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News and stories from the world of Archaeology and its related disciplines

Archaeologists find door to the afterlife

The recessed niches found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. The nearly six-foot- tall (1.75 meters) slab of pink granite was covered with religious texts.

The door came from the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, a powerful, 15th century BC queen from the New Kingdom with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt.

User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of the city, according to the inscriptions. He may have inherited his position from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials tasked with the day-to-day running of the kingdom’s complex bureaucracy.

As a testament to his importance, User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where royal kings and queens were also buried. A chapel dedicated to him has also been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The stone itself was long way from its tomb and had apparently been removed from the grave and then incorporated into the wall of a Roman-era building, more than a thousand years later.

False doors were placed in the west walls of tombs and faced offering tables where food and drink were left for the spirit of the deceased.



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Sublime technique makes Syrian mosaics one of the greatest in the world

Hama governorate contains some of the most important mosaics in Syria, with around 50% of uncovered mosaics, most significant if which is “Tiba al-Imam,” a 600 square meters mosaic dating back to 242 AD.

Another mosaic housed at Hama National Museum is the “Musicians” mosaic. This piece, measuring 4.25 meters by 5.37 meters, depicts six female musicians and two children, in addition to old musical instrument including an organ, cymbals, two flutes, a harp and an Indian musical instrument consisting of metal bowls placed on a table.

In a statement to SANA, Professor of mosaic restoration at Athens University Stephania Chlouveraki underlined the strong composition and accuracy of representation in the Musicians mosaic, noting the small details such as attire, hair, braids, gentle smiles and wide eyes.

Prof. Chlouveraki , who is a member of the team tasked with establishing a lab for restoring mosaics in Hama National Museum, pointed out that Hama governorate contains a very important mosaic dating back to 362/363 AD depicting Socrates with six wise men standing around him.

This mosaic, which is displayed in Apamea Museum, was found beneath the Great Catherdal and Apamea. It reflects the connection that existed between the Syrian and Greek cultures.

The professor went on to discuss other important mosaics at Apamea Museum, including a mosaic depicting a deer and another depicting a beauty contest between nymphs. The latter mosaic, dating back to 362/363 AD was found in Apamea in the Roman building on which the Great Cathedral was built.

Prof. Chlouveraki said that Syrian mosaics are the richest and greatest in the world due to their sublime technique, wealth of human and natural subjects depicted in them, and their portrayal of lifestyles across various periods, underlining the skill of ancient Syrian craftsmen who were pioneer in this ancient art.

She stressed that Syrian mosaics are rare and unique archeological finds, with their magnificent figures, enchanting designs, high level of precision and skill, and the decorative elements that represent important historic records and documents of various periods, adding that Syria has a considerable and important reservoir of mosaics.

Regarding the project for documenting and resotring Mosaics in Hama Museum, Prof. Chlouveraki said the first stage of the project began in 2004 by documenting all mosaics in Syria, while the second stage which is currently underway involves establishing a lab for restoring mosaics in the museum that serves as a center for training Syrian archeological restoration workers and archeology students to restore and preserve mosaics.

She pointed out that the project aims at spreading awareness on how to properly handle mosaics, adding that staff from the General Department of Archeology and Museum were trained last year in the latest methods for restoring mosaics, while training in 2010 focused on staff from Hama Department of Archeology, who worked on a mosaic dating back to Byzantine period, which will soon be ready for display.

Ancient Syrian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine artist used colored stone or glass to make mosaics, depending on the location where the piece would be installed. Mosaics discovered across Syria depict a variety of subjects, with some depicting daily life and social, economic and cultural activities, while others depicted the beauty of nature or mythology.


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