Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Location of Avaris (Part 2)

The location of the Hyksos capital of Avaris has long been discussed by Egyptologists. The sites suggested include Heliopolis (Weill)[1], Tell-el-Yahudieh (Petrie)[2], Pelusium (Gardiner)[3], Tanis (Montet)[4], and Kantir / Tell-ed-Daba (Habachi[5], van Seeters[6], Hayes[7], and Bietak[8]). To complicate the matter further is the theory that the later capital of Pi-Ramesse was built during the Nineteenth Dynasty upon the abandoned site of Avaris; thus any discussion of the location of Avaris must include a discussion of the location of Pi-Ramesse.

It must be stated from the start that the equating of Pi-Ramesse and Avaris is based on very slim evidence. Both cities had Seth as their primary deity, and ancient literary sources claim that both cities were located upon the Pelusaic branch of the Nile River[9]. This is enough to suggest the equation of the cities and most Egyptologists accept this theory, but it must be stressed that the theory is by no means proven as of yet.

Most of the above listed sites have been abandoned as suggested locations for the city of Avaris. The evidence at Tell-el-Yahudieh is not enough to compare with other proposed locations, Weill has retracted his suggestion of Heliopolis[10], and Gardiner has retracted his proposal of Pelusium in favor of Tanis[11]. This leaves only Tanis and Kantir / Tell-ed-Daba as proposed locations for Avaris. The following discussion will take the form of listing the evidence in favor of Tanis (both pro and con) and then making a case for Kantir / Tell-ed-Daba.

Tanis was identified as the location of Avaris as early as the middle of the nineteenth century when de Rouge recorded a mention of Seth, Lord of Avaris on Tanite monuments. De Rouge claimed that the designation Seth, Lord of Avaris was frequent on monuments found at Tanis[12]. Weill points out that this is an exaggeration as there are presently only two monuments known from Tanis with a mention of Seth, Lord of Avaris on them[13].

In 1930 Montet identified Tanis as Pi-Ramesse / Avaris[14] and this identification was supported by Junker[15]. Montet’s evidence was summarized by Weill[16]and will be discussed here at length.

First Montet took a passage from the writings of Manetho, which claimed that Pi-Ramesse was located in the Saite Nome, emended Manetho’s text to read “Sethroite” Nome, and then, quoting Strabo and Herodatus, claimed that the Sethroite Nome was the same as the Tanite Nome[17].

Secondly, Montet points out an example of Levantine influence at Tanis by showing that the main temple is surrounded by a wall and that below this wall were found two skeletons (one inside a large pottery jar). Montet called these skeletons a “foundation sacrifice” and points out (quite correctly) that the Egyptians did not have this custom even though it is well attested in Canaan[18].

Montet’s third point is that inscriptions from both the Hyksos Period and the Ramesside Period occur at Tanis[19], while his fourth is the presence of the Four Hundred Year Stela at Tanis[20].

[1] Ray Weill, “The Problem of the Site of Avaris,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 21 (1935): p 10.

[2] Weill, sources cited therein, p. 10.

[3] Weill, sources cited therein, p. 11.

[4] Weill, sources cited therein, p. 11.

[5] Habachi, Labib, Second Stela of Kamose (Gluckstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1972), pp. 60 – 3.

[6] Van Seeters, John, The Hyksos (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), pp. 127 – 150.

[7] Hayes, William, Glazed Tiles from a Palace of Ramesses II at Kantir (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1937), p. 5.

[8] Bietak, Manfred, Tell el-Dab’a II (Vienna: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1975), pp 128 – 9.

[9] Habachi, Stela, p. 60.

[10] Weill, p. 10.

[11] Alan Gardiner, “Tanis and Pi-Ra’messe: a Retraction,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 19 (1933): pp: 122- 8.

[12] Weill, p. 10.

[13] Weill, p. 10.

[14] Weill, p. 12.

[15] Herman Junker, “Phrnfr,” Zeitscrift Fur Aegyptische Sprache 75 (1939): p. 82.

[16] Weill, pp. 10- 25.

[17] Weill, p. 12.

[18] Weill, p. 12.

[19] Weill, p. 13.

[20] Weill, p. 13.

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