Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Egyptian Temple in Madrid

Figure 1 - the Temple of Debod in Madrid
     Its now time to leave the Egyptian collection in Barcelona behind and take a look at the Debod temple in Madrid.

     This temple, originally built in the second century B. C., would have been permanently flooded by the Aswan dam if it had been left in its original location (about 15 kilometers south of Aswan), and so, like the Temple of Dendur in New York, it was donated to a foreign country in return for that country's help with the salvage archaeology that preceded the building of the dam.

     Debod temple seems to have had two pylons in front of it, the stone doorways of which can be seen in figure two. These pylons seem to have been re-erected in Madrid in the wrong order. Photos of the original site seem to show the pylon that is now further away from the main temple building as originally closer to the temple.
Figure 2 - the stone pylon gates in front of the temple

     The temple's construction was started by a Nubian Pharaoh as a simple shrine to Amun. Later, during the Ptolemaic period, it was expanded into a full temple. The final decoration of the temple was completed by the Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius.

     The Debod temple has been re-erected in a small park near the royal palace (Palacio Real).

Photos Copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

Figure 3 - the capital of one of the columns in the temple of Debod

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Middle Kingdom Burial of Khnumhotep

Figure 1 - Coffin of Khnumhotep in Barcelona
     The funerary goods from the tomb of the Middle Kingdom official Khnumhotep are typical of the period. Figure 1 shows the nobleman's coffin with the offering formula ("A gift given by the King....." etc.) along the top of the coffin's side, while the vertical columns of text tell us that the deceased is one honored by each of the four sons of Horus. Also note the paired "Eyes of Horus" (see Figure 4) which allowed the deceased to magically look out of their coffin into their tomb.

Figure 2 - Necklaces and wooden staves of Khnumhotep
     Other items from the burial are displayed on top of the coffin and include a headrest (on the far right end of the lid), some wooden staves which showed that Khnumhotep had achieved an important rank within Egyptian society, a cosmetic pot, canonic jar and a mirror. Additionally, several necklaces (figure 2) and wooden sandals (figure 3) were found in this burial.

Figure 3 - Wooden Sandals from the Burial
     This burial does remind me of the burial of Senebtisi, which is also from the Middle Kingdom and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Senebtisi's tomb was found in the Winter of 1907 - 1907 and published by Arthur Mace and Herbert Winlock (Mace, Arthur and Herbert Winlock, The Tomb of Senebtisi at Lisht, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916). Senebtisi's burial was more elaborate than Khnumhotep's. For instance, Senebtisi was buried in three coffins (an anthropoid coffin and two rectangular ones.

Figure 4 - the "Eyes of Horus" on the side of the Coffin

Photos Copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

Sunday, September 21, 2014

One Last Terracotta Coffin in Barcelona

Figure 1 - Roman Period Terracotta coffin
     Terracotta coffins continued to be used in Egypt for the burials of persons of humble origins until the end of Pharaonic culture. This one is from the 3rd or 4th century A. D. and is unusual in so many ways, particularly in that the head of the deceased has been modeled in terra-cotta on top of the coffin.

Figure 2 - Face of the Coffin
     As we saw in the previous post to this blog, terra-cotta coffins were sometimes brightly painted, as is this one. The modeled female head is shown with its hair tied up into a knot on the top of the deceased's head. Around her neck is what looks like a representation of a floral collar of some sort. The purple decorations might be bunches of grapes (but I am not sure of that).

     In figure 2 we get a close up view of the deceased's face. She is shown as having bright red cheeks, red lips and long eyelashes. Her nose is poorly modeled and the whole effect is to make the coffin look odd, rather than to make it look nicer.

 All photos copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

Monday, September 15, 2014

Terracotta Coffins

     Terracotta coffins (sometimes called "slipper" coffins) were often used by Egyptians who were less well off and could not afford one or more elaborate wooden coffins. The coffin in figure 1 is a fairly typical example of these funerary objects. Note the simplistic modeling of the face, arms and ears of the deceased. The remainder of the coffin is undecorated, although it may have been painted when originally used. This example is from Barcelona, but a similar coffin can be found in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (see my post in this blog from October 26, 2012).

Figure 1 - Terracotta Coffin, Dynasty 19 or 20, Barcelona
Figure 2 - Terracotta Face of a Man, Dynasty 19 or 20
     The faces from terra-cotta coffins in figures 2 and 3 are very different. These faces (figure 2 is a man and figure 3 is a woman) are a bit more elaborately modeled and have details painted on, such as the bead necklaces shown as simple lines of different colors around the necks of the deceased. These items are so unusual that my first reaction upon seeing them was to wonder if they were authentic. 

     All three of these objects are in the Egyptian Museum in Barcelona.

Figure 3 - Terracotta Face of a Woman, Dynasty 19 or 20

All photos copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tomb Chapel of Iny

Figure 1 - False Door
     Iny was a nobleman who served at least three Pharaohs: Pepi I, Merenre and Pepi II. The Egyptian Museum in Barcelona has some of the stone elements that made up his tomb chapel (mastaba).

     Figure 1 shows the false door that is so common in Egyptian tombs. This "door" allowed the "Ba" (something like a spirit or soul) come out of the burial chamber and partake in the food offerings that would have been left by the family of the deceased.

Figure 2 - Iny seated at an Offering Table
     Figure 2 shows Iny sitting before an offering table. Scenes like this would magically enable the deceased to eat in the afterlife after his descendants stopped bringing food offerings to the tomb. On the table are some tall loaves of bread. To the right of the offering table are other food substances the deceased expected to consume in the afterlife, while above the offering table is a brief inscription describing the "thousands of offerings" that Iny would be blessed with. Below this scene we see the nobleman's name in the last three signs on the left side of the inscription. The legs with a pot at their top is read "Iny", while the following sign (water) is read "n" and the two reads at the far left are read "y". The "n" and the "y" function as what linguists call phonetic compliments in the writing of the tomb owner's name.
Figure 3 - Another scene of Iny at an Offering Table

     Figure 3 once again shows Iny seated before an offering table, but this time with a different wig on (Egyptians usually shaved their heads and wore wigs in public). This photo shows the offering scene a bit more clearly than figure 2 does. Once again the deceased sits before an offering table filled with loaves of bread. Above the table is an inscription telling us that Iny would receive "thousands of bread and beer, oxen and geese, alabaster and cloth" offerings.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Old Kingdom Wood Statues

Figure 1 - Male Wooden Statue from the Old Kingdom
     Wood statues of noblemen and / or their wives and children are found in many collections of Egyptian art. These two statues are not all that beautiful artistically, are not all that well carved and the paint has come off of them, which does take away from their attractiveness. But these two statues (both from the Egyptian Museum in Barcelona)
do show how the Egyptians created these particular objects.

Figure 2 - Old Kingdom Female Wood Statue
Figure 3 - Statue from the Tomb of Meketre
     The statues were carved from several pieces of wood which were joined together. Normally the arms of the statue are carved separately from the torso, and both of these examples follow that rule. On the male statue (figure 1) note that the left arm is bent at the elbow and that the upper arm and the lower arm are carved from separate pieces of wood. There is also a hole drilled in the right hand of the statue, indicating that it once held some sort of staff of authority. When this statue was completed, it would have been covered in a thin layer of plaster and then painted. This would have hidden the joints of the different pieces of wood.

     The female statue (figure 2) is very unremarkable and looks like it was carved for a patron who could not afford high end art work. The figure is very thin and seems almost "stretched". The plaster and paint that was originally put on this statue could only have partially hidden the fact that this is no great piece of art.

     In order to illustrate how a finished wooden statue would look after paint was applied, I have included a photo of one of the most famous works of art known from ancient Egypt, the wooden statue of a servant girl found in the early Middle Kingdom tomb of Meketre at Thebes (figure 3). This statue, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is remarkably well preserved with almost all of its paint still intact.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pre-Dynastic Egypt in Barcelona

Figure 1 - Naqada I Pottery
     The Egyptian museum in Barcelona has a few more objects from Pre-Dynastic Egypt in its collection in addition to the slate palettes mentioned in the previous post. For instance, the pots shown in figure 1. These pots were probably fired upside down with the mouth of the pot near a fire, resulting in the top of the pot being black in color. Years ago the Pre-Dynastic Period was divided into three parts called the Badarian, Amration and Gerzean periods. Today these periods are called Naqada I, Naqada II and Naqada III. These particular pots are from the Naqada I period (formerly known as the Badarin).
Figure 2 - Pre-Dynastic Maces

     Stone mace heads are also known from Pre-Dynastic Egypt (figures 2 & 3). The Museu Egipci has reconstructed the wooden handle on a couple of their mace heads to show what these weapons would have looked like thousands of years ago. If you look closely at the mace heads shown here, you will note that they come in several different shapes. Exactly why the mace heads are in such different shapes is not known for sure. One wonders if these maces were used in one of the battles that eventually led to the unification of Egypt under King Narmer and the start of dynastic Egyptian history.

Figure 3 - Re-constructed Pre-Dynastic Mace

Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Back

Stone Cosmetic Palettes
I am back finally. Since my last post I have closed down my consulting firm and started a new job. I have also helped my daughter get through finals, bought a new house and moved. Other than that, things have been quiet.

I just got back from a vacation in Madrid, Barcelona and Munich. I knew there was an Egyptian collection in Munich, but was surprised to find one in Barcelona. Needless to say, I photographed both and will be sharing photos and information via posts to this blog for some time to come.

Just to start out, here are two cosmetic palettes from the Pre-Dynastic period. These palettes were used to grind and mix materials used to make cosmetics. Egyptians often wore "eye makeup" as a way of helping protect their eyes from the sun. Often these object were carved in the form of animals (the top one shown here is possibly a turtle) or in geometric shapes (the lower one seems to be a simple circle). The most famous cosmetic palette from Egypt is the Narmer Palette (now in the Cairo Museum), which is often described as commemorating Narmer's unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The palettes shown here are in the Museu Egipci in Barcelona.

Photos copyright (c) 2014 by John Freed