First Pregnant Egyptian Mummy Discovered

The first known case of a pregnant Ancient Egyptian mummy has been revealed by researchers from the Warsaw Mummy Project.

The mummy, which is housed in the National Museum in Warsaw was previously thought to be the remains of the priest Hor-Djehuti, until it was discovered in 2016 to be an embalmed woman who lived in Thebes around the 1st century BC.

Dr. Marzena Ożarek-Szilke from the University of Warsaw said in an interview to PAP: “We were about to summarise the project and submit the publication to print. For the last time my husband Stanisław Szilkec looked at the x-ray images, and we saw in the deceased woman’s belly a sight familiar to the parents of three children … a little foot.”

A closer examination using tomographic imaging revealed that the woman was between 20-30 years old when she died and was in her 26th to 30th week of her pregnancy.

Wojciech Ejsmond from the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences said: “For unknown reasons, the fetus was not removed from the abdomen of the deceased during mummification.” This has led the research team to speculate as to whether the fetus was to difficult for the embalmers to remove, that there might have been an attempt to camouflage an unwanted pregnancy, or possibly in connection to the ritual beliefs of rebirth and the afterlife.

Scientists will now try to unravel the mystery of the cause of the woman’s death. “It’s no secret that the mortality rate during pregnancy and childbirth was also high at that time. Therefore, we believe that the pregnancy could have somehow contributed to the death of the young woman ”- noted Dr. Ejsmond.

Source: HeritageDaily

Stone Tools Used By Homo Erectus Discovered

Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of stone tools in a goldmine where Homo erectus would have inhabited 700,000 years ago in the eastern part of the Sahara Desert, 70 km east of the modern city of Atbara in Sudan.

Homo erectus (meaning “upright man”) is an extinct species of archaic human from the Pleistocene, with its earliest occurrence about 2 million years ago. Studies of surviving fossils suggest that the species had a humanlike gait and body proportions, and was the first human species to have exhibited a flat face, prominent nose, and possibly sparse body hair coverage.

A gold rush in the eastern Sahara Desert has led to many open-cast mines being excavated in search of the valuable ore. The mining activity has allowed archaeologists to study exposed layers containing large tools with a transverse cutting edge, and almond-shaped cleaver tools with chamfered edges on both sides, which form a pointed tip at the junction.

Archaeologists believe that the site was a workshop for the manufacturing of stone tools, evident by the discovery of associated flakes formed during their production.

Layers of earth and sand lying just above the tools have been analysed using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which dates the earthen-sand layer to around 390 thousand years ago.

Professor Mirosław Masojć from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław said: “This means that the layers below are certainly older. Based on the style of workmanship of the tools, I believe that they may be over 700,000 years old, and perhaps even a million years old – similar to their counterparts in South Africa”.

The researchers suggest that the site is the oldest known example of tool manufacturing within the areas of Egypt and the Sudan that has a well-confirmed chronology, in which Masojć adds: “Yes, ancient tools are found in deserts, but never before have they come from layers that we can safely determine their age”.

Source: HeritageDaily

The Plagues: Evidence or No Evidence

Date: 13th century BCE

Discovered: Saqqara, Egypt

Period: Exodus

Torah Passage: Exodus 7:14–12:36

I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood…and the blood was through all the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:17,21).

An ancient Egyptian text, written by a man named Ipuwer and referred to as the Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage, was a poetic lamentation addressed to the “All Lord,” who is typically understood to be the sun god Ra. The poem describes a time in which the natural order in Egypt was severely disrupted by death, destruction, and plagues.

The only surviving copy of the papyrus dates to the 13th century BCE, perhaps as early as 1300 BCE. While most scholars suggest it was originally written in the Second Intermediate Period due to content, the linguistics of the text and the date of the copy indicate that it was composed during the 18th Dynasty around the 16th–14th centuries BCE.

The name Ipuwer is also know from inscriptions of the 18th Dynasty, and in particular one from the time of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III just prior to the Exodus. Any historical events mentioned in the text must have occurred prior to the 13th century BCE and possibly in the 18th Dynasty. If the Admonitions describes events similar to the plagues recorded in Exodus, and the Egyptian account was composed in the same general time period as the events of the Exodus, then it is plausible that the two documents contain independent accounts of the identical episode in history but from different perspectives.

Passages in the poem, such as the river being blood, blood everywhere, plague and pestilence throughout the land, the grain being destroyed, disease causing physical disfigurement, the prevalence of death, mourning throughout the land, rebellion against Ra the sun god, the death of children, the authority of the pharaoh being lost, the gods of Egypt being ineffective and losing a battle, and jewelry now being in the possession of the slaves, are all occurrences in common with the Exodus story.

Thematic and even linguistic links between the Admonitions and the plagues of Exodus have been recognized by scholars, but typically these connections are discounted on the presupposition that neither the book of Exodus nor the Admonitions of Ipuwer describe historical events, and that even if they did, the two texts would be too far separated in time from one another.

However, since the chronology may overlap, and the match in specificity of many of the events suggests the possibility that the documents are describing the same general events and period of hardship in Egypt, the Admonitions could be an Egyptian remembrance and near contemporary account of the time of the Exodus plagues.

Sources: Essential Judaism, Unearthing the Bible, myjewishlearning.com, Chabad.org.

Ubuntu

An anthropologist showed a game to the children of an African tribe:

He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.

When he gave them the start signal, he was surprised that they were walking together, holding hands until they reached the tree and shared the fruit!

When he asked them why you did that when every one of you could get the basket only for him!

They answered with astonishment: Ubuntu.

“That is, how can one of us be happy while the rest are miserable?”

Ubuntu in their civilization means: (I am because we are).

That tribe knows the secret of happiness that has been lost in all societies that transcend them and which consider themselves civilized societies.

Mijikenda Tribes and the Vigango Statues

During the 1980s, Coastal Kenya experienced the largest heist of ancestral artifacts in history. Over 300 wooden Vigango statues were taken from the sacred grounds of several Mijikenda tribes. These 4-foot wooden statues were stolen and sold to western tourists and international art collectors. Since then, the Vigango statues have been discovered in private art collections and museums throughout Europe and the United States.

A majority of those Vigango pieces in circulation were sold by art dealer Ernie Wolfe III, who was accused by the New York Times in 2006 of being a prime suspect to the sale of stolen Vigango statues. Although hundreds of the statues which he sold remained in circulation, Wolfe III mentioned making efforts to stop further sales of newer Vigango statues. Much work has been made by American anthropologists Linda Giles, Monica Udvardy, and John B. Mitsanze to repatriate the looted statues back to Kenya.

The Mijikenda culture consists of nine tribes related to the Bantu ethnic groups of Kenya. Other Kenyans have derogatorily referred to the Mijikenda people either as the ‘Nyika’ or ‘Nika,’ meaning ‘bush people.’ This prejudice may be why their sacred statues may have been targets for looting, along with the pressures of crushing poverty. There are over 30 sacred Kaya forests that are used for prayer by the Mijikenda.

Vigango statues are created from the wood these sacred forests provide. The wood is resistant to termites and very dense. The statues stand 4 feet (1.22 meters) tall and have unique carved triangle etchings that symbolize abstract forms of identity that once bestowed the deceased Mijikenda elder they represent.

The purpose of the Vigango’s creation is to incarnate the spirits of dead male Gohu elders who held significant respect and immense responsibility within the Mijikenda tribal community. It is the secretive Gohu society of men who are responsible for the construction of Vigango statues.

It is customary for a family to commission a member of the Gohu to create a Vigango statue of their respected male elder a week after death. The sculptures appear two dimensional in their depiction of revered elders of significance, but in their simplicity, a plethora of complex identities are shaped with each individual Vigango statue. This ritual is often followed by a festive meal and a family gathering.

These statues also act as liaisons of communication for living community members to ask advice from wise elder spirit ancestors. The Vigango statues were said to aid in advice regarding plague, famine, and drought. Because of their essential role in the Mijikenda tribal community, Gohu are usually placed in the center of their town or near the current chief’s homestead. However, it is believed that Vigango’s advice can only be heard by those related to the people who have passed.

Ernie Wolfe III mentioned that the statues are sometimes left behind when a village relocates to another fertile region. Once the village has settled, it is up to the tribe to erect smaller statues carrying no carvings, known as Vibaos, to take the place, power, and spiritual connectivity that make the abandoned Vigango statues powerless. If this ritual is not performed, the spirits of the elders, along with their enchanted magic, remain alone and isolated in the region no longer inhabited by their people.

But the belief of deactivated Vigango statues being replaced by Vibao may be subject to scrutiny due to the controversy of Wolfe III’s own collection. In another account mentioned by the New York Times, the anthropologist Udvardy believes that Wolfe III had misinterpreted the situation and that Vigango are to forever remain in the land they were erected.

Whichever is the truth, the fact remains that the theft and displacement of these powerful spirit vessels result in their wrath towards whoever steals, purchases, and acquires them. To carry a Vigango statue is both a blessing and a curse. And those who are cursed suffer the most.

Sources: B. B Wagner