Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Location of Avaris (Part 6)

To this point the majority of the evidence we have looked at is of Ramesside, rather than Second Intermediate Period, date. Thus the identification of Avaris as either Tanis or Kantir / Tell ed-Dab’a rests on the tenuous theory that the two sites were one and the same in ancient times. Proof of a Second Intermediate Period occupation of Kantir would thus be required to help solidify Kantir’s claim to be the site of Avaris.

A second Intermediate Period occupation of the area has recently been found at Tell ed-Dab’a by a team of archaeologists led by Manfred Bietak. These excavations have revealed a Canaanite city within the borders of Egypt; Bietak has divided the site into twelve occupation levels, the earliest of which dates to the end of the Middle Kingdom. The culture of that level (Level H) is a mixture of Egyptian and Canaanite, as is evidenced by the houses being Egyptian in style but with the burials being a mixture of Egyptian and Levantine styles[1]. It should be pointed out that the burials were found within the living area of the city, something which is completely non-Egyptian[2]. Level F is purely Canaanite, with tombs often including donkey burials, and has been dated to the Second Intermediate Period by Bietak[3]. In level E there are temples built along Levantine lines which include altars with remnants of burnt offerings, while the burials show no Egyptian influence and are often located under the door of a house[4]. In the latter part of Level D there are signs of the return of Egyptian influence; this is probably to be dated to the very end of the Second Intermediate Period[5]. The burials of this period are often quite lavish, with those of Level D3 (the earliest part of this level) showing Levantine influence. These burials often include beautiful gold diadems like the so-called “stag-crown” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art[6].

If Tell ed-Dab’a is indeed Avaris / Pi-Ramesse, then one would expect a hiatus in its occupation from the end of Dynasty Seventeen until the beginning of the Ramesside Period, and that is precisely what Bietak has found[7]. Stratum B seems to date from the reign of Horemheb and contains a temple of Seth[8], an important point in view of the fact that both Avaris and Pi-Ramesse should contain such a temple. If this is the actual site of Pi-Ramesse, one would not be surprised to see the occupation of this site end with the beginning of Dynasty 21, when Tanis was built and this is precisely what happened[9].

[1] Manfred Bietak, Avaris and Pi-Ramesse, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 238.

[2] Bietak, p. 238.

[3] Bietak, p. 238.

[4] Bietak, pp. 247 – 61.

[5] Bietak, p. 237.

[6] Bietak, p. 263.

[7] Bietak, p. 273.

[8] Bietak, p. 270.

[9] Bietak, p. 237.

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