Sunday, April 22, 2018

ARCE Meetings - Day 2 (Continued)

     Day 2 of the annual ARCE meeting continued with Dr. Ogden Goelet (of New York University) discussing "Insights into Ritual at the Abydos Temple of Ramesses II".

     Like most Egyptian temples, this one is divided into three parts. At the front is a peristyle court where the general public could worship. Behind this area was an octostyle count (called octostyle because it had eight columns) which was restricted to priests and the elite. At the rear of the temple was a second octostyle court and three cult rooms.

     During festivals the cult statue of the god was frequently paraded on a small barque (boat) carried on poles by the temple priests. Dr. Goelet feels that the rear portions of the temple were too small for a barque to be carried and suggests that a small shrine may have been used instead.

     Like all Egyptian temples, this one had many texts and scenes carved on its walls, including the "Litany of Horus", which is an offering ritual that appears as far back as the Pyramid Texts. There is also a scene of Ramesses being rejuvenated by drinking cow's (Hathor's) milk, while in chapel G there is another scene of Ramesses being rejuvenated, this time by a "baptism" that shows the water being poured on him as streams of Ankhs (life) and Was scepters (dominion).

     Adela Oppenheim of the Metropolitan Museum discussed the museum's recent work at Lisht South and the pyramid complex of Senwosret III in a talk entitled "The Metropolitan Museum 2017 Season at Lisht South and the Pyramid Complex of Senwosret III, Dashur".

     The museum started the season by doing conservation and restoration work in the burial chamber of Senwosretankh at Lisht South, which is well known as it has a copy of the Pyramid Texts in it. Then the work switched to Dashur and the South Temple of Senwosret III's pyramid complex. On the Southwest side of the temple are a number of boat pits (one of the boats they contained is in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh). The temple itself is now limited to mud brick sub-foundations and the exact layout of the temples rooms cannot be determined at this time. The decorative program is very fragmented. There were intrusive burials found as well as a post-Middle Kingdom pit lined with blocks placed in all sorts of random directions. A lintel was also found that has what Dr. Oppenheim referred to as a "Bird Stare Down", with Nekhbet and Horus facing each other and seeming to want to see who will blink first.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ARCE 2018 Annual Meetings - Day 2

     Day two of the annual American Research Center in Egypt conference started at 8:30 this morning with a talk by Martin Uildriks (of Brown University) entitled "Forts, Cities and Urbanization, a Comparative Space Syntax Analysis of State-Planned Space".

     Dr. Uildriks raised the issue of Egyptologists assuming that the first floor of homes (of the wealthy anyway) had columned rooms that were used as reception areas. This interpretation may need to change as he showed a number of depictions of homes that show columned rooms on the second floor. Further, some of the excavated homes at Amarna show signs of having the first floor used fo production work, such as weaving. The speaker also pointed out to similar indications is state controlled housing at Kahun and in the Nubian forts, such as Uronarti.

     Lisa Saladino Haney discussed the art work of Senwosret III and how it fit into a possible co-regency (the talk was called "Visualizing Coregency: the Early and Later Styles of Senwosret III"). Dr. Haney started by mentioning three stelae that have "double datings" that possibly indicate coregencies:

  • Stela of Hapu - double dating of Amenemhat II (year 35) and Senwosret II (year 2)
  • Stela of Wepwawet - Senwosret I (year 44) and Amenemhat II (year 2)
  • Stela of AMeny - also carries a double date

Dr. Haney divides the art of Senwosret III into two parts, and early and late period. The late style continues into the reign of Amenemhat III while the early style first appears in the reign of Senwosret iII's predecessor.

ARCE Annual Meetings - Day 1

     The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) is having its annual meeting this week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I arrived Friday morning (because United got me to Houston too late to catch my connecting flight on Thursday), so I missed the first few papers I wanted to see. However, there were still plenty of other papers to enjoy:

     Bonnie Sampsell gave a paper entitled "Reconsidering the History of an Unusual Yellow Coffin" in which she described a Third Intermediate Period yellow coffin and suggested that the specific coffin was likely a late example of its type.

     Brian Muhs of the University of Chicago gave a talk entitled "Papyri in Private Collections, Afterlife or Second Death? The Case of William Randolph Hearst", in which he detailed Hearst's collection of eight papyri, how they were eventually sold at auction to help pay off Hearst's massive debts and what became of some of them after they were sold to private collectors. Dr. Muhs also pointed out that the present whereabouts of three of the papyri is no longer known.

     "The Gilded Coffin of the Priest of Heryshef, Nedjemankh", a talk by Diana Craig Patch and Janice Kamrin, described a Ptolemaic coffin that has recently been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum. The coffin has a number of interesting features. For instance, the lappets of the "wig" on the coffin have a number of registers of decoration that show baboons worshipping the rising sun Isis and Nephthys with Osiris, Anubis and Horus with Osiris and representations of recumbent jackals (earlier Egyptian coffins did not have decorative registers on the wig lappets). The coffin is made of cartonnage covered with plaster and gilded.

     There was also a business meeting of the various members of the various ARCE chapter's Board of Directors, which I attended as one of the representatives of the New York chapter. Some interesting ideas were discussed and some interesting developments should be happening soon.  I will post news as it happens.

     My next post will detail events of the second day of the conference.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Middle Kingdom Hair Dressing

Fig. 1 - Wig of a Dyn. 12 princess
    Humans have changed remarkably little in thousands of years. While this should probably not be surprising, I am frequently reminded of it during the course of studying the ancient Near East. From Hammurapi's law code, which lists legal cases that could occur today as well of thousands of years ago, to more mundane things like the ancients attempting to enhance their attractiveness by their choice of clothing it is remarkable how similar we are to the ancients.

     One example of this is hair dressing. In ancient Egypt women seem to have often shaved their heads (to keep cooler?), but they seem to have worn wigs when socializing or appearing in public. Figure 1 shows a reconstructed wig from the Middle Kingdom which is in the Metropolitan Museum. The owner was a princess who could afford to have it decorated with gold ringlets. No doubt she had a full complement of jewelry to wear with the wig as well has a mirror to admire the results.

     Often the wigs needed more hair added into them to repair damage of give them a fuller look. A scene from the tomb of the 11th Dynasty Queen Neferu (raging of Montuhotep II) shows one of her attendants styling the royal wig. The Queen is also wearing a broad collar and is obviously preparing for some party or affair of state. In a scene from the same tomb (figure 3) one of the Queen's attendants is preparing a new lock of hair that can be added to the Queen's wig.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Copying Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

     Modern technology is doing some fascinating things in the Valley of the Kings. I reported a while back that a full reproduction of the tomb of Tutankhamen had been created and opened to the public. Computers were used to scan the paintings in the burial chamber and to create a full sized replica of the tomb. This technology creates a snapshot in time of the tomb so that future archaeologists can compare the current state of the tomb to the scan to determine if there has been any deterioration in the tomb.

     This technology is being used in other tombs now. For instance, the entire tomb of Seti I is being scanned and a full size replication of part of the tomb has been opened to the public while the remainder of the tomb is being reproduced. This reproduction, which includes the Pharaoh's burial chamber is on display in Basel, Switzerland and includes a copy of Seti's calcite sarcophagus (now in the John Soane Museum in London).

     The new issue of KMT magazine just arrived in my mailbox and they have an article on a special exhibit dedicated to Amenhotep II currently open in Milan, Italy. One of the things mentioned in the article is a full sized reproduction of Amenhotep II's burial chamber. Looking at photos in the article certainly gives the impression that the tomb has been faithfully and accurately copied.

     If you cannot get to Egypt, the Valley of the Kings can now come to you!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

a New "Chamber" in the Great Pyramid??

     A team of scientists have scanned the great pyramid at Giza using cosmic rays and have found a large "void" or empty space in the pyramid. What exactly this void is, is uncertain at this time. No entrance to it is known and it could be pretty much anything at this point.

     My initial thought was that this may be a "relieving" chamber that was included to help keep the pyramid from collapsing due to its immense wait. Dr. Aiden Dodson has been quoted as suggesting the same thing. 

     There is some suggestions that this space is a second "grand gallery" like the one that leads to Khufu's burial chamber, but his is nothing more than speculation at this point.

     As new information becomes available, I will post it here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Middle Kingdom Sphinx Head

Figure 1
     There are quite a number of sphinxes known from Egypt's Middle Kingdom. For instance, there is the very large sphinx, now in the Louvre in Paris, that was originally made in Dynasty 12 but later re-carved for the Hyksos (Dynasty 15) Pharaoh Apophis. One of the most interesting of the Middle Kingdom sphinxes, though, is the much smaller one represented only by a head that is now in the Brooklyn Museum.

Figure 2
     What makes this piece unusual is that it is a sphinx with the head of a woman, most likely a Queen or Princess. Originally this piece had inlaid eyes, possibly of metal, which were pried out at some point in history (you can see the damage to one of the eye sockets from this removal in figure 1).

     The face of this carving does not have the careworn features so common in the statues of Dynasty 12 kings and has rather heavy eyebrows and  pointed chin that lends a certain softness to the piece.

     The Brooklyn Museum dates this piece to the reign of Amenemhat II and says that it may have been found at Hadrian's villa, just outside of Rome. A couple of years ago I did a number of blog posts about Egyptian artifacts that are still at Hadrian's villa (see my posts from December of 2014) and many others now in Munich that were found at this Roman emperor's home.