To support the Egypt Centre, please click the button below

Monday, 30 December 2019

Celebrating the New Year, Ancient Egyptian Style: Fragments of New Year's Vessels

As we approach 2020, this brief blog post presents a group of objects closely associated with the New Year in ancient Egypt. New Year’s flasks are small containers in faience (glazed composition) usually bearing inscriptions and motifs related to the Egyptian New Year’s festival. Filled perhaps with perfume, oil, or water from the Nile, they would have been a gift associated with the celebration of the beginning of the year. These flasks are commonly inscribed with greetings to welcome in the New Year, as will be seen below. They were particularly popular during the Late Period, especially the reigns of Apries and Amasis of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (Blanquet 1992; Yamani 2002). The Egypt Centre currently houses six faience fragmentary vessels, one body and five neck sections.

Fig. 1: W1358

W1358 represents the body of a New Year’s flask, with the just neck of the vessel missing. It has been suggested that the slightly squashed disc shape of the body of the vessel represents the sun, a symbol of rebirth. Around the shoulders of the flask are incised bands of floral patterns, meant to echo the vegetal collar that would have been worn by a participant in a ceremonial or festival event. Hieroglyphs on the sides of the vessel read as ð“„‹ ð“†³ ð“„¤ ð“ˆ— (wpt rnpt nfrt), the Egyptian equivalent to our “Happy New Year” (fig. 1). Unfortunately, it is currently unknown who Sir Henry Wellcome purchased this flask from, although it was possibly from the MacGregor collection sold in 1922.

Fig. 2: Wellcome slip 32802

The five neck fragments (W1359–W1360, W1362–W1364) do, however, originate from the MacGregor collection, although their acquisition history is a little more complicated. They were purchased as part of lot 466 (sixteen objects) at Sotheby’s auction house on the 17 December 1924 for the modest fee of 15 shillings. The auction catalogue and the flimsy slip in the Wellcome archives (numbers 32802 & 32803) indicate that this lot was originally part of the MacGregor collection (fig. 2). Unfortunately, this lot falls under the category of “other properties” in the auction catalogue, thus making it difficult to identify the seller. Further research is needed in order to identify the lot number of the MacGregor collection.

Fig. 3: W1359

W1359 is the best preserved of the neck fragments in the Egypt Centre (fig. 3). Two squatting baboons flank the tall neck, which is made to echo a bundle of papyrus and lotus plants. Baboons were symbols of rebirth, welcoming the sun as it arose each day. Two baboons are also preserved on the neck of W1360 (fig. 4), while only one is present on W1362 (fig. 5) The baboons are missing from both W1363 (fig. 5) and W1364, with the tall neck fragment of the latter being particularly well shaped (fig. 6).

Fig. 4: W1360

Fig. 5: W1362

Fig. 6: W1363

Fig. 7: W1364

So, on behalf of everyone at the Egypt Centre, we wish you all a wpt rnpt nfrt!

Blanquet, C.-H. (1992) ‘Typologie de la bouteille de Nouvel An’. In Amosiadès: mélanges offerts au Professeur Claude Vandersleyen par ses anciens étudiants, ed. C. Obsomer and A.-L. Oosthoek. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université catholique de Louvain. 49–54.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Sotheby, W. H. (1924) Catalogue of Egyptian, Greek, Roman & Babylonian antiquities, etc., comprising first and second day’s sale the collection of Egyptian antiquities, formed by the Hon. R. Bethell, third day’s sale the property of Captain Anthony Hamilton ..., part of the collection formed by the late Gustave Natorp, an Egyptian bronze solar boat for processional use, the collection formed by the late Joseph Offord, the property of H. Edwin, a bronze head of Athena wearing helmet, the property of Edward F. Elton and other properties; which will be sold by auction by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge ... on Monday, 15th of December, 1924, and two following days. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
Yamani, S. (2002) ‘New Year’s bottles from Tell Marqula (Dakhla Oasis)’. Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 102: 425–436.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Reuniting Fragments of an Amarna Statue?

On the 23 December 1931, exactly 88 years ago today, a fragment of sandstone (excavation number 31/511) was uncovered at Amarna. This fragment (W154) is currently on display in the Amarna Case in the House of Life gallery and has recently been used during a handling session on the Amarna Period. The fragment is carved on two sides, with a table of offerings on the top and the remains of a hand underneath (fig. 1). It is thus clear that the fragment was part of statue of the king holding an offering table, a well-known style during the Amarna Period (Bosse-Griffiths 2001). The excavations at this time were directed by John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury (1904–1941) under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society (Bierbrier 2019, 421–22). According to the excavation report (Pendlebury 1951, 102) and object card (fig. 2), the fragment was found in the magazines of the “Priests’ Quarters (P. 43.1)”, which lay just to the south of the Small Aten Temple (Kemp 2013, 86–87).

Fig. 1: Statue fragment (W154)

The archives in the Wellcome Library reveal that W154 was transferred to the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in August 1932, as part of the distribution of EES finds (Frankfort & Pendlebury 1933, 119). The transfer of objects was in receipt of the financial contribution made by Sir Henry Wellcome to the Society. The Egyptian material collected by Wellcome (approximately 20,000 objects) was distributed in 1971 to five main institutions: The Petrie Museum, The Oriental Museum (Durham), World Museum (Liverpool), Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Swansea University (now housed in The Egypt Centre). A substantial quantity of material transferred to Swansea originates from the EES excavations at Amarna. In total, the Egypt Centre has over 300 objects from the site, including a large quantity of pottery and some painted plaster.  

Fig. 2: EES object card for W154 (TA.OC.31-32.511)

While researching W154 for my handling class, I came across a fragment in the World Museum in Liverpool that looked quite similar to our piece. 1973.1.475 is a small sandstone fragment containing the carved fingers of a person, also from a statue (fig. 3). The EES object card (fig. 4) and publication (Pendlebury 1951, 88) indicate that it was discovered on the 3 January 1932, less than two weeks after the Swansea fragment was excavated. The find spot is recorded as P. 42.1, which relates to the king’s house to the north of the Small Aten Temple (Kemp 2013, 123–35; Pendlebury 1951, 86–89). Like the Swansea fragment, 1973.1.475 was transferred to the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in August 1932.

Fig. 3: 1973.1.475 (World Museum, Liverpool. Courtesy of Ashley Cooke)

Fig. 4: EES object card for 1973.1.475 (TA.OC.31-32.584)

New photographs and measurements of 1973.1.475 were kindly supplied by Ashley Cooke, the Senior Curator of Antiquities at Liverpool. With the help of Photoshop, I attempted to virtually join these two fragments (fig. 5). Excitingly, they line up fairly well along the crack lines. However, the differences in measurements suggests that they do not belong together. In order to check for sure, a resin cast of W154 will be produced by the Engineering Department at Swansea University to send to Liverpool. While it seems unlikely at this stage that they do join, a recent article published in Horizon, the newsletter of the Amarna Trust, describes the potential of matching statue fragments through 3D printing (Anonymous 2019). In addition to W154, the Egypt Centre possesses around twenty statue fragment from Amarna, most originating from the EES excavations, which may join with fragments in other collections!

Fig. 5: Photoshop join of the two statue fragments

At the end of January, I’ll be starting a new Egypt Centre course on the Amarna Period, which will include weekly handling sessions (fig. 6). As with the history course, the students will write guest blog posts on the objects in the Egypt Centre collection!

Fig. 6: Flyer for new Amarna course

Anonymous (2019) ‘Matching statue fragments by means of 3D printing’. Horizon: The Amarna Project and Amarna Trust Newsletter 20: 5–7.
Bierbrier, M. L. (2019) Who was who in Egyptology. London: The Egypt Exploration Society. 5th edition.
Bosse-Griffiths, K. (2001) ‘Incense for the Aten’. In Amarna studies and other selected papers, ed. J. G. Griffiths. Freiburg (Schweiz); Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 131–134.
Frankfort, H. and J. D. S. Pendlebury (1933) The city of Akhenaten. Part II: The north suburb and the desert altars. The excavations at Tell el Amarna during the seasons 1926–1932. Excavation Memoirs 40. London: Egypt Exploration Society.
Kemp, B. J. (2013) The city of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Amarna and its people. London: Thames & Hudson.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Pharaohs, Queens, and Priests: The Graeco-Roman Period in Swansea

Three third year students of Egyptology at Swansea University, Mollie Beck, Gabrielle Stanley, and Hannah Rawlings write the blog post for this week.

We have reached the tenth week of our course and, unfortunately, our last session. This week we focused on six objects from the Graeco-Roman Period, more specifically the Ptolemaic dynasty (c. 302–30 BC). The Ptolemaic dynasty was a very dramatic period full of scandals and murder. The capital moved to Alexandria and Egypt was ruled by the Macedonian-Greek family, the “House of Ptolemy”, until the Roman conquest in 30 BC (Manning 2010).

Fig. 1: Ptolemaic queen (W194)

W194 is a black granite female head of a Ptolemaic queen from a life size statue (fig. 1). This object was a part of the MacGregor collection (1672) and purchased by Wellcome in 1922. Based on stylistic factors, the statue can been dated to the early Ptolemaic Period (Ashton 2001; Brophy 2015) and it is suggested that the queen depicted is either Berenice II or Arsinoe III. Berenice II was married to Ptolemy III Euergetes I, the third king of the dynasty (c. 246–221 BC) and Arsinoe III was the daughter of Berenice II who was married to her brother Ptolemy IV Philopator (c. 221–205 BC). Women in the Ptolemaic Period were very influential and queens had a lot of power; both Berenice and Arisinoe were very involved with the government and the state (Minas-Nerpel 2019). An interesting factor about this statue fragment is that the lower part of the face was re-cut, this could be a result from a mistake the sculptor made, a repair done to fix damage, or the statue was later reused by someone else. There is also traces of glue on the nose which tells us that it had broken off and was repaired at some point. In fact, the MacGregor catalogue mentions this restoration, thus indicating that it was done prior to the sale in 1922. The female figure wears a textured wig with a headband running around the top part of the wig. On her forehead the remains of a uraeus can be seen, but unfortunately it has been damaged. The wig shown is one that was popular among queens of the Ptolemaic Period. An interesting feature of this head is that the support pillar along the back of the head has been smoothed and should have had an inscription on it, although it is blank. This could suggest that the statue was never finished, explaining the re-carving of the lower face.

Fig. 2: Door shrine (EC485)

EC485 is the left side of a shrine door (fig. 2). This object was also purchased from the MacGregor collection (lot 645), but unfortunately the provenance is unknown. This object is particularly important because wooden examples of these do not usually survive or are not preserved well and it helps us get an idea of how these shrines were constructed. The carved wood is decorated with gesso on the front and it is also possible that it was gilded with gold leaf, although there are no traces of the latter surviving. The gesso is inscribed with a king kneeling and presenting an offering of incense to the god within the shrine. The king wears the blue crown, which is debated among scholars as being either the war crown or a representation of the living king at the time (Hardwick 2003). He also wears other kingly regalia such as a kilt, a uraeus on the forehead, and a broad collar. An interesting aspect of this object is the fact that it features a blank cartouche in the top right-hand corner. Scholars have also debated the meaning of this as it could reflect the period—no one knew who was king as there were so many in a short period of time so they left the cartouche blank—or it could be a general representation of the king, not specific to anyone. The blank cartouche is a trend of the late Ptolemaic Period, which perhaps gives us an estimated date. The hole for the tie where both doors would be tied together and then sealed can be seen on the right side. The right door would most likely have the same image but mirrored with the statue of the god inside the shrine.       

Fig. 3: Mummy mask (W917)
Object W917 is a colourful mummy mask that dates to the late Ptolemaic Period/early Roman Period (fig. 3). It is made of cartonnage but has been beautifully decorated with various different colours of paint. For the face of the mask, gold leaf has been used in order to show that this person has died and become an Osiris, and so has the gold skin of the gods. In addition, blue paint has been used for the hair as lapis lazuli is the colour of the hair of the gods. A headband has been added with decoration of squares of colour with white flowers in the centre. This pattern continues the whole way around until the back where there is a knot painted on. Is this simply decorative or does it represent the “crown of justification” (mꜣḥ n mꜣꜥ ḫrw), which is meant to represent triumph over death in the afterlife (Riggs 2005, 81–82)? This mask has been left without an inscription and it is quite difficult to tell the gender of the person being represented.

Fig. 4: Roman coffin fragment (W1042a)

W1042a is a coffin fragment dating to the Roman Period (fig. 4). This is an interesting piece as it has previously been suggested by some scholars to be a fake due to the unusual hieroglyphs. However, they just do not conform to the typical stylistic traits of the period and do actually make sense. They read ‘Life to the good god. Horus, Isis and Osiris, Khentyimentyu, the great god, lord of Abydos, the eldest son, first born of Geb’ (fig. 5). Stylistically this object can be traced to Tuna el-Gebel as several other similar coffins have been excavated there (Kurth 1990). This place was the necropolis for Hermopolis, which became a popular city during Roman Egypt. In the upper register, we have the deceased dressed as a priest worshipping the Goddesses Nekhbet, who wears the Hedjet-crown of Upper Egypt, and Wadjet, who wears the Deshret-crown of Lower Egypt. They are shown in snake form and are resting on the wings of Khepri who is shown as a beetle. He is meant to be pushing up the solar disc but this has been removed and now a number (6) in its place. In the lower register we have the deities Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, and perhaps Re. The two gods are sitting and each is holding a was-sceptre and an ankh. The two goddesses each have their names on top of their head and are standing in a praising gesture toward the gods.

Fig. 5: Hieroglyphs on Roman coffin fragment (W1042a)

Bought at auction by Henry Wellcome in 1931 (lot 12), the next artefact (W1043) that we examined was the stela of Pamenes (fig. 6). With Ken’s help, we were able to read the majority of the four lines at the bottom of the stela, which is an offering dedicated to Re-Harakhty. The four lines list his epithets and the offerings of the usual bread and beer in addition to other provisions for the ka of Pamenes. The final line tells us the name of his parents, Herefernit and Satweret. The central register of the stela depicts the deceased, Pamenes, in the garb of a priest with his arms raised in adoration before Re and Osiris. Above this is the winged sun-disc that has a central column of red dots that represent the rays of the sun that hit the hieroglyph for the sky, flanked by two snakes wearing the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt respectively.

Fig. 6: Ptolemaic stela (W1043)

This course has been extremely interesting and we are so fortunate to have had this opportunity. It has been such a great way to become more familiar with the Egypt Centre collection and take a chronological trip through ancient Egypt. The vast areas that are covered by objects at the Egypt Centre is incredible and Ken has presented amazing information and knowledge.

Ashton, S.-A. (2001) Ptolemaic royal sculpture from Egypt: the interaction between Greek and Egyptian traditions. BAR International Series 923. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Brophy, E. (2015) Royal statues in Egypt 300 BC–AD 220: context and function. Archaeopress Egyptology 10. Oxford: Archaeopress.
Hardwick, T. (2003) ‘The iconography of the Blue Crown in the New Kingdom’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 89: 117–141.
Kurth, D. (1990) Der Sarg der Teüris: eine Studie zum Totenglauben im römerzeitlichen Ägypten. Aegyptiaca Treverensia: Trierer Studien zum Griechisch-Römischen Ägypten 6. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.
Manning, J. G. (2010) The last pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305–30 BC. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Minas-Nerpel, M. (2019) ‘Ptolemaic queens as ritualists and recipients of cults: the cases of Arsinoe II and Berenike II’. Ancient Society 49: 141–183.
Riggs, C. (2005) The beautiful burial in Roman Egypt: art, identity, and funerary religion. Oxford studies in Ancient Culture and Representation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Sotheby & Co. (1931) Catalogue of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, South American, Arabian and Indian antiquities, etc. savage art, etc. Monday the 27th July 1931. London: Sotheby and Co.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Statues and a Canopic Jar of the Late Period in Swansea

This blog post is written by Carolyn Harries and Shirley Jones, two Egypt Centre volunteers.

We seem to have arrived at the ninth week of our course on The History of Egypt very rapidly. Each week has been more interesting and more enjoyable than the last. The opportunity to handle and examine the artefacts and to relate them to the various eras of ancient Egypt and to the historical evidence supplied by Ken has been quite extraordinary. Shirley Jones and I have combined forces and are writing this blog together.

This week Ken presented us with five artefacts for the handling session all from the Late Period (c. 664–332 BC). The first object we examined was a lovely copper alloy standing statue (W85) of the god Osiris (fig. 1). The statue dates from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and was purchased from the Robert de Rustafjaell 1906 collection (lot 309). As to provenance, there is no information regarding where it was originally found. In the Egypt Centre the statue has pride of place in our Gods case in the House of Life gallery. Both Shirley and I have admired this piece in situ in the gallery, but it was a real pleasure to hold the object and to examine it closely. It is very well moulded with some attention to detail, the beard is particularly fine and one can see the plaiting quite clearly. It may originally had glass or crystal eyes. His traditional pose wearing the Atef-crown and carrying the crook and flail make it easy for the children from the school parties to identify this statue as Osiris when they are taking part in the ’Hunting the Gods of Egypt’ activity.

Fig. 1: Statue of Osiris (W85)

This was a votive statue given as an offering to the god. The cult of Osiris gained strength in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and many such offerings were made at this time (Coulon 2010). The inscription on the base of the statue identifies the giver as Ankh-khonsu, an official in the temple of Amun. The inscription is quite difficult to read, but it would appear that this official was associated with the storehouse of gold in the temple of Amun, most likely at Karnak (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Inscription on the statue of Osiris (W85)

The second seemed unprepossessing at first glance but turned out to be really interesting. It is a fragment of a shabti (W161) made from steatite, with an inscription telling us that it belonged to the Chief Lector Priest, Padiamenope (fig. 3). It was purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at auction in 1924 (lot 224). There are many shabti fragments belonging to this man in various museums throughout the world, which date to the turn of the Twenty-fifth–Twenty-sixth Dynasty (Gundlach 2013). Padiamenope’s tomb (TT 33), where the shabti would have originated from, has the distinction of being the largest non-royal tomb in Egypt, yet no one really knows why he was able to have such an amazing monument. Don’t you just love a mystery? Unfortunately, the tomb is not open to the public as yet. It has been known for over two hundred years but was home to a large colony of bats and the build-up of ammonia has made it difficult to excavate. Permission was given to a French Epigraphic Mission to reopen the tomb in 2005 and work has concentrated on cleaning, restoration, and conservation.

Fig. 3: Shabti of Padiamenope (W161)

We moved on to examine an artefact that is well-known to all volunteers; the lovely alabaster canopic jar (W498) in the Mummification case in the House of Death (fig. 4). Although we thought we knew it so well, it had a surprise for us. This canopic jar can be dated to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. This jar has the human head commonly associated with Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus who were the protectors of the body’s internal organs and who aided the deceased to travel into the afterlife (Dodson 1994; Reisner 1967). However, despite having the head of Imsety the inscription on the jar actually refers to Qebehsenuef who would normally have had the head of a falcon. Does this mean that the wrong two pieces may have been put together, perhaps to sell to a collector? We do know that during this period in Egypt’s history all four canopic jars quite often had human heads. However, as the inscription refers specifically to Qebehsenuef, it does look like the head and the jar are two separate pieces. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the enjoyment of seeing such a beautiful specimen and indeed the school parties always find this artefact one of the most appealing. Of course, they are usually hoping that it is full of some poor ancient Egyptians’ innards!

Fig. 4: Canopic jar of Psamtek (W498)

The canopic jar was purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at Sotheby’s on 13 November 1928 (lot 221), from the collection of Charles James Tabor (1849–1928). We were able, with Ken’s help, to read a small part of the two lines of inscription on the jar and this led to yet another mystery (fig. 5). The jar was owned by Psamtek son of Iahweben and is a very important piece. We know something of Psamtek from several stelae but no burial equipment, other than this jar, has come to light so far (Gohary 2009; Jurman 2010). The stelae identify the day and year of his birth (19th Nov 610 BC), the day and year of his death (31st Aug 544 BC), and his burial date (1st Oct 544 BC). This means that Psamtek was buried very quickly after he died and indeed the stelae even record the length of time he spent in the embalming tent as thirty-two days. Why was so little time given to his embalming? We are generally advised that the full embalming process took up to seventy days so why would this be different for poor Psamtek? It would be extremely interesting to find out!

Fig. 5: Inscription on the canopic jar (W498)

Our fourth artefact, also from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, was the limestone statue of a seated priest (W921), which resides in the House of Life gallery (fig. 6). The inscription identifies the owner as Iba, a priest of Sopdu who was a solar god associated the sun rising in the east. The inscription goes on to link Sopdu with the god Horus, describing the owner Iba as ‘priest of the Horus of the East’, which was an epithet of Sopdu (Leahy 1990). This statue is important because it is one of the few pieces from Saft el-Henna in the Nile Delta, which was the primary cult centre for the worship of Sopdu. The statue was purchased in 1922 from the collection of the Reverend William MacGregor (lot 1627). It is very beautiful piece and we admired the calm and contemplative expression on the priest’s face as he gazes into eternity. One always wonders whether such statues were genuine likenesses of their owners. Whether or not this is the case, clearly the sculptors had given them a lifelike quality. Did they have life models as artists do today, or did they copy them from other statues? Who knows!

Fig. 6: Statue of Iba (W921)

The final object was another statue (W1163), much smaller this time but quite charming (fig. 7). It is made of faience and depicts Sekhmet and her son Nefertum, possibly dating to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. The statue normally resides in the Gods case in the House of Death gallery. The female figure appears slightly taller than the male figure and as the female’s head is damaged it was difficult for us to identify the pair. In fact, we were rather surprised that the female figure appeared taller than the male. However, the back support contains a beautifully carved inscription with prayers to Sekhmet and her son Nefertum. Everything becomes clear when you can read the hieroglyphs. The inscribed prayers are for wellbeing, for “all life, health, and joy”. When in place in its cabinet, the rear of the statue is reflected in a mirror to allow the viewer to see the inscription and to read it if they are able to do so. One can imagine the members of an ancient Egyptian household kneeling before this lovely little shrine and seeking the blessings of these gods and goddesses. Ptah, Sekhmet, and Nefertum are associated with the ancient capital Memphis and are commonly known as the Memphis Triad.

Fig. 7: Faience statue of Sekhmet and Nefertum (W1163)

One of the best things about the course has been discovering the significance and importance of the objects in the care of the Museum. We volunteers are now better able to help visitors to appreciate the culture and history of ancient Egypt. Many thanks to Ken for giving us this opportunity!

Anonymous (1924) A catalogue of curios consisting of old savage ceremonial masks, fetishes, idols, witch-doctors’ rattles, stone axes, etc., from all parts of the world. Unique Elizabethan medical charm stone. Weapons, grandfather clocks, embroideries and hangings, oil paintings, prints, china, models of boats, old medical works. Collection of ancient carved stone heads from Central India. ancient Roman and Egyptian curiosities. Which will be sold at Stevens’s auction rooms Ltd. At their great rooms, ... on Tuesday, July 22nd 1924. London: Riddle, Smith, & Duffus.
Coulon, L. ed. (2010) Le culte d’Osiris au 1er millénaire av. J.-C.: découvertes et travaux récents. Actes de la table ronde internationale tenue à Lyon, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée (Université Lumière-Lyon 2) les 8 et 9 juillet 2005. Bibliothèque d’étude 153. Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
Dodson, A. (1994) The canopic equipment of kings of Egypt. Studies in Egyptology. London: Kegan Paul International.
Gohary, S. (2009) ‘New evidence on the duration of mummification’. In Die ihr vorbeigehen werdet … Wenn Gräber, Tempel und Statuen sprechen: Gedenkschrift für Prof. Dr. Sayed Tawfik Ahmed, ed. U. Rössler-Köhler and T. Tawfik. Sonderschrift, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo 16. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter. 103–104.
Gundlach, M. (2013) Typology and artisanship in Twenty-fifth Dynasty Theban shabtis: The chief lector priest Pedamenope. PhD thesis, Swansea University.
Jurman, C. (2010) ‘Running with Apis: the Memphite Apis cult as a point of reference for social and religious practice in Late Period elite culture’. In Egypt in transition: social and religious development of Egypt in the first millennium BCE. Proceedings of an international conference, Prague, September 1–4, 2009, ed. L. BareÅ¡, F. Coppens and K. Smoláriková. Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University in Prague. 224–267.
Leahy, A. (1990) ‘A Late Period block statuette from Saft el-Henna’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 76: 194–196.
Reisner, G. A. (1967) Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du musée du Caire, Nos 4001–4740 and 4977–5033: Canopics. Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge. (1906) Catalogue of the collection of Egyptian antiquities, formed in Egypt by R. De Rustafjaell, which will be sold by auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge...19th December, 1906 and two following days... London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge. (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Sotheby & Co. (1928) Catalogue of antiquities, etc., comprising the collection of Prehistoric implements, the property of Miss Carey, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, etc., comprising the collection of the late C.J. Tabor, the property of Princess Ghika, the property of Mrs O. Gregory, the property of Mrs A. Belcher, the property of Mrs de Burley Wood, the property of W. Kennett, and other properties, including Indian and South American objects; which will be sold by auction by Sotheby and Co. ... on Monday, the 12th of November, 1928, and following day. London: Sotheby & Co.

Monday, 2 December 2019

The Third Intermediate Period in Swansea

The blog post for this week is written by Dr. Krys Williams, a former student at Swansea University, Egypt Centre volunteer, and director of Tehuti Knowledge Services Ltd.

The Third Intermediate Period saw competing dynasties, two being of Libyan origin, priests becoming pharaohs, significant power vested in women (God’s Wife of Amun, Divine Adoratrice) and numerous local potentates. The Kushite kings emerged from Nubia to conquer and rule Egypt as the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. Ken selected six fabulous objects from this confusing yet fascinating period for us to examine.

My favourite, EC2018, is a fragment of a symbolic faience palette from the Twenty-fourth Dynasty, which bears the sole known image of Djehuty-em-hat (Thoth-em-hat) of Hermopolis (fig. 1). He is named on only three other objects (Moje, 2013, 402–404). His cartouche and clothing show that he took the status of pharaoh. He worships ibis-headed Thoth on behalf of his scribe, Pay-ef-tjaw-ꜥawy-Iset, who stands behind. I like the triple coincidence of Thoth addressed here as patron of Hermopolis, while also being patron of Pay-ef-tjaw-ꜥawy-Iset and all scribes and patron of Djehuty-em-hat, whose name means “Thoth is in front”. Shen rings surround the two inkwells, for black and red ink. The shen is often explained as protecting the scribe, but it also symbolises eternity, so could be interpreted as conferring eternity on the ink, and thus on the writings of the scribe and the names therein. Troy Sagrillo, Senior Lecturer in Egyptology at Swansea University, discussed EC2018 at the Egypt Centre’s Wonderful Things conference and has published a detailed exposition of the palette and its historical context (Sagrillo, 2017). 

Fig. 1: Model scribal palette (EC2018)

We examined two shabtis from the Twenty-second Dynasty. W1315 (fig. 2) is female and the uraeus shows the owner was a royal woman of the highest rank. It was initially identified as belonging to Divine Adoratrice Karomama. However, while still an undergraduate in 2002, Ken, who is able to distinguish hieroglyphs where us lesser mortals can only see blobs and smudges, recognised a mr sign in the name. Consequently, the shabti must have belonged to Divine Adoratrice Qedmerut, who is known only from her shabtis (Griffin 2017). The shabtis of Qednerut were featured in a previous blog post by Ken.

Fig. 2: Shabti of Qedmerut (W1315)

Shabti W660 (fig. 3) comes from Tehneh (Akoris) and is male. Despite having been broken and repaired, its decoration remains clear. The owner was Ankhwennefer, Priest of Amun, Overseer of the City, and Vizier. Of his 380 shabtis (Aston, 2009, p. 112; Gauthier 1926), this is possibly the only one in a collection outside Egypt. Aston (2009) notes that the use of the 𓊩 hieroglyph for Osiris is rarely seen after about 750 BC, while the green glaze of Ankhwennefer’s shabtis is unknown before about 850 BC, which enables a reasonably accurate dating.

Fig. 3: Shabti of Ankhwenefer (W660)

A cartonnage piece (W944) from the Twenty-second Dynasty shows what Kákosy (1976) called a pair of cryptographic daemons, identified as Wadjet and Nekhbet (fig. 4). The cryptographic element comes from them jointly forming the epithet (Two Ladies), which forms part of the royal titulary. Kákosy suggested this could represent the average Egyptian’s aspiration to be a king in the hereafter. His identification is supported by the fact that the red dress of Wadjet is the colour of her territory of Lower Egypt and Nekhbet’s white dress is that of Upper Egypt, her domain. The image of Wadjet with lion head surmounted by a snake emphasises the close identification made by Egyptians between lion-headed goddesses with the epithet Daughter of Re, the uraeus and Wadjet.

Fig. 4: Cartonnage depicting Wadjet and Nekhbet (W944)

The provenance of coffin fragment W1052 (fig. 5), from the Twenty-first Dynasty, is unknown, but the yellow background is typical of Thebes. The text refers to a “lady of the house and Chantress of Amun”, yet the deceased is depicted as a man. The low quality, but naïvely charming, cartoon-like artwork suggests it was produced late in the dynasty (Niwiński, 1988, 87). Coffins were frequently mass produced then, with blanks for the name, and many were re-used due to wood being expensive (Niwiński, 1988, 54–55). Perhaps the chantress’ image was erased and replaced by a male usurper but her name was overlooked, or perhaps her titles were copied onto a mass-produced coffin of incorrect gender by a workshop assistant, who lacked the literacy to recognise they were female. In this period, the title of chantress was not confined to highest-ranking women, but was also given to many wives of minor officials (Onstine, 2005, 36). The low quality artwork would indicate the deceased came from this lesser elite.

Fig. 5: Coffin fragment (W1052)

Finally, another “lady of the house” appears on wooden stela W354 from the Twenty-fifth/Twenty-sixth Dynasties (fig. 6). The worn text defeated me, but Ken said it names Djed-(Khon)su-(iwes)-ankh, daughter of Djedmontuiwefankh, Prophet of Montu. The falcon-headed god with solar disk and uraeus is presumably Re. Ken suggested he is followed by Imsety, Hapi and Qebehsenuef, since the latter two have heads of a baboon and hawk, respectively. If so, the absence of Duamutef, the fourth Son of Horus, is intriguing.

Fig. 6: Wooden stela (W354)

Many thanks to Ken for sacrificing his evenings to give us this amazing opportunity to learn so much through handling objects from the Egypt Centre!

Aston, D. (2009). Burial assemblages of dynasty 21–25: Chronology - typology – developments (Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 14; Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean 21). Vienna; Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Gauthier, H. (1926). Note sur les statuettes funéraires trouvées dans les tombes de Tehneh. Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte 26, pp. 41–43.
Griffin, K. (2017). The ushabtis of the Divine Adoratrice Qedmerut. In De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu. Première synthèse des résultats de la fouille du temple de Touy et de la tombe de Karomama – Von der Königsmutter zur Gottesgemahlin. Erste Synthese der Ausgrabungsergebnisse des Tempels von Tuja und des Grabes von Karomama, ed. B. Lurson. Connaissance de l’Egypte Ancienne 18. Brussels: Safran. Pp. 145–155.
Kákosy, L. (1976). Un couple des démons cryptographique. Studia Aegyptiaca 2, pp. 177–180.
Moje, J. (2013). Herrschaftsräume und Herrschaftswissen ägyptischer Lokalregenten: Soziokulturelle Interaktionen zur Machtkonsolidierung vom 8. bis zum 4. Jahrhundert v. Chr (Berlin Studies of the Ancient World 21). Berlin; de Gruyter.
Niwiński, A. (1988). 21st dynasty coffins from Thebes. Chronological and typological studies (Theben 5). Mainz am Rhein; von Zabern.
Onstine, S.L. (2005). The role of the chantress (Å¡mcyt) in ancient Egypt. (BAR International Series 1401). Oxford; Archaeopress.
Sagrillo, T. (2017). King Djeḥuty-em-ḥat in Swansea: Three model scribal palettes in the collection of the Egypt Centre of Swansea University in C. Jurman, B. Bader, & D. A. Aston (eds) A true scribe of Abydos: Essays on first millennium Egypt in honour of Anthony Leahy (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 265), pp. 385414 Leuven; Peeters.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Amarna in Swansea: A Statue, Stela, Broad Collar, and Ring Bezels

The blog post for this week is written by Dr Dulcie Engel, former French university lecturer, regular volunteer with an interest in collecting and collectors, and a previous contributor to this blog.

The Amarna Period covers a period in the Eighteenth Dynasty of the New Kingdom from the reign of Amenhotep IV, who became Akhenaten (1353–36 BCE), to that of his son Tutankhaten/Tutankhamun (d.1324 BCE). Akhenaten famously rejected the old religion and the power of the priests of Amun, transferring the capital to Akhetaten (Tell el-Amarna), and worship to the Aten (sun disc). Some suggest this was the first manifestation of monotheism (Hoffmeier 2015). The old religion was later restored by Tutankhamun. This break with the past is also evident in the art of the period. We find depictions of busy scenes and figures with exaggerated features: elongated faces, fingers, and toes, almond-shaped eyes, large hips, rounded breasts and bellies. However, the most famous surviving artwork from Amarna does not show such extreme exaggeration: the Nefertiti bust, now in Berlin.

Fig. 1: Statue of Akhenaten carrying an offering tray (W154)

The five objects we handled this evening are just a few of the 300 plus items from Amarna in the Egypt Centre. W154 is a fragment from a sandstone statue of Akhenaten carrying an offering tray (fig. 1). Such statues are relatively common. Our fragment shows three of his fingers, and on the other side, part of the offering tray (Bosse-Griffiths 2001, 131–134). According to the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) object card, it was excavated at Amarna on 23 December 1931 and later given to Sir Henry Wellcome as part of the distribution of finds (Pendlebury 1951, 102).

Fig. 2: Ring bezel with the name of Akhenaten (VAD29)

VAD29 is a turquoise blue faience ring bezel with the name of Akhenaten (fig. 2). The shoulder of the ring is also preserved on one side. It seems that such rings were distributed by the pharaohs, possibly as a sign of royal protection, or on special occasions such as coronations. They have been found in royal tombs, the houses of commoners, and the workmen’s village (Shannon 1987; Shaw 1984). Ring bezels with cartouches were introduced by Akhenaten’s father Amenhotep III and remained popular until the end of the New Kingdom.

Fig. 3: Lute player bezel (W1150)

We also handled W1150, a part of a dark blue faience ring bezel depicting a female lute player with a monkey (fig. 3). The detail is exquisite, given its tiny size, and can only be appreciated with a magnifying glass. That is one reason why having the opportunity to see such objects outside the case is so valuable! The figure has a rounded belly, typical of Amarna style. The lute player is naked and has a cone on her head. It is a youthful and sexualised depiction. Furthermore, the monkey is a symbol of female sexuality as well as of music and dance (Bosse-Griffiths 2001 165–173; Graves-Brown 2014). In this period, the lute had only recently been introduced to Egypt. This particular bezel was found in a house in the Northern City area of Amarna.

Fig. 4: Small fragment of an Amarna stela (W242)

W242 is a small fragment of a private devotional stela carved from sandstone, depicting three columns of the Aten’s titulary, the cartouches of the Aten, and, in one corner, the rays of the Aten (fig. 4). It was purchased at auction in 1930 (lot 77), but the exact provenance is unknown. It may have come from the excavations directed by Petrie in the 1890s, or perhaps even the EES excavations in the 1920s. What is most exciting is that W242 appears to fit together with a larger fragment of a stela in Berlin (ÄM 14511). The Berlin piece depicts Akhenaten and Nefertiti worshipping the Aten (fig. 5). Further research on this object is currently ongoing by Ken, who is preparing it for publication!

Possible joining fragments (ÄM 14511 & W242)

Despite that, my favourite object remains W10, one of four collars said to have come from the royal tombs at Amarna (fig. 6). We know they were acquired by Lady Berens in the 1880s, shortly after a rich tomb was pillaged in Amarna. They were later purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome in 1924 (lots 66–69). This provenance is, however, questionable. The collars, which show great workmanship, appear to have had wealthy owners, and feature amulets and beads associated more with females (such as the fish, the female deities, and the nasturtium seeds on W10). The terminals are missing on all four collars: possibly cut off to be sold separately? Many of the beads and amulets are in the style of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and in particular, linked with Amarna.

Fig. 6: Amarna collar (W10)

Furthermore, the thread is of linen, rather than the cotton more commonly used by forgers. We will probably never know whether they are genuine or not, although it may be possible to test and date the thread. The collars remain some of our most popular exhibits: and indeed W9 was voted as one of the Highlights of the collection. It was therefore a great privilege for me to get up so close to one of these iconic pieces. The beads on this necklace are mainly made from faience, with faience amulets/pendants. The central one is a heart amulet, flanked in sequence on each side by a squatting child (probably the Pharaoh); a female deity holding a lotus staff; a light green bulla (a drop-shaped amulet; missing on one side); and a fish carved from lapis lazuli. The rest of the pendants on the outer layer are alternating yellow and brown rosettes; at each end is a green thistle head/cornflower (one is quite damaged). There is a partial row of blue nasturtium seed beads in the middle row, ending with a red glass bead. Tiny beads woven together in alternating colours make up the inner and outer rows, known as bead bands, with a net-like pattern of tubular beads joining each row together (Bosse-Griffiths 2001, 27–30).

You will be pleased to hear that Ken’s next course starting in the New Year will be on the Amarna Period!

Bosse-Griffiths, K. (2001) ‘Baboon and maid’. In Amarna studies and other selected papers, ed. J. G. Griffiths. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 182. Freiburg; Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 165–173.
Bosse-Griffiths, K. (2001) ‘Bead collars with Amarna amulets in the Wellcome Collection of the University College, Swansea’. In Amarna Studies and other Selected Papers, ed. J. G. Griffiths. Freiburg (Schweiz); Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 27–30.
Bosse-Griffiths, K. (2001) ‘Incense for the Aten’. In Amarna Studies and other Selected Papers, ed. J. G. Griffiths. Freiburg (Schweiz); Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 131–134.
Graves-Brown, C. (2014) ‘A gazelle, a lute player and Bes: three ring bezels from Amarna’. In A good scribe and an exceedingly wise man: studies in honour of W. J. Tait, ed. A. M. Dodson, J. J. Johnston and W. Monkhouse. GHP Egyptology 21. London: Golden House Publications. 113–126.
Hoffmeier, J. K. (2015) Akhenaten and the origins of monotheism. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Kemp, B. J. (2013) The City of Akhenaten and Nefertiti: Amarna and Its People. London: Thames & Hudson.
Shannon, E. (1987) ‘Bezels with royal names from the Workmen’s Village 1979–1986’. In Amarna reports IV, ed. B. J. Kemp. Egypt Exploration Society, Occasional Publications 5. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 154–159.
Shaw, I. (1984) ‘Ring bezels at el-Amarna’. In Amarna reports I, ed. B. J. Kemp. Egypt Exploration Society, Occasional Publications 1. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 124–132.
Sotheby and Co. (1930) Catalogue of antiquities, etc., comprising early bronze implements, the property of Edward Dent and the property of Monsieur de la Grancière, Babylonian inscribed bricks, the property of Colonel W.J.P. Rodd, Egyptian and classical antiquities and fine Roman glass, the property of the late G.E. Smyth, and the property of C. Milman Mainwaring, an important Roman couch, the property of Signor Massimo Colozzi ...; which will be sold by auction by Sotheby and Co. ... on Wednesday, the 23rd day of July, 1930. London: Sotheby and Co.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. (1924) Catalogue of Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek & Roman antiquities, &c.: comprising the collection formed by H. Griebert, Esq. of Berkeley House, Finchley Road, N.W.; including Egyptian amulets, and figures in pottery, silver and bronze; Greek vases, etc.; the property of Mrs. J. Waugh; the property of Sir Henry Paul Harvey, K.C.M.G.; the Berens collection of Babylonian tablets, the property of Mrs. Randolph Berens, of 14, Princes Gardens, S.W.; a fine Græco-Roman marble head of Heracles from the collection of the late Carl Brownlow at Ashbridge, and other properties, including Roman bronze work, Peruvians and Græco-Phœnician gold ornaments, etc.; which will be sold by auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge ... on Thursday, the 28th of February, 1924. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.