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kottke.org posts about Egypt

An Official High-Resolution 3D Model of the Bust of Nefertiti Is Available for Download

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2019

Nefertiti 3D

The spectacular bust of Nefertiti, some 3300 years old, is currently housed at the Neues Museum in Berlin. A few years ago, high-resolution scans of the sculpture were released without permission of the museum. Now, after three years of pressure on the museum related to their claim on the bust, an official “full-color, 6.4 million-triangle 3D scan of the Bust of Nefertiti” has been released under a Creative Commons license. Cosmo Wenman has the story of how he eventually got the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation to release the scans.

For more than a decade, museums around the world have been making high-quality 3D scans of important sculptures and ancient artifacts. Some institutions, such as the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Denmark, have forward-thinking programs that freely share their 3D scans with the public, allowing us to view, copy, adapt, and experiment with the underlying works in ways that have never before been possible. But many institutions keep their scans out of public view.

The Louvre, for example, has 3D-scanned the Nike of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. The Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence 3D-scanned Michelangelo’s David. The Bargello has a scan of Donatello’s David. Numerous works by Auguste Rodin, including the Gates of Hell, have been scanned by the Musée Rodin in Paris. The Baltimore Museum of Art got in on the Rodin action when it scanned The Thinker. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has scans of works by Bernini, Michelangelo, and many others. But instead of allowing them to be studied, copied, and adapted by scholars, artists, and digitally savvy art lovers, these museums have kept these scans, and countless more, under lock and key.

In Berlin, the state-funded Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection has a high-quality, full-color 3D scan of the most iconic portrait sculpture ever produced, the 3,364-year-old Bust of Nefertiti. It has held this artifact since 1920, just a few years after its discovery in Amarna, Egypt; Egypt has been demanding its repatriation ever since it first went on display. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egyptian art, and has become a cultural symbol of Berlin. For reasons the museum has difficulty explaining, this scan too is off-limits to the public.

Rather, it was off-limits. I was able to obtain it after a 3-year-long freedom of information effort directed at the organization that oversees the museum.

(via open culture)

How the Great Pyramid at Giza Looked in 2560 BCE

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2019

The current outer surface of the Great Pyramid at Giza is made of rough limestone blocks, colored a dark sandy brown from hundreds of years of pollution and weathering. But when it was first built, there was a smooth layer of fine white limestone on the outside of the structure, all cut to the same angle and polished to a shine so bright it almost glowed. It might have looked something like this (current view for reference):

Original Giza Pyramid

This video from the Smithsonian shows how the fine limestone was sanded to that white sheen:

In addition, the structure would likely have been topped with a pyramidion, a capstone made of solid granite and covered in a precious metal like gold. The sheer size of the pyramid must have been enough to blow ancient minds, but seeing it all shiny and topped in gold… well, no wonder they thought their rulers were gods.

Queen Nefertiti freed from German museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2016

The Neues Museum in Berlin is the current home of the bust of Queen Nefertiti, a singular piece of ancient Egyptian sculpture. A pair of artists went to the museum, did a 360° scan of the bust without the museum’s permission, and have made the resulting high-resolution 3D model available to all.

3d Nefertiti

In lieu of the contested original, a 3D-printed copy of the bust made from the model is now on display in Egypt at the American University of Cairo. (via hyperallergic)

Update: There’s cause to be skeptical about how the 3D scan of Nefertiti was accomplished and the artists are being a little vague as to how they did it. The video shows the artists using a Kinect Xbox controller but a Kinect scan can’t deliver the resolution level of the 3D model. Perhaps it was stitched together using a bunch of photos? Or maybe they hacked into the museum’s files and took their model?

The last possibility and reigning theory is that Ms. Badri and Mr. Nelles elusive hacker partners are literally real hackers who stole a copy of the high resolution scan from the Museum’s servers. A high resolution scan must exist as a high res 3D printed replica is already available for sale online.

Tutankhamun’s unbroken rope seal

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2015

King Tut Rope Seal

This is the rope seal securing the doors of Tutankhamun’s tomb, unbroken for more than 3200 years until shortly after Harry Burton took this photo in 1923. A description from National Geographic:

Still intact in 1923 after 32 centuries, rope secures the doors to the second of four nested shrines in Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. The necropolis seal — depicting captives on their knees and Anubis, the jackal god of the dead — remains unbroken, a sign that Tut’s mummy lies undisturbed inside.

How did the rope last for so long? Rare Historical Photos explains:

Rope is one of the fundamental human technologies. Archaeologists have found two-ply ropes going back 28,000 years. Egyptians were the first documented civilization to use specialized tools to make rope. One key why the rope lasted so long wasn’t the rope itself, it was the aridity of the air in the desert. It dries out and preserves things. Another key is oxygen deprivation. Tombs are sealed to the outside. Bacteria can break things down as long as they have oxygen, but then they effectively suffocate. It’s not uncommon to find rope, wooden carvings, cloth, organic dyes, etc. in Egyptian pyramids and tombs that wouldn’t have survived elsewhere in the world.

Satellite archaeology

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2011

Archaeologists are using infrared satellite images to find several undiscovered pyramids and ancient settlements in Egypt.

The team analysed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pin-point objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth’s surface.

Infra-red imaging was used to highlight different materials under the surface.

Ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen.

Be sure to click through to see some of the satellite images…the scale and the amount of detail uncovered is amazing. (via @tomcoates)

King Tut’s family tree

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 25, 2010

According to DNA analysis described in the latest issue of National Geographic, Tutankhamun’s parents were most likely brother and sister, which may have contributed to his early death.

In my view, however, Tutankhamun’s health was compromised from the moment he was conceived. His mother and father were full brother and sister. Pharaonic Egypt was not the only society in history to institutionalize royal incest, which can have political advantages. But there can be a dangerous consequence. Married siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of harmful genes, leaving their children vulnerable to a variety of genetic defects. Tut ankhamun’s malformed foot may have been one such flaw. We suspect he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect. Perhaps he struggled against others until a severe bout of malaria or a leg broken in an accident added one strain too many to a body that could no longer carry the load.

It’s likely that Tut’s wife was his half-sister as well.

Egypt’s strongest man

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 21, 2008

If the translation to English is to be trusted, Egypt’s strongest man generates 240 horsepower, is medically exempt from working because he might hurt someone in the workplace, and, well, it just gets better from there. Oh, and HE’S NEVER SLEPT. (via delicious ghost)

BLDGBLOG has some photos of luxury hotels

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2008

BLDGBLOG has some photos of luxury hotels that were abandoned mid-building.

With images by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche, the show looks at “the concrete skeletons of five-star hotel complexes” abandoned on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. They are resorts that never quite happened, then, with names like Sultan’s Palace and the Magic Life Imperial. This makes them “monuments to failed investment.”