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How does tomb robbery fit with their religion?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

omg! that is absolutely horrible...arent these areas world heritage sites? i also thought they would have more care and preservation of such ancient sites
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I never for once could have thought there were non believers or even atheists in ancient Egypt-I thought that thinking in such ways was applying modern thought to an ancient culture who thought differently to modern day society. I always got the impression that all Egyptians were very devoted to their religion-maybe some of them didn't agree on the pharaoh on the throne, but they all believed in their gods and their afterlife. I have not seen any evidence showing otherwise-I thought the tomb robbing was, as kmt said in the first paragraph, to support the poor. But apart from Akhenaten, i have not seen any evidence of other Egyptians of any class, rich or poor, not believing in their religion.


But Akhenaten did believe in one of the Egyptian deities, he just chose to iodlise that one in particular. I'm sure many egyptians had just one god that they focused on whether it was due to their region, or personal beliefs. Because the gods had so many attributes i guess it meant they could find the one that best suited them. Like deir el medina, maybe one household favoured meretseger or ptah.
With Akhenaten, if you look at him because he was considered different, look at how quickly the city was abandoned after his death and how his memory was erased. Maybe if someone had expressed that they had no belief in god they would have been erased too so thats why no evidence was found?
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
When someone today argues that artifacts are better off in the museums of the developed world, they are branded racist.

Well, I didn't necessarily mean that the relics are better off in museums of the developed world; I fully understand that people would prefer artefacts from their own history to be kept in their own country, but can you imagine if none of the relics had been 'stolen?' Cairo Museum would be even more overrun with artefacts that they can't possibly look after. I doubt that modern Egypt would be much richer for it, if the artefacts couldn't be displayed properly or looked after accurately. Besides, one of the main reasons why people would visit somewhere like Egypt would be because they'd seen many beautiful items in museums in their own countries and wanted to see more.

kmt_sesh wrote:
However, I rather doubt archaeologists of the future will frown too much upon the likes of Kent Weeks, Otto Schaden, Mark Lehner, or Salima Ikram...In the future I think it will be more the case of an archaeologist saying something like, "Boy, I can't believe they got by back then without [this or that future tool or method] and somehow managed to do what they did."

Hmm, that seems like a very optimistic way of looking at it, and maybe I'm just not that optimistic! I guess none of us will be around for another hundered years to find out, though. Laughing

kat wrote:
BTW, Kent Weeks is not a tomb robber in my mind- he's not only handling all artifacts with respect, but also treating the bits and pieces of human remains with respect. And he is planning on leaving whole rooms of his massive tomb uncleared so the better techniques of the future will have virgin territory.

I never suggested that Kent Weeks was a tomb robber. All I said was that future generations would likely scoff at the methods of today's archaelogists. Kent Weeks is planning to leave a few untouched chambers (I believe, they're mostly ones that he considers to be duplictes - or at least very similar - to ones that he's already in the process of excavating), but it only proves my point more, in my opinion. The reasons for leaving parts of tombs unexcavated is so that people in the future can use their new methods on untouched soil so to speak. That shows to me that the archaeologists of today fully understand that better tecniques will come along in the future, and, in the case of Kent Weeks, don't want to be the ones that didn't leave something for future archaeologists to excavate from that tomb, using their own methods and techniques. To me, this could be the only real upperhand that our modern excavators will have over past ones; I'm sure that the act of leaving something tangible for future achaeologists to work on will be greatly appreciated.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daughter_of_Seti wrote:

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I never suggested that Kent Weeks was a tomb robber.


No, you didn't suggest that. In my clumsy way, I was trying to agree with you- and I muddled it. I'm sorry. Embarassed

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kat wrote:
No, you didn't suggest that. In my clumsy way, I was trying to agree with you- and I muddled it. I'm sorry.

LOL No worries! Smile
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kat wrote:
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The chests that are often beautiful works of art in their own right had lists of the contents, so we have a good idea of what was missing.


This brings to mind a lovely little ivory casket that is in the current Tut exhibit, which is on its way to Philadelphia now. In black hieratic script down one side of the lid is written something to the effect of: "Rings for the funeral procession." Carter's team was much disappointed to find the little casket empty. However, later on in the clearing of KV62 they came upon a wad of linen, and upon opening it they found a number of gold rings. Tomb robbers had probably emptied the casket of its contents, and when hearing the approach of necropolis guards (or something else that frightened them), one of the thieves chucked the wadded-up rings and made a hasty departure.

In any case I believe it was Carter himself who estimated that as much as sixty percent of the jewelry originally placed inside the tomb, was stolen in antiquity. Nevertheless, many spectacular examples of royal jewelry and ornamentation were left behind.

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Now, lots of ppl think of faience as 'cheap' as in ancient plastic junk, but in its own way, faience was also a luxury item by dint of the labor and knowledge needed to create it. But it still wasn't as valuable as gold or silver.


The bits and pieces left behind in many royal tombs (including Tut's) show how highly regarded faience was by the royals. As you intimated, it possessed magical and ritualistic properties to the Egyptians. Not everything a royal possessed or was buried with needed to be gold or precious stone. Faience is one example of a convenient and ready substitute, and when something of this blue-glaze composition was produced in the royal workshop, its quality was stunning. Glass was a luxury item at the time and was itself used as a substitute for lapis, turquoise, carnelian, and the like.

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...the ancient thieves also scooped perfumes and ointments from the cumbersome alabaster containers that were hard to transport. Because there was no refrigeration or chemical preservatives, these would have become rancid and so modern archaeologists think unguents were some of the first things that were looted.


I've heard told of how Carter and his team, upon examining the insides of various unguent and oil vessels in KV62, were able to see the finger marks left behind by thieves 3,300 years ago as they scooped out the contents. Boy, what the ancient Egyptians would've given for a CSI team that could lift prints and identify particular criminals! Razz

You're right about how these vessels are important in determining how soon after internment a tomb may have been robbed. The oils and unguents had a very short "shelf life" and were much valued, so when the vessels that held them are found to be empty by modern excavators, they know then and there that the tomb had been robbed soon after it had been sealed.

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Boy, wind me up and let me talk! Sorry. Embarassed


Laughing Quite all right. I for one always enjoy your posts. And if the winder doesn't work, just make sure you have spare batteries lying around. Or coffee. Perhaps you're fueled by coffee.

isisinacrisis wrote:
Quote:
I actually remember reading something about Carter and co discovering a jar of perfume in Tut's tomb that apparently still retained it's pleasant scent (I find that hard to believe though...can a pleasant fragrance last for thousands of years? Wouldn't things start to smell pretty putrid after that amount of time, or lose their scent altogether?)


That's a very good question, and I've read the same thing. Perhaps many of the unguents and perfumes didn't rot so much as just quickly dry out. If the sealed tomb is hot and dry, that may have been the likely outcome, and therefore the scent would've been at least partially preserved.

This, by the way, is the sort of thing that helps researchers to nail down the period from which a mysterious mummy might date. I guess perfumes weren't used on bodies quite so much in Tut's time, but by the period of the Ramessides it was more liberally applied. This is even more true of mummies by the Late Period. They actually still possess a pleasant, spicy aroma. The ones I've smelled are animal mummies dating to the Late Period and I couldn't detect any hint of perfumes (I was curious to see if the same was true for animal mummies). They smelled more like a mouse that died behind a wall and dried out there.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Daughter_Of_SETI wrote:
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Well, I didn't necessarily mean that the relics are better off in museums of the developed world; I fully understand that people would prefer artefacts from their own history to be kept in their own country...


I know you didn't mean that. In the 1800s and early 1900s, however, this was the common excuse used by Westerners to justify their prolific pilfering. Many of them probably believed it (i.e., the Westerners who regarded the native Egyptians as backward and shiftless), but those who possessed a more developed conscious eased their guilt with this excuse.

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Cairo Museum would be even more overrun with artefacts that they can't possibly look after. I doubt that modern Egypt would be much richer for it, if the artefacts couldn't be displayed properly or looked after accurately.


I completely agree. Almost every weekend I still get asked by museum visitors if Egypt has asked for our collection to be returned. The modern media has really blown this out of proportion. As you said, Egypt knows how effective museum collections are as PR, and they know full well they can barely take care of what they have now. My own country sends the Egyptian government many millions of dollars every year to help it take care of its historical sites and antiquities, and the current Tut exhibit is helping the Egyptians to finance that new museum on the Giza Plateau.

I of course hope to visit the Cairo museum if my plans work out for May. Many people have told me negative things about it, and many have praised it--reactions are about evenly split, from my own experience. But everyone agrees it's a mess and its collections are poorly displayed and labeled, and the Egyptian government is fully aware of this.

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Hmm, that seems like a very optimistic way of looking at it, and maybe I'm just not that optimistic! I guess none of us will be around for another hundered years to find out, though.


Very Happy Actually I'm more of a pessimist by nature (trust me on that), but I do look on modern archaeology with an optimistic view. Modern excavators are going to great pains to make certain things are done right so that every ounce of information can be extracted, and they are also leaving many sites untouched for the benefit of future archaeologists.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the famous mummy-sniffing episode. I don't think we'll forget that in a hurry! Very Happy

I've heard mixed reviews of Cairo museum too-a lot of people say it's messy and smelly and dirty, but it's got some fantastic stuff inside it, that can't be denied. Apparently you need at least a MONTH to see this place properly because it's got so much good Egyptian stuff in it and one thing's for sure-don't rush your visit. I still regret rushing the late-night visit to the Louvre's Egyptian section, which I think is even better than the British Museum's. Too much to see, so little time.

But really and truly, I can't wait to see the new museum at Giza when it opens. That's going to be amazing. It'll probably be more organised and less cluttered, with more space to put all the exhibits (apparently Cairo museum has so much stuff in it's basement that is hardly seen by the public, same with all museums really...makes me wonder if there were no tomb robbers, they'd all be overflowing with ancient artefacts!)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, no worries about the Cairo museum. I'm going to strap on some roller blades and whizzzzzz through the galleries. I'll see everything in fifteen minutes!

Of course, I won't remember anything, but that's not important, right? Eh?

From what I've been told, I have to agree: there's no way to see everything in that museum in one (or two or three or four...) visits. Certainly this is the case with most large museums. I've been going to the Field for almost seven years now and there are still large areas I haven't visited. But the difference with the Cairo museum is, it's an Egyptian museum all about Egypt! If I'm able to go to Egypt in May (or anytime later this year, depending on how the plans work out), I'm going to have to give careful consideration to what exactly I most want to see there.

Quote:
(apparently Cairo museum has so much stuff in it's basement that is hardly seen by the public, same with all museums really...makes me wonder if there were no tomb robbers, they'd all be overflowing with ancient artefacts!)


Oh man, what a thought! Just imagine if every tomb ever uncovered in Egypt had never been robbed! It's difficult to comprehend. Why, they'd need a museum the size of Cairo just to display it all.

Of course, I'd be more than happy to take some of it off their hands. Nothing terribly important, mind you. A few ushabti, several coffins, some mummies, the occasional colossal statue, tomb-wall inscriptions, Tut's funeral mask. But nothing terribly important, of course. Razz
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 6:22 am    Post subject: Wow! I have been glued to this paste.... Reply with quote

Read alot of it most if not all of it actually. Seriously interesting! As i have wondered the same thing. (about tomb robbery and religion) I was thinking about a couple of things.... Egyptian tombs it would seem at some point began to be, 'cursed' so to speak. (Or so i heard) Would it be wrong to throw out a suggestion that a cursed tomb, among an ignorant population may not be the first one hit for tomb robbery and one with a less occult nature might be hit first? It seems a logical way to try to protect one's stuff and dead corpse.... As many may have avoided such a tomb except in the most dire of circumstances....

The other thing i am curious about is the literacy issue. Are they sure literacy was really as low as it is claimed? That kind of surprises and shocks me. It also makes me scratch my head when you think of all the buildings with inscriptions that essentially exist as propaganda.... Dumb question, but what is the point of paying people to inscribe your greatness on a building if nearly no one can actually read your bought and *payed* for propaganda? It doesn't seem to make any sense.

Another thing i wanted to bring up that struck me, is the discussion surrounding the uhhh 'peasant' class, Maybe this is too much modern thinking and reaching, but i find it interesting that everyone is talking about how some of these peasants likely had the ability to think so rationally about religion as to possibly in some cases question it's existance. I find it more surprising, because to me, and maybe i have it backwards, i would feel that those who doubt religion would more likely be the better educated members of society verses the illiterate masses.... I am sure also there were plenty of peasants with questions and doubts as well, Religion though tends to be a force of unification, just look at American elections for example, he who can scream the loudest about his godliness and love for Jesus ends up on the uhhh 'throne.' I realize it is a different time period... Still, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around such uneducated but very critically thinking peasants verses the well educated non questioning believers....?

Another thing that i found interesting was the issues of god verses gods. In hinduism, every one of the gods is ultimately just a sort of ummm... 'aspect' of Shiva. So in a sense though they have many gods at the same time, they actually have but one. I am not sure if such a way of thinking really reached Egypt, just pointing it out as India, doesn't seem so far as all that. Also, at a certain point though it may be a later point in the history and i do think it is. There was trade between the 2 areas, which doesn't prove anything. But egypt also did alot of trade (starting at a far earlier time with the Kush, in Nubia) And it would seem they had quite alot of sharing of religious thought etc... Also i have been reading Redford's book Egypt .Canaan and Israel In Ancient Times (also just picked up his book on Akhenaten to be started in the morning) It would seem there was some interesting idea exchange with Palestine too and the middle east on quite a number of issues.

Someone also said something about the hypocrisy of accepting the gods of other cultures in Egypt. But if you look at the ancient ummm for lack of a better term 'celts' (Of which there are none and never were any. Celt refers to a style of art that became popular in the region of the british isles long ago(Though it first originated up around the region of spain and portugal), and was first aplied to the peoples by some roman emperor or other. I forget which. Anyway i could talk about them for days but that wasn't the point. The point was, They also tended to be accepting of other culture's gods. It seems only monotheists object in particular to religion other than their own.) Even christianity in some areas initially played nice with the pagan cultures already in existance. Pagans are open to more than one god. They actively believe in the pluralism, therefore, it seems an odd thing to consider accepting a pluralism with even more parts as 'hypocritical.'

In paganism it seems that many gods are of an archetypal nature, personifications of nature and the natural forces that influence their lives. (I am sure everyone knows that already.) The thing is, accepting that in other areas they have alternative nature so to speak or mildly to majorely different climates.... hence other gods to worship in such areas. And even outside one's home, it is only right to worship those gods that have blessed you all your life. Would be a bit rude to just dump them. Also in many cases as archetypes are archetypes ancient peoples could often find pieces of their own gods in the gods that others brought with them when they migrated. As a pagan myself this is one subject i have spent the last roughly 15 years reading about, though Ancient Egypt is new to me.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good questions, Mandi. I'd like to take a stab at answering some of them. Smile

Quote:
Egyptian tombs it would seem at some point began to be, 'cursed' so to speak. (Or so i heard) Would it be wrong to throw out a suggestion that a cursed tomb, among an ignorant population may not be the first one hit for tomb robbery and one with a less occult nature might be hit first?


Relatively few tombs were actually inscribed with curses and they range through all periods. More important was the status of the tomb owner and how wealthy he was--a wealthy man is likely to have many wonderful things in his tomb and is therefore a likelier target than the owner of a small and simple tomb.

Further, the tomb-robber papyri from the reigns of Ramesses IX and Ramesses XI reveal, not surprisingly, that many of the tomb robbers from this period were tomb builders. They knew from the get-go what any given tomb contained and which ones would be most worth the danger to rob. A tomb didn't even necessarily need to be inscribed with a curse. These tomb robbers knew that they're wanton violation of burials would almost certainly guarantee them the death sentence, were they caught.

Quote:
Are they sure literacy was really as low as it is claimed? That kind of surprises and shocks me....but what is the point of paying people to inscribe your greatness on a building if nearly no one can actually read your bought and *payed* for propaganda?


The low rate of literacy was a fact throughout all of the ancient Near East, not just Egypt. On a practical level, in those times a farmer, herdsman, or peasant would have no real driving need to know how to read. Even if they wanted to be literate (and probably more than a few did) the opportunity was simply not available to most of them. Writing was the province of the bureaucracy and temple, a means of power.

Scholars quibble a great deal over literacy rates in ancient Egypt, but many agree in the Old Kingdom perhaps one percent of the population could read and write. This had risen to around four or five percent (some scholars place it as high as eight percent) during the New Kingdom, the period of empire and burgeoning bureaucracy, and this may have doubled by the Ptolemaic Period.

Those fancy inscriptions on the walls of temples were never meant for the majority of the population to read. They could digest the vivid scenes in the reliefs, but the hieroglyphs were not put there for them. Kings placed these reliefs and stories on the walls because it proclaimed their glory to the gods, memorialized them for future kings and nobles, and stated as fact that they were great and mighty rulers. Remember, in the Egyptian mind, to depict something was to make it very real. This is no doubt why Ramesses II carefully depicted his battle at Qadesh as a great victory even though he himself knew it was not. He was establishing as fact that which proclaimed his glory. Put another way, the Egyptian court and royals were the ultimate spin doctors and propagandists. Razz

Quote:
I find it more surprising, because to me, and maybe i have it backwards, i would feel that those who doubt religion would more likely be the better educated members of society verses the illiterate masses....


That's a good way to look at it, actually. We know the aristocracy of the Greeks and Romans looked down on the peasants for their willingness to believe the myriad of legends and rituals in their cultures. But rituals served a purpose, and this is also true for the Egyptians. There is a great body of evidence showing the development of the iconography and meaning of Egyptian religion and kingship from the very dawn of statehood 5,100 years ago. Much of the iconography of religion and kingship with which we are so familiar from later periods, is already there in Dynasty 1. Religion was a means to control the masses and to elevate the king to the status of divinity. If your king is divine and is a great conquerer, you will be more apt to bow to his desires.

Still, I continue to argue that not every Egyptian believed in all the precepts of their religion. It would be a mistake to suggest that only modern people question the authority and dogma of religion. I'm positive there were those who possessed doubt and skepticism from the moment the first religion came to be.

Quote:
So in a sense though they have many gods at the same time, they actually have but one. I am not sure if such a way of thinking really reached Egypt, just pointing it out as India, doesn't seem so far as all that.


There are a number of scholars who have tried to argue that for Egypt, as well. The many from the one, and all that. I don't buy it. All one needs to do is look back to the tribal origins of Egypt and the different deities that were worshiped by different peoples up and down the Nile Valley. As Egypt formed into a state and developed into a unified kingdom, these various deities merged into the larger Egyptian pantheon. We do see gods like Re who possessed over seventy manifestations and who was merged with other gods, so perhaps if Egypt had gone on as a civilization unabated, it would've lost more of its sense of many deities. Still, I find it illogical and anachronistic to state that the Egyptians were anything other than polytheistic.

Quote:
Someone also said something about the hypocrisy of accepting the gods of other cultures in Egypt...The point was, They also tended to be accepting of other culture's gods.


I would agree with you. Once again we can look back to the beginnings to see that certain gods came to Egypt from other cultures. Bes, for instance, no doubt originated from prehistoric Nubia. A growing number of scholars are arguing that none other than Osiris was also a prehistoric import, and was at first a minor fertility god. We do know for fact that he was not the original lord of the Egyptian dead (Anubis, Wepwawet, and Sokar date to much earlier times), and we also know that Osiris does not appear in inscriptional evidence until the Pyramid Texts, in Dynasty 5 (although it's equally certain that this mysterious corpus of spells is much older than Dynasty 5).

But even in later periods other deities were welcomed into Egypt, especially during the New Kingdom when Egypt was regularly interacting with foreign cultures. The Canaanite goodess of sex and eroticism, Kadesh, was popular in Egypt from the early New Kingdom. It's true that the Egyptians were highly conservative and that most foreign gods who found their way into Egypt were not as popular as the native pantheon, but in any given region, ancient or modern, a certain degree of cultural exchange is to be expected.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 1:48 am    Post subject: Ah! Reply with quote

Yes thank you, you clarified where i was going with what i was trying to say about paganism hit the nail on the head and likely expressed it a great deal better than i did. I was trying to express just that, the acceptance for many if not all gods of other places throughout time paganism held sway . As for the rest of it, yes it would seem that ofcourse rituals held power. At the very least they were symbols of something and symbols can hold a great deal of power. And thank you for speaking about Greek educated classes and their perception of peasants with belief. As for the curses, i had heard of it and that provided more info.... But that would stand to reason to loot the rich as much as possible as opposed to those with little especially as most of the time the spoils seem to have been split up between several people. And i am glad my questions did not come across as particularly brainless. I worry sometimes that my ignorance is of annoyance to those who know more than i do.
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