Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Full-Frontal Pharaoh and More Volume 57 Number 4, July/August 2004

It's been another busy field season in Egypt, and as archaeologists start packing up their trowels, here are some fascinating discoveries you may not have heard about.

Spanish archaeologists got the art world buzzing with their discovery of the first full-frontal depiction of a pharaoh in Egyptian painting. The 3,500-year-old portrait, which was found in a Luxor tomb, was sketched on a plaster-coated wooden board and may depict Tuthmosis III or his stepmother Hatshepsut. Most Egyptian art depicts pharaohs in profile.

A paleoentomologist researching the pests that infested the workman's village in Amarna 3,500 years ago has discovered black plague bacteria in the remains of fossilized fleas, the first evidence of a non-Asian origin for the deadly plague. It also may give clues to why Amarna was the capital city for only 20 years, from 1350-1330 B.C., before being abandoned. Fleas, bedbugs, and other insects and parasites were rife in the squalid living conditions of the laborers who worked on the tombs of Tutankhamun and Akhenaten, making the village a likely place for plague to arise. Contemporary medical papyri mention an epidemic with symptoms that sound similar to bubonic plague.

German archaeologists unearthed a trilingual stele from a temple at Bubastis, the eighth-century B.C. capital city of Egypt, that's being likened to the famed Rosetta Stone. The 2,200-year-old stele describes, in ancient Greek, Demotic, and hieroglyphic, planned changes to the Egyptian calendar (implemented about 200 years later under Julius Caesar) and lauds then-ruler Ptolemy III for importing grain from other countries to stave off famine among his subjects. Archaeologists say Bubastis was most likely destroyed by an earthquake.

© 2004 by the Archaeological Institute of America