Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 In Egyptology

The Year in Egyptology

2008 has been a wonderful year for Egyptology. Many important discoveries have been made that contribute to our knowledge of Egyptian history and enhance our understanding of this fascinating culture. Let us begin the new year with a review of the discoveries that made the news in 2008.

(Left: a Pyramidion in the Collection of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum)

Newly Discovered Pyramid at Saqqara

Perhaps the most compelling find of 2008 was the “missing pyramid” at Saqqara. The existence of this pyramid was recorded in 1842 by a German archaeologist, Karl Lepsius, but desert sands subsequently covered the site, making it impossible to locate. It was finally re-discovered by a team led by Zahi Hawass in 2008. The pyramid was originally named the “Headless Pyramid” by Lepsius, because only the lower portion of the structure remained, explaining why the site was so easily obscured by the encroaching sand, which had accumulated to a height of 25 feet.

Based on the style of the pyramid and the lid of a gray granite sarcophagus found in the burial chamber, Hawass has dated it to the Old Kingdom, specifically to the 5th Dynasty king Menkauhor, who reigned for only 8 years. In addition to the pyramid, the site also produced the remnants of a ceremonial procession road dating to the Ptolemaic period. These recent discoveries have only served to increase the archaeological significance of Saqqara, a site already famous as the location of the first pyramid in Egypt, the Step Pyramid of king Djoser.

Mummies with Malaria

Egyptian mummies have also recently provided evidence of the earliest known cases of malaria. In October, German researchers released the results of a study conducted on bone tissue from mummies. The study showed that malaria was present in two mummies from western Thebes dating between 1500 and 500 BCE. This is important because the only references to malaria in ancient Egypt came from the 5th century historian Herodotus and a few vague references in Egyptian papyri. The disease was first clinically described by Hippocrates in 400 BCE, but no evidence had been found to support its existence in Egypt at that early date. The discovery of malaria in these mummies not only proves the veracity of the historical accounts, but may also allow scientists to trace its development through history and enhance their understanding of the parasite, perhaps leading to better treatment methods.

Giza in the Spotlight

The pyramids of the Giza Plateau were the subject of another interesting study in 2008. Giulio Magli, a mathematician at Milan’s Polytechnic University, has proposed that the Great Pyramid of Khufu and that of his son, Khafre, were designed not as separate structures but as part of one great plan. The plan was initially Khufu’s, and the monuments were both intended to be part of his great mortuary complex. Magli’s theory is that Khafre later usurped the smaller of the two pyramids for his tomb. This theory is based upon geographical and astronomical observations. During the summer solstice, if one stands next to the sphinx facing the pyramids, the sun sets directly between the two pyramids of Khufu and Khafre. This essentially created a monumental representation of the hieroglyph aket, or horizon, comprised of two peaks surmounted by a sun disk. This would have been a potent symbol of Khufu’s power and connection with the sun.

In Egyptian sources, the Great Pyramid is referred to as akhet khufu, the horizon of Khufu. This symbolism would not have been possible were the pyramids built at different times; it only works if the two were planned as a single project. Magli has gathered more evidence to support his theory, and many experts agree with his findings.

(Giza Photos by Jorge Enriquez, F.R.C. from the December 2008 Rosicrucian Tour of Egypt.)

Further Discoveries

Some other important events in 2008 were the discovery of a 2,500-year-old Greek temple in Alexandria, and the announcement of plans to build the world’s first underwater museum in Alexandria at the site of Cleopatra’s palace. Though several important discoveries were made in 2008, some of the most compelling events were the announcements of new research and building projects that will give us a great deal to look forward to in the next year. 2009 promises to be an even more amazing year for Egyptology with the potential for great discoveries, and we can all anticipate an exciting new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics Workshop

Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics Workshop

On the second Saturday of every month, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum hosts a workshop that focuses on the history of ancient Egyptian cosmetics. Topics include the discovery and implementation of raw materials that were used as pigments, the transitions in tradition of cosmetic design and symbolism throughout ancient Egyptian culture and also the importance the roles of the gods and goddesses played in daily cosmetic application. We will also discuss the significance of personal hygiene, therapeutic and medicinal aspects of cosmetics application for the ancient Egyptian people.

The workshop is given by one of the museum docents and is complimentary with museum admission.

A Brief Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Cosmetics:

Cosmetics are as old as vanity, and there are clues to this left in the archaeological record. Excavations have unearthed cosmetics from some of the oldest burials in Egypt and continued right into modern times. The ancient Egyptian people had several reasons for applying cosmetics. One reason is that decorating their bodies with make-up would appease certain gods, especially the goddess Hathor, who was the goddess of beauty, love, and fertility.

Another reason for cosmetic application would have been a fairly practical use. Not only did they view cosmetics as making them beautiful, eyeliner may have been used as a prophylactic, aiding in the protection of one’s eyes from the hot, glaring desert sun.

Yet another example of why ancient Egyptians wore make-up was because of the cultural expectations of personal hygiene. People were expected to show the best version of themselves, especially priests and elite members of society, to not only the public but to the gods and goddesses as well. Keeping yourself clean and well groomed meant keeping parasites at bay and body odor to a minimum. Cosmetics application was the finishing touch to a well-groomed individual. Make-up was so important it's even referred to in the Book of the Dead, regarding the gods’ and goddesses’ questioning at the negative confession of the deceased. Chapter 125 states,

"They give their speech when they are pure, clean, dressed in fresh clothes, shod in white sandals, painted with eye-paint, anointed with the finest oil of myrrh."

Come to the museum on the second Saturday of every month at 12:30 pm, and have fun learning about a very important custom that was integral to ancient Egyptian culture and custom. We look forward to seeing you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tear Bottles

The first documented reference to collecting tears in a bottle appears in the Hebrew Scriptures. David prays to God, “Thou tellest my wanderings, put thou my tears in Thy bottle, are they not in Thy book?” (Psalms 56:8, approximately 1020 BCE)

Tear bottles, or lachrymatories, also abound in stories of ancient Egypt and Rome, as well as Middle Eastern societies.

Around 100 CE many of these small bottles were found in tombs. Because so many glass vials were found in tombs, the theory was developed that they were part of the mourning ritual. It was believed that mourners would fill the small glass vials with tears and place them in burial tombs as a symbol of love and respect. Sometimes mourners were even hired for wealthy funerals. Those crying the loudest and who produced the most tears received the most compensation. The more anguish and tears that were produced, the more valued and important the deceased person was seen to be, or so the stories go.

Glass blowing was prevalent during the Roman Period, and continued throughout most of history. Byzantine (East Roman Empire) Glass was well known, and even in Western Europe after the withdrawal of Roman power there, the Franks continued the tradition. Examples of glass blowing in the Islamic world, and to the East, in China and Japan are all attested. The western European Renaissance saw a tremendous upsurge in glass blowing, especially in Venice, where it is still famous today.

Because tear shaped bottles were an extremely popular shape during the Roman Period, it is debated whether or not the bottles were actually used to hold tears, possibly being used for perfumes and medicines instead. For instance, bottles found during the Hellenistic Period (300 CE) were very large, about 11-25 cm tall, and therefore would not have been very practical to hold tears.

The story of tear bottles continued unabated. During Victorian Era funerals, lachrymatory were distributed for guests to catch their tears in. The bottles held special stoppers, and it is said that when the tears evaporated, the period of mourning was complete. Stories have also been found of soldiers during the U.S. Civil War leaving their wives with tear bottles as they departed for battle. It was hoped that the bottle would be full upon their return, to show their wives love and devotion.

Therefore, while the exact origin and historical use of bottles to catch tears still remains a mystery, it is certain that they were an important part of legend and popular culture of the time.

Please visit the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum to view some examples of Egyptian and Roman glass tear bottles in our Daily Life Gallery.

-- Jen Slauter, Docent

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Volunteer of the Month: Silke Higgins

Silke Higgins began in our Volunteer Program just a few months ago in July. Her work supplements her studies at San Jose State, where she is working towards her B.A. in Anthropology (with an emphasis on Archaeology), by being a positive and enthusiastic presence to both staff and guests here at Rosicrucian Park.

While Silke might be one of our newest volunteers, her contributions have been prodigious! They include reorganizing the museum’s Curator's Library, assisting at workshops, giving talks, aiding with staff projects and putting in many over-time hours at our events and festivals. She will volunteer in whatever capacity she is needed, from the complex set-up and takedown of events to developing talks and being a professional and informed resource for our guests, assuring that both knowledge and fun are part of their visit.

Silke’s fascination with Egypt began at a early age. Originally from Germany, Silke grew up reciting king lists and memorizing random Egyptian facts while other children played. Stories from ancient Egypt enchanted her throughout childhood, while the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet captured her heart and imagination.

For Silke, Sekhmet represents the ancient concept of Ma’at, a true symbol of balance. Her surprise and delight were magnified when she found a small, almost perfectly preserved statue of Sekhmet in the museum’s collection, and further, an entire gallery dedicated to this deity. This small Sekhmet statue, RC #1, the first artifact to come into the museum’s collection has been enthralling people all the way back to the time of the Museum’s founder, Harvey Spencer Lewis.

The statue sat on H. Spencer Lewis' desk at the headquarters of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC during the early years of the 20th century. When greeting visitors, he would point to Sekhmet and say, "Here is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum!" From his vision, our present Museum has grown to be the largest display of ancient Egyptian artifacts in Western North America.

Besides the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Silke has been a frequent visitor to both the Berlin and British museums, but by far her most memorable experience occurred in Köln (Cologne) where, as a grade-schooler, she came face to face with King Tut’s mask on its travels through Europe.

Silke is a true people-person and finds day-to-day enjoyment while walking about the museum and partaking in other activities that allow her to interact with guests. She easily draws people into her tales by sharing her knowledge and joy of the artifacts.

In her own words, Silke describes the museum as “A joyous place! It rewards educating people about a time so long ago, but is still so vivid in everyone’s eyes. Who doesn’t know something about ancient Egypt? It’s rewarding being able to bring it to life and make it real for our guests.”

Danke Sehr! Silke for your volunteer service at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ushabti of the Chief Sculptor, Men

Ushabti of the Chief Sculptor, Men
c. 1375 BCE
RC 2084
Fine limestone, pigment

This statuette of a man, named “Men” may have belonged to the father-and-son team of Men and Bak, who were court sculptors for the pharaoh Amenhotep III, and later his son, King Akhenaten and is one of the finest surviving examples of a miniature mummiform statuette.

This large, brightly colored figure is a fine example of how most Egyptian statuary originally looked. The beautiful color on this ushabti has survived intact for over three thousand years. The paint on most surviving Egyptian statues has worn away.

The word ushabti is ancient Egyptian and may also be seen written as shabti, ushebtis or shawabtis. Ushabti may have been derived from the Egyptian word Swb, "stick" originally, and perhaps reinterpreted as from Egyptian word wSb "answer," or "respond" in the first millennium BCE.

Ushabtis are small figures in human form inscribed with a special formula to be recited, most often from the Book of the Dead, or of figures representing the function expressed in that spell, namely, to carry out heavy manual tasks on behalf of a person in the afterlife.

This ushabti holds work tools in its hands and is inscribed with chapter 6 from the Book of the Dead and is currently on display in The Akhenaten Shrine Gallery (D) in the Rosicrucian Egyptian museum.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recipe for Fig Cakes

With an abundance of Figs in Ancient Egypt, many delicious dishes were created. Here is a modern version of an ancient delight! If we recall how costly and labor intensive the importing of spices was from foreign lands, we can be very grateful for the ease with which we obtain these items today.

  • 1 package figs

  • 1 cup slivered almonds

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Nutmeg

  • Cinnamon

  • Honey

With a mortar and pestle, or small food processor, grind almonds into small pieces. Set almonds aside. Grind walnuts until they are a paste consistency; add a small amount of water if needed. Set walnut paste aside. Grind figs, almond paste, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a small amount of water. Roll the mixture into small one inch balls. Coat the balls with ground up almonds. Enjoy the sweet and healthy treat by dipping the fig balls in honey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Henna in Ancient China!

October 5 Henna Workshop: Henna in Ancient China

The upcoming Henna Workshop will be held on October 5, and will explore the use of henna in China, as well as the ancient art of tattooing that has also been practiced there for thousands of years as another form of body decoration. We will even study the beautiful body art found on Chinese mummies!

Henna Workshop Background

Henna is a plant dye that has been used by many cultures throughout history to decorate the skin. The leaves of the henna plant, when dried and powdered, are mixed with an acidic liquid such as lemon juice. This mixture can be applied to the skin in designs and patterns, and will temporarily dye the skin an orange-brown color.

Every month, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum holds a Henna Workshop where, in addition to making and applying their own henna, guests will learn about the use of henna by a particular culture in history.

For September, we explored the use of henna by the Minoan civilization, a culture that inhabited the island of Crete in the Aegean Sea during the Bronze Age. The Minoans were a peaceful civilization that gave women a relatively prominent role in society. They built palaces at various sites in Crete, which included beautiful wall frescoes. These sites have provided us with the majority of our knowledge about Minoan culture.

One of the most striking qualities of Minoan culture is the art, where motifs of geometric patterns and natural subjects covered the surfaces of walls and pottery in sophisticated compositions. These included geometric patterns used in the “Palace Style” as well as beautiful depictions of marine animals such as dolphins, octopi and fish, known as the “Marine Style.”

We know that the Minoans had extensive contact with Egypt; Minoan art shows some Egyptian influence, and characteristically Minoan-style paintings have actually been found in ancient Egyptian structures. Texts from the period as well as art depicting women with red markings on their skin confirm that the Minoans used henna as a form of body decoration, probably utilizing designs similar to those used in their art.

As part of the workshop, guests learn to mix and apply their own henna. If you would like to use henna at home, here is a henna recipe:

  • Henna powder (available at most Indian grocery stores or online)

  • Lemon juice (or other acidic liquid - Coca-Cola will work too)

  • Sugar

  • Tea Tree Oil (or other essential oil of your preference)- this is optional

  • Plastic sandwich bag


  1. Mix about 1 tablespoon of henna powder with about a teaspoon of sugar.

  2. Add lemon juice to create a paste a little thicker than cake batter.

  3. Add a few drops of essential oil, if desired. Tea tree oil works best to
    darken the henna stain.

  4. Cover and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes (an hour or so is preferable).

  5. Put henna into plastic bag and cut a tiny piece off of one corner of bag.

  6. Apply henna to skin using bag as applicator (like decorating a cake!). For darkest stain, leave on overnight.

  7. Do not remove henna until it has dried. When removing henna, scrape it off or wipe with oil (such as olive oil). The longer you avoid exposing the area to water, the longer the stain will last.

The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum’s Henna Workshop is held on the first Sunday of every month. Complimentary tickets are available at the museum’s front desk on the day of the workshop, and are given on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited, so make sure to come early to reserve your seat!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pumpkins in the Park

Discovery Meadow
Guadalupe River Park & Gardens
Saturday, October 11, 2008
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Join the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium as we celebrate “Pumpkins in the Park” at Guadalupe Park and River Gardens. This event is family friendly and a great way to begin the fall festival season.

This year our booth will give both children and parents the chance to create Anubis, Bastet and Egyptian Pumpkin masks. Fall was a time for celebrating the bountiful splendor of the Nile river valley, and although the ancient Egyptians did not grow pumpkins, they did have other types of squash, legumes and veggies.

Here, you will find more information on Pumpkins in the Park as well as a schedule of activities. Included are a Scarecrow Making Contest, live entertainment and lots of good food!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fall Festival

Saturday and Sunday September 20-21, 2008

September in ancient Egypt was a time of great excitement. The waters of the Nile were beginning to recede and everyone was getting ready to plant the crops. To celebrate this exciting time the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium will be holding a Fall Festival full of exciting activities for everyone! This festival will feature a variety of fun family friendly events including hands-on workshops, special lectures and classes, and even an up close and personal look at some artifacts rarely seen by the public! Full event details and schedule.

Saturday activities will include:

  • Historical Talks
  • Tomb Tours
  • Peace Garden Tour
  • Armbands Workshop
  • Kids Archaeology Dig Outside
  • Planetarium Shows
  • Pottery Class
  • Visit to the Rosicrucian Research Library
  • Harvest Race
Full Saturday Schedule here.

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Sunday activities will include:

  • Historical Talks
  • Tomb Tours
  • Planetarium Shows
  • Tour of Rosicrucian Park
  • Hieroglyphic Workshop
  • Kids Archaeology Dig Outside
  • Lil’ Scarabs Touch Box Activity (actually handle selected ancient items!)
  • Kids and Family jewelry in ancient Egypt class with jewelry making
  • History Detectives Kids Investigation
Full Sunday Schedule here.

Please join us for this celebration of the Fall! For Questions, please email us.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thursday Nights in September

Thursday Evenings in Egypt continue at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum during September!

As you may know, the Museum is now open until 8:00 pm each Thursday for your visiting convenience. In addition to our regular exhibits, please join us at the Rosicrucian Museum and Planetarium on Thursday evenings for very special family-friendly talks and tours. Each Thursday will feature a new theme of ancient Egyptian history and culture to explore.

Upcoming Thursdays during September:

September 11:
The Glory of the Gods:

5:00 Tomb Tour
5:30 Seth & Nephthys: Two Egyptian Gods
6:00 Osiris: Lord of the Afterlife
6:30 Isis: the Magical Queen
7:00 Tomb Tour
7:30 Horus: the God of Kingship

September 18:

Great Discoveries:

5:00 Tomb Tour
5:30 The Rosetta Stone
6:00 The Step Pyramid
6:30 The Child Mummy Sherit
7:00 Tomb Tour
7:30 Tutankhamen and his family

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday Nights in Egypt

Introducing Thursday Evenings in Egypt at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum!

As you may know, the Museum is now open until 8:00 pm each Thursday for your visiting convenience. In addition to our regular exhibits, please join us at the Rosicrucian Museum and Planetarium on Thursday evenings for very special family-friendly talks and tours. Each Thursday will feature a new theme of ancient Egyptian history and culture to explore.

Thursdays during the next two weeks:

August 28
Mummy Mania:

5:00 pm The Mummification Process
5:30 pm Tomb Tour
6:00 pm Shabtis: those statuettes you’ve wondered about (left)
6:30 Our Child Mummy
7:00 pm Our Animal Mummies (see above, left)
7:30 pm Tomb Tour

To learn more about Mummy Mania in our culture, you may wish to listen to our Podcast on Mummy Mania by Dr. Jasmine Day.

September 4
A Royal Evening:

5:00 pm Tomb Tour
5:30 pm Cleopatra: A Remarkable Woman (left)
6:00 pm Kingship: How the Egyptians Ruled
6:30 pm Akhenaton: the Inspired Rebel
7:00 pm Tomb Tour
7:30 pm Ramses II: Builder and Publicist

Here's a glimpse of some of the Royal Objects you will see!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Visit us at the Tapestry Arts Festival!

Tapestry Arts Festival:
August 30 – September 1, 2008
Downtown San Jose

Join the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC as we celebrate the 33rd annual Tapestry Arts Festival in downtown San Jose. Tapestry Arts began in 1976 as part of the US’s bicentennial celebration and continues to this day with the annual Tapestry Arts Festival each Labor Day Weekend. The festival is a three-day celebration of the visual and performing arts held on the streets of downtown San Jose with proceeds funding scholastic and community art education / outreach programs.

We will have two booths, one for the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and one for the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC, located in the “Creativity Zone,” near where Park Avenue crosses the Guadalupe River.

The Museum booth will offer visitors a chance to stamp their names in hieroglyphic on faux papyrus and put them in a custom Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium magnetic picture frame to keep. Indulge your creativity or just stop by for a chat!

Members of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC will be available to talk about the Order and its educational work worldwide, with explanatory materials, information about free public resources, etc.

Public Transport to the downtown Festival area is very easy! The Convention Center Station is the closest stop to the festival and is served by both light rail lines. Many bus lines and the Dash bus also serve the area. If you are driving, San Jose provides convenient parking alternatives in the area.

The festival runs

August 30 through September 1 (Saturday-Monday):

Saturday: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Monday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Attractions include live music, food, kids’ and grownups’ physical activities, an indoor home and garden show and plenty of fun and exciting arts and crafts!

Please come by our Booths and join in the fun and learning!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Initiatic Journey to Egypt

Mark Your Calendar!
Join Grand Master Julie Scott, other Rosicrucians, and friends on this inspiring Rosicrucian journey through Egypt, visiting Cairo, Luxor, and other cities of great importance in the Rosicrucian tradition.

View itinerary

Book Tour

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Looking for a quick and easy dessert recipe? Show your friends and family how special they are with this recipe for basbousa, a savory treat enjoyed in Egypt and throughout the Near East.


Syrup Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • juice from 1 lemon (or 2 tablespoons orange juice)
  • 1 teaspoon honey(optional)
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups semolina
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • blanched split almonds
  • whipped cream (optional)


Prepare syrup first. Dissolve sugar in water in a medium saucepan. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Once the syrup begins to boil, add in honey. Reduce heat and allow to slowly boil for about 8-10 minutes.Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x12 baking dish.

Cream together butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine semolina, baking powder, and baking soda. Slowly add to butter and egg mixture. Stir in milk.

Pour mixture into baking dish and smooth with spoon.

Take a butter knife and make diagonal lines from left to right and complete to make diamond shapes. Place an almond in the center of each diamond. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and pour syrup over cake until no more can be absorbed. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Roman Period Crocodile Lamp, RC 28

One of the oldest of the Egyptian deities is the crocodile-god Sobek. Sobek became widely worshipped in Egypt after the 12th Dynasty, especially in the swamps and wetlands of Lower Egypt. Several temples were dedicated to the worship of this god including those at Kom Ombo, Medinet El-Fayum, and Gebelein. These temples often featured a shallow pool in which sacred crocodiles were kept. Upon death, they were mummified and interred in sacred coffins.

This bronze oil lamp honors Sobek and dates to the Roman Period (30 BCE-395 CE.) Two eyelets indicate it was intended for suspension from a rope or chain. It would have been filled with tallow using the hole on the crocodile’s back and would have been lit near the snout, where another hole can be observed. Bronze casting techniques were well developed throughout the ancient world by this period and this is reflected in the artist’s execution of the rough skin and serrated tail of this revered creature.