion that some of the peoples of the Aegean had time to flee between the initial eruption and the cataclysmic one and were refugees in Egypt near the time of Ahmose I and that is why his mother was called "the mistress of the Hau-nebu", the foreigners who came from the islands of the sea.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Plight of the Samaritans

The Samaritans are a small and ancient sect, half of them living near Nablus, Jordan, and the other in Holon, Israel. They are growing now in number but, around the time of WW I, there were less than 200 souls existing among them. The Samaritans broke with the Jews many centuries ago when the tribes split into separate kingdoms, that of Israel/Samaria [north] and that of Judah [south] but. like the Jews, they continue to revere the Torah.
Because the Samaritan people rejected the idea of marrying anyone outside their own group for a very long time, when their number began to dwindle precariously all this inbreeding began to take a terrible toll. Although I have studied the Samaritan culture for many years and knew there were some problems, I never realized how many severely handicapped persons were living within the culture until I saw a fascinating documentary, "New Samaritans", ten minutes of which can be seen on You Tube here:
High Priest Shalom Cohen [above] was part of the documentary and dies during it. This was about seven years ago and a relative is now the High Priest or Cohen Gadol of the Samaritans, their undisputed leader. Shalom Cohen was a very remarkable man who looked like someone who had just stepped out of the Old Testament. He was fluent in several languages and a member of the Palestinian Parliament. According to the documentary, it was up to him to decide whether Samaritan men could marry foreign women and his answer was apparently "yes". However, quite a few years ago, once the state of Israel was established, there were so many more Samaritan males than females that it was deemed justifiable for the men to marry Jewish women as long as the wives were amenable to living according to Samaritan ways. But there were not very many modern Israeli girls who were willing to accept the terms which included living in seclusion during menstruation. Now, it appears, some Samaritan men are beginning to marry Ukrainian women who are much farther removed from their culture than Israeli women ever could be and this worries some of the Samaritans considerably. Even watching ten minutes of the documentary will make one aware of the dilemma these people face.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The DNA of Moses?

This gets complicated as everything to do with DNA seems to be. Not that long ago scientists decided to see if men with the surname of Cohen [or its variants] really did have a common ancestor. It turns out, in many cases, that
they did. However, their exact same Y-DNA was also borne by males who had other surnames. Why this is can be explained by the fact that Jews did not have last names until fairly recently in the history of the world and had to purchase them or acquired one by some means or another. Therefore, one can conclude that many Jewish men knew they were cohanim, descended from the priestly caste, and took the name Cohen, accordingly, but other of their co-religionists had lost track of their ancestry or simply preferred another surname. Also, in more modern times, some Jews changed their last names to ones which were not so obviously Jewish.
Moreover, not all men with the surname of Cohen belong to the same DNA haplogroup and those, also, share Y-DNA with other Jewish males with different last names. If one man is of a different haplogroup than another, there is a good chance they are not related or that, even if they once had a common ancestor, the Y-DNA of their lines became altered at some point. There are several means by which this can happen, one of which is that a man who has no son adopts one, perhaps a child of his wife from a previous marriage or one of her relatives. If that man had a brother who had natural sons, there are now two collateral branches of the same family with the capability of propagating themselves into the future, but the scions of each having a different Y-DNA.
Statistically, however, it has been determined that the most likely haplogroup for a cohen who is really a descendant of Aaron the Priest is J1[with a refinement of J1c3, also called J-P58], this haplogroup definitely having its roots in the Middle East. Since Moses was the younger brother of Aaron and the Bible does not say they had different fathers, the following is his predicted 12 marker DNA, matching that of the modern J1 Cohens who were tested by Family Tree DNA:
/12/23/14/10/13/15/11/16/12/13/11/30/ with additional markers seeming to be:

"And Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she bore him Aaron and Moses; and the length of Amram’s life was one hundred and thirty-seven years." Exodus 6:20

Thutmose IV Only Reigned About A Decade

Below is my painting of Sennefer and his wife, Hatshepsut, the remains of a dyad in the Paris Louvre. My conclusion is that this sculpture was begun in the reign of Amenhotep II and finished in that of Thutmose IV.

Just how much the face of Thutmose differed from that of his sire, Amenhotep, is clearly illustrated in the pair statue. How charming this couple is--and how somehow very modern! In the New Kingdom, it was quite usual for the nobility to be portrayed with the face of the current sovereign, men and women alike. That is why so many husbands and wives in Egyptian art seem to have the same face. But not Sennefer and Hatshepsut.

Arthur Weigall saw the lower parts of five statues in a certain cenotaph at Gebel Silsileh, which he describes in his "A Guide To the Antiquities of Egypt":

"(West Bank) A roofless tomb is now reached, in which the lower parts of five statues can be seen. These and the scenes on the walls show that a certain Sennefer was buried here with his wife, Hatshepsut, these names dating them to the 18th Dynasty. Sennefer was a libation priest of Amen attached to the palace at Thebes, and seems to have been the son of the "Royal Son, Governor of the lands of the South", Usersatet and of Anun his wife. The Lady Hatshepsut was the daughter of the chief nurse of the king, named Hemttaui, and her husband Seninefer, a priest.[More recent Egyptologists have interpreted these relationships differently.] Other relatives were a High Priest of Horuar and Sebek of Ombo, a High Priest of Nekheb (at El Kab), a Priest of Khnum, and others whose names and titles are now lost. On the north wall Sennefer and his wife are seen seated before a table of offerings, while before them a male harper plays upon a large harp and two nude women, one playing a stringed instrument, dance for the amusement of these dead persons, etc., etc...."

Sennefer, then , was a very grand person, indeed, the son of a Viceroy of Kush. The countenance of Sennefer first struck me by its beauty and by the fact that it looks enough like the face of the mummy of King Thutmose IV to be his twin! Whether the priest was an actual relative of Menkheperure cannot be known for certain but the cenotaph definitely indicates that it was begun in the time of Amenhotep II. In fact, the Lady Hatshepsut has features that match those of that pharaoh's mummy. So, what may have happened is that the sculptor began the group with the figure of the wife during one reign and finished Sennefer's image in the next. Such is the twist of fate that give Hatshepsut the more rugged face of Amenhotep and her husband the beauty of Thutmose IV. In my view, this much-damaged work of art is a powerful argument that the king was already a grown man upon the death of his father (at least in oriental terms) and was, indeed, thirteen years old at minimum. Since we have numerous tomb paintings from the time of Thutmose IV, we can easily recognize the full lips that sit so closely beneath the blunt , slightly aquiline nose of Sennefer--as we have seen these features drawn many times before, almost in caricature. Yet Sennefer's portrait shows us, for the first time, how attractive they were in actuality. The features certainly do not suggest those of a lad of thirteen. Since Thutmose IV is thought to have reign about nine years and his mummy seems to be one of a man of around thirty, a twenty-year-old is more likely portrayed. The name of Sennefer's wife is also significant. While Queen Hatshepsut reigned, there were probably a number of Egyptian girls called after her, including a young wife of Thutmose III. Therefore, the spouse of Sennefer had to be born previous to the proscription of the name of Hatshepsut, which began sometime at the end of the reign of Menkheperre T III. This indicates that the dyad was begun when Hatshepsut, Sennefer's lady, was more than forty years old, around the time of the death of Amenhotep II. The cenotaph may be seen here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hand On Tut's Crown

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photos that seem to refute the conventional wisdom that Metropolitan artifact 50.6

shows the hand of the god, Amun, resting upon the khepresh-crown of a diminuative child king, Tutankhamun, formerly Tutankhaten. I maintain the hand is that of a female, having the pointed thumb of a woman and her slender fingers. I submit my own thumb for comparison.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Hardy Family Forever

Time-traveling back to the 1930's and 40's is easy and stress-free because the mores, fashions, and automobiles are captured on films we can pop right into our video players. For a little while, we are "right there", especially if the movies are good enough to draw us in, even wish we could be there. As I am now suffering from a debilitating illness and can't do much, I am watching my collection of "Andy Hardy" movies, which I have loved since I was a kid and which still have the ability to make me laugh out loud. Even at this not very good time in my life. Depicted above is the family of Judge James Hardy of Carvel, except the woman on the left is not the regular "Aunt Milly", a spinster and school teacher who lived in the household [usually played by the likeable Sara Haden]. Next to her is Marian, Andy's older sister, the Judge, Andy and Mrs. Hardy.

While many things about the film series, which began in the late '30's and ended in 1947 with "Love Laughs At Andy Hardy", seem quaint, corny and dated, the pictures also have a timeless quality due to pretty good scripts with clever, funny dialogue and top-notch emoting by the principle characters. Mickey Rooney as Andy was a young prodigy of an actor who could do just about anything, including singing and dancing. Rooney seemed to be bursting with energy and, as his cinematic father told someone in "Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever", "We have that volcano for breakfast, lunch and dinner." Andy, of course, is always in trouble of some kind and it usually involves a transient romance in some fashion. A lot of the time he is at odds with his home-town sweetheart, Polly Benedict, played by Ann Rutherford. But his father, the Judge, is always there to counsel him. In a way, Lewis Stone was the cement that held these MGM movies together. And they raked in millions for the studio. One of the most popular men in America of the era, Stone got even more fan mail than Mickey Rooney. He was the dad everybody wished they had, unless the person was so lucky as to have a father with a beautiful smile and twinkling eyes, who was as wise and good-humored as James Hardy. Stone, who made numerous films beginning in the Silent Era, was a master who made acting look easy and spoke dialogue like it was just natural conversation he was thinking up as he went along. Every facial expression, every vocal inflection was perfect. Lewis Stone acted with his whole being and his scenes with Mickey Rooney are especially wonderful.

Exactly where the small town of Carvel was supposed to be is not very clear. It seems to be not very far from New York City as in several pictures of the series it wasn't a great undertaking to get there but in "Love Finds Andy Hardy" a young ham radio operator gives West Coast call letters. Still, there is snow on the ground in winter. Even though Lewis Stone was only in his late 50's when the series began and quite a handsome guy in a distinguished, white-haired way, [he had been Greta Garbo's most frequent leading man] Mickey Rooney kissed Mrs. Hardy, played by Fay Holden, with a lot more enthusiasm than the Judge. Andy kisses his mom on the lips and hugs her lovingly while she has to be mostly content with a distracted peck on the cheek from her husband. In fact, with the exception of occasional bursts of insight, Mrs. Hardy is normally a ditz, even though the intellectual Judge seems eternally amused by this fact. Perhaps that's the way Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, who personally supervised the Hardy pictures, visualized family life. The wife is just dedicated to her family and the kitchen and the husband is paternal but sexless. Judge Hardy calls his wife "Mother" a lot [ he wasn't the only one and why this did not drive wives of the time crazy I don't know] and his beautiful twenty-ish daughter "Honey". Oddly, the Judge always stands very near Marian when they have a conversation and seldom fails to place an arm around her. Was a man supposed to feel closer to, have more affection for his daughter than his spouse? Even the photo above tells the same story. Marian is nearly cheek-to-cheek with her father while Andy has an arm about his mother's neck. A little Oedipus and Electra, anyone? Andrew, being a highschool boy for most of the series is naturally oversexed, but never really gets excited and his passion for kissing Polly and a string of other girls [Hollywood starlets got their start in these movies] is regarded by himself and everyone else as "good, clean fun". Andy's only reaction seems to be "Woo! Woo!" Well, times have changed, no question, and while life in Carvel pre and during World War II seemed a lot less complex than it is today, there are some odd family dynamics in the Andy Hardy series. Oh, well, no matter. Most people never noticed--or thought it was perfectly ordinary--and the pictures hold up as entertainment gems that tickle the funnybone and evoke the whole gamut of emotions. Like when Andy maintains boys don't hate their fathers no matter how much they punish them and Judge Hardy quietly wonders "Don't they, Andy?", regarding his son in such a way that can hardly fail to bring a tear to the eye. In the same 1939 film the Judge says, "Heaven only knows what this generation has coming." Prophetic words, indeed.
Ironically, the man who was America's favorite dad during the late 30's until after the war barely knew his own father. Bertrand Stone, a shoemaker, died of blood poisoning in Worcester, MA, when he was only forty and his little son, Lewis, only six. After a brief stay in Boston, Lewis Stone grew up in New York City. When he was already a young man in 1911, a distant cousin of Lewis was born in the state of New York and her name was Lucille Ball.
And there is the sight of a very young, adorable Judy Garland in three of the Hardy films, with her little girl speaking voice which can suddenly sing like a grown woman makes a lump form in the throats of those of us who know what her future was to bring.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Imitation Is Pure Flattery

In the previous post I mentioned the kinds of ancient portraiture I use in my artistic reconstructions of the faces of the royal mummies. Now I am taking the opportunity to discuss one of them, perhaps the most fortuitous. For some reason it was the custom for the nobles and officials of Egypt to have themselves portrayed with the face of the current monarch--and their wives as well. The down side of this convention is that we have missed knowing what these ladies and gentlemen looked like, themselves. On the other hand, it would happen that the artisans who created these portraits often did not trouble to flatter [or perhaps idealize] the pharaoh as much as they did when executing his own likenesses. Therefore the statues, etc., of the nobles provide very helpful insight into how these kings really appeared. Also, it is often possible to date this art to a certain reign just by studying the features.

Those of us who have studied the faces of the pharaohs at length recognize them when we see them--even spot modern ringers for these defunct Egyptian kings. As you can see the face of Seti I, below, you might be interested in a dyad that I have assigned to his reign. Both husband and wife, while looking a bit different, serve to highlight various aspects of the king's face--his large eyes, flaring nostrils, full lips and rather full cheeks. Compare their faces to that of their master.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Forensic Method Reconstructions--Hate Them

It's a fad that has been going on for some time now--creating skulls from radiological images of Egyptian mummies, royal or common, and then making so-called "portraits" of these defunct people using the forensic method. This method has certain guidelines for how much "flesh" [be that clay or just while doing a virtual image] goes onto certain parts of the skull. It was always meant to be a "better than nothing" approximation of the appearance of a dead individual in hopes someone might be able to identify him or her from it. And the result always looks pretty lifeless, too, and only marginally accurate. From the forensic method, there is no way to know what the shape of the nose was [except perhaps how high the bridge] or that of the lips or eyes.

One needs only see the results some reconstructors got using the method from a manufactured skull of Tutankhamun without being told who the subject was. None of them looked alike and none resembled ancient portraits of the pharaoh.

I maintain that, without using ancient portraits for guidelines, these reconstructions are simply useless and to pass them off as how the person once looked a travesty. I have done artistic reconstructions of mummies utilizing large photos of the heads and tracing over them in order to obtain the correct dimensions. One of the best ones I have done is of King Seti I. But I also used likenesses of him executed by the artists of his reign. They were crucial in obtaining a pretty accurate and life-like portrait. Judge for yourself and compare my method to the forensic one. The perspective or angle of the face is the same as the photograph of the head of Seti I in the book, "The Royal Mummies" by Prof. Elliot Smith. Obviously, the photographer was crouched down and so the chin is closest to the camera. I didn't bother with royal headgear as the face is magnificent by itself. The head of the mummy is shaved.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Beauty of the Cairo Egyptian Museum


Click on images to enlarge them.

At left is one of the most wonderfully executed pieces of sculpture in the Cairo Egyptian Museum. What you see is the wife of Nakhtmin, part of a dyad with her husband, at right. The work was created during the reign of the pharaoh, Ay, and, as was the fashion, the faces of Nakhtmin and his spouse were carved as beautified versions of the features of Ay, himself. That is why, facially, Nakhtmin and the lady appear very much alike, although the face of the female is considerably destroyed. However, placing a sheet of transparent paper over a larger image of the ruined face, I was able to restore it to its former dimensions. The nose is nearly wholly missing, but I was able to realize how it had appeared from the general shape of the one of Nakhtmin. Had it been found intact, this dyad would have been one of the most breath-taking artistic masterpieces in the museum. Actually, it still is.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another Wife For King Tut?

The scene at left is from the tomb of Amenhotep [also called Huy] and depicts Nubians bringing tribute to Tutankhamun. This section of the longer scene shows a lady accompanied by some men and the caption next to them reads " children of the chiefs of all countries" [of the southern regions]. These are, unlike the other foreigners in the painting, dressed in Egyptian-style costume and jewelry. Note, however, that a new style seems to be involved as the people from the south have straps on the heels of their white sandals and beads descend from their upper armlets. The lady appears to be wearing a golden diadem, which perhaps has golden elements hanging from it that cover her hair. Either that, or she is wearing a blonde wig or has had her own hair bleached by some method. Perhaps this woman and her companions are part of the tribute, a suit for peace that includes much gold and the children of some chieftain--especially the young woman, as females were not emissaries, normally. It would not be far fetched to conclude that the lady is intended as a wife of the pharaoh, Tutankhamun, and there is no other conceivable reason for her presence.
The status of the female is further indicated by the fact that she stands alone, here and in her ox-drawn chariot farther back in the scene, while her compatriots are shown in groups.

Tutankhamun, as we know, already had a wife named Ankhesenamun, his close relative, but the kings of Egypt were not monogamous as a rule. If this Kushite girl was given to Tut in a political marriage, she would have been secondary to the Great Wife, Ankhesenamun, however. That we do not see this girl depicted with Tutankhamun in a wifely role would not have been unusual, either. In the 18th Dynasty, lesser wives were not depicted with their royal husbands.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thutmose IV

Talk about your "wayback machine", there is ReoCities, who were nice enough to save some of my articles, including this one about Thutmose IV, which addresses his age upon accession:

I think you'll like my rendering of a dyad in the Louvre, which shows the husband of the couple with the features of Thutmose IV:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coincidences? Beware--weird stuff!

About the curse of King Tut...well...I am not a believer in curses but I have to admit there are some strange coincidences there. For one thing, has anybody ever noticed how much Lord Carnarvon resembles Ay, the man who succeeded Tutankhamun as pharaoh? I don't have a good photo of the plaster mask from Amarna that is surely Ay but everybody knows what it looks like. Compare it to this photo of the Earl. Same little narrow eyes, long thin face and nose. Many members of the Amarna family had large heads and someone once wrote that Lord Carnarvon had such an elongated skull that he had to have his hats specially made.

Some believe that Amenhotep III, Tut's grandfather, married a woman of Semitic ancestry and, judging by the face of the mummy of Queen Tiye's father, Yuya, there's a good possibility that's so. Lord Carnarvon's wife, Lady Almina, was the illegitimate daughter of Lord Alfred Rothschild. The wealthy Earl of Carnarvon died in Egypt of systemic poisoning caused by an infected mosquito bite on his face. It is now known that Tutankhamun's death was probably hastened by a mosquito, too--one that gave him malaria. At the time of Carnarvon's death, his dog back at his home, Highclere Castle, supposedly keeled over and died, as well. Hmmm...looks like Anubis decided to finish off the man's best friend while he was at it :-( Or maybe Tut's ghost took one look at Lord Carnarvon and thought it was the return of Ay, the man who had the nerve to have himself portrayed as pharaoh in the young king's own tomb, a liberty never before taken. In fact, the tomb was a cramped, shoddy affair, totally unfit for a royal spectre. Others have written of strange coincidences surrounding the discovery of KV62. Thought I'd just add to the

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mandatory Celibacy

Having now written two books about Catholic priests, one fiction and one historical, I have given some thought to mandatory celibacy, of course. Even though I think the imposition does far more harm than good, I would not normally write about it on this blog but I recently read an article by James Carroll that is arguably the most excellent piece on the topic I have yet seen.

It is well worth a look for those who are trying to wrap their minds around what is happening with the Roman Catholic clergy and its recently publicized abuse scandals.

Friday, April 30, 2010

King Setnakht and the Trojan Wars

Among the many articles on my defunct Geocities website was the one equating the 20th Dynasty pharaoh, Userkhaure Setnakht, with the legendary Proteios of the Greeks, the one who gave sanctuary to the beauteous Helen of Troy and her lover, Paris, in Egypt. Thanks to the Internet "Wayback Machine" an older version of my paper [before I changed it somewhat] still survives.

I think the date ca. 1185 BCE is still good for King Setnakht and the advent of the 20th Dynasty--and a good datum for the Trojan Wars, as well. According to Manetho, the Egyptian historian of the Late Period, those rulers of the twilight years of the 19th Dynasty also reigned about the time of these wars. Unfortunately he rather garbled their names, even assuming Akhenre Siptah [prenomen vocalized "Alkandia" due to a "tapped r", a phenomenon that caused Usermaatre to sound like "Ozymandias] was a feminine name "Alkandra", and rendered this short-lived puppet pharaoh a wife of King Polybos. Polybos, meaning "rich in cattle" in Greek was a misinterpretation of the combination of "wsr" or "rich" in Egyptian and "kAw", which does mean "cattle"--but not in a prenomen such as "Userkaure Setepenre"--that of Setnakht, where "xAw" stands for "manifestations" and "wsr" has the connotation of "great".

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Trials of Father Lucien Galtier

I am happy to announce that my latest book, "Lucien Galtier-Pioneer Priest" has finally been published and is for sale at and Barnes & Noble. This is the general description: "In the spring of 1840, a riverboat stopped at Fort Snelling in the Minnesota Territory, dropping off a Frenchman named Lucien Galtier. No one expected the young priest in this small settlement of fur traders, farmers, and whiskey sellers. The local Indian tribes were involved in a bloody feud, the fort commander was battling the purveyors of drink and, in the midst of this strife, an inexperienced Catholic clergyman attempted to establish a congregation and build a place of worship. In this remote region, the sound of a church bell had never been heard. This is the first biography of Father Galtier, the story of his struggle to survive physically and spiritually in the frontier towns of the Mississippi. It begins in the future city of St. Paul, the place with which Lucien Galtier will always be associated as it was he who provided its name."

Lucien Galtier did, indeed, begin his missionary career in Minnesota, but he also served in Keokuk, Iowa and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Life was rough and even corrupt and dissolute, drinking, gambling, and also prostitution being quite common in these Midwestern towns of the 19th Century. Survival was especially difficult for a poor, lonely priest whose bishop seldom payed him his salary in a timely manner. But Galtier was a man whose "head sat on his shoulders like that of a military chieftain" and he took nothing lying down, thought nothing of telling off his own superior. For this French priest there was only one God, in His trinity, and the bishop didn't even come a close second.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now That We Know...

DNA testing has not been able to provide the answers to some of the mysteries surrounding the mid 18th Dynasty mummies, but at least now we know that the remains labelled as Amenhotep III is that pharaoh and the "Elder Lady" from KV35 his chief queen, Tiye. As a result, we see that some of the ancient artists portrayed them both with good accuracy and know some more about the royal couple in hindsight. For one thing, both were extremely short. Amenhotep III was not much over five feet in height and Queen Tiye was under five feet. On her gilded funerary shrine found in KV55, she is portrayed as a very little woman with short legs. The king was a roly-poly man and at least one statue shows him as such. The embalmers attempted to fill out the form of his corpse once the natron had deprived it of the fat. Now we know exactly why G. Elliot Smith, the professor of anatomy who wrote "The Royal Mummies" 1912 could say "Resinous material such as this is not known to have been employed at any other period for packing underneath the skin. In the time of the XXIth-XXIInd Dynasties, linen, mud, sand, sawdust and cheese-like substances (mixtures of fat and soda) were the stuffing materials employed." So there was never any real reason to doubt A III's identity due to the stuffing beneath his skin.

Neither of this pair was elderly at death. Tiye did not even have gray hair. The fine bone-structure of the face of her mummy evidences that she was more beautiful than art demonstrates. There is evidence that the royal lady died a lingering death, however. She had ulcers on both her heels, a kind of bed-sore caused by lying on her back with her head raised for too long. Her husband's cause of death is unknown but his obesity shows he wasn't in good shape and he may have suffered from diabetes, as well. This ailment can cause a person to be more prone to having tartar form on the teeth near the gumline and Amenhotep III had a lot of calculus on his choppers, especially on the right side of his mouth. His peridontal disease was quite severe and he may have died of systemic poisoning from abcessed teeth. The man obviously did not brush,lacked a hygenic tendancy, although he could have cleaned his teeth with one or more methods the ancients used. A rag dipped in sodium would have been sufficient. The teeth of his successor, the person discovered in KV55 were pretty good. Some are missing because they crumbled to the touch, dampness in the tomb having caused the preservation of the body to fail.

Because Amenhotep III reigned for at least 38 years and Queen Tiye died a youngish woman, it means she was a child bride [nothing unusual in ancient Egypt]. Either she was no more than ten when she married A III or the much-debated co-regency between her husband and son was longer than a year or two,

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Genealogy of Tutankhamun

Fortunately, the DNA announcements from Egypt were accompanied this time by a paper in the scientific journal, JAMA. The disputed identities of the mummies of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye [Elder Lady from KV35] have now been confirmed. The father of the pharaoh, Tutankhamun is the KV55 individual [probably Akhenaten] and his mother the "Younger Lady" from KV35. The surprise is that Tutankhamun's parents were siblings--in other words they are both offsprings of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. The microbiologists who worked on the study are apparently still going to try to find out if the "Younger Lady" could still possibly be Nefertiti. They know the path to the identification [a foetus from Tutankhamun's tomb, of which he is probably the father and whose mother would then be Ankhesenamun, a daughter of Nefertiti, sharing her mtDNA]and, while, the JAMA paper claims this couldn't be achieved, another source says it's already been done.

Joyce Tyldesley seemed to be quite familiar with the DNA work of Scott Woodward and his BYU team, who first sampled some of the royal mummies, and mentions it several times in her 2000 book, "The Private Lives of the Pharaohs", which corresponded to a TV documentary by the same name with Woodward et al. On page 143 she writes: "While it has not been possible to extract a genetic profile for the smaller foetus,the larger baby has yielded a mitochondrial DNA sequence through which the scientists may be able to trace the maternal DNA of Ankhesenamun and her mother, Nefertiti."

There is one more possibility that would make the "Younger Lady" have the same DNA as any daughter of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye [and therefore appear a full sister to the KV55 person] and that is if Amenhotep III had a daughter with an identical twin sister of Tiye.  That could be problematic. No such person has ever surfaced in the record. Also awkward is trying to find a full sister for Akhenaten with whom he could have had Tutankhamun later in his reign rather than sooner. Akhenaten is seen with Nefertiti from his earliest days as king. There is a briefly attested secondary wife, Kiya, but she is no more styled "king's daughter" than Nefertiti. On the other hand, once Ankhesenamun became the wife of Tutankhamun, she is not styled "king's daughter", either, even though we know she really was one. Her attestations are few, as well. As for
Smenkhkare, if he was a full brother of Akhenaten [with the same DNA--that is any of four possible combinations of alleles from each parent at a given marker] and he was married to Meritaten, who would only have similar DNA as he if both her parents were full siblings--if this couple engendered Tutankhamun. There is also Baketaten, but she is shown as a child at Amarna, and some people have postulated her as a daughter of Akhenaten and not his sister, as she is not styled "snt nsw" but "sAt nsw".

As for the parentage of Nefertiti, it is never mentioned anywhere to my knowledge.  Some have believed Ay to be her father but that was not written in his commoner tomb at Amarna. The only thing that is pertinent there is that Ay's wife, Tey, was a "nurse of the goddess", meaning Nefertiti. Meanwhile, Akhenaten and Nefertiti identified themselves with Shu and Tefnut, siblings who sprang from Ra and formed a kind of "Holy Trinity" with him.
This was Akhenaten's version of "sA ra" and part of his kingly formula. This never occurred to me previously, but the notion of he and Nefertiti as Shu and Tefnut would have fallen rather flat had she been only the offspring of commoners. Therefore Nefertiti is still the best candidate for the mother of Tutankhamun.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Price of History

If you ever get a chance to travel back in time, don't forget to bring a good camera. Many people would be amazed at how much historical societies charge for scans of old photos from the 19th Century the rights to which are owned by nobody. But that's not all--you need to pay another fee per image in order to be able to use it commercially--once. I know historical societies need funds to operate but most writers are not wealthy and can end up forking over several hundreds of dollars to illustrate a book not very profusely.

Then there are old letters. These are invaluable for their historic content but most of the institutions that house them seem to believe they own them and demand permission to reproduce them or publish any of their content. A fee for photocopying and mailing is understandable but these places need to learn the concept of "public domain". Having something in ones possession does not mean owning the copyright. Every letter or even email an individual writes is his or her intellectual property and an automatic copyright is attached to it for as long as the law allows. The recipient or keeper of the communication has no rights--cannot reproduce it, publish it without permission of the author. Until such day as the communication outlasts its copyright. There is no letter written, say, in the mid-19th Century that is not in the public domain. One institution with which I recently dealt forced one to sign an online agreement while ordering a copy of old letters in its archives. In other words, if they are so clueless as to sue you for copyright volations regarding these antique papers and they lose, they are still held harmless for your attorney fees under the agreement! And this is a religious organization. Pretty sad.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The SCA and Pharaonic DNA

I am not much in favor of Dr. Hawass making this announcement. Nothing will do but a paper by a qualified microbiologist in this instance,I am afraid, as few others are capable of explaining the intricacies of DNA. Rather than supplying the paternity of Tutankhamun, any positive yDNA match with the putative Amenhotep III will do more to confirm the questioned identity of the latter. A shared yDNA will not guarantee
that Tut is the son of Amenhotep III. He could still be his grandfather as yDNA is passed on from father to son and Akhnaten could still be the middle man there. Ditto if Tutankhamun is the offspring of another son of Amenhotep III--like Smenkhkare, for example, if that happensto be Smenkhkare's filiation.

One of the websites mentions that a priority of Dr. Hawass is to find the mummy of Nefertiti. Well, that is what the little babies from KV62 have the potential to show, as I have mentioned several times in the past. In order to learn the parentage of Tutankhamun on the maternal side, the two tiny mummies could come in handy as well. That is, if they happen to have the same mtDNA as Tutankhamun.
That makes it more likely that Tut and his wife, Ankhesenamun, had the same mother. Otherwise, nuclear DNA, if viable, can prove Tut to have been the father of the children. yDNA is not passed on to female offspring. Nor could Tut pass on his own mtDNA. That could only come from the babies' mother and grandmother--all the way back indefinitely. If there is a female mummy who also has that same mtDNA, then very good. But her identity cannot be positively ascertained because a mother, all her daughters and granddaughters have the same mtDNA. People can be ruled out much more easily than positively identified. If a mummy of a pharaoh of a given dynasty does not have the same yDNA as the other kings of the dynasty, he has either been misidentified or is a cookoo in the nest, the latter not being very likely. But then the way that dynasties are established in Egyptology is a little confusing, too.

I wish we could have an end to this "Egyptological announcements" via news media and Zahi Hawass" and get back to publication of findings in journals. They don't have to be the most scholarly ones---just guarantee detailed explanations that have lately been lacking. As a for instance, Hawass seemed sure that a certain mummy from
KV60 is Hatshepsut--but where is the publication of scientific proof? To ride on the coat-tails of a cliche---"show me the DNA!" Don't assume we are too clueless to digest it. If this is going to be a new frontier of Egyptology, we've all got to learn to deal with it, become educated in it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

He Talks Like An Egyptian

Right now, the next best thing to traveling back into the distant past to hear ancient Egyptian speech is to listen to Italian actor, Orlando Mezzabotta, do it. Here is his audio version [mp3 file] of the Kamose Stela:

I did the research for the vocalization. It's based on Coptic and other sources. Orlando is great, well worth a listen.