Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Size of the Hyksos Empire (Part 2)

The next matter to concern us is the question of whether or not the Hyksos ever ruled any portion of Nubia. Once again, we find that earlier archaeologists believed the Hyksos did indeed rule Nubia. They cited as evidence the presence of Hyksos scarabs and Tell-el-Yahudieh pottery.

It must be emphasized that no text or statue of a Hyksos king has ever been found in Nubia. Further, the excavations at Kerma have produced abundant evidence to contradict the beliefs of earlier archeologists. For instance, the graves at Kerma which are contemporary with the Fifteenth Dynasty (as shown by the presence of Hyksos scarabs in these graves) contain burials which are totally different from those of the Egyptians, the Hyksos and the peoples of the Levant[1]! Trigger further states that Uronarti (a fortress in Nubia) there are over 4,500 sealings datable to this period, but no other evidence of a foreign culture[2]. At Buhen (another fortress in Nubia) some Tell-el-Yahudieh ware juglets were found along with some stelae of this time, stelae which clearly show Egyptians living in Nubia and serving the King of Nubia (and not the Hyksos King!)[3]. Furthermore, the Kamose stela clearly shows that there was a separate king in Nubia[4], who ruled independently of both the Egyptians in southern Egypt and the Hyksos.

An inscription in the tomb of one Sobeknakht has recently been cleaned and translated and provided a surprise. Sobeknakht claims to have helped repel an invasion from Nubia during "the latter part of the Seventeenth Dynasty." Dr. Vivian Davies points out that this is the explanation for the presence of Egyptian artifacts in the tombs of the Nubian kings at Kerma, they were war trophies. It seems clear from this text, and from the Kamose Stela, that Nubia was at this time an independent and powerful enemy on Egypt's southern border.

[1] Trigger, B. Ancient Egypt, pp. 163 – 66.

[2] Trigger, B. Ancient Egypt, p. 161.

[3] Trigger, B. Ancient Egypt, pp. 161 - 2.

[4] Habachi, L. Second Stela of Kamose (Gluckstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin, 1972), p. 39, where the Hyksos King Apopis sends a letter addressed to “the Ruler of Kush…” in an attempt to get him to attack Kamose from the South.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Size of the Hyksos "Empire" (Part I)

Early Egyptologists believed that the Hyksos ruled an empire stretching from Syria to Nubia[1], but this notion seems completely wrong to me. First of all, let us look at the evidence for Hyksos rule in the Levant.

Early archaeologists linked the presence of the so-called “Tell-el-Yahudieh” pottery (first found in Egypt and later discovered throughout the Levant) to the presence of the Hyksos. In the early part of the twentieth century there was some reason to accept this as no example of this type of pottery had been found which pre-dated the Second Intermediate Period. Furthermore, the pottery seemed to have no known antecedents and appeared suddenly in excavations much as if it had been introduced by foreign invaders. There are some problems with this idea however. First of all, it is possible to explain the distribution of the pottery as a result of commerce between Egypt and the Levant, rather than as the result of the existence of a Hyksos empire. Second of all, some examples of this ware have been found in Dynasty Twelve contexts at Buhen (in Nubia), el-Lisht, and tombs number one and two at Byblos (which are clearly datable to the reigns of the Dynasty Twelve kings Amenemhat III and Amenemhat IV)[2].

Another often cited “proof” of the existence of a Hyksos empire is the presence of a series of massive earth-work “fortifications” in several places in the Levant and in two places in Egypt. Recent scholars have suggested that the “fortifications” at Heliopolis and Tell-el-Yahudieh are actually temple foundations[3]. This leads to the rather odd situation of having Hyksos fortifications in the Levant (where we are not completely certain that they ever ruled) and having no Hyksos fortifications in Egypt (which is the only place we are certain that they ever ruled).

Further “proof” of the existence of a Hyksos “empire” includes a basalt lion bought by the British Museum in Baghdad, an alabaster jar lid found at Knossos[4] and a fragment of an obsidian vase found at Boghazkoi (all of which are inscribed with the name of Khian)[5]. All of these are better explained as indications of foreign commerce rather than the existence of a far flung Hyksos empire as the chronologies of Crete and Turkey are too well know to admit the possibility of Hyksos rule in either place.

The last piece of evidence which is usually cited as proof of the existence of a Hyksos empire is the numerous scarabs found throughout the Levant. It must be pointed out that all of these scarabs are small and very portable and their distribution is quite possibly explainable as the result of foreign commerce, rather than as evidence of a vast Hyksos empire. Using scarabs as evidence for anything is further complicated by the fact that the Egyptians often carved scarabs with the name of kings who were long dead. For instance, scarabs have been found bearing the names of Fourth and Fifth Dynasty kings; but these scarabs clearly were clearly carved after the kings named on them were dead[6] as it is known that the first scarabs were carved during the First Intermediate Period[7]. There are also Hyksos scarabs in Nubia, when it seems clear that the Hyksos never ruled there (see the discussion in the next post). If Hyksos scarabs are found in Nubia in spite of the fact that they never ruled there, it would seem that the scarabs found in the Levant do not prove Hyksos rule there either.

[1] Breasted, J. Geschichte Aegyptens (Vienna: Phaidon-Verlag, 1936), p. 149 and Save-Soderbergh, T. JEA 37, p. 62-3, and Albright, W. Archaeology of Palestine (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Limited, 1949), pp. 86-7 to cite only three examples.

[2] Enberg, R. “Hyksos Reconsidered”, pp. 26-8. See also Hayes’ comments in Scepter, vol. II, p. 12 where he agrees with the present author that Tell-el-Yahudieh ware does not indicate the presence of the Hyksos.

[3] Steindorff, G. and Kieth Seele. When Egypt Ruled the East (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942), p. 25 and Save-Soderbergh, T. JEA, 37, p. 60 as well as Trigger, B., et al. Ancient Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 157

[4] Save-Soderbergh, T. JEA, 37, p. 63.

[5] Trigger, B. Ancient Egypt, p. 159.

[6] Newberry, P. Ancient Egyptian Scarabs (Chicago:Aries Publishers, 1979), p. 118.

[7] Newberry, P. Scarabs, p. 70 and Ward, W. Studies on Scarab Seals, vol 1, (Warminster: Aris & Phillips limited, 1978), p. 4.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Hyksos Rise to Power in Egypt (Part 2)

Determining exactly how the Hyksos came to power in Egypt is impossible, although two theories have been advanced. The first of these is that the Hyksos swarmed into the Nile delta with an all conquering army. Few Egyptologists now believe this theory to be true.

The second theory is more attractive in that it has a large body of evidence supporting it. This theory postulates a protracted infiltration of the delta by “Asiatics”. These “invaders” were gradually Egyptianized and began to fill local government positions. Eventually they came to control the government of the eastern delta and began spreading their power into Middle Egypt.

It can be proven that there were many Asiatics in the delta before the accession to power of the Hyksos and it can further be proven that they had some political power in Egypt prior to the start of the Fifteenth Dynasty. During the First Intermediate Period Asiatics swarmed into the delta[1] and early in Dynasty Twelve the Tale of Sinuhe mentions a fort built to keep these people out of Lower Egypt[2]. In the Dynasty Twelve tomb of Khnumhotep at Beni Hassan there is a painting of a group of Asiatics coming to trade with the Egyptians. These foreigners are clearly called “Hekaw Khasut” in the accompanying inscription[3]. Hayes mentions the existence of a large group of Asiatics in Egypt during the Thirteenth Dynasty. These foreigners were all slaves in the possession of one nobleman and it must be thought that if one nobleman had this many Asiatic slaves then there must have been a sizable amount of them in the country[4]. That not all Asiatics in Egypt were slaves at this point in history is indicated by the fact that a number of “Kings” of the Thirteenth Dynasty had Semitic names[5].

The Fifteenth Dynasty – The Hyksos “Empire”:
[1] Goedicke, H. Protocol of Neferyt (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977), p. 33.

[2] Lichtheim, M. Ancient Egyptian Literature (Berkley: University of California Press, 1977 – 1981), vol 1, p. 224.

[3] Aldred, C. The Egyptians (New York: Fredrick A. Praeger, 1961), p. 123.

[4] Hayes, W. Papyrus, p. 99.

[5] Van Seeters, J. The Hyksos (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 116.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Hyksos Rise to Power in Egypt (Part 1)

During a period of internal anarchy and weakness known as the Second Intermediate Period foreigners came to control most of Egypt. These foreigners eventually came to claim the title of "King of Egypt". There has been much speculation as to who the Hyksos were and how they came to power in Egypt. Unfortunately we are unlikely to ever know the full set of facts pertaining to either of these questions.

The word Hyksos is the Greek form of the Egyptian words “Hekaw Khasut” or “Rulers of foreign lands. This phrase is used by the Egyptians as early as the Sixth Dynasty and as late as the Ptolemaic period to designate “Asiatics”[1]. Enberg has claimed that Hurrian pottery found in Egypt suggests that the Hyksos were part of the great migration of the Hurrian people into the Middle East[2], but Save-Soderbergh rejects this theory by pointing out that the pottery which Enberg refers to is only decorated like Hurrian pottery, the actual forms of the pottery are not Hurrian[3]. Save-Soderbergh further points out that most of the names of the Hyksos are Semitic, rather than Hurrian and that, furthermore, if pottery was a valid criterion for postulating ethnic make-up of the Hyksos, then a Cypriote element among the Hyksos must be allowed for as Cypriote pottery has been found in Egypt dating to the Hyksos period[4]. I am inclined to believe that there is no such thing as one group of people called the Hyksos. Rather the “Hyksos” were likely any of numerous different groups of people who were living in the Levant[5].

[1] Enberg, R. “The Hyksos Reconsidered” in Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), p. 6.

[2] Enberg, R. “Hyksos Reconsidered”, p. 6.

[3] Save-Soderbergh, T. “The Hyksos Rule in Egypt” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 37 (1951), p. 58.

[4] Save-Soderbergh, T. JEA, 37, pp.58-9.

[5] Gardiner, Alan. Egypt Under the Pharaohs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 156, agrees with the present author.

Amarna Boundary Stelae

When the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten of the Eighteenth Dynasty established the new city of Akhetaten (the modern name of which is Tell-el-Amarna) he set up a number of boundary stelae to delimit the city's borders. One of these stelae is pictured here. I believe that this is the one designated as stela A by Norman de G. Davies (The Rock Tombs of El Amarna, Part V. - Smaller Tombs and Boundary Stelae, London: The Egypt Exploration Society, 1908). It is one of the three stelae on the Western bank of the Nile and lies about three miles from Tuna-el-Gebel.
In front of the King is an offering table while behind him are his wife, Nefertiti and their two eldest daughters, Merytaten and Meketaten. Above Akhenaten is the god Aten, represented as a solar disk with rays of sunlight ending in hands. The King wears the Kheperesh headress and is shown with the huge hips and large belly that is so typical of Amarna art. Nefertiti is shown wearing a crown with two feathers and a horned disk.
The stela is 14 feet high and 7 feet 6 inches wide and has eight columns of text to the left of the King and Queen. Below the royal family are twenty-five horizontal lines of text.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The British Museum's Website

I have found two interesting areas in the website of the British Museum. One is a guide to the museum's Cypriot archaeology department.

The other is an online journal of Egyptology articles written by some leading scholars. There are eleven issues published on this site and the articles are of high interest. I would point to one issue in particular which contains a number of issues dealing with relations between the Egyptians and the Hittites.

There is enough reading material on here to keep you busy for a couple of weeks!

Articles Dealing with the Hyksos

I have found some links dealing with the Fifteeenth Dynasty foreign rulers of Egypt called the Hyksos. Some of them are a bit old, but I will pass them along anyway.

Hyksos Tombs Found in the Wadi Tumilat

The excavation of Khian's Palace at Tell el-Daba

The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus in the British Museum

Links to Archaeology Sites

I have added a blogroll to the site which will contain links to interesting sites that deal with Near Eastern Archaeology. If anyone has an interesting site that you feel I should link to, by all means send me the link and I will consider it for adition to the blogroll. Click on "View my complete profile" on the right hand side of this screen and then click on "email" and send me the link.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The White Chapel Offering Lists

The western side of the exterior of the White Chapel has carved into it a list of the Nomes (government districts, states or provinces) Upper (Southern) Egypt, while the western wall contains a list of Nomes for Lower (Northern) Egypt. Note that, unlike the carvings inside the chapel, these carvings are in sunk relief instead of the more expensive and difficult to execute raised relief carvings.
Each Nome has offerings of food, cloth, etc. listed. At the top of each column is the Nome's "standard". The third row of each column shows the amount of the offering being made to that Nome.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carvings in the White Chapel

The carved decorations in the White Chapel of Senusert first are some of the finest ever done in the history of ancient Egypt. The decorations are mostly done in raised relief, which is much more difficult to do than sunk relief.
This particular scene shows a priest (identifiable by the animal skin he is wearing) holding a statue of Amen Min in front of him. Behind the priest is a much larger representation of Pharaoh Senusert I. Above and behind the king are his names and titles, while the name of Amen Min is above the representation of his statue in the rightmost column of hieroglyphs.
The ancient Egyptians usually painted reliefs, but no traces of the original paint can be seen in this photo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Altar of the White Chapel

Offerings would no doubt have been made on this altar as part of Senusert's Sed festival. On the exterior wall, to the right of the doorway are two columns of texts giving the names and titles of Senusert telling us that "the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Kheperkara..." is "beloved of Amen Ra..." and that "the Son of Ra Senusert is given all life, stability and health...".

The White Chapel of Senusert I

The “White Chapel” in the open air museum at Karnak temple was built by Senusert I, the second king of Egypt’s Dynasty Twelve. During the New Kingdom, it was dismantled and used as filler in the Third Pylon of Karnak.

The White Chapel was built from blocks of Egyptian alabaster and is decorated with some of the most skillfully carved reliefs in the history of Egyptian art. Many of the scenes show Senusert with gods such as Amen Ra, Horus, Min and Ptah. The building was possibly erected as part of Senusert’s Sed Festival in the thirty-first year of his reign.

The chapel’s present location in the open air museum at Karnak is away from the areas normally visited by tourists, but the building is quite lovely and well worth visiting if you have the chance.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Standard of Ur (Part 2)

This photo, like the one in the previous post, is from the banquet scene on the standard of Ur. The scene seems to show servants bringin a drink (beer?) to a guest, while the picture in the previous post shows a bull and a gazelle (?) being led to the banquest, probably to be slaughtered.

The Standard of Ur

The Standard of Ur is a wooden object that was decorated with a mosaic on two sides. The “pieces” of the mosaic are made of red limestone, shell and Lapis Lazuli. The standard has been dated to sometime between 2600 and 2400 B. C.

The mosaic on one side of the object shows war scenes, while the other side depicts a banquet. The war scenes show four wheeled chariots pulled by onagers and cloaked infantrymen carrying spears. The other side of the standard shows people enjoying a banquet with food (including live animals which are probably to be butchered) being brought in to the guests.

The Ur Harps (Part 2)

As mentioned in the previous post, the "harps" found at Ur had a bull's head on their front for decoration. The bull's head pictured here is made of gold with a Lapis Lazuli beard, and is currently in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.

The Ur “Harps”

Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavations at the city of Ur turned some harps (or lyres). They were made of wood and decorated with gold and Lapis Lazuli bull’s heads. They range in size from small ones, which could be held in the arms while being played, to large ones that needed to be set on the floor to be played. The picture here was taken in the British Museum.

When these musical instruments were found they wood had completely decomposed. Woolley carefully poured plaster into the places in the dirt where the wood had once been, thereby preserving the shape of the instruments.

Currently, a team is attempting to create a modern replica of the ancient lyre. A website devoted to this project can be found here. The website is very interesting and I would recommend you take a look at it.

C.L. Woolley and P.R.S. Moorey, Ur of the Chaldees, revised edition Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, (1982)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The “Ram” in the Thicket

I have been going through some very old photographs that I took twenty to twenty-five years ago. Some have seen their colors begin to fade and I am scanning them to try and preserve them.

Some of the photos were of objects found by Leonard Woolley in has excavations of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur. The photo in this post is of the “Ram” in the Thicket (more properly a goat, not a ram). The statue is one of two found by Woolley in the 1928 – 9 season and is currently in the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. The mate of this statue is in the British Museum.

The two statues were found in the “Great Death Pit” at Ur. Originally they were of wood covered with gold foil and inlaid with a semi-precious stone called Lapis Lazuli. When found, the wood had decomposed and the gold foil had been flattened by the soil it was buried in. A support at the rear of the statue may once have supported a bowl or some other object (for offerings to be made?).
C.L. Woolley and P.R.S. Moorey, Ur of the Chaldees, revised edition, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, (1982).
Information on some conservation work done on this object can be found here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An Enjoyable Pyramid Book by the Head of Egypt's Antiquities Service

Zahi Hawass, the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, has written an informative book, The Mountains of the Pharaoh's, on the pyramids of Giza. The book contains a great deal of interesting material on the pyramids, their associated temples and the kings who built these amazing monuments.

The book also devotes some space to the recent excavaion of the tombs and villages of the workers who did the actual work of building these huge monuments. Dr. Hawass describes their sleeping quarters and dining facilities, as well as some of the physical ailments they suffered from as a reult of their back breaking work.

This book is well written and easy to read. It contains plenty of interesting and useful information. It is written for a lay audience and is not a ponderous "scholarly" work at all. My only criticism is of the pictures in the book. The color photos are not well reproduced (the colors are off)and are pretty much the same photos we have seen in any of dozens of other pyramid books. In spite of this criticism, I still would recommend this book to anyone interested in the Great Pyramids.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Second Dynasty Tomb Found at Lahun

Egyptian archaeologists have found a Second Dynasty tomb at Lahun, in the Fayum. This is an important discovery because Egyptologists had previously thought that the first building in the Fayum had occurred in Dynasty Twelve.

A coffin, some spears and a bed made from wood imported fom Lebanon were found in the burial chamber.

More details are available here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Digital Hammurabi

Scholars have been working on a project, called "Digital Hammurabi", to "scan" cunieform tablets and publish them digitally. This is necessary because many, many known tablets have never even been read, much less published. To read a tablet, scholars all too often must fly to the city where the tablet is physically located. Then they must laboriously copy and translate the tablet.

Several links are available that provide information on this project. The ones I have found to date are:

1) An article in John Hopkins Magazine, September 2003.

2) An article in the Baltimore Sun.

3) Applied Optics magazine did an article on the science of scanning cunieform tablets in 2007.

4) John Hopkins University has a website devoted to the project. The small pictures on the right are links to other pages with some interesting content, including a short "movie" of how a cunieform "word processor" can be used. Another link provides progress reports on the project that have been published over the course of several years.

This is an interesting project, particuarly to anyone interested in technology as well as ancient history.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Some New Links

I have found two more interesting links for those of us interested in the Ancient Near East. The first I want to share is the website of Dr. Zahi Hawass, who is the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. The site has article written by Dr. Hawass, photographs and press releases relating to new discoveries in Egypt. One especially interesting item on the site is a film taken inside the Step Pyramid of Djoser. An Egyptian team of workers has cleared the burial chamber and found a tunnel under the royal sarcophagus.

Another site I found has a post describing the Temple of Dedera. There are numerous photos of the temple on the site, including a photo of the famous portrait of Cleopatra and her son by Julius Caesar.

Incidently, I try very hard to find interesting links to sites dealing with Mesopotamia, but I have located very few. A search for sites devoted to Ancient Egypt turns up hundreds of hits. I recognize that there is more interest in Ancient Egypt in general, but the disparity in interest is striking.