Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Location of Avaris (Part 5)

What archaeological evidence is there to support the theory that Kantir / Tell ed-Dab’a was the location of Pi-ramesse / Avaris? Excavations at Kantir have revealed a wealth of material from the Ramesside Period, which proves the existence of a large occupation site in the area. Hundreds of glazed tiles (as well as the molds used to make them) have been found. These glazed tiles once formed a part of a palace of Ramesses II[1]. There is also a well with the name of Ramesses II at Kantir, as well as scarabs of Khian, Tell el-Yahudieh pottery and a stela of a Hyksos princess named Tany[2]. The area around Kantir has yielded two statues of Sobekneferu and one of Aamu-Sahor-Nedjheritef (both of Dynasty Thirteen) as well as pyramidions of two Thirteenth Dynasty Pharaohs[3]. It is possible that the statues and pyramidions may not be in situ, but the well and smaller objects (such as the scarabs, tiles and molds) must be in situ as these small objects are not the kind of things that later builders would cart away to another site and the well of course could not have been moved for fairly obvious reasons. Further, there are foundation deposits from the reign of Ramesses II at Kantir (again, the kind of things which must be in situ)[4]. To further strengthen the case it can be added that a temple of Seth is known to have existed at Kantir[5].

Thus emerges a scenario where two separate sites both contain sufficient archaeological evidence (let us temporarily ignore the literary evidence) to lay claim to being Pi-ramesse / Avaris. If a strong case could be made for the evidence in one of these two sites having been brought to that site long after both the Second Intermediate Period and the Ramesside Period had ended, it would surely strengthen the case of the rival site. Save-Soderbergh[6], van Seeters[7], and Habachi[8] are surely correct in claiming that the Hyksos and Ramesside objects at Tanis are not in situ, and were brought to the site no earlier than Dynasty 21 (it should be pointed out that even Gardiner, who supported the designation of Tanis as the site of Pi-Ramesse, was willing to admit that many of the Ramesside objects at Tanis were not in situ[9]). The evidence to support this is readily available. Most telling of all is the fact that there are no pre-Dynasty XXI occupation levels at Tanis. Nor are there any small objects (like pottery, scarabs and private stelae) dating earlier than Dynasty XXI and there are no foundation deposits dating any earlier than the Twenty-first Dynasty[10].

Is it possible that the material which was found in the vicinity of Kantir and which dates to the Second Intermediate Period or the Ramesside Period could have been brought from elsewhere? Much of the material in question can be proven to be in its original location at Kantir. As mentioned above, people do not move wells from one city to another, and it is highly unlikely that small objects such as the glazed tiles and the molds used to make them would be so transported. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Kantir was occupied later than Ramesside times[11], which would make it unlikely tat Ramesside monuments were moved there by later Kings. In solving this question one must ignore the large, showy objects used by Montet to make his case for Tanis (as these are precisely the most likely objects to be moved to a new site by later pharaohs), and instead concentrate on the small, clearly in situ, objects used by Habachi, van Seeters and others to prove the presence of the Ramesside kings at Kantir.

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

[2] Van Seeters, pp. 134 – 5.

[3] Van Seeters, p. 133.

[4] Hayes, pp. 5 – 7.

[5] Hayes, p. 7.

[6] T. Save-Soderbergh, “The Hyksos Rule in Egypt,” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 37 (1951): p. 64.

[7] Van Seeters, pp. 130 – 1.

[8] Habachi, L. Second Stela of Kamose. Gluckstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin, 1972, p. 61.

[9] Gardiner, Alan. “Tanis and Pi’ramesse: a Retraction”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 19, 1933, , p. 124.

[10] Van Seeters, p. 131 and Habachi, p. 61.

[11] Van Seeters, p. 136.

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