Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Still More Tutankhamen News

Copy of the Interior of Tutankhamen's Canonic Chest
     The Egyptians believed that to say the name of the dead was to make them live again. If so, Tutankhamen is having one blessed afterlife as his name never seems to be out of the news for very long.

     The latest tidbit is that the Egyptian Minister of Tourism may have let something "slip" regarding the work that is being done on Tutankhamen's tomb. The minister seems to suggest that it has been confirmed that there are other chambers in KV 62 and that they are filled with treasures. How the minister knows this I have no clue. Why he would reveal this before the official announcement of findings (scheduled for April) is beyond my ability to comprehend as well. In any event, here is an article on this development.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Middle Kingdom Mummy Masks

Fig. 1 - Death Mask of Wah
Fig. 2 - Death Mask of Wah
Fig. 3
     Most of us are familiar with the fabulous gold death mask of King Tutankhamen from the Eighteenth Dynasty. Surely it is one of the most famous, and beautiful, objects know to man. But the average Egyptian could not aspire to being buried with such a wonderful work of art. In the early Middle Kingdom non-royal personages sometimes had more modest death masks. They were usually made of wood and cartonnage with painted details. Two such masks are shown here.

     Figures one and two show the mask of a nobleman named Wah who was buried near the tomb of Meketre at Thebes and whose funerary equipment is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Wah was apparently not major nobility, but his mummy was extremely well wrapped and had some interesting jewelry on it. His death mask has a broad collar painted on it, as is typical. There are a couple of interesting things about this mask that help date it. The rectangular false bear that extends down from the chin is one of them. The other is the beard and mustache that Wah wears. Facial hair was not commonly shown among Egyptian men in ancient times, but it does appear fairly often on Middle Kingdom masks.

     A similar object from the same time period, now in Hildesheim but found in Asyut, shows the deceased with the inevitable broad collar and, once again, facial hair similar to that found on Wah's mask. This man also wears a single stranded bead necklace around his neck above the broad collar and has an interesting diadem painted around his forehead. The portion of the diadem that is at the exact center of his forehead is decorated with two birds (vultures representing the goddess Mut I think).

     Similar examples of these types of masks can be found in other museums around the world and they seem to have been rather common at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Third Dynasty Boat Found at Abu Sir

     A boat possibly dating to the reign of Huni, the last Pharaoh of Egypt's Third Dynasty has been found by a Czech team. The find is associated with a nobleman's burial, rather than a royal burial. I believe this is the first example known of a full sized boat being buried with a nobleman.

     The boat is also interesting in that the wood planks are in their original places and the ropes that held them together are preserved in places. An article on the discovery can be found here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Meketre Servant Statue

     One of my favorite pieces of Egyptian art, a wooden statue of a servant girl, is from the tomb of Meketre. It was found at Dier el-Bahari near the temple of Queen Hatshepsut by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Meketre was a nobleman of the early Middle Kingdom and his tomb contained a large number of models of daily life that are now split between the Cairo Museum and the Met.

     The statue is carved from several pieces of wood. The head and body are one piece, while her two arms were carved separately and joined to the torso of the statue.   The feet of the statue are also carved separately and joined to the lady's body. Finally the statue is joined to a wooden base. After the various pieces were joined the wood was covered with gesso (plaster) and painted.

     The serving girl has a graceful set of curves carved into the wood. She wears a dress that has two (bead-work?) straps that go up over her shoulders while a beaded broad collar is shown around her neck. A nice touch that is not normally noticed by visitors to the Met is the duck she holds by its wings in her right hand. On my first trip to Egypt I took the bus from downtown Cairo to Giza, and there was a woman on the bus holding a live duck in the exact same way. The duck was less than pleased and there were feathers all over the bus. To me it was a memorable slice of real life.