Friday, February 19, 2010

Blathering, and Egyptology.

I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I made some sort of real blog post, but then four days of that was spent with a 102F fever (uh... 39C?) so I guess I wasn't too coherent. At any rate, I'm starting to feel almost normal and the husbeast is making noise about me getting the hell out of the apartment, so I guess things are returning to what passes as normal around here.

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So far I haven't even touched my Olympics project, which was to finish a stranded color sweater I've been working on since 2005. (2004? Geez. Way too long, anyway.) I'm trying to decide if I'll even give it a try at this point. Either way, the thing needs done, so I guess I'll poke at it this weekend and see how bad it is. It needs a lot of really elaborate finishing and some alterations, so it could take a while.

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This weekend, we're buying the Goober her first very own grown-up bed. She's been in a 'youth bed', a small bed that's close to the ground and easy for her to get in and out of. It's worked great, but she's completely outgrown it now. She's an amazon. It's time for a real bed. Even though we wanted to wait until we were in a house and had some idea what her room would be laid out like.

Oh well. Either way, my little girl is growing up.

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Sekhmet, that fucker, really enjoyed me being sick. I couldn't figure out quite why she was so intent about laying on me constantly. Then I realized - while I ran that fever, I was like a giant heating pad for the cat. So at least someone in the house was happy.

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Everyone was asking what I thought about the new National Geographic news. (For those of you who aren't all up on the archeology geekiness, they released the results of the first major DNA study done on Egyptian mummies. Article here.) And, well, to quote, my first response to the entire thing was "Holy fucking fuck, they found Akhenaten." You see, the DNA study was done with mummies from the only era of Egyptian history I find super interesting, the Amarna Period/18th Dynasty. (My own thoughts on it, from back in 2007, can be found, here.)

Damn. I'm not making any sense. I shall try again.

Oookay. In the 18th Dynasty, Akhenaten, 'the heretic king' (probably also known as 'that sonofabitch' by the priests he dealt with) declared the multiple gods of ancient Egypt wrong, announced everyone would henceforth worship the Aten (sun disc), of which he was the living embodiment. Then he moved the whole kit and kaboodle of them to Amarna, a new city he built from nothing, in the middle of nowhere, where he proceeded to rule over them. To say this era of history was chaotic is a vast understatement. Ever since modern Egyptology was founded - ever since we have had some vague understanding of ancient Egyptian history - we have speculated on exactly what in the holy hell happened then.

Then, in 1922, Howard Carter found the only undisturbed royal burial ever in the Valley of the Kings, the tomb of Tutankhamen. And unbelievably, that complicated things even more, because Tut is the person who succeeded Akhenaten on the throne, restored the old gods, and moved things back to the old capitol city, abandoning Amarana. No one was ever quite sure who in hell Tut was, in relation to Akhenaten, how he died, why he rated such a major amount of loot (not that we know, really, because we have no other royal burials to compare it to), and, well, you get the idea. Total clusterfuck.

Now, thanks to modern DNA testing, we've answered some of the questions, finally. (To have solid answers about a confused era of history three thousand years ago is nothing short of miraculous.) Tut was the son of Akhenaten. The two young girls buried with Tut were his daughters. Most amazing of all, subject of my 'holy fuck', they identified, for sure, the mummy of Akhenaten. It had been chucked into an unmarked tomb (KV55), with all identifying marks cut off. There had been speculation for a hundred years over whether or not it was Akhenaten. Now we know. (One of the ways we know for sure is because it was compared with the DNA of Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III, whose mummy we have had, positively identified, for decades.)

I had been sure the priests burned Akhenaten's body. It would have been the ancient Egyptian version of sending him to hell - removed him from the afterlife, essentially.

Even though I was wrong, I'm reveling in the idea that with modern science, we've positively ID'd three-thousand year old bodies. That's a victory for science, no matter how you look at it.

For those wishing for a more coherent, educated commentary on these findings, pop over and visit the blog of my friend, Shoveling Ferret. She's formally trained at this stuff, I'm just a hobbyist. She's discussing the piles of information they got from the mummies other than basic identification - health, possible causes of death, family relationships. Good stuff. And even though she's formally trained, she's putting things in everyday terminology.

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Hopefully, after this, I will manage to get back to regular blogging.

15 comments:

Alwen said...

Do you share my urge to shout "SCIENCE!" in a Girl Genius/Revenge of the Weasel Queen way when I read this stuff?

Emily said...

Wow. Just wow. Great to have you back.

Barbara said...

Oh, I missed that news. Totally awesome that they ID'd them. I'm amazed that they were allowed to obtain enough material to run the tests. I'm off to read more.

Glad you're better, and hooray for Big Girl Beds!

Angela F said...

I will forever read your blog because of this post! I love Egyptian history and am glad I have found someone who has something interesting to say, about Egyptology and other things in general. Thanks!

bellsknits said...

great to see you back on board!

And thanks for the Akhenaten write up - and for the link which I shall go and read over a cup of tea now!

It's amazing, miraculous, you're right. Damn clever scientists.

Louiz said...

That's very very cool on several levels:)

Hope the big girl bed goes ok. Glad you're seriously on the mend.

Shoveling Ferret said...

Thanks for the shout out!

Shoveling Ferret said...

Oh, and I put botany goodness into the Tut post just for you with the pharmaceutical stuff.

Roxie said...

One hundred and two for several days? Geeze woman - you were just short of drain brammage there. No wonder the cat loved you!

If the young amazon falls out of the big bed too often, you could just store the frame and put the mattress & springs on the floor.

I saw the Akenaten news on TV and it was presented in a half-embarassed way as if to say, "OK,we know this is boring, but geeks are gonna wanna know this." This geek was thrilled! CSI, Bones and Amelia Peabody all rolled up in reality!

Every museum with a mummy is going to be pulling core samples now.

Donna Lee said...

We put the adult bed against the wall and the child mattress next to it at night so if someone fell out, it wasn't onto the floor. Big beds feel so BIG at first.

DNA is the most amazing thing. It's hard to fathom someone having the power to move a whole people to a new town.

NeedleTart said...

Glad you're feeling better. Just don't push it. After three days down with whatever bug I pick up at school, I invariably get impatient and work my tail off catching up on all that "important" stuff I put aside...and then spend the next week or so recovering. But then, I know you're smarter than I.
Love the Egyptology stuff, ever since I read the biography of Hatsheput.
Congrats on the big girl bed.

katharhino said...

Very cool! I'm really intrigued by the fact that we know Akhenaten looked perfectly normal, and the funky art was... funky art. I'm an artist and I love that. I always learned in history that Akhenaten might have had some deformity and for some reason I think it's way cooler that he inspired an entirely new religious art.

Thanks for linking! I hadn't seen this.

Susan said...

As a child, my response to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was that I wanted to go to university and then work at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Egyptology has been one of my favourite topics. Hence my pleasure at today's post..and the links. Thanks kiddo.
By the way, No I didn't get to university my "guidance counsellor" in high school (early 60's) told me I had no business going to university I would only get married and have children anyway. Bitch!! but that's another story...lol

Amy Lane said...

Cool stuff! I can't wait until they make a sci-fi movie out of it:-)

Lori Johnson said...

There is a book by Sigmund Frued "Moses and Monotheism" That suggests Moses may have been at the court of Akhenaten. I saw part of the PBS program. I too was blown away that they identified the mummy. Jope you feel better soon.