Saturday, 19 June 2021

Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society

AT the society’s meeting on Saturday, May 12, Dr Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin introduced members to the Old Kingdom and Ptolemaic cemeteries to the west of the Saqqara Step Pyramid.

Initially only nobles and high officials were granted the right to be buried near a divine pharaoh but by the time of the Ptolemies and Romans around 2,500 years later, it had become rather like a once gracious housing estate split into cut-price tenements.

Warsaw University has been excavating a concession adjacent to the pyramid, which is only a fraction of the whole site, and to date, having excavated only five per cent of the area, they have found more than 700 inhumations.

Although the Old Kingdom officials’ tombs were interesting and once beautifully decorated, the personal information gleaned from their tombs was equally fascinating.

Why did Vizier Merefnebef have four “wives” depicted in his tomb along with another mysterious Lady Seshet granted privileged status?

Graves from the much later Ptolemaic period were largely shallow cuts into the sandy ground haphazardly placed with varied status from just bare unwrapped bodies through to reed or wooden coffins, and elaborate if rather clumsy mummification with sometimes gilded face masks and elaborate criss-cross wrappings.

But some of these mummies were fake and made of odd bits of bone and various stuff, shaped and wrapped to look mummy-like, or composite like the gentleman wrapped with three right arms and one left one to the bemusement of the excavators (although probably unknown to the grieving relatives).

Sometimes the rib of a palm frond or a piece of wood was thrust through the head and body to give it the solidity of a body of substance.

Dr Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin ended by inviting the audience to wonder why these later embalmers resorted to such casual practices.

Our forthcoming lectures are as follows:

Saturday, June 2 (2pm) — The ancient Egyptians and their astronomy — an

Dr Pauline Norris will introduce ancient Egyptian astronomy.

Among other topics, we will look at the latest thinking about Nabta Playa and Nut the sky goddess.

Saturday 7 July (10.30am-4.30pm) — Exploring ancient Nekhen – Hierakonpolis uncovered.

The excavators Dr Renee Friedman, Dr Liam McNamara and Vivian Davies will talk about the latest news and discoveries from this ancient site at this fund-raising study day.

Both events will be held at the Oakwood Centre, Headley Road, Woodley. Visitors are welcome (£3 for June 2 and £30 for July 7).

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