The blog post for this week is written by Sarah Farooque, a first year undergraduate student of Egyptology at Swansea University.
As an undergraduate student of Egyptology at Swansea, I was really excited when presented with the chance to attend this Egypt Centre course. It’s amazing to handle artefacts and learn about them in detail, especially as I start my studies. This week we looked at the Second Intermediate Period, which came about after the collapse of the Middle Kingdom (Marée 2010).
My favourite object from this week was the copper alloy socked axe (W505). The axe was introduced by the Hyksos, a group of foreign rulers in Egypt during the Fifteenth Dynasty. This axe was used for piercing armour, yet for something so small it had a lot of weight (fig. 1)! We even discussed how the cranium damage on the mummy of Seqenenre Tao matches the axe and one just like this could’ve been used against him (Shaw 2009).
|Fig. 1: Socked axe (W505)|
One of my favourite things to look at is pottery and this week Ken introduced us to a type of vessel from the Second Intermediate Period called Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware (Aston & Bietak 2012). This type of pottery is characterised by its distinctive decoration created by repeatedly “pricking” the surface of the vessel. W1289 was really intricate and beautiful (fig. 2). This type of pottery was introduced to Egypt during the Hyksos Period. It has been suggested that the decoration on these vessels resembles the poppy flower. We learned that there are tomb scenes illustrating servant girls pouring liquid from similar looking jars into drinks—there is debate on whether this was opium (Aston & Bietak 2012, 557–8, 621–4; Koschel 1996; Merrillees 1962; )! It is fascinating how much we can learn about Egyptian culture from such a small piece.
|Fig. 2: Tell el-Yahudiyeh juglet (W1289)|
The objects handled so far were quite common to this period. However, this changed when we examined two resin casts of sphinxes (EC299a & EC229b). An unidentified king, in the form of the sphinx, is depicted holding the head of a captive (fig. 3). It turns out these casts are of a very famous and popular piece, which can be seen at the British Museum (BM EA 54678). The original was found in tomb 477 at Abydos by John Garstang in 1908 (Garstang 1928). As it was so unusual, many collectors and museums wanted a copy of it for themselves, which is why the Egypt Centre ended up with two. Therefore, our sphinxes are only around 100 years old. Its popularity was also down to the piece being dated to the Fifteenth Dynasty and believed to be depicting a Hyksos ruler. However, recent research identifies this object as a belonging to the early Twelfth Dynasty, perhaps to the reign of Senwosret I!
|Fig. 3: Resin sphinx (EC299a)|
Back to the Second Intermediate Period, our next object was a limestone stela (EC7). While we don’t know exactly where it was found, it seems to belong to the owner of another stela formerly in Liverpool (13.12.05.25) that was excavated at Esna (Donohue 2009). The stela depicts a deceased couple and family members, with an offering formula above (fig. 4). The images are crammed together, which is typical of Second Intermediate Period art where the quality declines again, much like in the First Intermediate Period (Franke & Marée 2013).
|Fig. 4: Stela of Ibi-ia (EC7)|
Our last object was a headless statue depicting an unknown deity (identified as such due to the ankh she is holding) made of siltstone (fig. 5). W848 could be a modern fake due to the holes at the bottom and at the top where a head may have been stuck back on. The most fascinating part of this statue is the symbol on the side of the throne. This imagery is of the papyrus and lotus entwined, the so-called sema-tawy scene, which was symbolic of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
|Fig. 5: Statue (W484)|
I would like to thank both Ken and the Egypt Centre for running this course. I have been fortunate enough to learn so much and I can’t wait for next week!
Aston, D. and M. Bietak (2012) Tell el-Dabʻa VIII: the classification and chronology of Tell el-Yahudiya ware. Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 66; Untersuchungen der Zweigstelle Kairo des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes 12. Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Donohue, V. A. (2009) ‘A Latopolitan family of the Late Middle Kingdom’. In Sitting beside Lepsius: Studies in honour of Jaromir Malek at the Griffith Institute, ed. D. Magee, J. Bourriau and S. Quirke. Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta 185. Leuven: Peeters. 115–128.
Franke, D. and M. Marée (2013) Egyptian stelae in the British Museum from the 13th–17th Dynasties. Volume I, Fascicule 1: Descriptions. London: British Museum.
Garstang, J. (1928) ‘An ivory sphinx from Abydos (British Museum, no. 54678)’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 14: 46–47.
Koschel, K. (1996) ‘Opium alkaloids in a Cypriote base ring I vessel (Bilbil) of the Middle Bronze Age from Egypt’. Ägypten und Levante: Internationale Zeitschrift für ägyptische Archäologie und deren Nachbargebiete 6: 159–166.
Marée, M. ed. (2010) The Second intermediate period (thirteenth-seventeenth dynasties): current research, future prospects. Orientalia Lovaniensia analecta 192. Leuven; Walpole, MA: Peeters.
Merrillees, R. S. (1962) ‘Opium trade in the Bronze Age Levant’. Antiquity: Quarterly Review of Archaeology 36: 287–292.
Shaw, G. J. (2009) ‘The death of king Seqenenre Tao’. Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 45: 159–176.