viernes, 16 de marzo de 2012

Canadian archeologists unearth rare wooden statue of pharaoh Read more:

A rare wooden statue of an Egyptian pharaoh, believed to represent the female king Hatshepsut, that was unearthed last summer by a team of Canadian archeologists led by University of Toronto professor Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for more than two decades about 3,500 years ago, but most images of her were erased by a successor seeking to secure his position as pharaoh.

Photograph by: Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner , Submitted

A team of Canadian archeologists has unearthed a rare wooden statue of a pharaoh at a dig site in southern Egypt, and clues suggest the figure may be an important new representation of Hatshepsut — the great female king who enjoyed a long and successful reign about 3,500 years ago, but was almost erased from history by a male successor trying to secure his own power.

Researchers led by University of Toronto archeologist Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner also exposed two previously unknown religious buildings and found dozens of animal mummies — including cats, sheep and dogs — during a hugely successful excavation last summer near the ancient city of Abydos.

Pouls Wegner told Postmedia News on Tuesday that the discoveries, made in the midst of modern Egypt's ongoing political revolution, led to some "tense moments" as the Canadian researchers negotiated with Egyptian antiquity experts and security officials about how best to unbury the statue and ensure its preservation during a period of national upheaval.

"We couldn't believe it," she said, recalling the day the statue was unearthed at the ancient cult centre near a famous temple dedicated to Osiris, god of the afterlife. "It was lying face down and we were really excited, but we wanted to make sure it would be safe. And because of the unrest, the chain of command was not entirely clear."

The royal statue — thought to have been used as a lightweight alternative to stone for ritual processions — and the other artifacts found at Abydos were placed under guard and eventually given crucial attention by conservation experts.

The discovery, announced recently at a meeting of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, is to be fully detailed in a forthcoming publication.

The pharaonic figure is not obviously a female, said Pouls Wegner, but is notable for its "smaller waist" and the "more delicate modelling of the chin."

These attributes were typically reserved for female subjects in Egyptian art. And because Hatshepsut was traditionally depicted in the manner of a male pharaoh, such subtle clues are often used by experts to confirm her identity in stone statues and other imagery, she said.

But relatively few depictions of Hatshepsut have survived because of a concerted effort by her stepson and immediate successor — Tuthmosis III — to erase all prominent images of the female ruler. Many experts believe the campaign of destruction was carried out so Tuthmosis could claim credit for Hatshepsut's achievements and suppress challenges towards the legitimacy of his own rule.

Hatshepsut had initially assumed power in Ancient Egypt after the death of her husband, Tuthmosis II, and before Tuthmosis III was old enough to perform his kingly duties.

But she soon consolidated her position as pharaoh and ended up ruling for about 22 years, directing wars, key trade agreements and the construction of many major monuments.

"I do think there was a problem with having two rulers at the same time," said Pouls Wegner, explaining why Hatshepsut's successor may have felt compelled to obliterate his stepmother from Ancient Egypt's pharaonic iconography.

But "she is one of the most fascinating rulers," Pouls Wegner noted, "first because she was a woman and second because so many of her monuments have been defaced."

Pouls Wegner said she hopes to pursue further research aimed at identifying the type of wood used to carve the statue and to conduct carbon dating on the object to more precisely pin down its age.

Pouls Wegner's research team included three archeologists from the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, U.S. illustrator Tamara Bower and University of Toronto graduate students Meredith Brand, Amber Hutchinson, Christina Geisen and Janet Khuu.

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