Monday, September 28, 2015

Something is Hiding in Tut's Tomb

     Preliminary investigations conducted by Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty and Nicholas  Reeves seem to indicate that there are indeed two more chambers in Tutankhamen's tomb according to an article in Al Ahram. But there is not yet any clue as to what may be in the chambers. Radar results are still needed to confirm the findings and those results are expected by early November.

     Stay tuned, this is getting interesting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gates of the Underworld (Cont.)

     In the Book of Two Ways there are seven gates that the deceased must pass. These gates are divided into two groups (four in the first group and three in the second group). Each gate is guarded by a demon (for the lack of a better term) that must be passed. Each of these demons has a (to us) rather odd name. For instance, in Coffin Text #1100 the guardian is called "The One who Stretches Out the Prow-Rope". The deceased tells the guardian that he is " of the striking force (of god), which has no opposition" and then lists all the bad  things that will happen if the demon opposes his passage.

     The spells describing each of the remaining gates are very similar. We are told the name of the gate's guardian and the deceased then passes by using the spells in the Coffin Text to intimidate these fearsome creatures. The names of the vile demons manning the remaining gates are:

Group 1:
Gate 2 - "The One who Cuts them Down" (CT #1101)
Gate 3 - "The One who Eats the Excrement of his Rear" (!!!) (CT #1102)
Gate 4 - "Opposed Face, Noisy" (CT #1103)

Group 2:
Gate 1 - "Upside Down Face, Numerous of Forms" (CT #1108)
Gate 2 - "One Who Lives on Worms" (CT #1109)
Gate 3 - "Ikenty, Who Raises his Voice in Flame" (CT #1110)

     In the next post I will take a look at the gates mentioned in the Book of the Dead. If you are interested in the Coffin Texts, there are two translations that can be recommended:

1) Lesko, Leonard. The Ancient Egyptian Book of Two Ways, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1972 . This work only covers the Book of Two Ways. The next volume translates all of the Coffin Texts.

2) Faulkner, Raymond. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, in three volumes, Warminster: Aris and Phillips, Ltd., 1973, 1977 and 1978.

I would also mention Aadrian de Buck's collation of the original texts which is now available in an electronic form. This series of books contains only the Egyptian texts, for English translations, see Faulkner's book listed above.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gateways to the Egyptian Afterlife

     I have recently re-read the Pyramid and Coffin texts, as well as the Book of the Dead. These "books" are collections of what we would call "spells" that enabled the deceased to achieve a safe and happy existence in the afterlife.

     A feature of many of the ancient Egyptian texts that deal with the afterlife is the presence of gates and their guardians. If the deceased did not know the information required at each gate, they would not be able to continue ahead to reach Osiris and join the blessed dead.

     The earliest religious texts from the Old Kingdom (the Pyramid texts) do not have a reference to gates. This is not surprising as the gates are associated with religious texts that deal with the underworld. The Pyramid Texts instead tell how the Pharaoh ascends to the sky to join the blessed dead.

     It is not until the Middle Kingdom that we find references to gateways serving to potentially bar the deceased from the realm of Osiris. It should be noted that while Egyptian funerary documents mention many locations in the underworld, none of them are specifically located in the texts. We know that the dead must pass through a series of gates, but we do not know where in the underworld the portals are located.

     The closest we get to a description of the actual location of these gates is in the so-called "Book of Two Ways", a text that is found on a few Middle Kingdom coffins from the Hermopolis area. These coffins actually have a "map" of the two routes that are followed through the underworld. The "Book of Two Ways" is, strictly speaking" a subsection of the Coffin Texts, which was written in ink on interior of coffins dating to the First Intermediate Period and the early Middle Kingdom.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sixteen Nubian Pyramids Found

     Archaeologists have found the remnants of sixteen pyramids in the Sudan. Ten of them are made of mud brick and six are made of stone. The largest is over 30 feet long on each side and would have risen to a height of forty or more feet when completed. For more information click here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Egyptian Creator God - Ptah

Head of a statue of Ptah - Staatliche Sammlung fur Aegyptische Kunst, Munich
     In the Memphite theology, Ptah was the great creator god who brought the world into existence. He is often represented wearing a skull cap like headdress and a false beard (as in this example). When this statue was complete, the god probably was standing holding the Was scepter, a Djed pillar (representing stability) and an Ankh (the Egyptian symbol of life) in front of him. In paintings he is often shown having a green face (representing his association with re-birth).

     Ptah was worshiped throughout Egypt. There were chapels dedicated to him in Nubia, Abydos, Thebes, and Pi-Ramesses, but the single most important center of worship was at the capital city of Memphis.

     In Chapter 82 off the Book of the Dead, the deceased claims that his tongue is the tongue of Ptah (see: Ogden Goelet, et al. The Egyptian Book of the Dead (3rd edition), San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2015, plate 27-A). This is because Ptah's words were thought to have strong magical ability to create things (in one story he created the world with his words).

Monday, September 7, 2015

Egyptian Block Statues

Fig. 1 - 30th Dynasty Block Statue
     These statues feature a very stylized portrayal of the human form, being mostly a cube with head, hands and feet sticking out. The oldest known example of such a statue is from Dynasty Twelve.

Fig. 2 - 18th Dynasty Block Statue
Fig. 3 - Detail of the Dynasty 18 Statue
     The simple shape of these statues provided plenty of space for writing. Block statues were very often set up in temples by local nobility to memorialize their good deeds. The example shown here in Figure 1 is from the Thirtieth Dynasty and was created for a man named Thanefer. The base and back of the statue have an inscription containing a dedication to the god Amen-Ra. This statue is currently in the collection of the J. P. Morgan Library in New York.

     An earlier example of a block statue is the one sculpted for Bekhenkhons in the Eighteenth Dynasty (figures 2 and 3). In this case the dedicatory inscription is on the leg area of the statue, rather than the base. Notice also that only the hands are shown in this statue (rather than the arms as in figure 1) and the legs are less clearly defined than in the later sculpture.