Ancient Egypt

This New Study Shows Us the Surprising Difference between Ancient and Modern Egyptians

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Think of the most ancient people you can. A people with a rich history going back as far as history itself. Most of you probably went with the Egyptians. With a written history that goes back to 3100 BCE, the people of Egypt have a long and noble story rivaled only by few. Indeed, their story is so long it even continues into the now, with the nation of Egypt well known by everyone.

But according to a groundbreaking new DNA study of the ancient Egyptians, the current people of Egypt are not quite the descendants of the pyramid builders.

The study, published in Nature communications and undertaken by a team of researchers, carried out the first complete genome test of an ancient Egyptian mummy. Despite the renown of Egypt’s mummies, such tests are rare; given issues of contamination and DNA degradation related to mummification.

Starting with 151 mummies covering a period of 1300 years of history, the scientists were able to collect hundreds of partial genomes and three full genomes. The information they found reveals the changes in the genetic makeup of Egypt both before and…

Sofia Boutella says her ‘Mummy’ is ‘the definition of a feminist’

An evil Egyptian princess is awakened from her tomb by archaeologists and wreaks havoc on the modern day world.


Sofia Boutella had a nightmare day shooting scenes for The Mummy in which her Princess Ahmanet is dealt tough justice, ancient Egypt-style, for killing her pharaoh dad and baby brother. She’s entombed alive in a sarcophagus.

Boutella’s eyes popped wide through holes in the head-to-toe mummification bandages as she was placed into the stone coffin.

“There was a lot of fear, I didn’t need much acting to look frightened,” recalls Boutella, whose first language is French, speaking by phone. “It was weird, I felt really dispowered. I don’t know if that word exists, did I just make that up?”

“Dispower” is not a concept the 35-year-old Algerian-born actress dwells on as the title star of The Mummy (in theaters Thursday night). Boutella’s Ahmanet is the force putting fear into London and Tom Cruise’s soldier of fortune Nick Morton when he accidentally awakens her after 5,000 years.

Ahmanet’s impressive arrival thrusts Boutella’s Mummy into a mighty woman weekend at the box office along with Gal Gadot’s blockbuster Wonder Woman, which dominated with $100 million-plus last weekend. Both characters follow wildly different screen paths, but are owned entirely by powerful female performances.

Just having the mummy cast as a woman in Universal’s new Dark Universe signals a major change from the original 1932 movie, which starred Boris Karloff.

“I love that…

An Egyptian Slab Lost in Berlin During World War II Has Been Found—in Michigan

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung/Nina Loschwitz

When Berlin’s Neues Museum closed in 1939, at the start of World War II, the staff rushed to protect precious items in the collection. As they put important artifacts into storage, someone stashed a 3,200-year-old stone slab from ancient Egypt inside a sarcophagus. After the war, the slab—carved limestone with a turquoise ceramic glaze—was nowhere to be found. Curators wrote it off as one of the many artifacts lost in the chaos. But now, 70 years later, the slab has turned up on another continent.

Nico Staring, a Dutch Egyptologist, noticed the slab in a recent photo from the Kelsey…

American Museum of the House Cat

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The exterior of the museum.
An antique kitty carousel on display. e1savage (Atlas Obscura User)

Cats have a regal bearing that seems to have fascinated human beings throughout history. Bastet, a feline goddess, was an important deity in ancient Egypt, most commonly represented by a sitting cat staring straight ahead. A bronze statue of the worshipped feline dating back to 600 BC is one of the highlights of the American Museum of…

The Rosicrucian Mummies of San Jose

The following article is from the book Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges into California.


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Ancient occult societies, alchemy, and magical chanting—how much do you really know about your nice neighbors in San Jose?


Tucked away in an area of San Jose best known for its green lawns and high-end homes are ancient mummies of everything from cats to catfish, including a few mummified people. These mummies rest in San Jose’s Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum with more than 4,000 other artifacts (originals and replicas), the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts on exhibit in the western United States.

The museum building, designed to resemble the ancient Amon temple that once stood in Karnak, Egypt, is part of a beautiful, but somewhat baffling, complex built by the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC). The what? They’re a group devoted to self-improvement and the study of mysticism. Rosicrucian Park takes up an entire city block in San Jose and features a planetarium, a research library, a temple, a shrine, and a peace garden replete with Egyptian plants, a pond, and fountains. All the buildings —except the Moorish-style planetarium— have exteriors inspired by Egyptian structures.

How this blend of ancient Egypt and New Age mysticism came to be located in a San Jose suburb is a strange story. For some, it begins in 1915 when Harvey Spencer Lewis, a former advertising illustrator from New Jersey, founded the AMORC to “study the elusive mysteries of life and the universe.” For others, though, the story really begins in 1500 BC, when some of those mummies in the museum were still alive.


The AMORC is an offshoot of the Rosicrucian Society, which has puzzled, intrigued, and sometimes angered people for years. Like the Freemasons and the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian Society has been linked to secret symbols, famous people, and conspiracy theories. The first Rosicrucians appeared in 16th-century Germany, supposedly founded by Christian Rosenkreutz. According to legend, he was both an enlightened mystic and a successful alchemist (he could turn lead into gold, though we have no idea how), so he had a lot of clout in the worlds of religion and mysticism.

But many historians now believe that Rosencreuz was a mythical figure, rather than a real person. Three pamphlets appeared in the 17th century—one about Rosencreuz, a second about his secret society, and a third about alchemy and spiritual enlightenment. No one knows exactly who wrote the pamphlets, but the authors may have been German Protestants who started the society themselves. Regardless, those pamphlets spawned elaborate legends about the Rosicrucians, elite Christian mystics who clandestinely practiced magic and alchemy while trying to bring about spiritual enlightenment. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists accused the Rosicrucians of trying…


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The nilometer of Rhoda Island near Cairo
Top of the Rhoda Island nilometer Michal Huniewicz/CC BY SA 4.0
Outside structure of Rhoda Island nilometer Prong hunter/CC BY SA 3.0 (Creative Commons)
A third type of nilometer in the Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt. Ad Meskens/CC BY SA 3.0

In ancient Egypt, the behavior of the Nile could mean life or death each harvest season. So, long before the Aswan Dam was constructed to manage the flooding of the great river, Egyptians invented an instrument to measure the waters in order to predict the Nile’s behavior: the nilometer.

There were three kinds of nilometers, and examples of all three can still be seen around Egypt. The simplest was a tall column housed in a submerged stone structure called a stilling well. One of these nilometers can be seen on Rhoda (or Rawda) Island in Cairo, an octagonal marble column held in place by a wooden beam at the top that spans the width of the well. The stilling well included a staircase so that priests, who were in charge of monitoring the nilometers, could walk down and…