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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.

Monday, 18 November 2019

A Princess, a Vizier, and a Criminal: New Kingdom Objects in Swansea

The blog post for this week is written by Teresa Davison, a retired teacher and Egypt Centre volunteer. Like Peter Black who wrote the blog post of the First Intermediate Period, she is one of the last students to benefit from the DACE Higher Level Certificate in Education in Egyptology, taught by Dr. Amr Gaber.

I have really enjoyed the course so far. The weekly lectures have given an interesting context to the handling sessions. Being able to examine objects of great antiquity has not only been a huge privilege, but also helps us to focus on the societal themes and changes covered each week (fig. 1). This week we studied the New Kingdom, where we looked at empowered strong women like Hatshepsut who reigned during a time of great prosperity. However, as will be seen later, an element of drama, almost “soap-opera like”, crept in to our studies. Hatshepsut claimed royal birth in order to legitimise her role as Pharaoh. Was she then assassinated by Thutmose III? From this time period we examined a limestone relief depicting Neferure (W1376) and a sandstone fragment from the Henqet-ankh temple of Thutmose III (W1371), both of which have previously featured on this blog.

Fig. 1: Peter Black, Keith Shoebridge, and Teresa Davison examining W1371

We looked at W1326, which is a limestone stela dated to the Ramesside Period. It is possibly from Deir el-Medina and forms part of the 1906 Robert de Rustafjaell collection (lot 75). It is a stela depicting a chantress playing a sistrum before an image of Thoth as a baboon (fig. 2). This was a lovely piece and they were often kept in domestic shrines (Weiss 2015). I particularly liked the way the folds on her dress were depicted with simple but elegant lines (Bosse-Griffiths 2001). The skilled workmen may have practised on such pieces.

Fig. 2: Stela depicting a sistrum player before Thoth (W1326)

W957 is a Nineteenth Dynasty limestone offering stand from Deir el-Medina, which was purchased in 1907 from the Robert de Rustafjaell collection (lot 79). It contains the name and titles of Paneb, who was a chief workman at Deir el-Medina (Lucas 1998; fig. 3). Back to the soap opera, Paneb was a notorious character. He was accused of many bad deeds, including sexual assault and adultery (Bierbrier 1977–1978; Bierbrier 2000; Černý 1929). He was also accused of bribery, embezzlement, and misuse of labour. He is alleged to have stolen many items. He ordered his workers to steal stone from the worksite of Seti II to build his own personal tomb! Perhaps W957 was part of that stolen stone? His workers had to make him a bed and his wives were told to weave clothing for him. He was also a tomb raider e.g., he stole a mummified or model goose from the tomb of one of the daughters of Ramesses II. His character was described as angry, emotional, and unstable. An example of this was when he beat up his workmen and threw bricks at people from the top of a wall! He was also accused of drunkenness and murder. Not a pleasant man!

Fig. 3: Offering stand of Paneb (W957)

W232 is a faience statue base also dating to the Nineteenth Dynasty. Its provenance is unknown, although we do know that it was purchased in 1922 from the Reverend William MacGregor collection (lot 1550). The statue base (fig. 4) provides the names and titles of Paser, who was a vizier during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses I (Donohue 1988). Paser, by contrast to Paneb, seems most respectable with one of his roles as the chief chamberlain, a role of great authority and status. The small piece that we looked at was stained, maybe oil had been poured over it for purification. The small statue that accompanied it has not yet been identified.

Fig. 4: Statue base of the vizier Paser (W232)

Bierbrier, M. L. (1977–1978) ‘Notes on Deir el-Medina, II: the career of Paneb’. Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities 8, 4: 138–140.
——— (2000) ‘Paneb rehabilitated?’. In Deir el-Medina in the third millennium AD: a tribute to Jac. J. Janssen, ed. R. J. Demarée and A. Egberts. Egyptologische Uitgaven 14. Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten. 51–54.
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.
Černý, J. (1929) ‘Papyrus Salt 124 (Brit. Mus. 10055)’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 15: 243–258.
Donohue, V. A. (1988) ‘The vizier Paser’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 74: 103–123.
Lucas, G. (1998) ‘Four Egyptian pieces in the Wellcome Collection at Swansea, I’. Göttinger Miszellen 167: 83–87.
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.
——— (1907) Catalogue of a collection of antiquities from Egypt, ... being the second portion of the collection of Robert de Rustafjaell, esq. F.R.G.S, which will be sold by auction, ... on Monday, the 9th of December, 1907, and the following day. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
——— (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Weiss, L. (2015) Religious practice at Deir el-Medina. Egyptologische Uitgaven 29. Leuven: Peeters. 

Monday, 11 November 2019

Socked Axes, Sphinxes, and Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware: The Second Intermediate Period in Swansea

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 & EC299b). 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 ( 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.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Statues and Tomb Models of the Middle Kingdom

The blog post for this week is written by Molly Osborne, a previous contributor who is an Undergraduate student and Egypt Centre volunteer.

My first handling session was during a module in my second year, where I wrote a research project about an object in the House of Life. Ever since, I have loved learning about the stories of the artefacts in the Egypt Centre. This week, we were learning about the history and civilisation of the Middle Kingdom, with six objects from that time period selected. During the session I found out that almost all the objects were stone statues or statuettes. The Middle Kingdom was known to be one of the great glory periods of Egyptian history, a classical period of literature and art, as can be seen from the objects chosen this week. We could see that there was a standardised style of artwork on most of the objects we handled.

Fig. 1: Statue of a man (W845)

The first objects I handled were two broken heads from statuettes, which are made of steatite. One of them (W845) depicts a figure of a man with his hand underneath his cloak, who may have originally been seated or standing (fig. 1). As this figure may have been seated, I think this man was most probably a high official or worked as a scribe. The other (W842) is identified as a female figure because of the “Hathor wig”, which is a typical style of the period (fig. 2).

W.842: Statue of a woman (W845)

The heaviest object was a huge plaster cast replica of a statue in the British Museum (BM EA 24385), which depicts the Royal Scribe and Chancellor, Senebtyty (W1012). He is shown (fig. 3) wearing a piece of clothing that looks a bit like a towel, a dress which is typical of the Middle Kingdom (Robins 1997, fig 128). There are hieroglyphs on the base and on the back pillar, which were also common on many Egyptian statues. An interesting thing I learnt was that if Henry Wellcome was not able to buy an object, he bought or commissioned replicas like this one.

Fig. 3: Cast of a statue of Senebtyfy (W1012)

W847 is a siltstone, funerary statue of an unknown couple (fig. 4), which perhaps comes from the tombs at Aswan. This statue may depict and belong to the person who was buried, with the deceased being either the man or the woman. Unfortunately, there is no inscription on the object, so we do not know who this object depicts. The standardised artwork mentioned previously is noticeable on all the objects I have mentioned so far. They all have big ears and a slight smile, which was typical of the late Middle Kingdom. The wide eyes look like the archaic style of ancient Greece, which was copied from the Egyptians. W847 and W1012 also have huge hands and feet, which are not in proportion with the rest of the body.

Fig. 4: Pair statue (W847)

There were two objects which were not made of stone. One was a wooden tomb model (W434) and the other was a wooden goose (W588), which are normally on display in the House of Death gallery. The wooden tomb figure (fig. 5) was used in a funerary context and has a moveable arm, just like a modern-day doll. It is possible that this figure represents the tomb owner, although another suggestion is that it was part of a large group and it would have been the overseer or someone else of authority. This idea came from the positioning of the feet (the left foot is in front of the right foot) and the fact that it would have held a staff in his hand.

Fig. 5: Tomb model (W434)

The wooden goose (fig. 6) was by far my favourite object from this week. It has long been suggested that W588 is a fake, mainly because its base is modern. However, the object was purchased from the collection of William MacGregor (lot 576), with the catalogue stating that it came from Arab el-Birk, near Asyut. There are the remains of a possible dowel on the top of the goose, which suggests that it may have been hung and held by a big servant figure.

Fig. 6: Model goose (W588)

This course has been very interesting and I would like to thank Ken Griffin and the Egypt Centre for offering them. It’s been an awesome experience!

Bourriau, J. (1988) Pharaohs and mortals: Egyptian art in the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grajetzki, W. (2006) The Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt: history, archaeology and society. Duckworth Egyptology. London: Duckworth.
Oppenheim, A., D. Arnold, D. Arnold, and K. Yamamoto eds. (2015) Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
Robins, G. (1997) The art of ancient Egypt. London: The British Museum Press.
Sotheby, W. H. (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Tooley, A. (1995) Egyptian models and scenes. Shire Egyptology 22. Risborough: Shire Publications.