Monday, July 25, 2016

Egyptian Statue Discovered at Hazor

Earlier this morning, Hebrew University sent out this press release with photos:

In a historic find, a large fragment of an Egyptian statue measuring 45 X 40 centimeters, made of lime-stone, was discovered. In the course of the current season of excavations at Tel-Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Only the lower part of the statue survived, depicting the crouching feet of a male figure, seated on a square base on which a few lines in the Egyptian hieroglyphic script are inscribed.

The archaeologists estimate that the complete statue would equal the size of a fully-grown man. At present only a preliminary reading of the inscriptions has been attempted, and the title and name of the Egyptian official who originally owned the statue, are not yet entirely clear.

The statue was originally placed either in the official's tomb or in a temple – most probably a temple of the Egyptian god Ptah – and most of the texts inscribed on the statue's base include words of praise to the official who may have served and most probably practiced his duties in the region of Memphis, the primary cult center of the god Ptah. They also include the customary Egyptian funerary formula ensuring eternal supply of offerings for the statue's owner.

The monumental Egyptian statute of a high official from the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, found in the administrative palace at Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

The three volunteer excavators who found the statue, from left to right: Valentin Sama-Rojo from Spain, Bryan Kovach from the United States, and Elanji Swart from South Africa. (Photo credit: Shlomit Bechar)

This statue, found this year, together with the sphinx fragment of the Egyptian king Mycerinus (who ruled Egypt in the 25th century B.C.E.) discovered at the site by the research team three years ago, are the only monumental Egyptian statues found so far in second millennium contexts in the entire Levant.

The discovery of these two statues in the same building currently being excavated by the research team, indicates the special importance of the building (probably the administrative palace of the ruler of the city), as well as that of the entire city of Hazor.


In the course of close to 30 years of excavation, fragments of 18 different Egyptian statues, both royal and private, dedicated to Egyptian kings and officials, including two sphinxes, were discovered at Hazor. Most of these statues were found in layers dated to the Late Bronze Age (15th-13th centuries B.C.E.) – corresponding to the New Kingdom in Egypt. This is the largest number of Egyptian statues found so far in any site in the Land of Israel, although there is no indication that Hazor was one of the Egyptian strongholds in Southern Canaan nor of the presence of an Egyptian official at Hazor during the Late Bronze Age.

Interestingly, most Egyptian statues found at Hazor so far date to Egypt's "Middle Kingdom" (19th-18th centuries B.C.E), a time when Hazor did not yet exist. It thus seems that the statues were sent by an Egyptian king in the "New Kingdom" as official gifts to the king of Hazor, or as dedications to a local temple (regardless of their being already "antiques"). This is not surprising considering the special status of the king of Hazor who was the most important king in Southern Canaan at the time. The extraordinary importance of Hazor in the 15th-13th centuries B.C.E. is indicated also by the Biblical reference to Hazor as "the head of all those kingdoms" (Joshua 11:10).

All the statues at the site were found broken to pieces and scattered over a large area. Clear signs of mutilation indicate that most of them were deliberately and violently smashed, most probably in the course of the city's final conquest and destruction sometime in the 13th century B.C.E. The deliberate mutilation of statues of kings and dignitaries accompanying the conquest of towns, is a well-known practice in ancient times (I Samuel 5:1-4; Isaiah 11:9) as well as in our time.

The full press release is here, and the story is being covered by the Jerusalem Post and other outlets.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Forty-five shipwrecks, many dating back to ancient times, have been discovered off a Greek archipelago that is one of the Mediterranean's richest underwater archaeological sites.”

A large and Roman mosaic has been discovered in Larnaca, Cyprus. A short video shows the excavation.

“A large number of expansive rock tombs which could constitute part of the world’s largest necropolis have been discovered during work carried out by the Şanlıurfa Municipality around the historic Urfa Castle in southeastern Turkey.”

“Excavation teams at an ancient site [Side] in the southern province of Antalya are struggling to find sponsors after it emerged that the site contains an ancient brothel.”

The Lion of Babylon is not faring well in part because of the visitors that keep climbing on its back.

The oldest writing found on papyrus is now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Scholars believe that have identified an ancient security system that protected the pharaoh’s burial chamber in one of the pyramids of Giza.

Philippi is in the latest group of sites to be named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Some British MPs are proposing the return of the Elgin Marbles to smooth Britain’s departure from the EU.

Two Hellenistic marble sculptures from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin will remain on loan for the next two years at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The ancient Mamertine Prison in Rome will soon be open after three years for restoration and excavation.

After a $73 million renovation, Yale will soon be re-opening the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“Dendrochronological and radiocarbon research by an international team led by Cornell archaeologist Sturt Manning has established an absolute timeline for the archaeological, historical and environmental record in Mesopotamia from the early second millennium B.C.”

Ben Witherington III has more than 20 posts on his recent trip to Turkey. Highlights include visits to the Miletus Museum, the Izmir Museum, and the Zeugma Museum (which has a splendid mosaic).

New book out from Eisenbrauns: “Did I Not Bring Israel Out of Egypt?” Biblical, Archaeological, and Egyptological Perspectives on the Exodus Narratives, edited by James K. Hoffmeier, Alan R. Millard, and Gary A. Rendsburg.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Explorator, Daniel Wright

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

The archaeological co-directors provide a summary of this summer’s work at Tel Ein Jezreel.

Archaeologists working at Bethsaida have found some monumental towers guarding the approach ramp to the city gate.

Haaretz (premium) reports on the latest discoveries in the Mount Zion excavation, including a bathtub and a cup with a priestly inscription. Joel Kramer’s drone photo gives a good perspective.

Wayne Stiles reflects this week on lessons to be learned from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth.

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in sequencing the genome of ancient barley grains found in a cave near Masada.

An update on the renovations of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity includes photos of newly restored mosaics.

IAA inspectors raided a shop in the Old City of Jerusalem suspected to be selling antiquities without a license.

Invitations are now open for a 2017 conference entitled “The Anglo-German Exploration of the Holy Land, 1865-1915.”

Eric Mitchell has begun a series on biblical archaeology for the Christian Examiner.

An article in Forbes asks how augmented reality will affect archaeological sites.

With a recent grant, plans are moving forward in the creation of the Digital Library of the Middle East.

Gordon Govier speaks this week with Cynthia Shafer-Elliott about “Daily Life in Ancient Israel” on the Book and the Spade (part 1, part 2).

Some Leon Uris favorites are on sale for Kindle now: Exodus, Mila 18, QB VII, and others.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Explorator, Daniel Wright

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Philistine Cemetery Discovered at Ashkelon

After thirty years of excavations, the final season at Ashkelon ended on Friday. As the excavation closed, a new Ashkelon exhibit opened at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and a sensational find was announced at the press conference. For the last four seasons, they have been excavating a large Philistine cemetery that sheds new light on this ancient people. From National Geographic:

While more than a century of scholarship has identified the five major cities of the Philistines and artifacts distinctive to their culture, only a handful of burials have been tentatively identified.

Simply put, archaeologists have found plenty of pots, but very few people.

Now, the discovery of a cemetery containing more than 211 individuals and dated from the 11th to 8th centuries B.C. will give archaeologists the opportunity to answer critical questions regarding the origin of the Philistines and how they eventually assimilated into the local culture.

Until this discovery, the absence of such cemeteries in major Philistine centers has made researchers' understanding of their burial practices—and by turn, their origins—"about as accurate as the mythology about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree," says Lawrence Stager, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Harvard University, who has led the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon since 1985.

For background and more details, see the full story or other reports in The Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post. Aren Maeir, director of the excavations of Philistine Gath, has some additional comments.

HT: Jared Clark, Chris McKinny, Joseph Lauer

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Noah’s Ark and Red Sea Mosaics Discovered in Huqoq Synagogue

Jodi Magness has discovered more mosaics in her excavations of the synagogue of Huqoq in Galilee. In previous years she uncovered a mosaic of Samson and the foxes and another of Samson carrying the gate of Gaza. From the UNC press release:

The mosaic panels decorating the floor of the synagogue’s nave (center of the hall) portray two biblical stories: Noah’s Ark and the parting of the Red Sea. The panel with Noah’s Ark depicts an ark and pairs of animals, including elephants, leopards, donkeys, snakes, bears, lions, ostriches, camels, sheep and goats. The scene of the parting of the Red Sea shows Pharaoh’s soldiers being swallowed by large fish, surrounded by overturned chariots with horses and chariot drivers.

“These scenes are very rare in ancient synagogues,” said Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor. “The only other examples that have been found are at Gerasa/Jerash in Jordan and Mopsuestia/Misis in Turkey (Noah’s Ark), and at Khirbet Wadi Hamam in Israel and Dura Europos in Syria (the parting of the Red Sea).”


“This is by far the most extensive series of biblical stories ever found decorating the mosaic floor of an ancient synagogue,” said Magness. “The arrangement of the mosaics in panels on the floor brings to mind the synagogue at Dura Europos in Syria, where an array of biblical stories is painted in panels on the walls.”

The mosaics have been removed from the site for conservation, and the excavated areas have been backfilled. Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2017. For additional information and updates, visit the project’s website:

The full press release may be read here. The National Geographic story is online here. As is customary with the Huqoq excavation, few photos are published.

Huqoq excavations from east, tb053116394
Excavations of the synagogue of Huqoq

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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

Archaeologists working in Pompeii have “discovered four skeletons and gold coins in the ruins of an ancient shop in Pompeii.”

Archaeologists working at Carthage have uncovered a “smart cooling system” for chariot racers.

As restoration work on the Roman Colosseum moves from outside to inside, officials hope to use it one day for cultural events.

A stele depicting childbirth won an Egyptian Antiquities Ministry poll.

Digital scanning is revealing previously unseen portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls and raising new interpretive questions (Haaretz premium).

The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review includes stories on Paul’s riot in Ephesus, Eilat Mazar’s excavations in the City of David, and the reconstruction of the Umm el-Qanatir synagogue.

The Syrian military has cleared thousands of booby traps from Palmyra, yet some are claiming that they are looting. Franklin Lamb has a detailed first-person report in two parts.

Barry Britnell reports on his recent visit to the Biblical History Center (formerly the Explorations in Antiquity Center) in LaGrange, Georgia.

Ferrell Jenkins shares a couple of photos related to the Story of Sinuhe.

Duane W. Roller reflects on geography in the ancient world.

The Associates for Biblical Research are looking for a Pre-publication Editing Assistant Volunteer for Bible and Spade.

We’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from roundups, but we’ll include any stories you suggest when we return.

HT: Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Saturday, July 02, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

Repairs inside the Dome of the Rock are complete, and when they took photos this week, it was revealed that the reconstruction of the tile floor proposed by the Temple Mount Sifting Project is accurate.

The study of fish bones found in a 7th-century AD shipwreck near Dor indicates that a now-extinct subspecies of St. Peter’s fish was being transported on the boat (Haaretz premium).

Scholars are offering competing explanations for the massive trash dump in the Kidron Valley from the first century AD (Haaretz premium).

A jogger along the shore of Ashkelon discovered a 12th-century AD oil lamp.

Aren Maeir is providing daily updates of the excavation of Gath.

The Tel Burna team gives an update from the first two weeks of their season. Chris McKinny’s work on the LB cultic building looks particularly promising in the remaining two weeks.

Jennie Ebeling and Norma Franklin discuss several important facets of their excavations at Jezreel.

Luke Chandler discusses the possibility of a Judahite water system at Lachish and the need for funds to excavate it.

If you’re interested in a brief, well-illustrated study of the world’s largest stones used in construction projects, check out Tom Powers’s latest post.

Felicity Cobbing of the PEF was present at the opening of the Palestine Museum in Ramallah and shares her perspective.

The senior staff of the Ashkelon excavations is wrapping up their final season this month and beginning a new project at Tel Shimron with a geophysical survey this summer.

Appian Media was recently filming in Israel for their upcoming Following the Messiah video series. They are posting updates on the project and their travels on their blog.

The Fifth Gospel is a new iBook that explores the land, the culture, and the archaeology of the Bible. It was designed for high school students and features maps, interactive quizzes, photos, and short film clips. Check it out on iTunes.

HT: Agade, Joseph Lauer

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Recommended: A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion

If you’re looking for an enjoyable read that takes you into first-century Israel, I recommend A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion, by Gary M. Burge. The story follows the familia of a Roman centurion as he moves from Syria to Caesarea to Capernaum, intersecting with scenes and events from the Gospels. I would highlight two strengths of the book.

First, the story is engaging, and I didn’t want to put the book down. The action keeps moving, and the characters are fascinating. You see the inner workings of a Roman legion, experience a gladiatorial contest, and witness the tense relations between Jews and Romans.

Second, the book is based on extensive historical research. So many interesting details are embedded throughout the narrative, and short sidebars provide additional explanations. Sidebar topics include: friend of Caesar, Chuza of Sepphoris, a Jewish haverim, cosmetics for women, blood sport, honor and shame, opium, and the Capernaum synagogue.

In short, this is an enjoyable work of historical fiction. It’s a good story based on excellent research. I will be adding it as a choice for a required book review for my New Testament Survey I class, and I am confident that they will give it high marks. The book is 189 pages and sells for $13 on Amazon (a little less on Kindle).

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

David and Goliath Mosaic Pillaged from Church in Syria

A unique and well-preserved mosaic depicting the battle of David and Goliath has been looted in Syria. I was first shown a higher-res version of this image several months ago, but was not allowed to share it. It’s now posted on a French website, and you can read a (poor) Google translation with this link. At this point, there do not appear to be any other stories on the discovery, but perhaps that will change.

David et Goliath

David and Goliath mosaic looted in Syria

An official in the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria believes that the mosaic comes from a church in northern Syria and dates to about AD 600. This may be the only known depiction of David and Goliath on a mosaic floor. The image depicts the warrior Goliath standing on the right side with full battle armor. To the left stands David with Goliath’s head on the end of his spear with the headless Goliath now laying at his feet. In the upper right corner, Saul and two others (brothers?) are depicted within the walls of a fortress. In the upper left corner are three women, probably those who rejoiced in David’s victory.

A Google search for this image reveals that it was posted on several Arabic websites on July 21-22, 2014.

The Met has an image of a silver plate depicting the battle, dating to approximately the same time (AD 630).

HT: Agade

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Roman Gate Discovered at Hippos

From the Jerusalem Post:

A Roman gate discovered during excavations by the University of Haifa in the ancient city of Hippos, located at Sussita National Park, may cast light on the mystical bronze mask of Pan, considered by archeologists to be the only object of its kind in the world.

Researchers from the university’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology announced on Monday that they believe the gate may have led to the compound of Pan, the god of shepherds, after unearthing it during last year’s excavation season….

“Now that the whole gate has been exposed, we not only have better information for dating the mask, but also a clue to its function. Are we looking at a gate that led to the sanctuary of the god Pan or one of the rustic gods?”


The researchers concluded that the original gateway was over 6m. high, while the building (propylaeum) itself was even taller,” the archeologist said.

“The propylaeum can probably be dated to the period of the emperor Hadrian, who reigned from 117 to 138 CE, or slightly earlier,” Eisenberg said. “The mask was presumably fixed to a wall or altar at the compound, as its rear side included remnants of lead used for stabilization purposes.”

The full story, including photos, is here. A 3D model of the gate is here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Charles Savelle

Gateway at Hippos

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 2

The Temple Mount Sifting Project has released a new video showing dozens of their discoveries. Another video released this month features David Hendin explaining the coins of the Jewish War.

Egyptian officials are re-opening the tombs of Queen Nefertari and King Seti I in Luxor, but the cost for a ticket will be steep (about $113).

Researchers suggest that King Tut's dagger was made from a meteorite.

The BBC has the latest “the Dead Sea is dying” story, including an impressive photo of Mineral Beach.

The ASOR Archive Photo of the Month shows archaeologists and local workers at Qumran in 1952.

In terms of visitors, the Louvre is the most popular museum in the world. The British Museum is #5 and the Vatican Museums are #7.

The Google Cultural Institute “contains more than six million artworks, photos, videos and documents from 1,000 institutions including the British Museum and MoMA.”

The lavish lifestyle of the Roman Empire elite is on exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

The Getty Museum has acquired a valuable Greek funeral vase and a Roman marble head.

“The Penn Museum’s ongoing exhibition, ‘In the Artifact Lab: Conserving Egyptian Mummies,’ offers visitors an insider’s look at efforts to document, preserve, and restore ancient objects in the Museum’s extensive collection.”

A new exhibit at the Met in New York City focuses on Jerusalem between the years 1000 and 1400.

Ashkelon: A Retrospective: 30 Years of the Leon Levy Expedition is a new exhibit running at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem until the end of the year.

Haaretz ran a profile of Geza Vermes on the anniversary of his birthday.

The Israel Antiquities Authority raided a shop in the Mamilla Mall on suspicions of selling looted antiquities.

“For the first time in history the texts and images of all the Dead Sea Scrolls are available in their totality on the Internet.” From Brill for a purchase price of $5,940.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Steven Anderson, Agade, Explorator, Daniel Wright, G. M. Grena, Rebekah Dutton

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Roundup, Part 1

An in-depth article by the Atlantic Monthly has uncovered the original source for the fake Jesus wife papyrus. The Harvard professor who published the artifact now believes that it is probably a modern forgery.

With the help of Google Earth and drones, researchers have discovered a massive ceremonial platform in Petra.

The Jerusalem Post has an update on the on-going renovations at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. One of the discoveries is a mosaic of an angel.

A $1.3 million gift has launched the restoration of the Edicule in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. People are speculating on what they will find.

“Some 1,800 years ago, Roman troops used ‘whistling’ sling bullets as a ‘terror weapon’ against their barbarian foes.”

Israeli authorities have ordered the Jordanian Waqf to halt construction of toilets just outside the Temple Mount.

A collection of 16 coins from the Hasmonean period were discovered in excavations in Modiin.

A Greek archaeologist thinks he may have found the tomb of Aristotle. Others disagree.

“Massive fortifications and sunken ship-sheds thousands of years old have been found in Piraeus, the harbor city of Athens.”

Canaanites living in Gath in the Early Bronze Age were sacrificing animals imported from Egypt. The journal article is available here.

The Giza pyramid is not square. The ancients were off by about 5 inches (14 cm).

The Guardian has posted a dozen photos of excavations in Egypt in the 1910s, including several of John Garstang.

The Bible and Interpretation has posted an important new article: Addressing Survey Methodology in the Southern Levant, by Aaron Tavger, Joe Uziel, Dvir Raviv, and Itzhaq Shai.

Scott Stripling is on The Book and the Spade this week talking about the latest from his excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Wayne Stiles traces the geography of God’s dwelling place on earth.

You don’t see this for sale very often: Survey of Western Palestine, 1881 – 1888, 9 vols and 78 maps/plates (set) & The Survey of Eastern Palestine 1889. $10k.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Ted Weis, Charles Savelle, Steven Anderson, Agade, Explorator, Daniel Wright

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Just a Little Monkey Business

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

A commenter to our post about Egypt yesterday requested assistance in locating the monkeys in the fig tree. The monkeys are green with brown bottoms and faces, making it hard to pick them out among the green foliage and brown fruit and branches. The monkeys form a triangle, one in the lower left, one in top center, and one in the lower right. Here is the photo with their faces circled and numbers placed above each monkey's head.
(Click to enlarge.)

Here they are individually.
Monkey in lower left. He appears to be hanging on the man's arm.

Monkey in top center.

Monkey in lower right. This one is the hardest to make out due to damage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Three Things I Like About Egypt

(Post by A.D. Riddle)

Earlier this year, I took my first trip (hopefully of many) to Egypt. Normally I am interested in Bible history and geography, though recently, my attention has been drawn to ordinary, daily-life objects and cultural behaviors. For Bible times and places, it can be a little challenging to come up with photographs that illustrate these sorts of things. But that is why I found Egypt is so amazing.

One of's photographers on location in Egypt.

Egypt provides three sources for helping us visualize ancient ways of life.

1. Tomb Models.
You can probably find examples of tomb models in most museums with Egyptian collections. These are ancient models that depict people in various occupations, most of them I think dating to the Middle Kingdom. Examples include herding cattle, storing grain, baking, butchering, sailing boats. The models were placed in the tombs of nobles and depict the kinds of industries and activities that that particular noble oversaw during his lifetime. This photograph from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows carpenters at work. You can see them with their various tools: mallet, adzes, chisels, saw. Some of them are working on a sarcophagus.

Here is a model granary also from the Egyptian Museum. You can see people carrying sacks of grain to a scribe who is recording the amounts. You can even see the hieratic writing on his tablet. The red and white rectangles below are chambers or bins for storing the grain. (Now re-read Genesis 41:47-49.)

2. Tomb Paintings.
In royal tombs, you can see artwork of the king or members of the royal family interacting with deities, involved in funerary rituals, dealing with their enemies, and receiving tribute. In the tombs of nobles, however, the same sources for the models above, you can find elaborate paintings or reliefs of more mundane activities like cultivating fields, hunting, fishing, helping a cow give birth, and so on.

Here is a tomb painting from Beni Hasan that shows carpenters at work on a boat. Again, you can see the tools: axes, mallets, and adzes. Above them some carpenters are building furniture. One man is using a saw and another an adze. Between them are several other woodworking tools.

This photo, also from Beni Hasan, shows two men harvesting figs from a tree. There are three monkeys in the tree—apparently also big fans of the fruit. (Need help seeing the monkeys? Click here.)

This scene from El-Kab shows the cycle of a grain harvest. In the bottom register, two plows are being pulled, one by oxen and the other by men. In between two men are tilling with hoes. Partially concealed by the oxen a man is sowing seed. In the middle register, men with sickles are reaping the grain. It must be hot work because the man in the center is stopping to drink from a jug. In the top register, they are bringing the grain in baskets to be threshed by oxen, then winnowed by hand. In the top left, a scribe is overseeing the storage of the grain (now shown).

3. The Real Thing.
And if that were not enough, in Egypt you can see the actual objects themselves, thanks to the arid climate and the fact that burials were located in the desert beyond the cultivated land. Many items which are not preserved in other countries—such as textiles, food, wood—can be found in Egypt.

In keeping with the theme of carpentry, here is a wooden mallet.

This case in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows many of the tools shown above: a wooden plow (with fiber ropes!), hand scoops for winnowing grain, and hoes.

I might also make mention that, although not unique to Egypt, in the rural agricultural villages and fields, you can see traditional methods of farming, herding, butchering, etc. that in many cases do not appear all that different from their ancient counterparts.