Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Location of Avaris (Part 3)

There is one other piece of evidence in favor of Tanis being the site of Pi-Ramesse / Avaris, and that is Gardiner’s assertion that there are more monuments from the Ramesside Period at Tanis than at any other city in Egypt other than Thebes, but that if Tanis is not Pi-Ramesse then there are no Ramesside literary references to Tanis known[1]. This is a major point and any attempt to prove that Tanis was not Pi-Ramesse must explain this seeming paradox.

This collection of evidence in favor of Tanis being Avaris / Pi-Ramesses is not without its flaws. Montet’s emendation of Manetho to make the text read Sethroite instead of Saite is possible[2], but it must be pointed out that no emendation is necessary if Kantir / Tell-ed-Daba is the site of Avaris. Emending a text to fit a theory is not a good practice, especially when leaving the test unchanged yields sensible results.

In regard to Montet’s assertion that the burials beneath the temple walls prove Levantine influence there are two points to be considered. These burials do show Levantine influence, but Montet has not proved that these burials date to the Hyksos Period. That they were under a wall proves that they were contemporary with or earlier than that wall, but without other evidence no assertion as to their exact date can be made. As will be seen when the evidence at Tell-ed-Dab’a is examined, there is far more evidence for Levantine influence there than at Tanis and that this material can be precisely dated to the Second Intermediate Period.

The monuments at Tanis bearing inscriptions from the Second Intermediate Period are rare and probably not in situ[3]. Montet’s usage of two statues bearing inscriptions referring to Seth, Lord of Avaris to prove that Tanis was Avaris is highly questionable. First of all, there is a statue at Tell el-Moqdam which also refers to Seth, Lord of Avaris, while at Bubastis there are many blocks mentioning Seth[4]. Also, there are many objects bearing the names of Hyksos pharaohs Khian and Apopis at Bubastis[5]. Thus it seems clear that the mere presence of an object bearing either the name of a Hyksos pharaoh or of the god Seth does not prove that the site where the object was found is Avaris.

Montet is certainly correct when he states that the Four Hundred Year Stela must have been erected in a major cut center of Seth, but it must be stressed that there is no evidence that the cult center was at Tanis rather than somewhere else. It must be remembered that Egyptian pharaohs often took the monuments of other kings and moved them to other sites as a way of “filling” a newly built city faster than could be done if they depended entirely on the production of their own artisans. This practice would potentially be even more common in the Delta (where there is a complete lack of local building stone) than it was in Upper Egypt, where such transportation of objects is quite common in spite of the widespread availability of excellent building stone. One example of this which can be cited is the re-use at Hermopolis of stone blocks originally erected at Tell el-Amarna[6].

[1] Ray Weill, “The Problem of the Site of Avaris,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 21 (1935): , p.18.

[2] Weill, p. 13.

[3] Habachi, Labib, Second Stela of Kamose (Gluckstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1972),, p. 61.

[4] Habachi, p. 60.

[5] Habachi, p. 60.

[6] Cooney, John, Amarna Reliefs from Hermopolis in American Collections (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1964), p. 2.

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