Libmonster ID: KZ-1556
Author(s) of the publication: Yelena TOLMACHEVA

by Yelena TOLMACHEVA, Cand. Sc. (Hist.), academic secretary, Egyptology Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Egyptology has gained great popularity in our country since Jean-Francois Champillon (1790-1832), a French historian (elected honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences) broke the Egyptian hieroglyphic code in 1822. Here in Russia Egyptology has long-standing traditions going back to such eminent scholars as Vladimir Golenishchev (1856-1947), Boris Turaev (1868-1920), Vassily Struve (1889-1965), Mikhail Korostovtsev (1900-1980), among many others. Unfortunately our Egyptologists had for a long time no opportunity of doing on-the-spot research. Only in 1995 RAS scholars started taking a regular part in international field parties or working on their own in Egypt. Their research findings have opened a new page of ancient Egyptian history making it possible to rethink many of the conventional notions.

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THE BEGINNING

Way back in 1955 Mikhail Korostovtsev field a memo in which he insisted on setting up a Soviet research center of Egyptology in Cairo. "Egypt has become an international research laboratory in archeology, anthropology, ethnography, philology, history and art appreciation. It is sad indeed that our great country is in no way represented." His idea was materialized only in 1992. That year our scientists went for the first time to Egypt for archeological excavations in joint international parties. The Russian side was represented by research workers of the Egyptology Cabinet (RAS Institute of Oriental Studies) headed by Galina Belova (later, head of our research center). Archeological excavations at Tell Ibrahim Avad in the eastern part of Lower Egypt involved our research scientists for the first time; this work was carried on within the framework of the joint Russian-Dutch project "Nile Delta". Next, in 1998, came another project in cooperation with the Institute of Egyptology and Coptology* at Münster University, Germany. We investigated Tomb No. 320 in Thebes (known as the "Crypt of Pharaonical Mummies") and went on with this work up until 2006.

Although it was their first hands-on experience in Egypt, our people showed their best side. Their work gained recognition of the world scientific community. So it became expedient to establish an independent Egyptology research body at the Russian Academy of

* A science concerned with the Copts, or Coptic Egyptians, and their culture, language, literature, religion, epigraphy, pictorial arts, manuscripts, home-making, etc. Originally Copts were natives of Egypt descended from the ancient inhabitants of that country. Much later on Coptic Egyptions adopted Christianity and founded a Coptic Church, the native Christian Church of Egypt and, at one time, of Ethiopia.--Ed., Tr.

Sciences similar to those of the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Poland and many other states.

Finally this body was set up in November of 1999-- the RAS Egyptological Research Center. Its aim was to study the history, culture, languages and religion of ancient, medieval and present-day Egypt on the basis of recorded evidentiary material and that recovered in on-the-site diggings.

In 2000, supported by the federal Foreign Ministry, our research center established a mission in Egypt, an event that enabled Russian scientists to carry on comprehensive research on a long-term basis.

BASIC PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS

In 1988 the Dutch began their NEARE* program of excavations at Tell Ibrahim Avad. At first this work was superintended by Edwin CM. van den Brink, succeeded, in 1991, by Willem M. van Haarlem, the caretaker of the Egyptian collection of the Amsterdam-based Fiz-Willem Museum. Galina Belova was the Russian head of the project, and Willem M. Haarlem, the Dutch. The excavations proceeded for several consecutive seasons, from 1995 to 2001.

The site of the diggings was not a random choice. What is now the Province of Charia in the Delta's northeast, the third in population numbers, is very rich in historic monuments. In ancient times it was the area of Egypt's easternmost nome* of great political, strategic and economic significance. The archeological

* Netherlands Foundation for Archaeological Research in Egypt.--Ed.

** Nome (nomos), the Greek and Roman name of a province in ancient Egypt that has come to stay ever since the Hellenistic times and used in science for older periods of her history.--Ed.

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monument Tell Ibrahim Avad lies near the ancient capital of Pharaoh Ramses II (ca. 1303--1213 B.C.), the famous conqueror of the time of the New Kingdom. Already in the earliest epochs of Egypt's history her rulers appreciated the layout of this population center, first and foremost, as a vantage point of contacts with "Asiatic" tribes. Tell Ibrahim Avad was the hub of what was known as the "Horus pathways" (named so for Horus, a falcon-headed deity), the route of war and trade expeditions to the eastern Mediterranean.

It became clear to us that we were dealing with one of the oldest temple compounds in Egypt dating back to the proto/early dynastic period (end of the 4th-early 3rd millennium before the Common Era). This complex survived for about fifteen hundred years, roughly prior to the Twelfth pharaonic dynasty, living through periods of renovation, rebuilding and neglect.

Detected there were crypts with votive articles, similar to those recovered in Abidos, Ierakonpol and Elephantine*. This invites the suggestion that Tell Ibrahim was also a major religious center.

CRYPT TT 320

The discovery of a crypt of pharaonical mummies at the end of the 19th century was sensational event. Bur-

* Elephantine (Elephantina, or Abu), the name of an Egyptian island, the site of a city of the same name (before the 3rd millennium B.C.) on the Nile. The present name of the island is Geziret-Aswan, now within the city limits of the Egyptian city of Aswan; Abidos (Abdju), a city incorporated within the Eighth Upper Egyptian nome. Ierakonpol (Hierakonpol), one of the most ancient Egyptian towns, the center of the Horus cult. In the Eneolithic (transitional period from the Neolithic, or New Stone Age, to the Bronze Age), the site of a population settlement and tombs.--Ed.

ied in that vault were the mummies of the great rulers: Thutmose III*, Seth I, Ramses II, Ramses III--all told, forty mummies of pharaohs and members of their families. As many as 6,000 artefacts were recovered, including sarcophagi, papyrus scrolls of the Book of the Dead, ritualistic robes and other relics.

Abd el-Rassul, a local resident, helped willy-nilly in locating the burial crypt. For years he and his family had been among the graverobbers; the man had been selling the relics in a local market place. This caught the

* Thutmose (Tuthmosis) III, a pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who ruled in about 1479 to 1425 B.C.; Seth I, a pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, who ruled in about 1290 to 1279 B.C., a son of Ramses I and Queen Satra; Ramses II the Great, a pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, who ruled in about 1289 to 1213 B.C., a son of Seth I and Queen Thuia; Ramses III, a pharaoh of the Twentieth Dvnasty, who ruled in about 1185 to 1153.--Ed.

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attention of the authorities. One of his kinsmen--after interrogation, torture and a munificient reward--pointed to the whereabouts of the sacred burial vault.

An ad hoc commission set up in 1881 by the Egyptian Service of Antiquities acted oddly enough: within three days it recovered all of the relics without proper documentation, ography and even elementary inventory. The crypt was not duly investigated, it was open to access and fell into ruin. In time it came to be buried under rocks.

In 1998 our research center, jointly with experts of the Institute of Egyptology and Coptology (Münster University, Germany), upon surveying the burial vault and its condition, hammered out a strategy of further searchings. Galina Belova and Professor Erhart Grafe of Münster University headed the field party. In consecutive field seasons, from 1998 to 2006, the site was cleared out, and its first layout plan was drawn. The new written bits of evidence and a great many items thus retrieved (including those recovered in 1881) are now in custody at the Luxor State Museum.

The results of the joint effort of the Russian-German expedition turned a page, and led to a revision of many matters related to the history of ancient Egypt in her late period; these findings are of immense public interest as well.

MEMPHIS

Since 2001 our research center has been excavating on the site of Egypt's first capital, Memphis. This work, involving many different specialists--historians and philologists, archeologists and geophysicists--has lifted the veil over one of the most populous and glorious cities of the ancient world.

Its foundation is associated with the name of the legendary Egyptian ruler Menes*, a god-king of Upper

* Menes (Men)--this name was used by Manetho, an Egyptian priest and historian; other forms of this name are also Mina (according to Herodotus, "the father of history") and Menni. Translated from the ancient Egyptian language, "Mena" means "Steadfast", "Firm", "Everlasting". Ancient authors describe Menes as the first pharaoh in the flesh, and founder of the First Dynasty, who reportedly lived in the XXXII. XXXI or XXX cent. B.C. (more credible date. c. 3050 B.C.).--Ed.

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Egypt, who united the two rival kingdoms, Lower and Upper Egypt. Memphis became the capital of the united kingdom of Egypt. For centuries upon centuries, in spite of its many ups and downs, Memphis had never lost its political significance. It continued as a major commercial and political center even with the foundation of Alexandria, a new capital, in 332 B.C.; coronation ceremonies were invariably held there, in Memphis, in the Ptah temple (Ptah, the chief god of ancient Memphis, creator of gods and men).

Today the archeological complex of Memphis comprises a dozen man-made mounds over a territory of more than 500 ha (1,250 acres). Located there are the present villages of Ezbet Gabri and Asisia as well as the town of Badrashein. The built-out memorial complex proper is 20 ha (50 acres) large.

Using geophysical methods, we found the occupation levels to be 12 meters thick. We drew up a topographical map of the locality and selected spots productive for further diggings.

During several archeological seasons we opened up a population settlement going back to the Late and Greco-Roman periods.* We could see solid fortress walls built of air-dried brick as well as many industrial and administrative structures. The metal-smelting furnaces and other traces of industries attest to the significance of Memphis as a handicrafts and trade center.

Of particular interest were fragments of raised reliefs and steles, numerous terra cotta and faience figurines

* The Late period of ancient Egypt's history covers the rule of pharaohs of the Twenty-Sixth to Thirtieth Dynasties (664-332 B.C.) terminating in the conquest of Egypt by the Persian Empire and thereafter, by Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia, who founded the city of Alexandria in 332. The Greco-Roman period lasted from 332 up until the year 30 B.C. with the annexation of Egypt by Rome.--Ed.

of god and goddesses, amulets, amphoras for wine and oil, ceramic vessels with hieratic inscriptions.* There was a one-of-a-kind sculptural model of a god-king's head in limestone, dating in style to the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty (seventh cent. B.C.).

It became clear to us that the memorial complex goes back to the early periods of the Nilotic civilization. We have uncovered building levels dating to the New Kingdom alongside the many fragments of ceramics of the Middle and Ancient Kingdoms, showing that this part of the township was populated as early as the third millennium B.C.

Our findings confirm the accounts of antique authors about Memphis being a populous and multiethnic city of people of various creeds and cultures, a hub of busy trade routes. However, this was but a small part of evidence that might be recovered in further searchings.

THEBAN TOMB TT 23 AT LUXOR

In December of 2006 the RAS Egyptology Research center turned to the Theban Tomb No. 23 (Sheik abd el-Kurna, Luxor). This complex is still in good shape. It has a monumental gateway, pylon, leading to a spacious courtyard with a colonnade around it. This court, used for holding funerary ceremonies, passes into a gallery carved in rock, and next comes a sinuous descent into the vault. The walls of the court and rooms built into rock are decorated with pictures in bold relief depicting veneration of various gods, scenes from the life of one laid to rest, burial processions and many other

* Hieratic, designating or of the abridged form of cursive hieroglyphic writings on papyrus, earthenware crocks, seashells or limestone once used by Egyptian priests. Hieroglyphics (hieroglyphs), the "sacred pictures".--Ed.

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happenings. Overall, the sepulcher's decor is a classical model of the Theban art of Egypt's New Kingdom.

Many parts of the vault have never been explored. Our colleagues are yet to study epigraphic materials and restore the object as it was.

We are already through the archeological research of the compound and measurements. We have made an exact plan of the underground premises within access. Restoration works that included cleansing and consolidation of the paint layer have revealed the decaying parts of the vault and its decor.

Clearing the inner premises, we found more than 1,500 fragments of raised reliefs and murals lying about, together with around 500 articles of funerary utensils or their pieces (ushebti* figurines, fragments of wooden sarcophagi, papyrus rolls with the text of the Book of the Dead, statuettes of the godheads Ptah, Sokar and Osiris, amulets, tomb cones, cerements and lots of other things). In the field season of 2012 our people went ahead with architectural mappings with the aim of making a three-dimensional model of the sepulcher.

EXPEDITION IN THE FAIYUM OASIS

In 2002 we began archeological and anthropological studies in the famous Faiyum oasis southwest of Cairo. Situated on its southeastern outskirts about 2 kilometers southwest of the St. Gabriel Monastery in Nakloun is the archeological monument Deir el-Banat (translated from the Arabic, "nunnery"). Our field party is

* Ushebti, figurines showing man with arms crossed on his chest or holding some working tools. They were thought to be necessary for doing all kinds of work in the nether world for the late master in his afterlife. Such figurines were made of wood or soft stone like alabaster or steatite.--Ed.

exploring this monument together with the Institute of Bioarcheology, which is a division of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum in London (with Dr. Roxy Walker director of this institute).

The Faiyum oasis was populated throughout Egyptian history. However, it attracted public attention at the close of the 19th century with the discovery of "Faiyum portraits", or pictorial images painted in wax on wooden boards or canvas and put on the faces of mummies.

Here, on the grounds of the Russian archeological dig, lie the ruins of a Coptic monastery and a large necropolis, a "city of the dead". Back in the 1980s this cemetery was uncovered in part by local archeologists. They discovered sarcophagi painted in many colors, a rich set of funerary utensils, several hidden treasures of Roman coins, tools made of bronze as well as faience and terra cotta statuettes. Several "Faiyum portraits" were recovered, too.

In 2005 Russian archeologists began full-scale excavations of the necropolis and are still at it. In 2007 they carried out magnetic surveys of the monastery's grounds, and in 2010 inspected the burials. The same year the georadar was tested for the first time. Unfortunately even our geophysical techniques failed to identify subterranean archeological objects since the upper layers happened to be damaged by tomb-riders; these strata, anyway, contain a great number of ceramics fragments and bits of crushed burnt brick.

Thus far our archeologists have found about 300 graves of the Roman and early Christian periods with well-preserved mummies and burial accessories along with bronze embellishments. Among the most interesting finds are paperboard containers, painted sarcophagi

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and fabrics. The exquisite painted wooden sarcophagi and paperboard masks (antedating the "Faiyum portraits") were in fine shape, and they were a welcome addition to the collections of Egyptian museums.

Anthropological material was an important part of our work. Having studied over 100 bone remains, our anthropologists obtained conclusive evidence on the population structure and life span of ancient Egyptians, their diseases and diets.

Specialists from the Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology in Moscow, our partners, made several graphic reconstructions showing what Faiyum oasis denizens looked like.

In 2007 through 2010 our people, jointly with paleozo-ologists of the Moscow-based Severtsev Institute of Ecology and Evolution, dug out the remains of a ten-year-old child in Tomb No. 133, laid in the upper part of the burial pit. Underneath the bones we found mummified remains of more than 100 dogs, both adults and puppies. The bodies and snouts of many of them still carried pieces of fixing bandages made from plant fibers.

We are hoping to find new artefacts related to the every-day life and creeds of ancient Egyptians, and retrieve other "Faiyum portraits" so far unknown to us and, possibly, most-rich burial grounds of the Greco-Roman period.

ALEXANDRIA

The history of this city dates back to the year 332 B.C. when Alexander the Great founded the capital of his giant empire on the site of what had been a small settlement of Rakotis. The construction of the first urban

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structures was completed under Ptolemy II Philadel-phus (285-246 B.C.). Alexandria, the new Egyptian capital, became a cultural center of the Hellenistic world. It was the seat of the famous museum and library where all scholars of antiquity came in droves; here the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was put up. Yet with the twilight of the Roman Empire Alexandria, a major Mediterranean metropolis, fell into decay. Wars and earthquakes ravaged the city, and a part of it was flooded and went under.

Not so long ago Russian scientists obtained the right of studying part of the water area of present-day Alexandria. So in 2003 we started surveying the coastal zone from the Gulf of Anfushi to the Agami district, a water area over 80 km2 large.

This work is carried out by the method of area surveying that makes it possible to focus on most promising objects. We have located three spots of possible shipwrecks, as proved by the many fragments of earthenware, amphoras for the most part. Some of the most interesting objects were recovered from the seafloor. We are hoping to discover ruins of medieval fortifications erected on islands near the port and now under water. Since the sea transgression (encroachment) at Alexandria is as high as 8 meters, we do not rule out that we might hit upon inundated parts of the city of the ancient and medieval periods.

CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS

Restoration works are an important part of the activities of our Egyptology center cooperating with leading Russian cultural institutions, above all, with the Igor Grabar Research-and-Restoration Center in Moscow

One of the first instances of such cooperation was the examination and restoration of Coptic icons in 1999 through 2003, which are an essential component of the Coptic cultural and historical heritage. In our work we were supported by the Netherlands Institute of Egyptological and Arabic Research (Cairo), the American Research Center (Cairo), the Institute of Coptological Research (Cairo), the Supreme Council for Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture of Egypt, and the Coptic Patriarchy.

We began by taking stock of the damaged icons and evaluating their actual condition so as to see about the possibility of their restoration. We itemized, both from the art appreciation and from the restoration standpoints, more than 2,000 collectibles, among them thirty dating back to the Middle Ages.

Afterwards restoration work of the most valuable monuments got underway. Russian restoration artists worked in friendly collaboration with their Egyptian colleagues in workshops scattered all over the country. In 2001 to 2003 they conserved icons in the churches of Cairo, El Faiyum, Husseia, Sohâg and Akhmim*. In all, we have restored close to 200 icons.

Yet the greatest achievement of our work done with the active participation of Egyptian restoration artists

* El Faiyum, a city in Middle Egypt lying in the Faiyum oasis and surrounded by the Libyan Desert; Sohâg, a city in Central Egypt in the middle reaches of the Nile, and center of the Soh#226;g province; Ahmim, a city in the Soh#226;g province located in the Nile valley 4 km east of the city of Soh#226;g. Hellenes called it Hemmis and Panopolis.--Ed.

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was the reconstruction of the interior decor of one of the oldest and most revered Coptic churches of Cairo, the Church of the Theotokos (Mother of God) "el Muallaka".

Its Arab name "el Muallaka" (verbally, "hanging"), is explained by its design features. This church was erected under the Roman emperor Diocletian (Dio-cletianus) above the southern gate of the fortress Babylon between two hoof-like towers, and so to onlookers it seemed as if floating in the air. European travelers and pilgrims described it "della scala", an Italian name connoting a majestic stairway leading inside.

In the Coptic tradition the history of this church is closely associated with evangelical events, the flight of the Sacra Familia to Egypt from the persecutions of King Herod of Judea. The first written testimony of the church dates back to the rule of the Coptic Patriarch Joseph (831-849 A.D.), though actually most of the church premises were put up much earlier, in the seventh century A.D.

Many parts of the church were in a shambles after so many centuries. Only in 2011 to 2003 the Egyptian Council for Antiquities undertook some engineering works (removing ground water, consolidating the foundation and the wall, and the like). It was decided to conserve the monument. And so in September of 2003 the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, on picking among several restoration schools (Italian, French, Polish and Russian), invited Russian specialists who restored mural and easel paintings, stone inlays, and wood, stone and bone carvings. Many of the decorative elements were found to be under thick layers of dirt, palimpsest and overpaint (as many as many five layers in places) which had to be taken out.

The pulpit (a raised structure from which a minister delivers a sermon), originally of white and parti-colored marble decorated with exquisite mosaic inlays, was falling to pieces. So some of the columns had to be taken away for a time; pivoted with metal rods, they were reinstalled. The lost pieces of the mosaic frieze

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were replaced by reconstructed ones, with fragments of the mosaic panel redone as well.

The most laborious part of the work was to restore the altar gates of wood raised in the 13th throughout 18th centuries and embellished with fine carving and inlaid work of ebony (black wood) and ivory. Some carved bone inlays date back, according to expert opinion, to the 8th and 9th centuries A. D.

BACK IN EGYPT

In 2006 the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences and Technologies of Egypt signed an agreement, whereupon our Egyptology center became a coordinator of related projects in Russia. We are members of the International Association of Egyptologists, the International Association of Coptic Studies and the European Association of Archeologists.

Winding up, I would like to mention a memorial erected next to the entrance to the Cairo museum in honor of eminent Egyptologists of various nations; their bronze busts stand on pedestals there. One of them is Vladimir Golenishchev of Russia, an outstanding scholar and the founder of the Egyptology Department of Cairo University. Supported by the Russian Academy of Sciences, our center proposed to commemorate him in this gallery of fame. His bust was unveiled in a festive ceremony on the second of March of 2006, the 150th birth anniversary of this great Russian Egyptologist (sculptor, Peter Stepanov).

Vladimir Golenishchev back in Cairo is symbolic as a token of tribute to Russian Egyptology. It is back in Egypt again!


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