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Theban Tomb 16 team reports on the current excavation season

Visitors at Theban Tomb 16

[22 January 2015] Dr Suzanne Onstine reports from Luxor, Egypt, that having worked for three weeks the team that is excavating Theban Tomb 16 has reached the halfway point in this season’s excavations. The 19th-Dynasty tomb is the burial site for Pahnesy and his wife Tarenu, priest and priestess. Dr Onstine has been responsible for excavation there since 2008 (a detailed report of the 2012-2013 season may be found in the departmental newsletter for September 2013).

The physical anthropology team has analysed thousands of bones and has discovered several lovely funerary objects like shabtis (funerary figures) and amulets. The rest of the burial equipment is in a very ruined state—all the coffins and bodies were smashed into small pieces during the looting of the tomb in the 20th century. The project, however, is happy with the amount of data that can be secured from the broken remains, and all kinds of pathologies and mummification techniques have been found.

U of M team at Theban Tomb 16The x-ray machine that was supposed to be used during this season is still sitting in the Cairo airport awaiting customs clearance, so those investigations will have to wait until a later season as the radiologist, Rosa Dinares, had to return to Spain to her “real job.” Dr Onstine remarked that the team is very fortunate to have specialists like Rosa, Jesus Herrerin (physical anthropologist), and Miguel Sanchez (pathologist), willing to devote their vacation days to research at TT16.  

The team was able to show off the tomb to the Karnak team in that team’s final days of work (see a report from the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project earlier this month). A further update on TT16 is promised at the end of the season.

The large photograph above is of Dr Onstine explaining some information about the tomb to a group of visitors. The small photograph at the left is of the Memphis team members: Dustin Peasley, Dr Onstine, Virginia Reckard, and Elizabeth Warkentin (kneeling).


Dr Darin Stephanov receives academic appointments in Finland

Dr Darin Stephanov making prospectus presentation[13 January 2015] Dr Darin Stephanov has recently been named a post-doctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland Project “Political Power in the Early Modern European and Islamic Worlds,” and coordinator of the Nordic Exploratory Workshops “Eurasian Empires, Public Space/Sphere, and Collective Identities at the Threshold of Modernity” at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.  He is the author of “Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) and the First Shift in Modern Ruler Visibility in the Ottoman Empire,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 1:1-2 (2014), among other articles.

Dr Stephanov received his PhD at The University of Memphis in 2012. His dissertation was “Minorities, Majorities, and the Monarch: Nationalizing Effects of the Late Ottoman Royal Public Ceremonies, 1808-1908,” with Dr Kent Schull as major professor. While a student he won one of the first-ever awards for making the best prospectus presentation. He did postdoctoral research in Finland and was a Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies during 2012-2014.


Dr Aram Goudsouzian participates in historians' assessments of President Obama’s legacy

[12 January 2015] Dr Aram Goudsouzian was one of 53 historians chosen by New York magazine to make assessments of the legacy of Barack Obama. Each historian was asked by respond to 15 questions. In its general article on the online site the magazine chose from the full assessments brief quotations that it found most thought-provoking.

Magazine coverIn the category "What We Will Remember?" it included Dr Goudsouzian’s contention that it would be the recent executive action on immigration: “According to one poll, almost 90 percent of registered Latino voters support the measure. The number of Hispanics in the United States is projected to double by 2060, which means that one-third of the nation’s population will be Hispanic. Obama’s executive action may not only help stabilize the country’s Latino population but also cement much of its loyalty to the Democratic Party.”

In the category “The Most Lasting Image?" it included Dr Goudsouzian’s judgment that it was “When Joe Wilson yelled You lie! during the 2009 State of the Union: a cheap, nasty, and disrespectful moment and a depressing emblem of the era in which Obama has governed.

The magazine published the complete text of all the responses in separate articles; Dr Goudsouzian’s response may be bound at


Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project filmed by CNN for its series “Inside Africa”

Andrew Shilling at Karnak[1 January 2015] CNN International recently visited Dr Peter Brand and his students who are working on the field mission of the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project in Luxor, Egypt, and did extensive filming of the Hypostyle Hall for the first part of its weekly program “Inside Africa” that is seen around the world.The crew spoke with doctoral student Andrew Shilling and shot footage of him when he was upon the scaffolding recording inscriptions.

This part, which is narrated by CNN’s Ian Lee and deals with the Nile as the lifeblood of Egypt’s civilization and concentrates on the ancient capital at Thebes (modern Luxor), has been posted to the Internet at Beginning at about 3:08, the show depicts the Karnak Hypostyle Hall and how it has been used in movies such as James Bond’s “They Spy Who Loved Me” and more recently “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” It then speaks about how the University of Memphis is working there, “uncovering the mysteries” of Ancient Egypt, and Mr Shilling is shown doing his work on the scaffolding, beginning at 3:52.

Dr Brand reported today that the field season is going very well and that he will be returning to Memphis on 15 January with most of the students. Another senior doctoral student, Ms Erika Feleg, will continue to work at Karnak along with the project’s photographer until 31 March. 

This season’s field work was made possible by the project’s fifth consecutive grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and its first grant from the American Research Center in Egypt’s Egyptian Antiquities Fund, which in turn is funded by the US-AID program from the State Department. 

You may find more information about the Karnak Hypostyle Hall Project on its website and on its Facebook page. (The Facebook page has an item about the project’s participating in the celebrations arranged for this year’s solstice at Karnak on 21 December, which it described as "magnificent!")

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Last Updated: 1/23/15