Thursday, October 23, 2008
I am Joe Bumper Sticker
I live in California, though a redder portion. I have placed two McCain/Palin bumper sticker on my car, which is probably the only form of true support that I can express outside of my vote. Yesterday, I placed a home-made "I am Joe" sticker" on my car.
My previous stickers have not received any comment, outside of "Maverick-Barracuda -- what a great combo"! However, I have gotten three requests for the "I am Joe" sticker.
Keep in mind, this is blue California. I have printed out the requests. I wanted to pass this on, as I think this is really indicative of the message with meaning in this election cycle.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Charting Psychology to Understand This Crazy Market
My very wise friend who works in the wonderful world of finance did me the favor of providing this piece for me to publish:
The One Thing That NEVER Changes is Human Nature
It sure is a lot better to be up 8% than down 8% in a day. This is one of those “vicious” countertrend rallies we talked about toward the end of last week. It could continue for a short time, but in order for us to be consistently bullish again – (1) credit spreads must move back to near the historic mean (400-500 basis point spread over 10-yr U.S. Treasuries instead of current 1100bp spread) and the (2) equity market stops making lower highs and lower lows. Accomplishing these would indicate the key perception changes we have consistently outline as needing to be reversed, have done so. Until the above two things happen, we will remain “out of the way” and generate slight tactical calls (buy depression and sell excitement) and sector biases depending on market activity as it takes place.
We Followed the Same Thought Process Last Cycle. As we were turning bullish in the summer of 2003 (Upside Ahead? 07/03), we used a chart produced many years ago (by Stone & Mead) that highlighted the typical psychology during a major stock market cycle. In mid-2003, credit had moved back below mean and the equity markets had successfully retested the 10/02 low, yet no one believed there could be meaningful upside ahead. We remained steadfastly bullish into 01/08 when credit spreads moved meaningfully above mean and an intermediate-term downtrend was in place (Pulling in the Horns – 01/08). We will make mistakes during the process, as we did by getting bullish again following the Bear Stearns bailout with the historic new issuance of credit, only to reverse course and go back to a tactical approach in early July as the credit market worsened significantly. Following the Bear Stearns bailout, the Treasury Department welcomed in new credit investors by saying they would backstop a financial failure, only to squash them by bowing to political pressure despite knowing what would happen given the unregulated credit derivatives market. We won’t make that mistake again. Credit investors will wait for sustainable improvement, and as a result, so will we.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. We thought it would be appropriate given the financial market backdrop to use this fictitious graph (provided) to highlight the following about the current environment:
- We are likely in toward the end of the panic phase and beginning of the deep pessimism phase that highlights the rapidly deteriorating fundamental news.
- While we do know this was made up and not based on fact, it does appropriately denote key segments of the investment cycle.
- Bottoms are made over time and not on a specific price point.
- Absent a real retest, calling the recent low – “the low” is a total guess. It very well may be, but we have time to figure it out as the credit and global economic crisis gets addressed and relieved.
There is a lot in here to say, and much remains to be seen how much the government's incursion into preferred shareholder of banking and finance institutions is a good idea. One wonders for example how they sleep nights after grabbing FNMA and FHLMC (Fanny May and Freddie Mac -- who had plenty of assets and cash flow with which to pay their dividends and notes) and washing out both the common and preferred shareholders who had financed those companies. They set themselves up to be the case of last resort when they did that, and then compounded their error in the Lehman situation. No one wants to commit capital when they don't have an assurance of who the government will choose/not choose to either bail out or invest in vs. who they won't, and how it will impact the existing equity and debt holders. At any rate, the current chart activity for the (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is very like the approx. 25% improvement we saw both after the 1929 crash and again in the 1987 crash. We will see the same lows on the DJIA as a retest, and only then will we be able to judge by the quality of the rally and the corresponding volume whether or not we have seen a real bottoming action. We can only hope at this point.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Just before August's Democratic convention, my journalistic instincts told me that the legacy media would be suppressing the level of dissent of Hillary Clinton supporters. Reading the news blogs avidly, I was vaguely aware of PUMA ("Party Unity My Ass"; Hillary-supporters unhappy with Obama), and suspected that there might be a blog or forum on the Internet that would help me gage the actual level of support for Obama during the nominating process.
In my quest, I found the Hillary Clinton Forum. The members there are mainly Democrats, but are generally fair-minded people who do not want a socialist, race-baiting, Chicago thug as President of the United States. I subsequently embedded myself in the group, in order to ascertain how much support Obama was actually able to count on from former Hillary voters.
During the convention, I read a blow-by-blow account of how Clinton supports were insulted by O-bots (the term the PUMAs used to describe rude, aggressive, "in-your-face" supporters of Obama. Clinton-supporters were isolated, and either forced to support Obama or have their long-held party positions endangered. If you take a look at the clips, you can see how quickly Nancy Pelosi shut-down the proceedings after the "nomination by acclimation" process was complete. You will note, if you review what happened during the convetion that the delegate count from California was passed; likely, this was due to the very vocal support of Senator Clinton by Gloria Allred, the prominent attorney and Clinton delegate. Basically, she stated her voters selected Clinton, and so would she. This was the stance taken by many Puma-delegates.
PUMAs feel that the Democrat leadership perpetrated a huge fraud in the nominating process. Many also feel uncomfortable at the extreme-left direction that party has taken.
I must say, as a flaming capitalist with a strong interest in national security, I was delighted to find this interesting group of Americans. Granted, we do not see to eye on a variety of subjects (e.g., the wisdom of Clinton's healthcare proposal, the merits of gay marriage); however, the moderators demand civility and do not tolerate any abuse posts or nasty disagreement. Therefore, this is one of the few places where political discusions occur with an elevated, repsectful tone. I have to say is this is very refreshing.
I have to say, the PUMAs are more avidly anti-Obama than my right-leaning friends on my conservative forum, if such a thing is possible. They rightly view themselves as the original victim of Obama's frauds. Many admire the national-security stance of John McCain. Quite a few are self-employed or small business owners, and mock Obama's proposal that few small businesses would be impacted by his tax raises that start at @$250,000 annually.
Many of the PUMAs are thrilled with the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate. This is because these people are true feminists -- who want all women candidates treated with respect regardless of political ideology. The PUMAs found all the personal attacks on Sarah Palin and her family by the legacy media and the O-bots distasteful (e.g., "Palin is a C***" t-shirt).
These PUMAs are highly informed (the forum is constantly updated with the latest news items) and very savvy politically. In fact, one of the PUMAs outed a sex-offending Obama supporter of "astroturfing" a McCain rally to make it seem that Republicans were racist. Being highly motivated, they jump at the chance to participate in polls, and those that are willing to vote for McCain are actively supporting him with money, phone calls, displays, and emails to the campaign with ideas. These Americans have inspired me to be active, and do all that I can to ensure Obama doesn't win this November.
How many PUMAs are there? I have read from the legacy media that 95% of the people voting for Hillary are going to vote Obama. I disagree. There is a 5000-plus membership in the Hillary Clinton forum, and many of these members have family that are also like minded. The number the PUMAs give is close to 7 million. We will see; however, I would put my money on the PUMA number. These people could be key in battleground states. And here is a thought: If so many Clinton supporters were going for Obama, then why make "Hillary Supporter for Obama" stickers?
The PUMA goal is to have McCain win in 2008, and Hillary Clinton win in 2012. But for now, these people are my best frenemies.
According to Wikipedia, "in personal relationships, the use of the term 'frenemy' has become increasingly used to describe two (or more) people who are apparently friends but are actually enemies." The PUMAs, conservative Democrats, and people who despise cheaters may be the voters that prevent the compete ultra-leftist takeover of the White House and US Congress (and ultimately, the Supreme Court).
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
THE RECESSION LESSON
I have a dear, dear friend who is well positioned in the banking industry. I, myself, am not very knowledgeable about economics, finance, or related fields. So, when I have serious questions about these matters, I go to her for advice.
Needless to say, in the midst of all this chaos, I turned to her for some guidance. I asked her to write a synopsis of the current situation, and it is presented below. I am hoping she will grace us with a few more posts during the tumult we now face.
THE RECESSION LESSON
We are as humans destined to repeat our history, most notably those lessons we fail to learn from, or which have not impacted a present generation’s experience. We are a new society unaccustomed to saving and waiting for things we want. We are so media-driven we can’t look up from our I-Phones long enough to see there are much more serious things to look at. Like where our next paycheck is coming from.
Yesterday was a historic day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a historic day for commodities, and a historic day for the U.S. Bond Markets. Congress did not pass the stimulus package requested by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson, crafted to purchase sub-performing loan assets and ostensibly unlock frozen credit markets. Stock indices fell 7-9% on the day in reaction, T-Bill rates collapsed to less than 1%, and repo markets were locked for the day as credit risk became germane. Perhaps most important to experts in the credit markets, overnight LIBOR jumped from 2.59% to 6.88%. These are only the reported rates, and actual rates paid by banks were no doubt higher. It could not have happened at a worse time, at quarter-end and with many of the risk “spreaders” in terms of Wall Street no longer available. Fewer participants always mean less liquidity. Allowing Lehman Bros. to fail meant no taxpayer price tag. Unless you factor in the complete disarray such action caused in terms of risk to credit markets.
While the stimulus to credit markets in form of a bill will undoubtedly be addressed again this week by Congress, and we can at least hope that it is termed differently than a “Wall Street Bail Out Bill”, with the public deluded into believing that the package will be used to pay huge Wall Street salaries and bonuses. It is time to begin the assessment of what the recent plunge in the DJIA does to individual homes and people who borrow, who have jobs, and who expect their pension check in the mail. People will quickly forget the populist rhetoric, blaming rich people and blaming Wall Street’s greed, when they realize that their pension plan is underfunded and they won’t be receiving a check now. They’ll forget about it when they lose their job in the worst recession of our lifetime. They’ll forget about hating President Bush when they can’t get a loan on a home. They’ll stop hating Wall Street and start hating their employer when their paycheck can’t happen because their company can’t make payroll. They’ll text message, e-mail, telephone, and write their Congressional representatives in droves to “fix the problem”. They’ll expect, because we’re an instant gratification culture, immediate results. They won’t be immediate, and most likely not even within the next President’s administration, no matter who he may turn out to be.
Americans share in this massive deleveraging now taking place globally. We took out the loans that are now in credit default. We need to pay off the debt we all have, inclusive of the federal government. Credit can be extended, once financial institutions know how much capital they have. We need to see Congress address the inherent illegality of Credit Derivative Swaps where there is no credit exposure, along with massive short-selling of financial institution stocks. These market manipulations are not productive toward turning the problem around, and neither is mark-to-market accounting, the FASB’s standard in recent years which means financial institutions are often forced to take massive losses on their balance sheet due to security valuations that do not reflect risk, but instead reflect broken liquidity markets. It is time to allow banks who intend to hold assets to maturity to do just that, and to assess their available capital and go back to lending without concern about an orchestrated run on their stock. These liquidity issues and bank solvency are what Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Paulson need to emphasize. It is their job and their reason for existence, and not private security markets on Wall Street.
Whether or not Americans find it palatable, there will be necessary government foreclosure of FDIC-insured institutions, and there will be ownership collectively by the taxpayers of subprime mortgage assets. We will need an agency to pool these assets and manage them by improving the structure through time and selling both the new assets and cheap liabilities. It can be done, as it has in the past, successfully. This corporation, similar in nature to the Resolution Trust Corporation formed back in the 1980’s, can eventually make money for taxpayers. Whether or not Americans find it palatable, what happens in our financial institutions involve our own individual finances and our homes. Our property valuations are impacted by our neighbor’s foreclosure sales. It’s in the end up to us to sacrifice and to assume the responsibility of worthy credit choices. It’s up to us to use the words, “We can’t afford it” to our families along with our Congress. It’s up to us to continue to make the point to government leaders that the federal government cannot spend us out of this problem even with the largest checkbook in the world. The problem isn’t spending. It’s reducing spending and beginning real investment in our futures. Don’t believe election year rhetoric that investment starts with government. It starts with us, on Main Street, with the private businesses and people who work in them that turn the engine of the economy of the United States. It is time to reform and streamline government. And it is time to reform and streamline how we do business.
Americans said “no” overwhelmingly to the requested package proposed yesterday, but restoration of liquidity into banking markets will require both time and a rebuilding of liquidity markets and credit on the institutional and individual investment sides. The question now looms on the horizon if we have the discipline for also saying “no” to massive government handouts promised in form of expanded welfare. What is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street. But it means everybody doing more with less.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Women: A Call to Action for Sarah
My very wise husband, Horemheb, said something yesterday that I think is very smart. In light of the very sexist and derisive attacks on Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, women need to act and act now -- otherwise the mainstream media and the Democratic elites will feel empowered to continue on.
What form should this action take? I think four forms:
1) Contact Gov. Palin and Senator McCain and offer your support.
2) Contact newspapers, broadcast stations, and specific reporters and complain of obvious double-standard treatment, smears, and lack of serious reporting in regards to Gov. Palin and her fine family.
3) Force yourself to watch MSNBC, CNN, NBC and other entities in the tank for Obama long enough to figure out who is advertising on the errant shows -- and then send letters of complaint, with hints of taking your business elsewhere, to the advertisers. Women have a lot of purchase power.
4) Contact your State and Federal representatives, and remind them that the unfair treatment of Gov. Palin will reflect poorly on the Democrats and you will gage the down-ticket voting accordingly.
Women must take action, if we are to achieve political power in a meaningful way in the future.
I will break this post into two separate sections below. The first in a general letter, which you can feel free to cut/paste and alter. In my experience as a writer, journalist, and editor, less is more. Keep your notes short, sweet, and to the point. The second is the contact information for contact entities. One thing to keep in mind -- emails are OK, but calls and snail mail have more impact. Do the email for speed, but if you can, call or write for further impact. But do what you can.
I will come back and add to this contact list as I get further information.
Do one or two a day, but keep at it through the election season. Keep in mind, millions of Americans acting together can affect change.
To Whom it May Concern:
I am writing to express my support of Gov. Sarah Palin's candidacy for the office of the Vice President, and to also express my displeasure at how Gov. Palin's family and her experience is being portrayed in the media.
Whether you agree or disagree with the political positions of the Governor, her family should be off-limits for intense reporting and derisive commentary in a professional media venue. I admire Gov. Palin for her reform-oriented governance of Alaska, her pro-business approach, and her knowledge of energy issues. She deserves a fair hearing in the court of public opinion.
It seems that Sen. Obama's past has not received nearly the same level of scrutiny -- and he is running for the Office or President. I just wanted to inform you that despite the elite media's best efforts, I am aware of Obama's "bitter clinger" remarks, Rev. Wright's and Father Fleger's hateful and bigoted preachings, Tony Rezko's business dealings with the Senator, and Obama's long-term friendship with domestic terrorist William Ayers.
I will be continuing to follow this election season closely. I will note which reporters and publications are fair, and those which are not. I will also note which advertisers support those news entities that are biased, and I will not look kindly on Democrats down-ticket of Obama if this continues.
Thank you for your consideration.
Alaska State Capitol Building
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
Phone (907) 465-3500
Fax (907) 465-3532
2008P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215
(Find your representatives and write from there).
(webmail and address information)
Verizon Ivan Seidenberg, Chmn & CEO, Verizon Corp. Branding 212-395-2121 email@example.com Robert Engalls Jr, Pres. Retail Mtkg. firstname.lastname@example.org Robert Varetonni, ED External Comm. email@example.com Eric Rabe, VP External Comm. firstname.lastname@example.org Judy Verses, Sr. VP Natl. Mktg. 703-390-7017 email@example.com Jerri DeVard, Sr. VP Mktg. firstname.lastname@example.org John Bonomo, PR 212-395-7756 email@example.com Sharon Cohen-Hagar, PR 972-718-6205 firstname.lastname@example.org Pearle Vision Claudio Del Vecchio, Exec VP 516-484-3800 x2202 email@example.com Seth McGlaughlin, VP Mktg. firstname.lastname@example.org Office Depot Steve Odland, Pres & CEO email@example.com Rex Ciavola, SVP Global Mktg. 561-438-4452 firstname.lastname@example.org Mindy Kramer, PR 561-438-4276, or email@example.com Ray Tharpe, Investor Relations 561-438-4540, firstname.lastname@example.org Brian Levine, Public Relations, 561-438-2895, or email@example.com Bayer Aspirin Heiner Springer, Head of Communications firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Schade, Head of Media Relations email@example.com Gerard Smith, VP Mktg 973-254-4843 firstname.lastname@example.org Jay Kolpon, VP Mktg. 973-254-4797 email@example.com Toyota Don Esmond, Senior VP tel. 310-468-5212 fax 310-468-7846 firstname.lastname@example.org Dennis Cuneo, SSenior VP tel. 212-223-0303 fax 212-750-3564 email@example.com Ms Pat Pineda, VP Ext. Affairs firstname.lastname@example.org Main #: 800-331-4331
Here is a good place to begin: Apparently, the Washington Post has published a blatant lie -- it seems that Gov. Palin expanded prenatal services for teens instead of cut them.
The full link is here: http://minx.cc/?post=272312
Washington Post ombudsman's email address: email@example.com
CHECK OUT THE NEW SARAH PALIN FORUM: http://www.freepowerboards.com/sarahpalin/
AND FOR FUN, THIS:
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Black and White of Ancient Egyptian Race
I heard a stunning report from my local radio station, as well as a broadcast on FNC (Special Report with Brit Hume). Apparently, a group of NAACP members protested the King Tutankhamen exhibit it the LA County Museum of Art because the recent bust generated using CAT scan data depicted the young pharaoh as “white” instead of “black”. I am livid with anger, because this blatant racism is being allowed to play out and no critical comment is given. I am also saddened by this display of ignorance about the actual “race” of the ancient Egyptians. Therefore, I have rapidly developed this essay.
Here are the source materials:
- http://www.catchpenny.org/race.html (my main reference source, and the one to which I most specifically refer).
- “Black Spark, White Fire” by Richard Poe
- The Great Courses on Tape – The History of Ancient Egypt by Bob Brier
I will begin this piece by clearly stating that I firmly believe that current, scientific evidence indicates that the ancient Egyptians were a blended group of people. In fact, the ancient Egyptians had one of the healthiest attitudes toward race – they basically thought of people as “Egyptian” or “foreign”, the actual ethnic group of an individual not being of particular concern to them. In fact, I think that the ancient Egyptians are best classifiable as members of the human race, and beyond that, the race or color of a specific individual is going to be exceedingly difficult to ascertain.
This essay will explore the definition and meaning of race. It will also provide information on the information that the ancient Egyptians transmitted themselves about their race. Then, it will address probably one of the most significant tools that are available to us to understand which groups of people actually contributed genetically to the ancient Egyptians – mitochondrial DNA. Then, I will conclude with my theory of the “race history” of the ancient Egyptians. (NOTE: The original essay contained links to images that helped highlight the point. Limitations of this format permit only one image, above. Please click to the links, as I think you will find them interesting).
RACE – WHAT DOES IT GOOD FOR? A PERSONAL COMPARISON.
I want to start this section with personal description. I am half Romanian gypsy in heritage (with distant ancestral roots, therefore, in Northern India). I have a good friend who is half “African American”, half “German American” – she looks rather like Lena Horne. Here are some graphics showing what we basically look like.
(Gypsy like me)
(Blended, like my friend)
When I am out of the sun, I am a light golden color – just like my friend. When I am in the sun, I tan darker than my friend. In fact, she burns a toasty pink. Who, then, is really “black”? Here in the USA, she is. But in Europe, I also would be referred to as “black”. Germans and many other Europeans refer to gypsies as “schwartzers”, “black ones”, or other similar terms, because gypsies tend to be darker than the typical Caucasian European.
Eventually, she and I will both pass away. In about 1000 years, our remains are discovered and a reconstructive bust of each of us is made. How would that artist/scientist know how to color each of is? My friend’s face bears some classically “black” features – but my ancestors have given me a skin tone far darker than hers.
LOOKING AT ANCIENT EGYPT AND RACE WITH PERSPECTIVE
Review the map of ancient Egypt. Some very important considerations must be given when “determining” the race of the ancient Egyptians, as noted by looking at the area itself.
- Egypt is fully connected to the Sudan and exceedingly close the Horn of Africa (i.e., Ethiopia, Somalia).
- Egypt is fully connected to Libya.
- Egypt is partially connected, via a land bridge, to the Sinai and the Levant.
- People tend to migrate from areas of less prosperity to areas of greater prosperity.
- Egypt was a highly successful and prosperous area for 5000 plus years.
And, as a final note to this section, let’s consider what race really means. Per my main reference cited above:
Biologists define "race" as a group or population differing in gene frequency from that of others in the same species. Such differences usually occur as a result of some type of geographic barrier limiting interbreeding, so that the two otherwise similar genetic populations begin to drift apart. Thus there are distinct "races" of fruit flies – separated perhaps by mountainous or desert conditions. However, with very limited exceptions there are no such separated groups within the human population, and those that do occur do not map on to what are in conventional speech regarded as separate "races." The consensus view among population geneticists and biological anthropologists is that the concept of "race" to indicate analytically distinct subgroups of the human race is biologically meaningless. [From a public lecture given at Gresham College, London, reported in The Independent, 28 January 2002]
"Race is a social construct, not a scientific classification," Robert S. Schwartz, M.D. wrote (in "Race Is a Poor Measure," New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 344, No. 18, May 3, 2001). "Any attempt to establish lines of division among biological populations is both arbitrary and subjective." The Human Genome Project determined that 99.9% of the human genetic complement is the same in everyone, regardless of race. This means that the DNA of any two people will differ in one out of every thousand nucleotides, the building blocks of individual genes. With more than 3 billion nucleotides in the human genome, about 3 million nucleotides will differ among individuals. While statistically small, this does allow for some variation. "Admittedly," wrote Dr. Sally Satel, "race is a rough marker. A black American may have dark skin - but his or her genes may well be a complex mix of ancestors from west Africa, Europe and Asia. No serious scientist, in fact, believes that genetically pure populations exist. Yet an imprecise clue is better than no clue at all." ("A question of colour" in The Guardian, 9 May 2002) But these differences between people are relatively insignificant: skin pigment, eye shape, and hair texture. The physical "stereotypes" of race, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza wrote in The History and Geography of Human Genes, "reflect superficial differences."
ANCIENT EGYPTIANS TELL US ABOUT THEIR OWN RACE
The ancient Egyptians provided some very important clues to their race on tomb walls. Here are two examples:
(Four peoples of the world: Syrian, Nubian, Libyan, and Egyptian, from the Tomb of Seti I.)
(Foreign prisoners of Ramesses III: Libyan, Nubian, Syrian, Shasu Bedouin, and Hittite.)
The ancient Egyptians were very consistent as to how they painted themselves – dark reddish brown for men, yellow for women. They also recognized and were willing to paint other races with classic racial characteristics of that particular group. Looking at the tomb painting above, the ancient Egyptians recognized that Nubians (i.e., Sudanese) were black, and that Libyans and Syrians were “white” (actually, in this case, a light yellow). Culture characteristics were also carefully recorded. Basically what the ancients were telling the viewer: We aren’t as black as our southern neighbors, nor are we as light as our western/eastern neighbors. We Egyptians are a separate group of people entirely.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians did what we Americans did to Betty Crocker a few years ago: blended all the colors of all the people together and came up with one standard color for everyone:
(American Blended Race Image of Betty Crocker).
The main reference I cited above expresses this concept very nicely:
Tomb paintings depicting captive Nubians may show them as being very dark, but this is an artistic convention stereotyping a nationality, and to conclude there were therefore no very dark Egyptians would be a non sequitur. Similarly, the skin tones in art depicting the Egyptians themselves adhere to convention rather than an absolutely accurate description of reality…We can safely conclude that the ancient Egyptians were of various skin colors, few of which were light judging by the climate.
OLD SCIENCE: A CLASSIC STUDY OF THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RACE
The “race” of the ancient Egyptians were studied in the 1940’s. My main essay reference provides this analysis:
In the 1940's, A. Batrawi made a detailed examination of ancient skeletal material from Egypt and Lower Nubia, comparing such physical features as craniological data and the length of limb bones, while recording changes through time. His resulting theory of racial continuity in the early Egyptian population has been supported by more recent research. In his seminal two-part article "The Racial History of Egypt and Nubia" (The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 75:1945, pp. 81-101; 76:1946, pp. 131-56), Batrawi does categorize physical types into racial groups, but his description of migration and interaction remains valid.
Since early neolithic times there existed two distinct but closely related types, a northern in Middle Egypt and a southern in Upper Egypt. The southern Egyptians were distinguished from the northerners by a smaller cranial index, a larger nasal index and greater prognathism. The geographical distinction between the two groups continued during the Pre-Dynastic Period. The Upper Egyptians, however, spread into lower Nubia during that period. By the beginning of the Dynastic era the northern Egyptian type is encountered for the first time in the Thebaïd, i.e., in the southern territory. The incursion, however, seems to have been transitory and the effects of the co-existence of the two types in one locality remained very transient until the 18th Dynasty. From this time onwards the northern type prevailed all over Egypt, as far south as Denderah, till the end of the Roman period.
In Lower Nubia a slight infiltration of negroid influence is observed during the Middle Kingdom times. In the New Empire period, however, the southern Egyptian type prevails again. After the New Empire a fresh and much stronger negro influence becomes discernable till the end of the Roman period.
NEW SCIENCE: DNA TESTING OF MUMMIES AND POPULATIONS
The Basics of DNA Testing
With the advances in science technology, there is now a new "weapon" that can help Egyptologists in their quest to construct the definitive chronology of Egyptian kings, namely DNA testing. The process involves taking minute amounts of tissue samples from a donor that can be broken down into their constituent parts, allowing the identification of individuals, by comparisons to other known samples.
First developed and used as an identification technique in 1985. DNA testing underwent further refining until in 1991, a process known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was developed; whereby DNA can be cloned to produce multiple copies of specific regions of human DNA. These regions can then be examined to see if they are linked genetically to other individuals.
(DNA Analysis Example)
DNA testing may be able to provide answers to the chronology and genealogy of Egypt's mummies. DNA has been termed as the "genetic fingerprint" of each individual, passing genetic information from one generation to the next by making exact replicas of its self. Therefore, the closer a genetic sequence match is, the higher the probability that the donors share a common ancestry.
Furthermore, an individual's genetic fingerprint is influenced by ones parents' genes; each contributing half of their genes to their offspring. There are two specific types if DNA that can be studied : Mitochondrial DNA and Nuclear DNA.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited from the mother, whilst Nuclear DNA is derived from both parents and is much harder to obtain for study. In fact, when someone mentions human DNA, they often are referring to “Nuclear DNA”. “Nuclear DNA” are the 46 chromosomes that inhabit the nucleus of almost every cell that comprises a human body. These chromosomes hold the vast bulk of genetic information inherited from both parents. Outside the nucleus, but still within the cell, lie mitochondria. Mitochondria are tiny structures that help cells in a number of ways, including producing the energy that cells need. Each mitochondrion -- there are about 1,700 in every human cell -- includes an identical loop of DNA about 16,000 base pairs long containing 37 genes. In contrast, nuclear DNA consists of three billion base pairs and an estimated 70,000 genes. (This estimate has been revised upward several times since the announcement that the human genome had been decoded, and likely will be again.)
One of the problems of trying to harvest ancient DNA is that it is one of the first things to undergo decomposition, breaking the strands of DNA into fragments, resulting in the danger of false sequencing. MtDNA is a hardier than nuclear DNA, and easier to replicate, therefore, it is easier to do genetic studies with it.
However, far and away the biggest threat in using DNA is the fear of cross contamination. If a single modern cell contaminates the sample under analysis, it becomes worthless. Therefore, it is imperative that any samples harvested are carried out under the most practically stringent conditions possible. Through the advent of experimentation, it has been found that teeth are the best source of harvesting "clean" DNA. The outer layer is vigorously cleaned, then the tooth is drilled to gain access to the inner un-contaminated pulp, which is then pulverized and used for DNA testing.
Since mtDNA is maternally inherited, one obvious limitation is in an instance when a mother bears no daughters. Her mtDNA effectively comes to a screeching halt. Later generations will not have a trace of the former generation's mtDNA in this case.
Here is the important point to mtDNA: Even though everyone on Earth living today has inherited his or her mtDNA from one person who lived long ago, our mtDNA is not exactly alike. Random mutations have altered the genetic code over the millennia. But these mutations are organized, in a way. For example, let's say that 10,000 years after the most recent common ancestor, one of the mtDNA branches experienced a mutation. From that point on, that line of mtDNA would include that alteration. Another branch might experience a mutation in a different location. This alteration would also be passed on. What we would eventually end up with are some descendants who have mtDNA that is exactly or very much like that of some people's, somewhat like that of others, and less like that of yet others. By looking at the similarities and differences of the mtDNA of all of these individuals, researchers could try to reconstruct where the branching took place.
What mtDNA Testing Can Mean to Egyptology
When a group of people migrates to an area, they tend to combine their DNA with the local population. The mtDNA can be used to determine when certain populations “commingled” within Egypt. Since the mT DNA mutates at a fairly steady rate, there are a questions that may be answered with further study:
· What populations today are most similar to the ancient Egyptians?
· How much of a “genetic contribution” did each population make?
· How long has it been since the “genetic contribute” was initially made?
For example, using mtDNA and samples from ancient and modern sources, it can be determined that Population X of ancient Peoples has many characteristics of Population Y, and that group X became separated from its “home” Population Y 5000 years ago. About the same time, Population X met new population Z and began the enjoyable process of “blending DNA”. Then about 2600 years ago, another group, Population S, arrived to contribute other distinct genetic characteristics. And, looking at the DNA structure of a specific individual, it could be estimated that the individual had 50 % X, 25 % Y and 25 % Z characteristics. Therefore, mtDNA studies could be really valuable at looking for the populations that contributed most strongly to the ancient Egyptian nation, and the approximate percentage and chronology of this contribution can be reasonably determined in a scientific manner.
Mitochondrial DNA studies have been recently use to show Neanderthal man did not contribute significantly to the current human population – even in Europe, where it was thought such interactions may have been occurring. Also, mtDNA shows we all have a shared maternal ancestor about 32 generations back. Forensically, mT DNA is used in many criminal prosecutions (e.g., Westerfield trial in San Diego).
Currently, I am not aware of any mtDNA study that focuses on looking at the populations that contributed to ancient Egypt. I have made some inquiries, and will provide an update if I get information that such studies are being conducted. At the present time, the only mtDNA studies conducted of mummies have been to show the familial relationships between individuals.
In the example of mtDNA conclusions utilizing populations X, Y, Z and S that I have detailed above, there are three specific populations I am considering in actuality. My candidate populations for these theoretical population interactions are as follows:
POPULATION X/Y – HORN OF AFRICA GROUPS
(Populations from the Horn of Africa; note that the bone structure here would be hard to distinguish from many Caucasian/European populations)
POPULATION Z: LIBYAN/NORTHERN AFRICAN GROUPS
POPULATION S: LEVANT GROUPS
(Libyan populations, generally with classic Mediterranean features)
(Levant populations, with classic Semitic features).
It is my theory, and one I would enjoy seeing studies using DNA analysis (instead of heated rhetoric) to prove or disprove, is that these three groups combined to make the “ancient Egyptian” race. Later in this essay I will demonstrate how I think this blending took place. Only if the NAACP group can prove the African Group provides a preponderance of the mtDNA contribution in a specific individual will I concede that an specific ancient Egyptian was “black”. Otherwise, I will assume the individual was a blended version, containing contributions from 2-3 of these groups, and the actual color of an individual is an estimate (unless it is reasonably concluded by looking at hair samples, the race of directly related mummies, and portraiture that is painted in a fashion that tends to reflect the individual’s look instead of ancient Egyptian artistic funerary convention).
THE RACE OF SPECIFIC ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
The “Black” Ancient Egyptians
As I indicated toward the beginning of this essay, an individual’s race can be difficult to conclude. However, I think we can look at the artwork, mummies, and recorded history to come up with reasonable racial estimates for specific individuals. Let me start this process by conceding a point to the NAACP – I strongly suspect that the earliest Egyptians in the southern portion of the country were probably “Horn of Africa” types, and therefore, what we consider “black” in today’s lingo. For example, King Khufu’s son, Rahotep and his wife Nefer have been depicted in painted statuary thusly:
(Rahotep and Nefer, 4th dynasty).
When I look at this, objectively, I believe Rahotep could have looked similar to a Somali. And, like my girlfriend, a golden skin is not unheard of in Horn of Africa types – especially when they stay out of the sun (like women tended to do in ancient Egypt). However, it could indicate some genetic blending with Libyans was occurring, too!
Interestingly, a police sketch artist (Frank Domingo) completed an investigation of the facial features of the Sphinx, which also has an estimated 4th dynasty construction date. Comparing specific, undamaged portions of the Sphinx to a statue of Khafre (the king thought to be the face used as a model), Domingo questioned the conventional Egyptological thinking that the Sphinx depicted Khafre. Looking and angles between specific facial features, Domingo showed that the Sphinx had dramatically greater prognathism (the degree to which the lower face points forward) than Khafre. Pronounced prognasthism is a characteristic of “black” populations. Personally, I believe this is a reasoned interpretation of the data. I find it credible that the early version of the Sphinx represented a “Horn of Africa” type, or one that was blended with a large genetic contribution from African ancestors. Also, since the Egyptians were big on “recycling “ monuments, and the head of the Sphinx is very small in proportion to the body, I find it possible that Khafre did a little reworking of the Sphinx to make it look more like himself. Additionally, the Sphinx was pained a red-brown color (which, I think, points to the blended nature of it’s original race).
(Sneferu, 4th dynasty).
On a more personal note, when I look at this image of Snefru, I think it looks very similar to that of an African-American man I know (and even then, he is “blended”, having a German grandfather). So, in my opinion, Sneferu could have been “black”. This is a very rare depiction of this great king, and it demonstrates an unconventional approach to depicting the Pharaoh. Snefru is shown as imperfect, with a receding jaw.
Also, it is important to note that individual Egyptians have been clearly portrayed as “black”. For example, there was a valued chancellor (Maihepri) within a Late period Egyptian royal court. His Book of the Dead depicts him as “black” – therefore, Egyptians were willing to show a specific individual as “black”.
There are a whole dynasty of kings (the 25th) from the Sudan – all, most likely, “black” in the NAACP meaning of the term. These kings include Piye, Shabaka, Shibitku, Taharqa, and Tanuatamun. Additionally, their daughter’s that became the “Gods Wife of Amen” (e.g., Shepenwepet II) were also “black”.
(King Taharqa of the 25th Dynasty).
NOTE: The only image to appear in this essay is deemed a "Mystery Queen". A contributor at the Egyptological Electronic Forum notes: "During the Egyptian Government excavations around the pyramid of The Pharaoh Teta at Sakkara, a mould was found in the Royal Funerary temple, which is unquestionably a death mask; and the above photographs show the plaster cast which was made at the Cairo Museum from this mould." The face molded from this mask appears to be the "Horn of Africa" type Egyptian. That she was potentially Old Kingdom royalty is consistent with my theory (presented below) that the earliest rulers of ancient Egypt could well be "black", as the southerners conquered and dominated the northerners in the earliest epoch of ancient Egyptian history.
The “White” Ancient Egyptians
However, there are other indications that specific individuals were either “blended” or were strongly “Mediterranean” (i.e., olive skin, straight hair) in their look. For example, the mummy of Tutankhamen’s Great-Grandfather (Yuya, whose daughter Queen Tiye gave birth to Tutankhamen’s reputed father, Akhenaton) had a full head of “gingery”, reddish-blond hair and a beard to match. The mummy of the “Elder Lady”, which was found in a cache of other important 18th dynasty royalty, is strongly suspected to be Queen Tiye herself. This mummy has classically Mediterranean hair, long and straight. The mummy of Ramses the Great has red hair. So, just considering the actual mummies, I think it is reasonable to assume that these individuals were “Mediterranean” types – blended, but with a large contribution from Libyan and Levant group sources.
Some portraiture also points to Mediterranean racial influences. For example, the pictures derived from the Armana Period (18th dynasty period featuring the heretic King Akhenaton and inclusive of his son, Tutankhamen) clearly show the young Armana princesses (i.e., Tutankhamen’s half sisters) as olive skinned. Armana portraiture was specifically designed to be as close to natural as possible. In fact,. The Armana portrait shows body flaws (e.g., Amenhotep III’s fatness, Nefertiti’s sagging breasts and stretch marks). Therefore, if these individuals were black, they probably would have been painted that way. The famous bust of Nefertiti was found in an artist’s shop. This bust was a “model” upon other works were based. This model clearly shows a Nefertiti with highly “Libyan” features, and I think it is an accurate likeness of the queen at the height of her beauty.
Tutankhamen was a Mediterranean type. His great-grandfather and grandmother clearly were, based on the actual mummies. His reputed mother was Kiya, who is conjectured to be a Mitanni princess. Mitannis were clearly a far lighter population then typical Egyptians, of the "Levant" type from Northern Syria. His portraiture that obviously depicts him in a personal way also shows olive skin. Therefore, the bust developed on the CAT scan data is a reasonable approximation of his skin tone. If any fault could be made, it is that he should have been more “tan”, as he enjoyed hunting (and probably spent a good deal of tie outdoors, as many young men do).
Not only is Ramses the Great “Mediterranean”, evidence points to his chief wife, Nefertari also being “Mediterranean”. The art of this period, the 19th dynasty, was still highly influence by the Armana standard , as the Armana artists began working for the next line of kings. Her tomb paintings show naturalistic pink cheeks on fair skin.
Cleopatra is another individual that Afrocentrists claim is a “black” Egyptian Queen. Cleopatra VII was directly descended from the Macedonian line of kings that ruled after Alexander’s conquest. Therefore, she is at least half Greek. Her father was Ptolemy XII. Her mother was either a Greek sister or cousin, or a Syrian noble woman/princess (the Ptolmeys were marrying into other Alexandrian kingdoms at this point). Though there may be Roman references to Cleopatra being “black”, the term in this context means darker than a western European. True, Cleopatra would have been darker than a Roman, but she is not a Nubian Queen either.
Finally, also consider the cartonage masks of the Graeco Roman period mummies (i.e.,32 dynasty to 400 AD). These masks were designed to exactly look like the mummified individual The faces that a presented on those cartonage masks reflect a population that looks remarkably like the Egyptian population today. This confirms a finding in the “classic” study cited earlier in the essay: the Egyptians have been a relatively homogenous population for a prolonged period of time. Individuals may be far darker (especially in the south), but generally they look similar to many peoples found in the Mediterranean basin.
Afrocentrists counter that there are examples of King Tutankhamen funerary statues depicting him as “black”. Certain other queens and pharaohs (e.g., Ahmose-Nefertari and Amenhotep I) are also shown painted “black”. However, artwork with these features is ALWAYS found in a funerary context, at least for the examples Afrocentrists like to cite. It was one of the Egyptian art conventions that rulers posing as funereal divinities were often painted black or green, to mimic decaying corpses or to represent rich, fertile soil. Therefore, one black funerary portrait does not a black Egyptian ruler make. There needs to be hard, forensic evidence (e.g., mummies, mtDNA) or evidence presented in “living” artpieces or the written record.
MUTNODJMET’S UNIFIED THEORY
I have presented a lot of different types of data into this discussion. Now, I would like to put it together, to demonstrate the population migrations and interactions that occurred along the Nile to generate the “ancient Egyptian race.”.
During the period between 10,000-7000 BC, toward the end of the last Ice Age and a relatively wet period for north Africa, two distinct groups began entering the Nile Valley: The “Horn of Africa” Group (HOA) and the “Libyan” contingent (LB). Ready access to the Nile was available to the Libyans, as the desert was a fully formed barrier to the river valley or delta region during this period. The HOG group dominated southern Egypt, the LB group the northern Delta region. About 5000 BC, these groups began interacting and genetic material started blending. Approximately 3000 BC, Narmer of the South conquered the north and married a delta princess (LB group). The famous Narmer palette shows that Narmer was vanquishing foes with long, straight hair indicative of Mediterranean types. Narmer’s “race” may have been HOA or blended (HOA and LB).
The early dynasty pharaohs continued the process of blending HOA and LB groups. Therefore, certain individuals may have been very dark (i.e., “black”). But, it is also reasonable to assume others would have been fair (i.e., “white”).
Approximately at the end of the Third Dynasty, and certainly by the beginning of the Fourth, there were expeditions to Sinai (for turquoise, other minerals) and the Levant (for cedars of Lebanon, used in barges and pyramid construction). Snefru, for example, developed important turquoise mines and his Bent Pyramid still has beams of large Lebanese cedars visible today (for those brave enough to enter the unstable tomb). Therefore, starting approximately 2600 BC, Egyptians were starting to genetically blend with Levant Group types (LV), which brought the population more in line with the overall complexion of the Mediterranean Basin.
There were definite genetic interactions occurring on the southern border as well. HOA and Nubians were also contributing DNA to the Egyptian population, in what I view as a “steady-state” rate. But, due to the nature of trade and exploration, more and more influence from the LV groups were occurring, overall “lightening” the Egyptians relatively to their original population. For example, the Middle Kingdom rulers (2000 BC) were continually sending expeditions to the Sinai, Levant and were thought to be establishing contacts with Greeks and other groups more distant to Egypt within the Mediterranean basin.
By the time of the New Kingdom (1500 BC), the Egyptians were a blended mix of HOA, LB and LV groups. They looked much the same as they do now, with a bell curve of fewer “white” individuals, most “olive” individuals, and fewer “black” individuals. Overall, they were darker than the average Greek, Roman, Syrian, Hittite, Libyan, but they were also lighter than any Nubian or Southern African type. In the late Period (^60 BC forward), more and more contributions were being made by the Greeks to the genetics of that region.
I think that Afrocentrist theory has been poisonous to a levelheaded discussion of ancient Egypt. My main reference source eloquently explains the ancient Egyptian race “controversy” in this fashion:
There has been a spate of controversy of late between "Afrocentric" authors and their critics, but the truth is that Egyptologists are not involved in some massive conspiracy of lies designed to subjugate black populations, as has often been charged. Indeed, most modern Egyptologists are rather taciturn when it comes to the subject of race. Nor have the black Africans been "robbed" of their legacy. Civilization as it exists today is the culmination of the historical development of mankind, layer upon layer from ancient times to modern, each group contributing its share to the whole. Through human interaction, whether by trade or warfare, ideas, reform, and invention are assimilated, adapted, and again dispersed. It's the nature of history regardless of ethnicity. To make petty and arbitrary distinctions based on human physical appearance is divisive and can only lead to wanton racist misuse.
Summarizing some important facts:
· The ancient Egyptians did not belong to one race, but were a blend of several ethnic groups.
· Though there certainly were “black” pharaohs, King Tutankhamen was not one of them.
· Though there certainly were “black” queens, Cleopatra and Nefertiti were not among them.
· Specific scientific study, in the form of DNA/mt DNA testing, might be valuable to elucidate the actual origins/composition of the ancient Egyptian population.
One final thought: The ancient Egyptians can be claimed by no, one group of people. The entire world can enjoy the wisdom, beauty and mystery of the Kingdom of the Nile. The ancient Egyptians were distinct, in and of themselves. I think that is way they would prefer for us to think of them.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
It has been my privilege to prepare essays on various subjects pertaining to ancient Egypt . This essay will focus on my area of most focused egyptological study – the art and science of mummification. There are links to images and references that can enhance understanding.As always, I would like to list the sources for the material cited through this article
1) Egyptian Mummies (Unraveling the Secrets of an Ancient Art), Dr. Bob Brier, 1994 (ISBN 0-688-10272-7).
2) The Mummy in Ancient Egypt (Equipping the Dead for Eternity), Salima Ikram and Aidan Dodson, 1998 (ISBN 0-500-05088-0).
This piece will strictly focus on the actual process of mummification as practiced by the ancient Egyptians, as well as how we know this information. As always, I will be delighted to address questions from ACOC members on this material.
EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION – THE DELUXE TREATMENT
The Egyptians believed that a fully preserved body was essential, as the spirit (“Ka”) required an intact home. Through centuries of experience and practice, the ancient Egyptians developed very worthy techniques. We are able to look upon the faces of some of the most prominent men in history (e.g., Ramses the Great, Amenhotep the Magnificent) as a result of the art and science they practiced.
The first step in producing a worthy mummy is to remove all traces of water. Water permits the bacteria, which are responsible for the process of decay, to thrive and multiply. Consider a raisin – it is essentially the mummy of a grape. Therefore, the primary goal of the ancient mummifier was extracting as much water as possible from the corpse.
This total process of ancient Egyptian mummification included numerous religious and ritual aspects. However, two specific elements in the ceremony addressed the need for water removal -- evisceration and dehydration.
The first step in mummification, once a corpse arrived and was ritually cleansed, was eviseration. The first embalmer, a priest, would an incision line on the left side of the abdomen. Here is where the obsidian knife comes in. In most instances, a 4 inch slice was made in the lower-right portion of the abdomen, from which the internal organs could be removed. During is experiments, Dr. Bob Brier attempted to use a variety of knifes that were constructed in similar fashion to those available in the ancient world. Ultimately, he discovered that an obsidian blade (refered to in Greek literature as the “Ethiopian Knife”) was surgically sharp and the single most effective tool to begin the eviscerating procedure.
It is interesting to note that the “Slitter”, as this individual is termed in ancient Egyptian texts, was reviled for this act of desecration. The other members of the mummification crew would have tossed stones at him after the cut. Likely they missed, as the “Slitter” was most likely a brother or another member of the family engaging in the clan’s business. Also officiating at the ceremony was an embalmer wearing an Anubis mask, performing specific rituals during the mummification process.
The internal organs, called viscera, were normally removed from the thoracic and abdominal cavities through an abdominal incision in the left flank. In some instances, the viscera were not extracted at all, while in others they were removed through the anus. Typically, however, there will be a 4-inch incision though which even the largest abdominal organ (the liver) could be removed. Dr. Brier commented that the liver came out in two sections, but was able to be extracted though the small slit.
This organ tissue was then dehydrated with natron, and either placed in canopic jars or made into four packages and reinserted into the body cavities (especially during the 21st dynasty and after). Some were wrapped in one large packet that was placed on the legs of the mummy. Interestingly, the heart was considered to be the organ associated with the individual's intelligence and life force and was therefore retained in place, while the brain was removed and discarded.
- Imset (depicted as a human) was responsible for the liver;
- Hapi (a baboon) for the lungs;
- Duamutef (a jackal) for the stomach;
- Kebechsenef (a falcon) for the viscera of the lower body.
The brain itself is a water-rich organ, and had to be removed for effective mummification. Reviewing the ancient literature, it was theorized that a hook was inserted into the nostril, and the brain removed in piecemeal fashion. However, during his 1994 mummification of a modern man, Dr. Brier ascertained the hook was used to scramble the brain matter, which would then ooze out once the head was tipped. Then, linen would be inserted and removed, extracting more residue. Only when the linen came out clean would this process be concluded. As mentioned before, the brain was discarded as useless.
After removal of the internal organs, the body cavities were washed out with spiced palm wine and then filled with a mixture of dry natron (a type of salt) gum resin and vegetable matter. An average sized human being requires 600 pounds of natron for dehydration. Once placed on special boards (which would permit the corpse to be completely surrounded by natron, so that the glutteal and back areas would be dried), the corpse was left to dehydrate for a period of approximately 35 days. At that point, the limbs were still mobile enough for movement (so that the mummy could be posed in classic funereal styles).
It is interesting to note that natron, believed to be the main ingredient used to pack the body, is found in a dry desert valley called the Wadi Natrun, now famous for its monasteries. It is composed of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate and includes some natural impurities. Originally, there was some discussion in Egyptology circles concerning the use of natron, actual salt (sodium chloride), or lime (calcium carbonate) as the main dehydration agent in Egyptian mummification. There was also a question of whether the natron was used in a solution such as water, or in a solid state. However, assessment of the Greek texts that describes the process, together with modern experiments on mummification has led us to believe that dry natron provides the most satisfactory results and was probably used exclusively.
After the body was completely dehydrated, the temporary stuffing that was used to fill the body was removed from its cavities and replaced with the permanent stuffing and sometimes also with the viscera packages. Next the abdominal incision was closed, the nostrils were plugged with resin or wax, and the body was anointed with a variety of oils and gum resins, which may have also played some part in preventing or delaying insect attack and in masking the odors of decomposition that would have accompanied the mummification process. However, all of these later stages were essentially cosmetic and had little effect in preserving the tissues.
After the basic mummification process was completed, the embalmers then wrapped the mummy in layers of linen bandages, between which they inserted protected amulets to guard the deceased from evil and danger. A decomposing body will soon begin to swell and loose its recognizable human form. This swelling will effect all of the body, but is particularly apparent in the abdomen, where gasses being produced by bacteria inflate the intestines. Removal of the internal organs of course aids in preventing this process. However, bandaging of the body also prevents or at least restricts such swelling, as well as excluding air from direct contact with the corpse, thus slowing deterioration. Bandaging would also prevent the formation of blisters on the skin, caused by fluid within the body, which appear in the first stages of decomposition. It is thought that the bandages were derived from the bed-linens and clothing items the ancient Egyptians utilized during their lives.
At the end of the embalming process the priest would conclude by repeating an embalming spell:
“You will live again, you will live forever. Behold, you are young again forever”.
EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION – VALUE TREATMENTS AND ENHANCEMENTS
The approach I described above was essentially the premier treatment. There were two less expensive value packages that Herodotus mentions did not involve the complete evisceration of the body. In a second method, which was also used for animal mummification, oil of cedar was injected into the anus, which was then plugged to prevent the liquid from escaping. The body was afterwards treated with natron. Next, the oil was drained off and the intestines and the stomach, which became liquefied by the natron, came away with the oil. All that remained was actually the skin and the skeleton. The body was returned to the family in this state for burial. However, this was even superior to the cheapest method, where the body was purged so that the intestines came away. Afterwards, the body was treated with natron.
Over the long history of ancient Egyptian mummification, there were only two major additions to the basic procedure. From as early as the Middle Kingdom, the brain was removed in some mummies and by the New Kingdom, this procedure of excerebration had become widespread. This process involved the insertion of a metal hook by the embalmer into the cranial cavity through the nostril and ethmoid bone, and the brain was pulverized to fragments so that it could be removed with a spatula type instrument. However, at times, access was gained to the cranial cavity either through the base of the skull or an eye socket. Obviously, it would have been impossible to remove every small fragment of the brain through any of these methods. Before the mummification was complete, the emptied cranial cavity was packed with strips of linen that had been impregnated with resin, though at other times molten resin was poured into the skull. In fact, King Tutankhamen’s skull contains such resin residue.
The second innovation in mummification was probably not introduced until as late as the 21st Dynasty. Then the embalmers sought to develop a technique that originally had been used during the 18th Dynasty mummification of King Amenhotep III. His embalmers had attempted to recreate the plumpness of the king's appearance by introducing packing under the skin of his mummy though incisions made in his legs, neck and arms. The priests of the 21st Dynasty began to use this subcutaneous packing for anyone who could afford such an expensive technique. Now, the body cavities were packed through a flank incision with sawdust, butter, linen and mud, and the four individually wrapped packages of viscera were also inserted into these cavities, rather than being placed in canopic jars.
Subcutaneous material was also inserted through mall incisions into the skin, the neck and the face was packed through the mouth. Hence, the embalmers attempted to retain the original body contours at least to some extent in order to give the mummy a more lifelike appearance. In fact, artificial eyes were often placed in the eye sockets and the skin was sometimes painted with red ocher (for men) or yellow ocher (for women). False plaits and curls were even woven into the natural hair. However, these very expensive and time consuming processes were not retained beyond the 23rd Dynasty.
The following is an example of the high-point in Mummification: the mummy of 21st Dynasty Queen Nodjmet. Prepared with subcutaneous stuffing, flase hair, and inlaid eyes, she is extremely well preserved and almost looks asleep. Nodjmet was the wife of the Priest-King, Herihor.
One can readily assume the entire mummification process was an odoriferous one. Bob Brier noted that one of the titles Anubis (the ancient Egyptian god devoted to mummification) was “He Who Is Upon His Hill” or “He Who Is In His Tent”. Therefore, it is theorized that most mummification was conducted within tents, outside the borders of the city/village on nearby hills.
During the Graeco-Roman period, records indicate it would cost about 450 drachmae (about $5000) to prepare a mummy. The most costly item was linen, as so much was used. Addional charges included an Anubis mask (probably worn during specific ceremonies by one of the embalmers), mourners, and carriage by donkey.
THE OVERALL HISTORY OF EGYPTIAN MUMMIFICATION
The history of Egyptian mummifcation can be summarized based on the kingdom divisions of the Egypt’s history.
· Old-Kingdom (initial experimentation; mummies made mainly of royal persons; mummies essentially consist of wrapped corpses poorly preserved).
· Middle-Kingdom (moderate progress; mummies made of nobles and royals; better dehydration and preservation techniques.)
· New Kingdom (High-Mark; mummies made of nobles, royals, and the wealthy; brain removal and subcutaneous padding).
· Late Kingdom (Generally good, and mummification services offered to more and more citizens; explosion in the number of animal mummies produced).
· Graeco-Roman Period (Generally poor preservation, but the bandaging is precise and is an artform in itself; mummification is available to all who can afford it; cartonage and gold-covered masks cover the mummies).
The history in full starts with an understanding that in Egypt, a combination of climate and environment, as well as the people's religious beliefs and practices, led first to unintentional natural mummification and then to true mummification. In Egypt, and particularly ancient Egypt, there was a lack of cultivatable land and so the early Egyptians chose to bury their dead in shallow pit-graves on the edges of the desert, where the heat of the sun and the dryness of the sand created the natural mummification process. Even this natural process produced remarkably well preserved bodies. Often, these early natural mummified bodies retained skin tissue and hair, along with a likeness of the person's appearance when alive.
Prior to about 3400 BC, all Egyptians were buried in pit graves, whether rich or poor, royal or common. Later however, as prosperity and the advance in building techniques improved, more elaborate tombs for those of high social status were constructed. Yet at the same time, these brick lined underground burial chambers no longer provided the conditions which led to natural mummification in the older pit graves. Now however, mummification had been established in the religious belief system so that the deceased's ka, or spirit, could return to and recognize the body, reenter it, and thus gain spiritual sustenance from the food offerings. Hence, a method was sought to artificially preserve the bodies of the highest classes. However, preservation of the body was probably also required due to the longer period that it took to actually inter the body, as grave goods and even the tomb itself received final preparations.
What we sometimes called true mummification involves a sophisticated process that was developed from experimentation. The best example of this process is Egyptian mummification, which involved the use of chemical and other agents. The experimentation that led to true mummification probably lasted several hundred years. Such efforts may have begun as early as the 2nd Dynasty. J. E. Quibell, an Egyptologist who worked in some primitive Egyptian necropolises, found a large mass of corroded linen between the bandages and bones of a body interred in a cemetery at Saqqara that perhaps evidences an attempt to use natron or another agent as a preservative by applying it to the surface of the skin.
Another early technique involved the covering of the body in fine linen and then coating this with plaster to carefully preserve the deceased's body shape and features, in particular the head. In 1891, W. M. Flinders Petrie discovered a body at Meidum dating to the 5th Dynasty in which there had been some attempt to preserve the body tissue as well as to recreate the body form. Bandages were carefully molded to reproduce the shape of the torso. Arms and legs were separately wrapped and the breasts and genitals were modeled in resin-soaked linen. Nevertheless, decomposition had taken the body beneath the bandages, and only the skeleton remained.
Only as early as the 4th Dynasty do we actually find convincing evidence of successful, true mummification. The mother of Khufu (i.e., Hetepheres), the king who built the Great Pyramid at Giza, also had a tomb at Giza. Though her body has not been found, in her tomb was discovered preserved viscera which could probably be attributed to this queen. An analysis of these viscera packets proved that they had been treated with natron, the agent that was successfully used in later times to dehydrate the body tissue. Hence, this find demonstrates that the two most important components of mummification, evisceration of the body and dehydration of the tissues, was already in use by royalty. Afterwards, mummification continued to be practiced in Egypt for some three thousand years, lasting until the end of the Christian era.
As Egyptian history progressed, mummification became available to people of the upper and even the middle classes. During the Middle Kingdom, the political and economic growth of the middle classes and the increased importance of religious beliefs and practices among all Egyptian social classes resulted in the spread of mummification to new sections of the population. More mummies have survived from that period than from the Old Kingdom, but it is also evident that less care was taken in their preparations. Mummification was actually most widespread during the Greco-Roman period. It was then that foreign immigrants who settled in Egypt began to adopt Egyptian funerary beliefs and customs. Mummification at that time became an increasingly prosperous commercial venture, and it tended to indicate the decease's social status rather than any religious conviction. This resulted in a further decline in the quality of the mummification process. At that time, bodies were elaborately bandaged and encased in covers made of cartonnage (a mixture of plaster and papyrus or linen). However, modern radiographic analysis confirms that these bodies were frequently poorly preserved inside their wrappings. Mummification was never generally available to the common classes of people. Yet, since they could not afford the sophisticated funerary structures, they continued to be interred in simple desert graves where their bodies were naturally preserved.
KEYS TO MUMMY IDENTIFICATION
The following section summarizes important things to look for, so that you can readily identify the general period of time during which an Egyptian mummy was prepared. This list is not all inclusive, but should give ACOC members an idea of the basic trends and identification clues that can be used in determining the age of a specific mummy.
Old Kingdom (Mummies of Royals. Very rare; never usually seen outside of Egypt or the oldest European Collections).
· Plastered-Shaped Mummy
· Plain Wooden Coffins, Box-Shaped.
· When used, stone or pottery Canopic jars were plain.
Middle Kingdom (Mummies of Royals and Nobles).
· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), generally of simple design, but usually of high quality and beauty.
· Wooden Coffins, Box-Shaped.
· Coffins have elaborate hieroglyphics, and eyes on the side of the box.
· Mummy buried on its side.
· Stone or pottery Canopic jars were plain or had human heads.
New Kingdom – Late Kingdom (Mummies of Royals, Nobles, and Wealthy).
· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), of more complex design (e.g., feathered headdresses). These tend to be more colorful and garish then Middle Kingdom.
· The Royal Mummies would have gold or silver masks (e.g., the famous one of King Tutankhamen).
· Arthropoid Coffins, Human-Shaped.
· Coffins have elaborate hieroglyphics.
· Richer burials utilize box-shaped wood or stone sarcophagus, which can be highly decorated (either with paintings or reliefs)
· Canopic jars were generally had human heads or those of the Four Sons of Horus.
· Papyrus “Book of the Dead” are buried with the mummy.
Ptolemaic-Graeco-Roman (Mummies of all who can afford the price).
· Plaster Masks (called Cartonnage), were used/ However, there was a wide variety of types, and many were highly influenced by Greek art (which focused on producing more realistic results). Plaster or gold-foil masks with very Greek characteristics are noted.
· Some of the wealthier mummies (especially in later history) have encaustic mummy portraits instead of masks. These portraits are as close to a snap-shot of what the actual individual looked like as could be achieved during this period of history.
· The quality of preservation techniques deteriorated. However, the bandaging became quite elaborate to make up for it. Therefore, a mummy with diamond-shaped patterns of bandages will always be from this period.
· Canopic jars may or may not be associated with a burial.