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Researchers Have Reconstructed an Ancient Egyptian Throne

Researchers at Harvard University recently used computer modeling software to recreate the 4500-year-old throne of Queen Hetepheres, an Egyptian ruler who lived around 2550 BCE. The ornate replica is currently on display in a new exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

In 1925, a joint archaeological expedition between Harvard University and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts unearthed Hetepheres’s tomb in Giza, Egypt. The room was filled with once-majestic furniture that had deteriorated over millennia. According to the Boston Globe, conservators and craftsman used detailed archaeological notes from the Giza expedition to build copies of some of the tomb’s furniture pieces in the 1930s; today, they sit in the Cairo Museum and in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts. Hetepheres’s inlaid wood-and-gold throne, however—a find that archaeologists say is one of the most elaborate pieces of royal furniture from Egypt’s Old Kingdom—was too complicated to replicate.

In recent years, advances in technology allowed a fresh generation of scholars to pick up where their predecessors left off. To build the intricate chair, an interdisciplinary team at Harvard first created a 3D digital model of the tomb and its artifacts. They then used a computer-controlled, five-axis milling machine to construct an exact likeness of the throne.

Fashioned from cedar, wrapped in gold foil, and fitted with ceramic falcons, flagstaffs, beetles, and arrows, the brand new throne resembles the original down to the last detail. It was also created using techniques that the original builder used thousands of years ago, team members say.

“This is experimental archaeology,” Rus Gant, lead technical artist on the project, told the Boston Globe. “We wanted to know how they made it, not just replicate something that looked like it." 

Thanks to the chair, experts now know more about furniture craftsmanship in ancient Egypt. However, some ancient mysteries—like the meanings behind some of the chair's inlaid symbols—continue to stymie them.

The throne initiative came courtesy of the Giza Project, a comprehensive digital resource of all archaeological finds from the storied Egyptian city. It includes notes, diaries, photographs, and maps, as well as 3D virtual creations of its famous sites. Learn more about the chair on their website, or see it in person; Recreating the Throne of Egyptian Queen Hetepheres is an ongoing exhibit at the Harvard Semitic Museum. 

[h/t Boston Globe]

All images courtesy of YouTube.

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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