Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cache of Artifacts Found at Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Information from The Egyptian Gazette - undated, I presume today or tomorrow? - isn't Egypt several time zones ahead of us timewise? Another Cache Unearthed in National Museum Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed another cache near the Western gate of the National Museum in Cairo, Culture Minister Farouq Hosni said yesterday. Zahi Hawass, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the cache contained a table made of limestone, a fragment of a slab with hieroglyphic inscriptions, some stones, and the base of a pharaonic pillar, which date back to the pharaonic period around 1,300 years BC." This type of slab was quite widespread during the era of the Pharaohs, who used it to mark a special occasion,” Hawass said.“The slab shows the head of a cobra," Hawass said, adding that foreign archaeologists were in the habit of burying antiquities they had considered 'useless' in the Museum's garden. The antiquities will be analysed, said Hawass, who has been supervising a project for giving a facelift to the Museum. The project, which is near completion, includes upgrading the museum and adding new, showrooms, meeting rooms, a library, a bookshop and a cafeteria.
I find this piece (identified in the article as: Unearthed: The slab that was unearthed near the Western gate of the National Museum in Cairo yesterday) utterly fascinating! I'm no expert, but I've looked at probably a thousand photographs and images of Egyptian artifacts during the past ten years as well as exhibits in museums, and I don't recall seeing this kind of "slab" with a cobra's head etched into it. This "slab" is set up in the form of an offering table that I've seen many times. There's that little "tail" (that's what I call it), with a trench in it that was meant to siphon off wine or beer that was poured as a libation by the deceased's descendants over the surface of the "table." Most of the offering tables were not very large, and it's impossible to tell what the dimensions of this one is from the photograph. I do not recall seeing such a slab or an offering table with a serpent on its face, though! The serpent reminds me of Egypt's two most ancient board games: Senet, with it's "serpentine" path that the pieces follow around the board that leads to each piece's promotion into the ancient equivalent of "Heaven;" and the even older Mehen, predynastic, with carved stone boards shaped in the form of a spiraled serpent. Perhaps this is a hybrid between an offering table and a gameboard? Unfortunately, the photograph is poor, and it's difficult to tell if there might be places on the board where pieces (offerings) might have been placed - but, am I imagining it? Are those squares I see along the left side?

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