Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Aten Icon

     A fascinating paper given by Gay Robins at the annual ARCE convention noted several interesting things about representations of the sun gods of Egypt, including the Aten. For instance, the winged sun disk, which is a common representation of the sun god is shown with the wings covering representations of gods and kings, but private persons are often not covered by one of the god’s wings. If a stela shows a king or god on one side of a “picture” and a nobleman on the other, the winged sun disk will often have only one wing, which extends over the representation of the god.  On some stelae, the one wing of the sun covers the king or god, while the eye of Horus is shown over the private person. I had noted the “one-winged” sun disks in the past, but did not understand why this was done until now.

     The Aten is always shown extending its rays to the King and Queen, even Akhenaten’s daughters do not have the rays of the Aten extending to them. The Aten’s rays are shown with hands at the end holding an Ankh to the noses of the King and Queen. What is the significance of the hands? One possibility lies in the legend of Atum, who created the divinities Shu and Tefnut by masturbating. The Egyptian word for hand is feminine and the “God’s Wife of Amun” is sometimes referred to as “The God’s Hand”.  Possibly the hands of the Aten have a relation to the reproductive power of the Aten?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Some Interesting Things from the Theban Tombs of Dynasty 18

Fig. 1 - The Litany of Re from the Tomb of Tuthmose III
     A lecture  by Emily Russo at the annual ARCE meetings highlighted some interesting facts relating to Theban tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty.  TT61 contained a copy of the Litany of Re and had the same “unrolled Papyrus” decoration as the tomb of Tuthmose III (see Figure 1 for an example of what this type of decoration looks like).

     Some of these tombs also had copies of some “spells” from the Pyramid Texts in them, including: TT82, TT87and TT85 (Pyramid Text #32).

          What is most interesting about this is two fold: the Pyramid Texts are still in use centuries after the end of the Old Kingdom and some religious texts used by royalty in the early New Kingdom were also in use in the tombs of the nobles (the Litany of Re for instance). Many scholars have claimed that certain texts were "reserved for royalty" and only came into use by non-royalty over many years. But the Litany of Re is clearly used in both the tombs of 18th Dynasty kings as well as nearly contemporary noble men. These texts may not have been as "reserved for royalty" as we thought.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mystery of the Mouse Demon Solved

Figure 1 - an Ichneumon-headed Deity (on the right)
     I just got back from the American Research Center in Egypt conference which was held in Atlanta this year. There were some interesting papers presented and I will be covering some of what I heard in the next few posts. But the first thing I want to cover is a paper that solved a mystery I wrote about in a blog post a couple of years ago.

     I took the photo of the papyrus in figure 1 several years ago because I had no idea what the figure on the right is. At one of the talks (presented by Lisa Swart of Cumberland University), I found out the figure is an Ichneumon-headed god. So what on earth is an Ichneumon? It is a type of mongoose.

     An Ichneumon-headed deity is sometimes shown in Chapter 125 the Book of the Dead accompanying the deceased to the hall of judgment. He is referred to as “He who is the Head of the West” on one papyrus. This god’s iconography consists of:

  • The figure is male
  • He has a human body and the head of a mongoose
  • He usually holds a hand to his mouth (symbolizing the restoration of the power of speech to the deceased?)
  • Normally he is shown wearing both a kilt and a corselet
  • He does not wear a crown (although he does have the feather of Maat on his head in one case)


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Egyptian Wooden Models (continued)

Figure 1 - Cow Giving Birth, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
     Middle Kingdom wooden models show slices of daily life in ancient Egypt. Some are true works of art (the wooden statues of the servant girl from the tomb of Meketre I showed in an earlier post for instance). Others are of lower artistic quality, but are still interesting in their own right.

Figure 2 - Cuts of Beef Drying, Metropolitan Museum
     Figure 1 shows a wooden model of a cow giving birth. Egypt having an agriculturally based economy, most ancient Egyptians would have been familiar with farm animals giving birth and a statue of this sort was probably included in a tomb to magically ensure that the tomb owner would have an abundance of cattle in the afterlife.

     Figure 2 shows another wooden model of what might happen to the calf after it had grown up. A nobleman's store house has many cuts of beef hanging up to dry so that they could be preserved for later use as food.