Friday, November 22, 2013

New Interview Airing

Today (November 22) at 2pm ET and 11pm ET on BYU Radio's Sirius XM channel (channel 143) or at an interview with Dr. Muhlestein regarding his experiences in Egypt and as an Egyptologist will air on a new program about storytelling. When they archive the broadcast we will also post that information.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Publication about excavation comes out

Kristin South spearheaded a publication that evaluates an important aspect of our excavation. She continues to push forward in important research on our artifacts. The publication is beautifully done. It is

South, Kristin H. and Kerry Muhlestein, “Regarding Ribbons: The spread and use of narrow purpose-woven bands in Late Roman Egyptian burials,” in Drawing the threads together: Textiles and footwear of the 1st millennium AD from Egypt, Antoine De Moor, Cäcilia Fluck, Petra Linscheid, eds. (Tielt, Belgium: Lanoo, 2013), 56-73.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Teaching Egypt to Elementary Schools

Dr. Muhlestein taught 4 classes of 6th graders about ancient Egypt at Orchard Elementary.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Some time ago Dr. Muhlestein did an interview about the excavation that was never posted here. You can hear it at

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Team Meeting

We recently had our first excavation team meeting of the academic year. I am excited to see all the good things so many people are doing. We are moving forward on creating our database, on publishing a catalogue of our textiles and some interim work, on conserving the materials we have, on firming up our excavation plans for this year, and on publishing some articles about our pyramid. David Whitchurch and Kerry Muhlestein just submitted and article to the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology about the stelae from the Excavation. Many more good things are in the works.

We have such a great team, and so many things are moving along so well. It is going to be a promising year.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Team attends conference

Team members Kristin South and Catherine Taylor along with a student, Elisabeth Berghouts, attended a conference on ancient Textiles in Belgium. There they worked with others who have collections similar to ours as part of their efforts to find comparable pieces as we begin to create a catalog of the artifacts that have come from our excavation.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Teaching about Egypt

Dr. Muhlestein spent several hours teaching two different social studies/socratic methods classes about ancient Egypt at Maeser Prep Academy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Good Interview

I just finished an interview with Martin Tanner of KSL Radio. We spoke about my books the Essential Old Testament Companion and Return Unto Me, my Book of Abraham lectures, and the Book of Abraham in general. He was great to work with. He took my wife and I on a tour of KSL studios beforehand, which we enjoyed. The interview will be broadcast on KSL radio (1160 am 102.7 fm in Utah) this Sunday at 6:30 am, 10 am, and 9:30 pm. When it is archived I will post the link here. Hope you all enjoy!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Conference Possibility

I have been contacted about participating on a conference about children in the Graeco-Roman world. I think our excavation can contribute a lot of valuable information about children in Roman Egypt, so I am excited. The fact that the conference will be in Sydney, Australia doesn't hurt either.

We will have to keep an eye on this one and see if it turns out to be a good thing. I'll keep you posted.

Great Evening

Tonight Julianne and I were able to attend an annual dinner held for General Authorities Emeritus. What a delight and pleasure. We were able to visit with so many amazing men and women. What power and how many years of serving God and mankind. It was a delightful and impressive group.

The dinner was held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City on the 10th floor.

We sat next to Elder Neuenschwander and had the most fascinating conversations about his work as a Patriarch in Russia and eastern Europe. The work he puts in and the blessings people receive from that service is amazing. Because my oldest son and daughter just received their patriarchal blessings it was all the more interesting to us.

The evening ended with my giving about a 25 minute lecture on the excavation and about 20 minutes of questions and answers.

Overall it was an amazing dinner. We loved it!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


The exhibit about our excavation in BYU's Joseph Smith Building is looking good. I think we might need to do a few repairs, but we should soon be able to hold an open house and officially open the thing. It looks great!

Friday, August 23, 2013

More Lectures

Dr. Muhlestein continues to lecture at Education week, speaking on the history of God's covenant with Abraham and covenant people as an example of God's love and patience, and Egyptian elements of the Exodus story as well as how that story demonstrates the power of the Atonement.

He also lectured on the BYU Egypt Excavation project at a dinner for Emeritus General Authorities and had a wonderful time there.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New Book comes out for Education Week

Dr. Muhlestein's new book, The Essential Old Testament Companion is in the BYU Bookstore starting August 19th, during Education week.


Dr. Muhlestein has been doing lectures at Education week about God's unending love as attested in the Old Testament.

More Publications by team members

Dr. Gee has an article comparing Abraham and Idrimi come out:

Dr. Muhlestein publishes an article on the cultural background of JS Papyrus I:
Kerry Muhlestein and Bethany Jensen, “The Mummy Portraits of Fag el-Gamous,” in Studia Antiqua 12/1 (2013), 51-64.

Professional Presentation: “Excavating a Lost Snefru Pyramid,” Presented at the ARCE [American Research Center in Egypt] DC chapter at Johns Hopkins University 

Dr. Blumell publishes:
“The Date of P.Oxy. XLIII 3119, the Deputy-Prefect Lucius Mussius Aemilianus, and the Persecution of Christians by Valerian and Gallienus,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 186 (2013): 111–13. 
“Two Coptic Ostraca in the Brigham Young University Collection” Chronique d’Égypte 88 (2013): 182–87.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Lectures of team members are now online

Three of our team members recently had their lectures at a symposium on Joesph Smith and the Ancient World posted on youtube. You can find them at:

John Gee:

Lincoln Blumell:

Kerry Muhlestein

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Great ARCE Meeting

This last weekend was the annual ARCE (American Research Center in Egypt) meeting. Director Muhlestein attended. There were a number of papers presented that are helpful for understanding our excavation. He met with several people who are interested in working with us next year and it looks like we will have an incredible study season next year, especially for our bio-archaeological aspects.

He and Dr. Benson (who could not come because of his day job) also did a presentation on our work or reconstructing the Seila pyramid, and compared it to Meidum, and even tied in the Giza and Abu Rowash pyramids. The lecture was well attended and well received.

Dr. Muhlestein also purchased several books that contain important information for our excavation. All in all it was an excellent meeting for the excavation.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wrapping Up

For our last day we concentrated on conservation efforts. We got to Kom Aushim, the government storage facility. The director there, Mustafa, is someone we are getting along really well with.We did some conservation for some of the Egyptian digs, and some for ours. David also did a lot of photography. 

Paul and I went with our wonderful inspector, Ayman, to Fayoum city. There we met with the Fayoum head of antiquities police, Ashraf. We talked about the encroachment upon Philadelphia. He said he would see what he could do, and asked me to talk to Ahmed Abd Alal about it. We also went to the post office and got a money order for Ayman to pay him for his services. Then we met with Ahmed Abd Alal, head of Antiquities for the governate of the Fayoum. We talked to him about how the season has gone, and how we hope it will go for next year and the year after. We gave him a model of the Seila pyramid as a gift. He was very pleased. We also talked to him about the encroachment at Philadelphia. Like Captain Ashraf, he said he would do what he could but acknowledged what a problem they are having with this kind of thing and how hard it is to do something about it. We can only hope. I like Ahmed and hope things continue to go well for him. He is great to work with.

We returned to Kom Aushim and I did some measurements of some objects there we are trying to publish. We finished up what we were working on and said our goodbyes to everyone. I especially hate to say goodbye to Ayman. I hope that we can work with him again, he is a great guy to work with. I got everyone paid, all fees paid, etc., and we were able to wrap up a great season. (In case you missed it, the last things we did was literally wrap up a bunch of stuff. Not bad, eh?)



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Final day at Fag el-Gamous

On the way to the site on Tuesday, we pulled out a laptop and we went through pictures of the stelae and all the reports we have on them. We had been told some things by Farag and Gabr that just didn’t make sense to me. As we looked and looked at the pictures I feel like we really came to understand what we have in these stelae. After a while at the site we pulled out the computer and looked at it with Farag and Gabr and were able to confirm what I was thinking. This is good, we are making real progress.

For the first time ever we got to the site before the inspectors. When they arrived we were able to set things up and get going pretty quickly. As the textile field school proceeded David, Paul, and I went out to figure out how to use our total station. Dr. Brent Benson was with us at the beginning of the season to teach us how to use it, but because of our problems with customs we were not able to get it out of the airport until after he had left. He gave us some training about how to use it when we could, and so we finally gave it a try. It took us a little while to figure out how to get it all set up, but eventually we got pretty good at using it.  When we did, it worked very well. We were able to start to plot mud bricks with a fairly precise ability. I am excited about the possibilities of better documenting things with this equipment. We are so very, very grateful to Dr. Benson who donated the equipment.

In the meantime Dr. Tata and Madames Smith and South were running the textile field school for our inspectors. They did very well. They have learned a lot and analyzed quite a few good burials.

We did some more photographing of the stela, along with a bit more measuring and analysis. We will be able to make a good publication of this stela. There is so, so much to study and publish and we just don’t have enough time to keep up with it.

As it came time to start to finish things up, our sweet, wonderful inspectors from the field school presented us all with gifts. They are so very thoughtful and giving. They gave us wonderful little models of the Giza pyramids and gave Joyce Smith and Kristin South some nice little glass flowers that turn colors through fiber optics. They are so thoughtful. We then presented them with their certificates of graduation from our field school. I think they were very pleased with how well they did in the school and with the certificates. We believe we have finally figured out what needs to happen to make these certificates look the way they should. I think that in the end we had created an excellent certificate.

We cleaned up the storage magazine, preparing it for a year of sitting. It took some work, but I think we got it in pretty good shape. Then it was time to pay the workers, the guards, and to tell everyone goodbye. I always hate to say goodbye to Farag and Gabr, but hopefully we see them next year. They are good men. I also hated to say goodbye to our field school inspectors. They are wonderful and we have so enjoyed them. We will hope to see them again too. We have made wonderful friends here that we hope to see again and again.

We got home a bit earlier than usual. This was partially because we found a little bit of a shortcut. With the extra time we were able to get a cell phone set up for use whenever we come. We should have done this long ago. Then we had a wonderful dinner with Vassil Dobrev. He is a good man with a lot of good ideas. We talked about so many things, and it gave us so many things to think about for our excavation. We very much enjoy this good man and are grateful for our association and hope it continues for a long time.

Monday, March 25, 2013

At Fag el-Gamous again

Today was a great day. We got to the excavation and set up right away. Dr. Tata began on the field school right away. Our inspectors in the field school are so bright and caught onto examining textiles right away. Dr. Tata and Kristin South are good teachers and they are very good students.

One of the first things they did was examine a small mummy. This mummy was beautifully wrapped in a tunic and with other nice wrappings. There was some evidence that they tried much of the full mummification process. The toes and toenails and brain and tongue were amazingly preserved. We found a wonderful necklace and two bracelets on each arm. The jewelry makes us think it was a girl, but we cannot tell. Assuming it was, this little girl was about 18 months old when she passed away. She was buried with great care as someone who obviously loved her very much did all they could to take care of this little girl in burial. Very sad. But they succeeded, it was a beautiful burial. She had been buried with several other mummies, so we are interested in examining them.


 We also practiced washing textiles. They want us to clean some of the textiles we have in the permanent storage facilities. However, they are so nice we did not want to wash them without having practiced. Today we chose some textiles we were going to rebury and practiced washing and soaking them, experimenting with how much water to use, how many times to rinse, how much pressure can be applied while washing with a brush, how brittle they were after drying, whether or not we could unfold and flatten them easier while they were wet, etc. We practiced on both linen and wool. Kristin South headed up this effort, assisted a little by Kerry Muhlestein but a lot by Gabr, who has a delicate touch and a real feel for ancient textiles. We feel we had great success in doing this. We were quite astonished at the result, and believe we can do some excellent work with any of our textiles. This was a very fruitful activity. We will see how they fare after a full day of drying, and will do some more practicing tomorrow.

Dr. Evans did a lot of osteological work today. Dr. Whitchurch and Dr. Muhlestein worked on a number of things. We cleaned up and inventoried some of the facilities. We photographed some amazing Roman Glass and the various pieces of metal found on the baby mummy. 


We cleaned off the Snefru Stela and started measuring and photographing it as we prepare it for publication. We pieced together a few things we were unsure of before. We were not able to finish, but we made some good progress. 

Tomorrow is our last day of going to the cemetery. It is hard to believe we are winding down like that already. Time goes by so slowly when I think about my family, but so fast in regards to the work here.

Spent the evening making certificates of graduation for our field school participants.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A day among days

What a day! We left fairly early and met Dr. Vassil Dobrev at Saqqara. He has been excavating there for  years. He was so gracious, enthusiastic, and welcoming. We first went through some of the things in the museum there at Saqqara. Then we went to his site. We spoke of how he has been detecting arrangements of pyramids, and looking at elevations, and using the clusters and alignments of mastabas as he looks for the right places to excavate. Absolutely fascinating, and very well thought out. We so enjoyed this. It gave us some real things to think about regarding our pyramid at Seila.

Dr. Dobrev then took us through his 6th and 8th dynasty tombs. He has been finding fantastic things there. There was much that was so interesting. We could have spent hours there going through more and more of his finds. This was such a wonderful opportunity.

From there we met with an inspector that Zahi Hawass had arranged to take us through some of the more interesting parts of Saqqara. First we went to a monument we have always wanted to enter. It was fantastic, and thus a longtime dream was suddenly realized. We all enjoyed it.

From there we went to some wonderful tombs and had a great time looking at the incredible artwork.

 Then we went to the Serapeum. It has been closed for years and years, so it was another thrill to be able to see it. Impressive. Amazing. Huge. What a place. 

Then we went to Unas’ tomb and enjoyed some time there. In particular we got to a hillside where we were able to look one way and see Giza and another and see Dashur. We counted 16 pyramids that could be seen there. 

From there we went out to some more places that are typically closed. But we went in, we saw great stuff, and we loved every minute of it.

From there we went to a favorite restaurant called Andea’s. The food was good. We were in two cars, and one car got a bit lost. We ended up going through some very small backroads of Cairo, going on roads that were under construction  until we got onto a bridge that suddenly ended (fortunately we noticed this before we drove off), and then went in a few circles before we got to a road we recognized. We finally got on an iphone and used the gps map function to figure out where we were and where we should go. Some were nervous a few times, but in the end we made it.
It was exhausting, but this was quite a day!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Worship

Today was a pleasant day of worship and time with friends. Early in the morning Dr. Blumell leaves for home. We will miss him. We are grateful for the dear friends we have here and the time we are able to spend with them.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sundry items from a dig day

We would like to share a few parts of a typical day at the dig:

The location of each burial in the Fag el Gamous necropolis is documented. s The cemetery is laid out in east/west and north/south coordinates.  This season we are excavating in the area that is found between 120 and 130 meters north of the central datum point and 20 and 30 meters west of the north/south line.  Within the 120/130 North 20/30 West area, we are excavating in the NW square that is 5 meters square.  In this photo you can see the stake marking the most north western corner of the square and the yellow line marking the western edge of the square.  Dr. Giovanni Tata (left) is holding the black and white meter stick against the stake;  Dr. Kerry Muhlestein (standing) is making measurements with a tape measure and Kristin South (background) is recording the measurements in the field book.  The feet of three mummies clustered in this corner of excavation site are seen in the foreground. 

The length of the burial, depth, head location and feet location are measured from the north and west edges of each excavation square.  These data are entered into a database to provide a 3D representation of all burials in the cemetery.

Not shown in the photo are Dr. Paul Evans, Dr. David Blumell, Dr. David Whitchurch, Joyce Smith, and Brent Benson.

A lunch break is taken by the workers at about noon.  The call to prayers started at 12:03 today.  The workers eat in groups usually by the village where they live and by family relationships.  We have workers from four different villages that are near the Fag el Gamous necropolis and the Seila Pyramid.  Lunch is usually tomatoes, soft cheese, pita bread, onions, leeks, and a leafy plant that resembles chard.  The food is shared and all partake.  We usually work during the lunch break.  Burial documentation including photos, measurements, and descriptions can be accomplished during lunch break.

Our inspector this year is Ayman. He has been so very, very good. He knows what he is doing, he is efficient and knowledgeable. He is also so very happy, kind, friendly and upbeat. He is a real gem, and we hope we can work with him for many more seasons. He has taught and helped us in so many ways, and is a very good person.

A great deal of what we do is record what we are finding in both writing and pictures. We usually have the various specialists gather around each find to help us record in the field book all of our observations. We have a great team and this method has helped us to be very detailed. 

We have been greatly aided in our accuracy and consistency by the work of Joyce Smith. She has created checklists we go through for each feature we find. This way we make sure we don't ever forget to do one of the little aspects of recording and work with everything we find. She also created a number of stamps we put in the fieldbook that helps us to record everything we need to and accurately draw the aspects that need to drawn.

Some days we have the workers take their lunch break when we have many things we need to record and we need to have only the specialists working and no one hauling sand, etc. away. On those days they usually get a bit longer of a break, and they use it to relax from their hard labors.

 While we are sad that we won't work with our whole crew any more this season, we are glad that we will get to keep working with our two foremen. Farag and Gabr are brothers and have been part of this excavation since they were teenagers. They are truly gifted with the trowel and brush. They have a delicate and practiced hand and a real sense for how to clear off sand without disturbing the object in it. I believe they also have mummy radars implanted somewhere in their heads. They can tell when they are about to find one before any signs seem to appear. They are good men, very good men, and we feel like they are our brothers.