Friday, December 28, 2012

A Couple of Interesting Links

     I just found a couple of links that I will pass along:

     The first is a link to a site that reports on the ongoing excavations of Catal Hoyuk in Turkey ( Catal Hoyuk is a Neolithic / Chalcolithic site in south-central Turkey that    
consists of numerous mud brick houses jammed in together. Some of the buildings have wall murals and others (religious shrines???) have several bull skulls mounted within them. Burials are sometimes found beneath the floor of the houses (an early example of a practice that is common in ancient middle eastern sites throughout ancient history).

     This site was originally excavated in the late 1950s by James Mellaart, who was later banned from excavating in Turkey on suspicion that he was involved in antiquities trafficking.

     The second link provides some information on the excavations at Hattusha ( being conducted by the German Archaeological Institute. This site is also located in Turkey.

     Hattusha was the capital of the Hittite Empire that vied for power with the Assyrians and Egyptians. The excavators have reconstructed about 65 meters of the original mud brick city walls and there is some information on the reconstruction, along with some good photos, on the website.

     There is also a page on this site devoted to the nearby religious center of Yazilikaya. Included is a good description of Yazilikaya and some photos of the site's relief carvings.

     Both of these sites are well worth checking out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Oxford Dictionary of Ancient Egypt

     In the reference section of a local public library I just found an interesting three volume set of books that I was not aware existed. The book is the Oxford Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. The work is edited by Donald Redford and consists of hundreds of short articles about many different topics dealing with Ancient Egypt.

     The first article I looked at was "The Opening of the Mouth", which is in volume 2. The article was written by Ann Macy Roth and describes the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony from earliest times through the Late Period. It also provides a useful bibliography.

     As time allows, I will be visiting the library to look at more articles and see what other information is contained in this work. I will also post any new information on the Opening of the Mouth that I find in this article as a supplement to the posts I did on this topic earlier this year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Egypt and Persia (Cont.)

     Now that the Egyptians were part of the Persian Empire, they were expected to contribute to their conquerer's military. The Egyptians helped build the bridge of boats that Xerxes used to move troops across the Hellespont and contributed 200 triremes to the Persian fleet for the invasion of Greece.

     Given the remoteness of the Persian capital, it was only a matter of time until the Egyptians began trying to throw off the Persian yoke. Eventually Dynasty 29 arose, but fighting among the Egyptians seems to have resulted in most of the Kings of this Dynasty being deposed. Eventually this Dynasty is deposed and a new family (Dynasty 30) arises to take the throne.

     The Persians were not going to let the Egyptians slip away from their control, however. in 374 B. C. Artaxerxes II attempted to regain control of Egypt. He failed.  Artaxerxes III, tried three times to re-conquer Egypt during the reign of Nectanebo II (of Dynasty 30). By 341 B.C. the Persian Empire was once again in control of Egypt. This time their rule would last until it was ended by the invasion of Alexander the Great in 332.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Murder of Ramesses III

     There is news out today regarding the murder of the Twentieth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses III. He is one of the few kings that we know was assassinated and doctors examining his mummy have concluded that his throat was cut. Given how deep the cut was it would seem that Ramesses did not survive the assassination attempt long enough to see the assassins executed as many have believed.

     I am not sure how far to believe this story. One problem is that no one ever noticed the cut throat before, in spite of the fact that it was apparently a cut that went almost to the spine. The second problem is that there have been so many recent "revelations" about the royal mummies that have been later questioned by experts, that one tends to be suspicious.

     In any event, here is a link to the story:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Persia and Egypt

     Ahmose II seems to have realized the menace that Cyrus the Great posed. Ahmose joined an alliance with Lydia and Babylonia against the Persian King, but the members of the alliance were too scattered to deter the Persians. Lydia fell first followed by Babylonia.

     Ahmose died before the Persians could invade Egypt, and Psamtek III had to deal with the impending invasion. The battle of Pelusium resulted in a complete victory for Cambyses (who succeeded Cyrus to the throne after Cyrus' death in combat) and the capture of Psamtek.

Frieze of Archers from Darius' Palace at Susa
     When Cambyses died in 522 B. C., the Egyptians revolted, but by 519 or 518 Darius, the new Persian King, succeeded in regaining control of Egypt. Darius built (or re-built) the temple of Amen in the Kharga Oasis (Shaw, Ian, ed. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 2000, p. 383). Darius turned against the Greeks after subjugating the Egyptians, but was humiliated at the Battle of Marathon in what is surely one of the most important battles in the history of the world (how would the history of Europe been changed by a Persian victory???).

Photo Copyright (C) by John Freed 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Egypt's Dynasty 26

The Kings of Dynasty 26 were:

  • Nekau I
  • Psamtik I
  • Nekau II
  • Psamtek II
  • Apries
  • Ahmose II
  • Psamtek III

     Psamtik I re-united Egypt after the departure of the Assyrians. The Assyrians never returned to trouble him, as their empire was in the process of collapsing. Psamtik's even felt secure enough to invade the Levant where they finally captured the city of Ashdod after a long siege.

     But Egypt was to have trouble with more foreigners. Psamtik had used Greek mercenaries (among others) to re-unite Egypt. These Greeks seem to have become favorites of the Pharaoh, which left the native Egyptian / Libyan soldiers displeased.

     The Greek mercenaries, who seem to have lived in their own settlements in the Nile delta rapidly became a flashpoint for trouble. During the reign of Apries an anti-Greek backlash forced the Pharaoh from his throne (Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 373).

     Egypt rapidly recovered, and Ahmose II (Apries' successor) saw a prosperous Egypt enjoying a series of bumper crops, or so Herodotus tells us (Shaw, p. 374). The Greeks played a very active role in trading with Egypt, which also helped the Egyptian economy. Under Nekau II, the state tried to revive trade in the Red Sea area by attempting to build a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea (this project seems to have failed). Herodotus also claims that Nekau II sent an expedition to circumnavigate Africa, but this is not likely to be true (Shaw, p.376).

     Nekau II does seem to have sent an army to fight in what is now Iraq and this is by far the furthest extension of Egyptian military power northwards since the death of Tuthmose III. However, a defeat at Carchemish at the hands of the Babylonians pushed the Egyptians back to the Nile Delta.

     The Babylonians were never able to conquer Egypt, but they turned out to be the lesser of two problems. The bigger problem was Cyrus the Great.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Egypt's Largest Sarcophagus

Archaeologists are busy reconstructing the largest known sarcophagus ever found in Egypt. The sarcophagus belongs to the Nineteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Merneptah.

Merneptah's burial is unusual in that his body was surrounded by four stone sarcophagi (most of the Pharaoh's burials had one sarcophagus and several coffins). The sarcophagus in question was reduced to shattered pieces of stone in ancient times. Tomb robbers probably began the process, but breaking up the sarcophagus was likely completed by government officials who wanted to get at one of the inner sarcophagi so that it could be re-used in the burial of Psusennes I.

Here is a link to an article on this:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Assurbanipal's Palace Reliefs

     Assurbanipal left many reliefs in his palace at Nineveh. These reliefs contain some justifiably famous portrayals of lion hunts which show the king in combat with both male and female lions, while his servants carry away the corpses of Assurbanipal's victims. But the relief that is of particular interest to me right now is the scene showing his campaign in Egypt.

     The scenes show the siege of an Egyptian city (Memphis?). In the upper part of the reliefs we see the city being stormed. One Assyrian soldier is attempting to set the city gate on fire (and holds his shield above his head as he does so to protect himself from missiles sent his way by the defenders above. Other soldiers are climbing ladders that have been set up against the city walls, while still more soldiers are engaged in trying to dig through the lower portion of the city's walls. A number of Egyptians / Nubians are shown falling from the walls with arrows in their bodies.

     At the bottom  of the city walls a number of Assyrian soldiers are shown leading of a group of Nubian prisoners. One soldier follows the prisoners while holding aloft the severed head of another Nubian.

For photos of this scene, look at Collins, Paul. Assyrian Palace Sculptures, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008, p. 108 and Rizza, Alfredo. The Assyrians and the Babylonians, Vercelli, Italy: White Star s. p. a., 2007, 99. 192 - 3.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Assurbanipal Defeats Egypt

Assurbanipal, King of Assyria, left a written record of his battles in Egypt. Here are some extracts (as translated in Van De Mieroop, Marc. A History of the Ancient Near East, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005, pp. 239 - 40) along with some comments:

"Tarqu (Taharqa) the godless came out in order to take Egypt... He sent an army to kill, destroy and plunder against the people of Assyria who were in Egypt, my servants, whom Esarhaddon King of Assyria, my father, had entrusted with kingship there".

Note that Assurbanipal's father Esarhaddon installed a number of "servants" as "kings". This shows that Egypt at this time was politically divided, a situation that Assyria exploited to their advantage.

Assurbanipal then tells us that Taharqa raised an army and gave battle at Memphis. Taharqa was defeated and "boarded a ship to save his life. He left his camp, fled alone and entered the city of Ni (Thebes)".

We know from this incription that Assurbanipal did not personally command his armies as he mentions messangers coming to him with news of the victory.

At this point the former Assyrian vassals, who had sided with Taharqa, decided to submit once more to Assurbanipal. One of these former vassals, named Nikku (probably Nekau I) was mentioned in particular as having been established as a "king" by Esarhaddon. "Nikku" had joined against Assurbanipal, but the Assyrian King showed him mercy and re-established him as a "king" in the Nile delta.

Nekau met his fate, probably at the hands of the Kushites, who would shortly return to Egypt under their new King, Tanutamun. But Necho's son, Psamtek I, would expell the Assyrians and re-unite Egypt.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Egyptian Museum in Turin

     The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy has one of the best collections of Egyptian art in the world. They have been busy for the past few years cataloging their collection and improving their website. The website is worth checking out.

     The website shows photos of some of the major pieces and provides information on each object. One of my favorite objects in the collection is the coffin of Butehamon from the Twenty-First Dynasty. This coffin is unusual in that a large portion of it is covered with texts from the "Book of Opening the Mouth".

     If you want to have a little fun, check out the photos from Halloween at the museum (scroll down slightly). Take a look in particular at the mummy in the upper left corner of the photo gallery.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Egypt and Assyria (Cont.)

     Immediately after the death of Taharqa the new Nubian king, Tanutamun, marched north to re-establish Kushite rule in Egypt. Nekau I, the local ruler in Sais, was probably executed by Tanutamun, and was succeeded on the throne of Sais by his son, Psamtek I.

     Psamtek had, as a child, been sent to the Assyrian capital Nineveh to receive instruction in Assyrian customs. He apparently did not learn much, as he immediately set about conquering the other petty kingdoms in Egypt and putting them under his own rule, rather than under the rule of the Assyrians. The full re-unification of Egypt was completed by 656 B. C. with Psamtek using Greek mercenaries in his army (Dodson, Aidan. Afterglow of Empire, Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2012).

     Psamtek soon felt confident enough in himself that he sent a series of military expeditions northwards, eventually conquering the city of Ashod after a long siege. At this point the Assyrians formed an alliance with the Egyptians in the hopes that the Egyptians would help them against the Chaldaeans and the Medes. In 616 B. C. Egyptian troops fought against the Chaldaeans in what is now Iraq, surpassing even the border of the Egyptian empire under Tuthmose III almost 1,000 years earlier (Shaw, Ian, ed. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

     In 612 B. C. the Assyrian Empire came to an end at the hands of the Medes and the Babylonians. The Egyptians would continue on for several more centuries, although they would spend most of that time ruled by foreigners (Persia, Alexander the Great and the Ptolemies and then Rome).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Egypt and Assyria

     Relations between Egypt and Assyria were traditionally strained (to put it mildly).

     The first contact between the two countries that I am aware of seems to have occurred during the Amarna Period, when an Assyrian King named Assurubalit wrote two known letters to the Egyptian Pharaoh. In one of these letters, Assurubalit says to the Pharaoh, "Gold in your country is dirt; one simply gathers it up. Why are you so sparing of it? I am engaged in building a new palace. Send me as  much gold as is needed for its adornment" (Moran, William. The Amarna Letters, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992, P. 39).

     Over the next couple of centuries contact between the two countries is infrequent. In the Twenty-Fourth Dynasty Egypt fragments into a number of petty kingdoms which are conquered by the Nubians, who found the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty. The Nubian kings seemed to have been concerned about the expansion of the Assyrian Empire. As a result, they decided to send soldiers to help Hezekiah, King of Judah, against the Assyrian army, but to no avail as this seems to have only irritated Sennacherib, the Assyrian King.

     Further conflicts between the two countries soon flared up. During the reign of Taharqa, the Egyptians were able to defeat an army sent by the Assyrian King Esarhadden. But only three years later, Esarhadden sent another army which successfully captured the city of Memphis (near modern Cairo). Taharqa fled south leaving his son and wife to be captured by the Assyrians (Dodson, Aidan, Afterglow of Empire, Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, p. 165).

     Taharqa returned to Egypt as soon as the Assyrians left, but Esarhadden's son Ashurbanipal sent another army and once again expelled the Nubians from Egypt (Shaw, Ian. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 358-9).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Hyksos King Mauling an Egyptian?

            A small ivory figurine in the British Museum has had some speculative things written about it over the years. The object in question shows a sphinx mauling a human and has been referred to as a “Hyksos King mauling an Egyptian” in innumerable publications[1]

     The excavation report claims that this piece does date to the Second Intermediate Period[2], but there is no justification in calling it a Hyksos King. This idea was started shortly after the piece’s discovery, when Dr. Hall decided that the piece had Semitic facial features[3]. It is unreasonable to claim that a piece this small (59 mm. in length and only 24 mm. in height[4] has clear ethnic features. Even if the piece did, to say that those features prove that a Hyksos King is being represented assumes that the Hyksos were Semitic, a point that is by no means settled. 

     The piece is also hard to date specifically. Garstang (the excavator) claimed that it must be later than Dynasty Twelve and prior to Dynasty Eighteen, but admits that he can be no more precise than that[5]. More recent analysis indicates that the archaeological context that this object was found in, was badly disturbed and that a date in Dynasty 12 is possible. There are parallels in the headdress and the facial features in a statue of Senwosret I, so this small ivory carving may properly date to the Middle Kingdom[6].

     While this is an interesting piece of ancient art, any claim that it represents a Hyksos King mauling an Egyptian is pure speculation.

[1] James, T. G. H. Introduction to Ancient Egypt (London: British Museum, 1979), pp. 56-7 to cite only one example.

[2] Garstang, J. “An Ivory Sphinx from Abydos”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 14, 1928, pp. 46-7.

[3] Garstang, p. 46, where it is mentioned that Dr. Hall not only claims that this (uninscribed!) piece represents a Hyksos King, but also claims that the King in question is probably Khian!

[4] Garstang, p. 46.

[5] Garstang, p. 46.

[6] Joan Aruz, Kim Benzel & Jean M. Evans, editors, Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade and Diplomacy in the Second Millenium B. C., New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Replica of Tutankhamen's Tomb Opens

An exact copy of the famous tomb of Tutankhamen opened today in Egypt. The tomb was built on the east bank of the Nile along the corniche in Luxor. A Madrid firm used 3D scanners to re-create the artwork in the tomb.

Reproductions of the tombs of Nefertari and Seti I have also been proposed.

Here is a link to an article on the opening of this copy of the tomb:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tomb of 5th Dynasty Princess Found at Abu Sir

I have been offline for a few days due to the hurricane, but while we still do not have electricity in our home, the public library does. So I am back up and running, sort of.

While I was offline, the announcement came that the tomb of a Fifth Dynasty princess has been found at Abu Sir by a Czech archaeological team. The princess was named Shert-Nebti, and her tomb was found with those of four noblemen. Here is a link to an article on the discovery.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dynasty 21 Papyrus in Vienna

Khonsu-mes, Dynasty 21
     The Art History Museum in Vienna has a very nice papyrus dating to the Twenty-first Dynasty. It is a funerary papyrus belonging to Khonsu-mes, who held a number of titles (including "Overseer of the Goldsmith's Shop" and "Overseer of Construction Works") in the temple of Amun at Karnak.

     The papyrus, which contains illustrations from the "Book of what is in the Underworld" was painted by an excellent artist. It is also an example of a trend in funerary papyri in which illustrations dominate the papyrus and there are only a limited number of captions. This is different from earlier funerary papyri that had a large amount of text and a few illustrations.

     The object in front of Khonsu-mes is an animal skin hanging from a pole. An example of this object was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter, but egyptologists are not certain what the significance of the object is.

     Other examples of this type of papyri are known from the same period, including one for Amenhotep, Overseer of Scribes in Karnak. This papyrus is in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, as is a slightly earlier one belonging to Amunemwia (also in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Slipper Coffins

Figure 1 - Slipper Coffin of
an 18th Dynasty woman
     Slipper coffins are among the oddest looking things ever used in ancient Egyptian burials. They are called slipper coffins because they are made of one piece and the body of the deceased was slid into them. Then a cover, often with a very stylized face on it, was placed over the top to close the coffin.

     This particular coffin (see figure 2) shows what appears to be hair on each side of the face and very odd "crossed arms" below. It is rather hard to say what the two "lumps" above the crossed hands are supposed to represent. The coffin was found by George Steindorff during excavations at Aniba in 1930 and it probably dates to the Eighteenth Dynasty. It is currently on display in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Figure 2 - close up of the slipper coffin in the
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Some slipper coffins have marks on the inside of the heads that show that the heads were turned on a potter's wheel. Some also show traces of paint.

These coffins appeared outside of Egypt first, and were later used in Egypt for non-wealthy burials. Slipper coffins are found in the levant and Mesopotamia and are still in use there during the Parthian Period.

Here are some links to other information about slipper coffins:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

University of Pennsylvania Museum

Figure 1 - Gilded Bulls Head from a Harp
     The University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia has a great collection of ancient Near Eastern Art. Their collections of Egyptian and Mesopotamian art are extensive and well worth visiting.

     The museum has set up a conservation project for some of the Egyptian mummies and coffins in their collection. The conservators can be seen as they work by visitors to the museum and they will answer questions from the visitors at certain times of the day. Here is a link to an article on the project.
Figure 2 - The "Ram in the Thicket" from Ur

     The museum has a long history of conducting scientific research on mummies. They have examined mummies to determine what the person ate and what diseases or parasites they may have suffered from.

     The University Museum also has a superb collection of Mesopotamian artifacts from the excavations at Ur. Three of its most famous artifacts are pictured here.

     Figure 1 is the gilded head of a bull with a lapis lazuli beard on the front of a large harp. Figure 2 is the "Ram in a Thicket" made of thin sheets of gold and Lapis Lazuli. This object had been virtually crushed by the weight of the dirt heaped up on it thousands of years ago and had to be painstakingly restored. Figure 3 is a scene from the "Standard of Ur".

Figure 3 - The "Standard of Ur"
     Ur was excavated by a joint expedition of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania and the collection of objects from the excavations are split between London and Philadelphia.

     If you can get to Philadelphia, do visit this museum as it is well worth the visit.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Troy to be Excavated Again

A team of archaeologists is preparing to excavate at what is believed to be the site of Troy in Turkey starting next year. Archaeological investigations have taken place at this site numerous times since Heinrich Schliemann first worked here in 1871. Conclusive proof that this is the place where the war immortalized in Homer's tale "The Illiad" has never been found.

Here is a link to a short article on the planned excavations.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The New Kingdom in the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Fig. 1- Ushabti of Amenhotep III
     The Art History Museum in Vienna has a number of objects from Egypt's New Kingdom. There are ushabti's of Akhenaten and his father, Amenhotep III (see figure 1), a lion hunt scarab from the reign of Amenhotep III and a number of statuettes of non-royal officials. But my two favorite pieces are a fragment of a statue of Tuthmose III (figure 2) and a large statue of Horemhab and the god Horus (see figure 3).

Fig. 2 - Statue of Tuthmose III
     The statue of Tuthmose III reminds me very much of a statue of the same king that is in the Luxor Museum. The king's features are youthful and energetic looking. The Luxor statue was found at Karnak (near pylon 7), but the find spot of the statue in Vienna does not seem to be known for certain. Tuthmose has long been my favorite Egyptian Pharaoh. This is no doubt Professor Breasted's fault as I loved his re-telling of Thutmose's military campaigns based on the professor's translation of the "Battle Annals" carved on a wall at Karnak (see Professor Breasted's book A History of Egypt).

Fig. 3 - Statue od Horemheb and Horus
     The statue of Horemheb is also a favorite of mine. Alabaster is a relatively soft stone and can be worked to show incredible detail, as is done here. The king is shown with a rather interesting crown, essentially the double crown is shown being worn on top of a Nemes headdress. Horus is shown wearing the double crown only. As a king, Horemheb is an important transitional ruler as he bridges the end of Dynasty 18 and the start of Dynasty 19. He was a commoner, who became a top military commander and later came to the throne after the death of the Pharaoh Aye. Horemheb seems to have designated another general, named Ramesses as his successor and this general, as Ramesses I, becomes the first king of the Nineteenth Dynasty.

Photographs copyright 2012 by John Freed

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Continued)

Figure 1 - Painted Ceiling in the museum
     The Egyptian collection of the museum is housed in the North wing of the museum. You go up the stairs and past the Sekhment statues and enter the first gallery, which has a ceiling painted to look like the ceiling of of an ancient temple, with a row of representations of the vulture goddess Mut spreading her wings over the visitors.

Figure 2 - Copy of Middle Kingdom tomb paintings
     The far wall, is decorated with a copy of the paintings in a Middle Kingdom tomb at Beni Hasan. This is the famous tomb of Khnumhotep, that shows a group of foreigners coming to Egypt to trade, with the foreigners being clearly labeled as "Hyksos". The Hyksos traders are shown between the large figure of the Egyptian Nomarch Khnumhotep (on the far right) and the column which blocks part of the view of the paintings). The original tomb dates to a period prior to the Hyksos "conquest" of Egypt and I have long argued that this shows the "Hyksos" entered Egypt peacefully and stayed in increasingly large numbers until they were able to establish a separate kingdom in the Nile Delta during the Second Internediate Period.

Photos Copyright 2012 by John Freed

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Art History Museum in Vienna

Figure 1 - Entrance to the Egyptian Collection
     After leaving Paris, we next headed to Vienna for our first visit there ever. We absolutely fell in love with the city!

     Aside from wonderful sights like the Hofburg and Schoenbunn Palace (palaces used by the Austrian Emperors) there are a great number of cultural events to enjoy. Sadly the opera house was closed for the summer, but we did enjoy listening to some Mozart and Strauss in the Hofburg.

     On our next to last day in Vienna I went to the Kunsthistorische Museum (the Art History Museum), which is in a beautiful building near the opera house and the National Assembly. The interior of the building is worth a visit all by itself. When you enter you are facing a spectacular staircase that leads up to the second floor. On the right is a shorter stairway that leads to the Egyptian collection at the top of which is a door flanked by two statues of Sekhmet (see figure 1).

Figure 2 - a painting by Gustav Klimt in the Museum.
     If you ignore the Egyptian collection for a minute and head up the main stairs to the second floor (see Figure 3) you will find yourself facing another stairway up into the very "rafters" of the building where you can find a number of "Egyptianizing" paintings done by Gustav Klimt (July 14, 1862 - February 6, 1918). Klimt executed paintings in a number of buildings in Vienna and was awarded the "Golden Order of Merit" by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph for his paintings in Vienna's BurgTheater.

Figure 3 - Main Stairs to the Second Floor
     The painting here (figure 2) shows an Egyptian Queen standing in front of the goddess Nekhbet (the vulture goddess who was the goddess of royal women in ancient Egypt).  

Photos Copyright 2012 by John Freed

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sargon II

Figure 1 - Sargon II - Louvre Museum
Sargon II came to the Assyrian throne in 721 B. C., probably after staging a coup against his brother, Shalmaneser V. Sargon conquered Samaria (the capital of Israel) and established relations with the Phyrigian King Midas. Midas, however, later instigated a revolt by Carchemish against Sargon, a revolt that Sargon quickly put down. The Assyrian King would later campaign against the kingdom of Urartu, an empire about which little is known.

When Sargon was not campaigning, he was busy building his new capital at Khorsabad. The gates of the city and the royal palace were guarded by winged bulls (or "Lamassu") a picture of which can be seen in my previous post. The walls of the palace were decorated with huge stone slabs carved in high reliefs, showing scenes of feasting, military campaigning and punishing rebels.

The representation of Sargon shown here is fairly typical of Assyrian royal representations. The king is shown with the long, elaborately curled hair and beard that other Assyrian kings are shown with. He also wears earrings, a bracelet and a conical "crown".

Reference: Collins, Paul. Assyrian Palace Sculptures, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008).

Photo copyright 2012 by John Freed


Figure 1 - Winged Bull from Khorsabad - Louvre Museum
Khorsabad was the capital of Assyria during the reign of Sargon II (722 - 705 B. C.). Sargon had a new capital city built for himself at Khorsabad. The ruins of his capital were first excavated by Paul-Emile Botta in 1842 - 1844. Later Victor Place worked there from 1852 - 1855. Between 1928 and 1935, archaeologists from Chicago's Oriental Institute also excavated at the site. Finally, in 1957 the Iraqi Department of Antiquities excavated at Khorsabad.

Building Khorsabad required a massive effort on the part of the Assyrians, an effort which ended with Sargon's premature death in combat and the movement of the capital to Nineveh by Sargon's son Sennacherib.

Figure 2 - Bringing Cedar Wood from Lebanon
Figure one shows a winged bull that was found by Botta and brought to the Louvre. These winged bulls, sometimes referred to as "lamassu", were protective deities with the body of a lion or a bull, the wings of an eagle and the head of a man. These huge statues were set up in doorways, no doubt as a way of impressing visitors to the King's palace. If you look carefully at one of them, you will notice that they have five legs, not four. You can see four legs in the picture here. The fifth leg is to the right of the front leg and can only be seen when looking at the statue head on. With five legs the viewer would, no matter where they were standing, see the illusion of the Lamassu having four legs. Lamassu were also used in the construction of gateways by the Babylonians and the Persians (see the Lamassu built into the "Gate of all Nations" at Persepolis).

Figure 3 - Hero with a Lion
Figure 2 comes from a wall in the King's palace showing the building of Khorsabad. In this picture you can see wooden logs being moved via water to Khorsabad (from what is now Lebanon), for use in the construction of the city.  The city of Byblos was especially famous for exporting cedar wood and many references to trade between Byblos and Egypt involving this wood are known

Finally, in figure 3 we see a common motif in Mesopotamian sculpture, a human hero with a conquered lion. Sarah Costello wrote a paper on what she calls the "Nude Hero" in 2010 and this figure may be a representation of the "nude hero" (although he is shown fully clothed in this carving). It is also possible that this representation of the hero is associated with the famous story of Gilgamesh.

Photos copyright 2012 by John Freed

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Apadana of Persepolis

Column Capital from Persepolis - Louvre
By the time I finished the Egyptian collection and the European paintings (my family's idea) at the Louvre, I had almost no time to visit the Near Eastern Art collection. I rushed through it very quickly and came away with some truly awful photos. I have "photoshopped" a few of them (using iPhoto) and will show them over the next few posts.

Relief from Persepolis - Metropolitan Museum
The first one is a double bull's head column capital taken from the Apadana at Persepolis (in what is now Iran). The Apadana was the great audience hall built at Persepolis by Darius I and Xerxes I. Apadana is an Old Persion word that means "Hypostyle Hall" (a hypostyle hall is an area in a palace or temple built with a large number of oversized columns). The columns were about twenty meters tall and it was among these towering pillars that the Persian King would have received tribute from the "Satraps" who governed his empire.

The Apadana was built on a huge terrace and was accessed by climbing one of two large stairways, which were decorated with reliefs showing various people from the King's empire. The relief shown above is in the Metropolitan Museum and may come from the stairway of the Apadana. The inscriptions that accompany these reliefs are in Old Persian and Elamite.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Serapeum Re-Opened to the Public

When I wrote the past couple of posts, I did not realize that the Serapeum at Sakkara was about to be re-opened to the public. Check out the link below for some pictures, including a couple that will show how large the Apis Bull sarcophagi are.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Serapeum

Photo 1 - Sphinxes from the front of the Sertapeum
     The finding of the Serapeum is one of the most interesting stories in all of archaeological history. It was found in 1850 by Auguste Mariette, who was in Egypt to buy Coptic manuscripts for a client. Mariette found the head of a sphinx sticking up out of the sand at Sakkara, slightly to the northwest of the step pyramid of Djoser.

     When Mariette cleared away the sand, he found an avenue of sphinxes which was probably built by Nectanebo I (Dynasty 30). Some of these sphinxes are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, (see photo 1).

     Mariette followed these sphinxes until he came to an underground passage, which proved to be the burial place of the "Apis" bulls, which were sacred to the god Ptah.

      Construction of the Serapeum seems to have started during the reign of Ramesses II. Over hundreds of years passages and side chambers were tunneled under the ground. In side chambers the remains of the Egyptian's sacred bulls were interred with all the pomp and splendor due these important animals.

Photo 2 - An offering stela from the Serapeum
          Mariette found one intact Apis bull burial, as well as many other objects, including a large statue of an Apis bull (now in the Louvre) and many stelae. The stelae were brought to the Serapeum by worshipers of Ptah and left as evidence of their piety. The stele shown here (photo 2) is one of the oddest that I have ever seen. It shows two obelisks flanking a pyramid and one of the Apis bull sarcophagus. The bull is shown above the sarcophagus (by convention), even though it was likely meant to be understood that the bull was in the sarcophagus. The stele is unusual because it does not have the rounded top so typical of Egyptian stelae.
Photo 3 - Apis bull embalming slab, Memphis, Dynasty 26

     The Apis bulls probably lived in the temple of Ptah at Memphis. Each day the priests of Ptah would have fed and cared for the bull. When it died, it was mummified on a huge slab in that temple (photo 3 shows a slab dating to Dynasty 26). The slab slopes toward one end, so that the bull's blood and other bodily fluids could run off during the mummification process. After mummification was completed, the bull was buried in a huge sarcophagus in the the Serapeum. Since an Apis bull was required to have certain markings, when one died a new one had to be found, and the priests of Ptah would search throughout the land until one with the correct markings was found.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Louvre's Seated Scribe

The Old Kingdom seated scribe is one of the most famous works of Egyptian art in the world. The scribe sits cross-legged with a papyrus scroll on his lap. The face is lively and enhanced by the quartz eyes (inlaid in a copper setting). The scribe has a slight roll of fat on his chest / belly, which is is an ancient convention designed to show that he was well off. The statue was probably set in a separate base (now lost) that would have been carved with the names and titles of the owner.

The statue was found by Auguste Mariette in November, 1850 near the row of sphinxes leading to the Serapeum.

While this statue is clearly from the Old Kingdom, a more specific date cannot be arrived at.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sarcophagus of Ramesses III

The Foot End of the Sarcophagus, with Isis protecting the King
The huge granite sarcophagus box of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III is in the Louvre (the lid is in the Fitzwilliam Museum). Ramesses was one of the few Egyptian kings that we know of who was assassinated. After the assassination attempt, Ramesses seems to have lived long enough to order trials for the conspirators before dying.

This king has been called the "last of the great Egyptian Pharaohs". Ramesses was able to repel the invasion of the "Sea Peoples" and the Libyans. But there seems to have been serious problems in Egypt late in his reign as there are reports of workmen going on strike because they have not been paid. The kings who followed him in the Twentieth Dynasty were mostly weak and ineffective.

Part of the Book of the Amduat
Nephthys at the Sarcophagus' Head

The royal sarcophagus is covered with religious texts (the Book of the Amduat), which begin at the head of the sarcophagus, near the representation of Nephthys, with the first seven hours of the Amduat being on one side of the sarcophagus and the remainder of the text being on the other side. This text describes the journey of the sun god through the twelve hours of the night and is extremely difficult to understand for modern readers. The Amduat may be derived from the Middle Kingdom "Book of Two Ways" and appears for the first time in tomb KV20 (the tomb of Hatshepsut and Tuthmose I).

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Burial of Sekhemre Herhermaat Intef

Coffin of Sekhemre Herhermaat Intef
The King's Name Written in Ink

 Sekhmere Wepmaat Intef was succeeded by Sekhemre Herhermaat Intef who was buried (most likely at Dra Abu el-Naga) in one of the cheapest, and ugliest, royal coffins in the history of Egypt. It was clearly an undertaker's stock coffin to which a royal uraeus was hastily pegged. The name of the King was added in ink on the lid of the coffin (see the second photo).

Sekhemre Herhermaat Intef seems to have ruled for only a few months and was, I believe, the twelfth king of Dynasty Seventeen. He was succeeded by Senakhtenre Tao I, who was married to the famous Queen Tetishei, whose famous (forged?) statue in the British Museum was discussed in on of my earlier posts.

Photos copyright John Freed, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Another Obscure Pharaoh

Coffin of Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef

The Louvre has coffins used for the burial of two kings of the Second Intermediate Period. The first of these two kings was named Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef, who ruled for about three years.

His coffin is a cheap "rishi" (feathered) coffin, that bears an inscription stating that it was a gift from his successor, Sekhemre Herhermaat Intef.

Canopic box of Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef

The Louvre also has the canopic chest of this Pharaoh in it's collection. This canopic chest, which originally would have held the king's internal organs after their removal from the body by the embalmers, is small and cheaply made and painted. Stylistically, it is typical of this period in Egyptian history.

The location of the tomb of this Seventeenth Dynasty Pharaoh is unknown to archaeologists, but his burial was found by tomb robbers (at Dra Abu el-Naga most likely) in the 1800s.

Canopic box of Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef
Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef, is by my reconstruction of the period, the eleventh king of Dynasty Seventeen, a period of political chaos in Egypt which saw the northern half of the country being ruled by foreign kings called the "Hyksos". Dr. Ryholt places this king in the third spot and believes that Nebkheperre Intef is Sekhemre Wepmaat Intef's successor (I place Nebkheperre as the first king of the dynasty).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sobekhotep IV

The main event during my trip to Paris was a visit to the Louvre Museum. Since I have done quite a bit of research into the history of Egypt's Second Intermediate Period, it was only natural that I quickly located a number of pieces from that period.

Sobekhotep IV of the Thirteenth Dynasty was likely one of the most able Pharaohs of the period. Not only did he reign for at least nine years, but there are also at least nine known sculptures of this king. Most of the pharaohs of this time have left us little but their names.

The statue shown here may have been originally discovered at Tanis, but that is not certain. Even if the statue was found at Tanis, it was not originally erected there. Possibly it was brought from Memphis? In any event, this statue is carved from red granite and is about 2.71 meters in height (slightly larger than life-size).

We do not know a lot about the reign of this king. He was preceded on the throne by his brother Neferhotep I. Sobekhotep V (possibly a son of Sobekhotep IV) succeeded him. His parents do not seem to have been of royal blood.

For more information on this pharaoh, see: Ryhol, K. S. B., The Political Situation in Egypt During the Second Intermediate Period, Copenhagen: CNI Publications, 1997.

The known statues of Sobekhotep IV are catalogued in: Davies, W. V.: A Royal Statue Reattributed, London: British Museum, Occasional Papers #28, 1981, pp. 25 - 7.

Photos copyright John Freed, 2012.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tutankhamen in Paris

There was a very interesting exhibit in Paris when I was there. The exhibit is called "Tutankhamen, his Tomb and his Treasures". I only found out about the exhibit when I saw posters for it in the Paris Metro.

The exhibit consists of hundreds of very accurate reproductions of the objects in his tomb. Each room of the tomb is reconstructed at its full size, with all of the objects in the room placed as they were when the tomb was first opened by Howard Carter. Visitors can actually see how small the tomb is and how all of the objects were crammed into such a small space (see the photo of the antechamber to the left).

The reproductions are quite good and fully detailed. Those who have never been to Egypt can now see the large and heavy objects that do not travel to exhibits in foreign countries, such as Tutankhamen's sarcophagus and canopic chest.

The sponsors of the show (Wulf Kohl and Paul Heinen) began prototyping the reproductions in 2002. By 2004 enough of the reproductions had been finished, and were of high enough quality, that the sponsors decided to proceed with a full, life-sized reproduction of the entire tomb.

The artists who did the work are the finest artists available in Egypt. They included painters, sculptors and specialists in gilding, casting and wood working. Egyptologists (Dr. Martin von Falck and Dr. Wolfgang Wettengel) were also engaged to make sure that the exhibit was as accurate an informative as possible.

The show is in the Paris Exposition Center and runs until the first week of September. I enjoyed the exhibit a great deal and thought that it was well worth the fairly long trip by Metro to get to the Exposition Center.

Photos: Top Left - the Antechamber of the tomb showing the royal chariots; Middle Right - the king's sarcophagus; Lower Left - the canopic chest which contained the king's internal organs.

All Photos copyright John Freed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amarna Exhibit in Berlin

I still have more photos to post from my recent vacation, but before I do I want to mention an exhibit in Berlin that is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the finding of the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti.

Numerous works dating to the Amarna Period are on display as well as Ludwig Brochardt's excavation diaries. And the exhibit is in a museum that already contains one of the best collections of ancient Egyptian art in the world.

If I had been aware of this exhibit sooner, I might have re-thought the vacation plans a bit.....

Here are some links with information on the exhibit:

And here is a link that is not specifically about this exhibit, but it is worth checking out: