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Egypt's famous 'Meidum Geese' tomb painting may be fake: Archaeologist

Egyptian Museum director says Italian archaeology expert theory unsubstantiated by scientific evidence

Nevine El-Aref , Friday 3 Apr 2015
painting
A section of Meidum Geese painting
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An Italian archaeology expert has published an article suggesting that the Meidum Geese, an Egyptian tomb painting, may be a forgery.

Francesco Tiradritti of Kore University of Enna and director of the Italian archaeological mission to Egypt wrote an article for Live Science magazine that looks at the results of a new study of the painting.

The Meidum Geese was found in the mastaba tomb of Pharaoh Sneferu’s son Nefermaat, located near the Meidum Pyramid. It was discovered in 1871 by Luigi Vassalli, who cut the painting off the wall.

At present it is on display at the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo.

The painting, which depicts white-fronted geese, bean geese, and red-fronted geese, is considered by many Egyptologists to be a masterpiece of ancient Egyptian art.

But Tiradritti told Live Science that when he realised that the bean and the red-breasted geese were unlikely to have been seen in ancient Egypt, he took a more critical look at the painting.

He found that some of the colours in the painting are unique, and the way that the geese are drawn, so that they appear to be the same size, is also unusual. The ancient Egyptians drew animals and people in different sizes, sometimes in order to convey their importance.

Tiradritti adds that the cracks in the painting “are not compatible with the supposed ripping of the painting from the wall.” He thinks that the geese were painted in the 19th century by Vassalli, who was a trained artist, on a real Pyramid Age paining.

“The only thing that, in my opinion, still remains to ascertain is what was (or ‘is’) painted under them. But that can be only established through a noninvasive analysis,” he said.

The study has triggered the anger of many Egyptologists who see argue that Tiradritti’s research is based on theories and not technical study.

“We cannot prove the forgery of this painting unless we use state-of-the-art scientific studies which were totally absent in Tiradritti’s research,” director of the Egyptian Museum Mahmoud Alhalwagi told Ahram Online, adding that modern scientific technique could also determine the date when the painting was created.

Alhalwagi says that the antiquities ministry will use the the required advanced technique to respond to Tiradritti’s “lies” with scientific results.

Islam Ezzat a restorer at the Egyptian Museum, said that specialised equipment could be used to determine the correct date of the painting without taking a sample.

“Electron spin resonance is the perfect technique to determine the age of the Meidum Geese painting,” Ezzat said.

Tarek Tawfik, the director of the Grand Egyptian Museum which overlooks Giza Plateau, told Ahram Online that “until now there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the Meidum Geese.”

The painting, he continued, is a part of a larger scene inside the mastaba tomb of Nefermaat who was known to be fond of innovation.

Proof of the authenticity of the painting, argued Tawfik, is that the upper limit of the painting bears the remains of the rest of the scene found on the wall of the mastaba tomb, which shows the feet of hunters who are chasing geese and ducks with nets.

Secondly, the hunting bird scenes are common scenes in ancient Egyptian tombs of the Old Kingdom.

In response to Tiradritti’s theory that the geese are not like those found in Egypt, Tawfik argued that the area where Meidum is located in Fayoum is located on the birds’ migration route and is a resting place for migrating birds

painting
Meidum Geese painting

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Sam Enslow
07-04-2015 06:55pm
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Stop the outrage
Most, if not all, masterpieces from the ancient world have had their authenticity challenged. The famous Ionic horse in the Metropolitan Museum if Art was shown to indeed be a forgery. The famous birthing figure of Dumbarton Oaks is still challenged. The golden image of 'El Dorado on his raft, in Bogotá's Museo del Oro has been questioned. Most artifacts are genuine and the challenges are for someone's reputation only. However, they do draw attention to the artifact and make it a 'draw' for museum audiences, especially when an exhibit is prepared proving authentication or not. Egypt needs to stop being outraged and take advantage of the opportunities presented.
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neil
05-04-2015 08:54pm
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what's the point
I'm not an archeologist/Egyptologist, but I find these accusations specious and pointless. By pointless, I mean in importance compared to the forgery inside the Giza pyramid, which became decisive in claiming the age and ownership of the pyramids, or the dolphins painted on the murals of the palace of Minos in Crete, which seem at odds with ancient sensibilities. As for specious, when we see an animal on a mural, we assume that we are seeing something that is extinct or at least no longer lives in Egypt, such as the Ibis. No one thinks that the Ibis is a forgery or the product of someone ancient person's imagination. As for size, they're all geese, so why would they be different sizes? How are they any different, in size and position, to the birds on the 'tree of life'? As for cracks, why would the taker of it 'rip' it from the wall, instead of using the utmost care?
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