Monday, December 31, 2007

A Banner Year for Egyptology

As reported in the world press the field of Egyptology experienced many successes and extraordinary discoveries during the year just past.

Several of these include:

The first part of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ comprehensive plan to conserve the Step Pyramid of Djoser began.

The mummy of Hatshepsut, the most famous female monarch of Egypt, was definitively identified.

Kuttub Khana at Bab Al-Khalq, a 19th century landmark, was fully restored.

The Kingdom fortress was discovered in Sinai.

A undisturbed tomb was discovered with many funerary pieces in excellent condition

Paleolithic wall art of animals was discovered in Upper Egypt.

Tutankhamun’s real face was finally shown publically in November on the 85th Anniversary of the finding of his tomb

Step Pyramid of Djoser: There had long been concern that the build-up of sand and general disrepair were endangering the integrity of this very important site at Saqqara. A good way to experience the vastness of this site is the Djoser Step Pyramid Model in Gallery D of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. You can learn more about Imhotep’s revolutionary design through our Podcast on this ancient site.

In March of 2007, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni reported the start of restoration work. Dr. Zahi Hawwas, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities explained that this is the first such project to conserve the step pyramid and the southern tomb. It will be accomplished in three stages: First, during 2007, a thorough cleaning of the interior and exterior of pyramid inside and outside with removal of sand and dust was accomplished. Materials fallen or scattered were collected, restored and returned to their original location, while materials too damaged for use were replaced with casts.

Stages two and three, including the restoration of tunnels, corridors and ceilings of the underground galleries of the pyramid, and above the bedrock, the primary burial shaft, will take place in subsequent years, at a total cost of approximately $4.5 million dollars.

Hatshepsut Identified: As reported in our Museum Blog last October, Dr. Zahi Hawass, undertook a scientific search for Hatshepsut last year. During the course of this process he examined and analyzed four female mummies, including the anonymous mummy from KV 60. Much of the team’s analysis hinged on a single molar sealed inside a box that was inscribed with Hatshepsut’s name. Teeth are similar to fingerprints, as the precise size of a person’s teeth is unique to that person. To the surprise of many of those involved, the tooth inside the inscribed box matched the anonymous mummy from KV 60 down to a fraction of millimeter. “Not only was the … lady from KV 60 missing a tooth, but the hole left behind and the type of tooth that was missing were an exact match for the loosened one in the box,” reported Dr. Hawass. An excellent summary of the century long search for Hatshepsut may be found at Egyptomania.

Kuttub Khana: At the historic Gate of Creation in Cairo, the exquisite 19th century buildings have now been fully restored, and will now serve as Egypt’s National Museum with rare items and research materials. A Museum has also been established to focus on Egypt’s role in Islamic culture.

New Kingdom Fort found in the Sinai: The largest Egyptian fortress in the Sinai yet found was discovered by chance in the summer of 2007, as Egyptian archeologists came across the fort of Tharo East. in the area of Qantara East. The dimensions of this new discovery, are quite impressive: 1640 feel long, 820 feel wide, with over 42 foot thick walls. The southern entrance was over 39 feet wide. A moat, once filled with water, surrounds the fort. Dr. Hawass emphasized how this discovery shows that the events during the reign of Seti I depicted on the north wall of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple are accurate.

Undisturbed Tomb comes to Light: The tomb of Henu, a mid-level official of the late First Intermediate Period was discovered in necropolis of Deir Al-Barsha in Minya. While the discovery of a new tomb is always news, the difference is that this seems to have been unmolested by vandals or thieves, and so has a rich cache of grave goods. The accidental find by the Belgian team from the Katholieke Leuven University reveals not only a number of artifacts, but also a particularly rare model of workers making mud bricks. This later tomb is in an area previously thought to house only Old Kingdom Tombs.

Paleolithic Animal Paintings: In the late spring of 2007, a team of Belgian archeologists were working at Qurta, Kom Ombo, in Upper Egypt. Here is their story, as reported by, from Al-Ahram:

“The story of the discovery began two months ago when a Belgian archaeological mission from the Royal Museum of Art and History, financed by Yale University, resumed its intensive archaeological survey on the Nubian-sandstone cliffs at Qurta. While carrying out their routine survey, excavators stumbled upon three rock art sites spreading over a distance of about two kilometres on the eastern side of Qurta. Entitled Qurta I, II and III, each site contains several prehistoric rocks bearing a rich collection of Palaeolithic illustrations featuring a large number of bovids, hippopotami, birds and human figures.

"Bovids are the most common animals depicted in the illustrations, with at least 111 representations in different positions. Of other animals there are seven examples of birds, three hippopotami, three gazelles and two fish. There are also 10 highly stylised human figures shown with pronounced buttocks, but with no other distinct bodily features.

"All the rock art images are very darkly coloured and seem to be covered by a substantially developed varnish. Most of the images also have traces of intensive weathering through Aeolian abrasion and water run-off."

The images. estimated at 15,000 years old, are strikingly reminiscent of those from the Magdalenian European culture, best known in the caves in France, including Lascaux and the Grotte de Niaux (which the Rosicrucian trip to France visited in August of 2007) and Altamira in Spain. The question arises whether there might have been some trans-Mediterranean contact between these peoples, or if this represents a larger, pan-early-human cultural characteristic. Different from the European rock art, however, these examples are not in caves, but on large stones in open air.

Tutankhamun: 85 years to the day after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Howard Carter, his mummy was placed on public display in November 4, 2007 for the first time. The mummy, wrapped in linen (since Carter had dismembered the mummy in a search for amulets), has been removed from his gold Casket and placed in a temperature and humidity controlled plexi-glass case, in his tomb at Luxor. The mummified face and feet of this young King is now in public view for the first time. The move was necessary to protect the mummy from the humidity and heat generated by the large number of visitors.

In addition, in September of 2007, eight baskets of doum fruit, a common funeral offering, were discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb, as well as fifty clay pots bearing the royal seal. Dr. Hawass has said that the pots will be opened and examined soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Volunteer of the Year - Kaman Law

Kaman Law began volunteering at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium in November 2004. She is one of the hardest working and most reliable volunteers at Rosicrucian Park. Her dedication and excellent customer service make her a vital part of the daily operations in the Museum. Kaman thrives in whatever she takes on as her hardworking and positive nature carries her through a myriad of tasks.

In the summer of 2006, Kaman lent wonderful support at our five-day park-wide event, the Epagomenal Festival. She was always willing to be of service as she effortlessly moved from helping set up garden booths, to playing the Egyptian game Senet with guests, to giving public lectures. Kaman has also assisted with many of our Outreach events, such as Pumpkins in the Park, Christmas in the Park, spring in Guadalupe Gardens, the Desert Dance Festival, and more. Here she has aided the museum as a Public Representative, engaging children and adults alike with educational activities and historical information.

Adding to her versatility, Kaman has also greatly contributed to the museum through her own developed ideas. She designed and has successfully facilitated two of our weekend workshops, the Egyptian Arm Bands and the Scavenger Hunt, for over two years. Furthermore, she has aided in other workshops and events by developing new activities for our guests to enjoy, such as the Calendar Wheel and other activity worksheets. When time permitted, she has also served in the Park’s Research Library in volunteer work. When our Museum newsletter began a new section, the “Volunteer Highlight,” Kaman was the first thought on everyone’s mind.

Kaman began as a volunteer in her freshmen year of high school and, even with other programs, coursework, and a long commute; she has continued to be a very reliable and responsible volunteer in the museum. She began because of her passion for education and love of ancient cultures. Her volunteer work at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum has helped her to become a more confident and outgoing person, as well as given her training in artifact handling, conservation principles, and a vast background in Egyptology.

Kaman is an asset and a joy to work with and we have been very fortunate to have her as a volunteer.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Leonardo Da Vinci Continues to Fascinate, Mystify and Inspire

Years after the hype over The Da Vinci Code subsided, the real work of Leonardo continues to hold the public’s and scholars’ attention. Recently, several news stories and websites have reported that the intriguing Last Supper (Il Cenacolo or L'Ultima Cena) is again revealing some of its secrets.

Painted on the wall of the Refectory of Santa Maria Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan between 1495-1498, the work was one of the first to depict the events of the story of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples in a dramatic, animated fashion. As the 2006 Rosicrucian Museum exhibit Leonardo Da Vinci: Artist, Scientist, Mystic, with a person of Leonardo’s brilliance in the arts and sciences, as well as knowledge of natural laws, it is little surprise that he left us some enigmatic messages in his works. Speculation and mystery have always surrounded certain aspects of his achievements. Some theorize that he may have been responsible for the image on the Shroud of Turin, but no conclusive evidence has yet been established.

Certainly, Leonardo was not a typical believer of the 15th-16th century. As his biographer Vasari put in his 1550 edition of the artist’s life: “his cast of mind was so heretical that he did not adhere to any religion, thinking perhaps that it was better to be a philosopher than a Christian.”

Modern biographer Marco Rosci suggests that he “adopted an empirical approach to every thought, opinion, and action and accepted no truth unless verified or verifiable, whether related to natural phenomena, human behavior, or social activities. He still pinned his faith in logical certainty, in the often-repeated affirmation that mathematics and geometry were the true foundations of knowledge.”

Leonardo followed a path of knowledge – what he could discover for himself, rather than belief in what someone else had told him. Throughout the centuries many have wondered whether he encoded some of his thoughts and ideas into his art. One famous examples of this is in his paintings, The Last Supper.

In The Last Supper, the figure to Jesus’ right has traditionally been identified as John, “the beloved disciple.” However, some have speculated (most recently, Dan Brown in The DaVinci Code) that this indistinct figure is, in fact, Mary Magdalene, whom some claim to be the wife of Jesus. Others also point out that the raised finger gesture by the Apostle to Jesus’ left may be a hostile sign, intended by Leonardo to criticize the official positions of the Christianity of his time.

Additional enigmas include the “space” between Jesus and the figure to his right, and also the “third hand” gripping a knife near the Apostle Peter. Finally, an oddity for a Passover Meal, there appears no lamb on the table. This last detail has recently been corroborated by Pope Benedict XVI in his homily on Holy Thursday in Rome (as well as in his spring 2007 book Jesus of Nazareth), where he suggested that Jesus celebrated the Passover on the Essene Calendar, and that Jesus’ family were associated with the Essenes. The Essenes were vegetarians, and this would account for the absence of lamb. This aspect is more thoroughly discussed in the December 2007 issue of the Rosicrucian Digest: The Essenes.

Even more controversially, Spanish author Javier Sierra’s highly enjoyable novel The Secret Supper , first published in English in 2006, links Leonardo’s masterpiece to an ancient tradition that worked in opposition to the Church of Peter. Sierra even gives an explanation for Leonardo’s unusual technique of painting the scene on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, by laying down a sealing layer of pitch, gesso and mastic, then painting onto this with tempera, which has caused the masterpiece to weather the ages poorly.

Modern scientific techniques have now entered the arena in a major way, with the recent announcements of new scanning and analysis tools. Mauro Gavinelli and a scientific team at the art photography firm HAL9000 have taken 1,677 panoramic images of the Last Supper at a resolution of 16-billion-pixels, a definition that is 1,600 times finer than that from a 10 mega-pixel camera.

Earlier scientific analysis of Leonardo’s works have revealed startling details under the pigments. One example is the Adoration of the Magi (1481). In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Recent studies by Dr. Maurizio Seracini have revealed layers beneath the painting with long concealed figures.

Another example of the mysteries hidden underneath paintings in the Uffizi Gallery, not by Leonardo, but of him, is a Portrait of Leonardo DaVinci. Created by an unknown artist at the end of the 17th century, it has been in the Uffizi Gallery since 1715 and now it is exhibited in the Vasari Corridor. X-rays revealed some years ago that there is another subject under this portrait (which may be a 17th century painting of Mary Magdalene). This portrayal of Leonardo has become one of the most familiar in the world. An oil copy by W.K. Fisher (1940) hangs in the Rosicrucian Research Library in San José.

It is likely that we will never know specifically what Leonardo was trying to convey through these ambiguities in his works. Nevertheless, we can certainly know that his own mysticism and spirituality, as expressed in all of his work, was dedicated to discovering the laws that govern the universe and humanity, and to conveying those laws through beauty and inventiveness to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pharaoh Hatshepsut's Mummy Positively Identified

Howard Carter was most famous for his discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. However, unbeknownst to him, he also was responsible for the discovery of one of Egypt’s most famous kings, the pharaoh Hatshepsut. In 1902 Howard Carter entered theTomb KV 60. The tomb itself had been robbed in antiquity. Little was left inside, aside from some mummified geese. However, there were two female mummies that remained in the tomb. One had the name Sitre-In, Hatshepsut’s wet nurse, written on it. The other female mummy was anonymous. Years later the mummy of Sitre-In was removed, but the anonymous mummy remained inside the tomb undisturbed until 1990. It was then that speculation about the mummy’s true identity began to circulate. A group of Egyptologists began to suspect that the anonymous mummy might indeed have been that of the famous female pharaoh Hatshepsut. They based their theory on the facts that the mummy had a bent left arm, often associated with royalty, and that it wore a wooden face piece, which may have been used to attach the false beard that the female pharaoh was often depicted wearing. Others adamantly refuted this theory, stating that the anonymous mummy was of an elderly, obese women, a description that did not match with the conventional picture of the female pharaoh. Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, undertook a scientific search for Hatshepsut last year. During the course of this process he examined and analyzed four female mummies, including the anonymous mummy from KV 60. Much of the team’s analysis hinged on a single molar sealed inside a box that was inscribed with Hatshepsut’s name. Teeth are similar to fingerprints, as the precise size of a person’s teeth is unique to that person. To the surprise of many of those involved, the tooth inside the inscribed box matched the anonymous mummy from KV 60 down to a fraction of millimeter. “Not only was the … lady from KV 60 missing a tooth, but the hole left behind and the type of tooth that was missing were an exact match for the loosened one in the box,” Dr. Hawass stated. This discovery provides scholars with new information for an examination of the history of this pharaoh. Hatshepsut’s mummy shows an obese woman between forty-five and sixty years old upon death. Aside from having poor dental health, the mummy shows that Hatshepsut suffered from cancer in the pelvic and spinal regions. Further DNA tests on the mummy will be conducted and compared with the DNA results from other members of the 18th Dynasty, including that of Hatshepsut’s grandmother, Ahmose-Nefertari. As the archaeological and forensic scientific fields continue to advance, we may look forward to future outstanding discoveries, rediscoveries, and new ways of expanding our knowledge of one of the greatest civilizations of all time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hatshepsut Bead and Cylinder Seal, RC 1114

With the recent identification of the mummy of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, this remarkable ruler has once again captured the public’s attention. She ruled for approximately twenty two years, first as Regent for her step-son Thutmose III, and later as co-pharaoh with him. Although a female pharaoh was unusual in ancient Egypt, it was not entirely unprecedented, as history includes among the female rulers of Egypt, Pharaoh Sobeknefru who had reigned as a king of the 12th Dynasty, and others. This would later occur again, most notably in the case of the last ruling pharaoh, Cleopatra VII. Scholars are still studying the records for evidence of additional women rulers in Egypt’s ancient past. It has long been known that women in general held higher status in Egypt than in the lands surrounding it. This included the ability to own property, have an equal voice in legal proceedings, and having control of the household industries which produced linen, bread, beer, and other items vital to Egypt’s economic life. The Hatshepsut Bead and Cylinder Seal in the Museum’s collection came to us from the Rustafjaell estate in 1989. The tiny and elegant piece stands 2.3 centimeters high, made from glazed steatite metal (soapstone), blue on the cylinder base with a gold colored bead surmounting the small column. It is currently displayed in our Religion and Kingship Gallery (C) in the Museum. The cylinder body is engraved with Hatshepsut’s royal cartouche with her Prename, “Marat Ka Re,” that is, “Truth is the Ka of Re.” The Cylinder could have been used as a signature seal, and also as an amulet, as the name of the Pharaoh was considered to have great power for such uses.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Henna Workshop

Henna is a potent natural dye that comes from the dried, crushed leaves of the henna shrub. It has been used for thousands of years and across many cultures in medicines, textiles, perfumes, and to paint designs on the body. Archaeological research indicates that henna was first used to stain the fingertips and toes of the mummified pharaohs, but many other peoples probably used henna as well, believing in its beauty and spiritual benefit. We know that the Egyptians hennaed their hair and nails to strengthen and condition, but it is difficult to know if they hennaed designs similar to other cultures, as henna designs fade in a couple of weeks. Tattooing, however, was practiced since the Middle Kingdom. Mummies of dancers have elaborate geometric patterns while musicians typically have the god Bes tattooed on their bodies, so one can speculate that henna was similarly used. Ancient Egyptian women also wore henna, perfumes, and cosmetics to honor Hathor, the goddess of beauty. It was believed that these materials painted on the body would transcend into spiritual means and Hathor’s presence and energy could be felt by the women of ancient Egypt. Henna could have also been used on the mummified pharaohs to help preserve them. Henna would have strengthened the bodies while also deterring fungal growth, making its use very practical. So, henna, with its many healing properties and connection with temple practices as well as everyday life, was spiritual as well as practical for the ancient Egyptians.

The Museum’s Henna Workshop details the history of henna and its various functions, as it expanded from ancient Egypt to other cultures. Instruction and application will follow the talk with designs to reflect the culture discussed. Join us the first Sunday of every month at 12:30 pm, to explore a new culture and discover how henna was used in the past and how we can use it today.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Modern Henna Formulas for Hair

Looking for an ancient hair coloring?

Try this formula featured in our Henna Workshops:

What do you need to mix a simple henna paste? Not much! You’ll need a container, a plastic spoon, henna powder, and lemon juice. Keep stirring and adding the sour liquid. Some henna needs a lot of liquid, some needs less, so there’s no way to say “add precisely THIS amount of liquid.” Add whatever sour liquid you want to use, a little bit at a time, stirring it in. When your henna paste is a little thinner than mashed potatoes, you’ve stirred in enough sour liquid for a start. Cover the henna paste with plastic wrap, press out all the air, and let it rest for a while. Mix ingredients to make a thick paste. Leave overnight in plastic baggie for dye release. Apply evenly to hair and leave in for 2-4 hours, wrapping hair if desired.


For light orange/red hair:
1 Tbsp henna
1 Tbsp Amla
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp apple juice
½ c. vanilla yogurt
120 grams henna
lemon juice
red tea (rooibos, or raspberry)
2 Tbsp ground cloves

For bright red hair:
100 grams henna
orange juice
slight dash of white vinegar
15 drops of tea tree oil
¼ c. paprika
100 grams henna
250 ml red wine
3 ½ capfuls tea tree oil
lemon rooibos tea
25 grams powdered pectin

For dark red hair:
100 grams henna
lemon juice
lavender water
strong black tea
100 grams henna
2 spoonfuls lemon juice
Madagascar red vanilla tea
1 capful dark green olive oil

For Dark Henna/Indigo hair:
Mix your favorite henna paste formula and set aside overnight. Mix indigo with water and set aside. Mix indigo and henna together and then apply to hair.

You can get other formulas like this by participating in our Henna Workshop the first Sunday of every month.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Volunteer of the Month: Lily Van Osdol

For the past two years, Lily Van Osdol has been a helpful and delightful asset as one of the volunteers at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. She has assisted with several museum events, including the 75th Anniversary, where she helped paint pillars for our exhibit; the Epagomenal Festival, where she assisted with public booths and children’s activities; as well as many outreach events where she has aided in promoting the Museum in our community. She also assists with our Cooking and Armband Workshop on Saturdays. In her spare time, you’ll usually find her playing the ancient Egyptian game Sent with some guests. Lily began volunteering for the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum because of her great interest in history and ancient cultures. Her favorite part of the Museum is our Mesopotamia Room, located in the Daily Life Gallery (B) in the Museum, where she enjoys exploring the ancient cultures of the Near East. We have been very fortunate to have Lily as a volunteer here at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum as her positive and hard working nature have added a delightful experience for both the Museum and its guests.

If you are interesting in becoming a volunteer at Rosicrucian Park, please call (408) 947.3683 or email: