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Concept: Egyptian language


Volcanic eruptions provide tests of human and natural system sensitivity to abrupt shocks because their repeated occurrence allows the identification of systematic relationships in the presence of random variability. Here we show a suppression of Nile summer flooding via the radiative and dynamical impacts of explosive volcanism on the African monsoon, using climate model output, ice-core-based volcanic forcing data, Nilometer measurements, and ancient Egyptian writings. We then examine the response of Ptolemaic Egypt (305-30 BCE), one of the best-documented ancient superpowers, to volcanically induced Nile suppression. Eruptions are associated with revolt onset against elite rule, and the cessation of Ptolemaic state warfare with their great rival, the Seleukid Empire. Eruptions are also followed by socioeconomic stress with increased hereditary land sales, and the issuance of priestly decrees to reinforce elite authority. Ptolemaic vulnerability to volcanic eruptions offers a caution for all monsoon-dependent agricultural regions, presently including 70% of world population.The degree to which human societies have responded to past climatic changes remains unclear. Here, using a novel combination of approaches, the authors show how volcanically-induced suppression of Nile summer flooding led to societal unrest in Ptolemaic Egypt (305-30 BCE).

Concepts: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Egyptians, Egyptian Arabic, Egyptian language, Achaemenid Empire, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Cleopatra VII


The Ancient Egyptians wrote Calendars of Lucky and Unlucky Days that assigned astronomically influenced prognoses for each day of the year. The best preserved of these calendars is the Cairo Calendar (hereafter CC) dated to 1244-1163 B.C. We have presented evidence that the 2.85 days period in the lucky prognoses of CC is equal to that of the eclipsing binary Algol during this historical era. We wanted to find out the vocabulary that represents Algol in the mythological texts of CC. Here we show that Algol was represented as Horus and thus signified both divinity and kingship. The texts describing the actions of Horus are consistent with the course of events witnessed by any naked eye observer of Algol. These descriptions support our claim that CC is the oldest preserved historical document of the discovery of a variable star. The period of the Moon, 29.6 days, has also been discovered in CC. We show that the actions of Seth were connected to this period, which also strongly regulated the times described as lucky for Heaven and for Earth. Now, for the first time, periodicity is discovered in the descriptions of the days in CC. Unlike many previous attempts to uncover the reasoning behind the myths of individual days, we discover the actual rules in the appearance and behaviour of deities during the whole year.

Concepts: Moon, Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Egyptians, Egyptian Arabic, Egyptian language, Coptic language, Variable star


This article provides an overview of the first results from archaeological investigations at Wadi el-Sheikh in Egypt by the University of Vienna Middle Egypt Project. Chert was an important raw material used to produce tools, implements and jewelry in ancient times. Wadi el-Sheikh was exploited over thousands of years as it was probably the most important source of chert in Pharaonic civilization. The results of our new investigations that involved surveys and test excavations indicate the presence of large scale mining activities in the first half of the 3rd Millennium B.C.E. which allow for detailed insights into the amount of raw material extracted, the mining methods used and the lithic products manufactured in this area. These aspects are contextualized on the background of ancient Egyptian state-organized resource acquisition strategies and economy.

Concepts: Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Egyptians, Archaeology, Ancient history, Egyptian language, Ancient Near East


In the current research we report data from two studies that examined rates and characteristics of sleep paralysis (SP) in the general population of Denmark and Egypt. In Study I, individuals from Denmark and Egypt did not differ in age whereas there were more males in the Egyptian sample (47 vs. 64 %); in Study II, individuals from Denmark and Egypt were comparable in terms of age and gender distribution. In Study I we found that significantly fewer individuals had experienced SP in Denmark [25 % (56/223)] than in Egypt [44 % (207/470)] p < .001. In Study II we found that individuals who had experienced at least one lifetime episode of SP from Denmark (n = 58) as compared to those from Egypt (n = 143) reported significantly fewer SP episodes in a lifetime relative to SP experiencers from Egypt (M = 6.0 vs. M = 19.4, p < .001). SP in the Egyptian sample was characterized by high rates of SP (as compared to in Denmark), frequent occurrences (three times that in the Denmark sample), prolonged immobility during SP, and great fear of dying from the experience. In addition, in Egypt, believing SP to be precipitated by the supernatural was associated with fear of the experience and longer SP immobility. Findings are discussed in the context of cultural elaboration and salience theories of SP.

Concepts: Experience, Paralysis, Denmark, Egypt, A Lifetime, Egyptian language, The Egyptian, Supernatural


Mummification was practised in ancient Egypt for more than 3000 years, emerging from initial observations of buried bodies preserved by natural desiccation. The use of organic balms (and other funerary practices) was a later introduction necessitated by more humid burial environments, especially tombs. The dark colour of many mummies led to the assumption that petroleum bitumen (or natural asphalt) was ubiquitous in mummification; however, this has been questioned for more than 100 years. We test this by investigating 91 materials comprising balms, tissues and textiles from 39 mummies dating from ca 3200 BC to AD 395. Targeted petroleum bitumen biomarker (steranes and hopanes) analyses by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry selected ion monitoring (GC-MS SIM, m/z 217 and 191) showed no detectable bitumen use before the New Kingdom (ca 1550-1070 BC). However, bitumen was used in 50% of New Kingdom to Late Period mummies, rising to 87% of Ptolemaic/Roman Period mummies. Quantitative determinations using (14)C analyses reveal that even at peak use balms were never more than 45% w/w bitumen. Critically, the dark colour of balms can be simulated by heating/ageing mixtures of fats, resins and beeswax known to be used in balms. The application of black/dark brown balms to bodies was deliberate after the New Kingdom reflecting changing funerary beliefs and shifts in religious ideology.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Quantitative mass spectrometry’.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Petroleum, Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Bitumen, Burial, Mummy, Egyptian language


A radiologic examination (both CT and traditional X-ray) of two mummies curated at the Albany Institute of History and Art revealed the identity of the mummified remains as well as details of the person’s life style parameters (markers of occupational stress). These mummies, brought to the Institute over 100 years ago, were unstudied until 1989. This preliminary study led to the misappropriation of the remains, and subsequent switching of the remains within their coffins. Recent and more detailed analyses lead to the correct identification of sex, a re-association of the remains to their interment coffins, as well as a detailed analysis of occupational markers. A prosthetic toe was identified in one of the mummies which lead to the functional exploration of prosthetics in the past including their use as part of funerary processing in ancient Egypt. Finally, details of the embalming process place the wrapped mummy within the time frame identified on the coffin of the mummy identified as Ankhefenmut as well as confirming his social status. Anat Rec, 298:1047-1058, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Embalming, Burial, Mummy, Egyptian language, British Museum, The Mummy


This study was based on data for a sample of 1756 Egyptian primary school children (863 boys and 893 girls) aged 5-11 years assessed for intelligence with Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM). The results showed that boys obtained a slightly higher IQ than girls and had greater variance.

Concepts: Primary school, Primary education, School, Flynn effect, Race and intelligence, Egyptian language, Coptic language, Sex and intelligence


The curse of ancient Egyptian DNA was lifted by a recent study which sequenced the mitochondrial genomes (mtGenome) of 90 ancient Egyptians from the archaeological site of Abusir el-Meleq. Surprisingly, these ancient inhabitants were more closely related to those from the Near East than to contemporary Egyptians. It has been accepted that the timeless highway of the Nile River seeded Egypt with African genetic influence, well before pre-Dynastic times. Here we report on the successful recovery and analysis of the complete mtGenome from a burial recovered from a remote Romano-Christian cemetery, Kellis 2 (K2). K2 serviced the ancient municipality of Kellis, a village located in the Dakhleh Oasis in the southwest desert in Egypt. The data were obtained by high throughput sequencing (HTS) performed independently at two ancient DNA facilities (Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Dover, DE, USA and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA). These efforts produced concordant haplotypes representing a U1a1a haplogroup lineage. This result indicates that Near Eastern maternal influence previously identified at Abusir el-Meleq was also present further south, in ancient Kellis during the Romano-Christian period.

Concepts: DNA, Ancient Egypt, Egypt, Egyptians, Egyptian Arabic, Nile, Egyptian language, Coptic language


To translate and cross-culturally adapt the Skindex-16, a brief skin-disease-specific QoL questionnaire, into Arabic for Egyptians and to evaluate its measurement properties in Egyptian patients with skin disease.

Concepts: Quality, Egypt, Egyptians, Egyptian Arabic, Arabic language, Varieties of Arabic, Egyptian language, Coptic language


Ancient papyri are a written heritage of culture that flourished more than 3000 years ago in Egypt. One of the most significant collections in the world is housed in the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in Berlin, from where the samples for our investigation come. The papyrologists, curators and conservators of such collections search intensely for the analytical detail that would allow ancient papyri to be distinguished from modern fabrications, in order to detect possible forgeries, assess papyrus deterioration state, and improve the design of storage conditions and conservation methods. This has become the aim of our investigation. The samples were studied by a number of methods, including spectroscopic (FTIR, fluorescent-FS, Raman) diffractional (XRD) and chromatographic (size exclusion chromatography-SEC), selected in order to determine degradation parameters: overall oxidation of lignocellulosic material, degree of polymerization and crystallinity of cellulose. The results were correlated with those obtained from carefully selected model samples including modern papyri and paper of different composition aged at elevated temperature in humid air. The methods were classified in the order SEC > FS > FTIR > XRD, based on their effectiveness in discriminating the state of papyri degradation. However, the most trustworthy evaluation of the age of papyri samples should rely on several methods.

Concepts: Chromatography, Humidity, Paper, Ancient Egypt, Cairo, Egyptian language, Papyrus, University of Michigan Papyrus Collection