|Fig. 1: Glazed ceramic crown fragment (W284)|
The Egypt Centre has several of these objects from the sanctuary, namely EC401, W284, and W285. W284, which is depicted in plate 10.1 of Garstang’s 1911 publication, is perhaps the most interesting of the three. It is made of glazed ceramic on red brick. The glaze is coloured yellow, light blue, and black (fig. 1). The object seems to be a fragment of headdress decorated in relief, as noted by the Wellcome flimsy slip (13608). In fact, it seems to closely resemble the vulture-cap commonly worn by goddesses. What was the object used for and what did it originally look like? The brick itself is quite thin, perhaps indicating that it was used as a decorative tile.
EC401 and W285 are quite similar to each other. Both are formed of a matrix of red brick with a blue/green glaze on the front. EC401 shows the upper part of a shrine, which is decorated on top with two double-feathered plumes fronted with sun-discs. Below this is a frieze consisting of at least eight uraei (fig. 2). W285 depicts four uraei facing to the left, each with a solar-disc atop their heads (fig. 3). As with W284 discussed previously, what were these objects used for? Both objects are only a few centimetres thick, indicating that they were likely plaques or tile inlays. Given that they were all found underneath the floor of the sanctuaries of the temple, it is possible that they represent foundation deposits. Foundation deposits, which were chosen to symbolically ensure the effectiveness and longevity of the building, are well attested at temple sites in both Egypt and Nubia (Pope 2014, 23–25). Many of them do take the form of faience plaques or other similar objects.
|Fig: Glazed plaque (EC401)|
|Fig. 3: Glazed plaque (W285)|
Another interesting object from Meroe (EC402) is described in its Wellcome slip (13608) as a “fragment in blue glaze faience with layers of leaves in relief” (fig. 4). This fragment was purchased by Wellcome in 1922 from the MacGregor collection (lot 1321). Unfortunately, the exact details of where this was found at Meroe is not recorded. Based on parallels, it seems that this object was part of a particular type of faience vessel common during the Roman Period. A complete example of one can be found in the Louvre (E 22585). A detailed study of these vessels was conducted by Marie-Dominique Nenna and Merwatte Seif el-Din in 2000.
In 1997, László Török published a two-volume on Garstang’s excavations of Meroe. Several years ago, the Egypt Centre Curator, Carolyn Graves-Brown, recognised a familiar faience object while looking through this publication. Plate 168 depicts a small faience head of a deity with lion’s head, who can perhaps be identified as Apedemak (Žabkar, 1975). At the time of Török’s publication, the present whereabouts of this object was unknown. However, this object (EC451) is currently on display in the House of Life at the Egypt Centre, although it has suffered damage to the face area since the archival image was taken at the time of excavation. This head, which measures just 3cm in height, has a hole in the top of its head, presumably for the insertion of a headdress (fig. 5). The object was excavated in spot M 943, one of the rooms of a house erected over the ruins of complex M 296-942-948 (Török 1997 I, 205).
|Fig. 5: Head of lion-headed statue. EC451 on the left and Török pl. 168 on the right)|
The final object is a turquoise-glazed faience wall inlay in the form of a sꜣ-symbol, which measures almost 20cm in height (EC403). The object was previously broken into several pieces before being restored (fig. 6). Looking through the archival photos of Garstang’s excavation reveals that this was one of many inlays used to decorate the area designated M 195 (fig. 7). Excavations of the area in 1912 revealed an extensive water sanctuary complex, which was dedicated to the local god Apedemak (Török 1997 I, 63–91). During the excavations, Garstang and his team discovered a cache of statues on the floor of the basin, some of which were later presented to Wellcome. One in particular, which is now in the Petrie Museum (UC8964), is a sandstone statue of a boy holding an aulos (double-pipe). This was previously published by Dixon and Wachsmann in 1964.
|Fig. 6: Glazed sꜣ-symbol from the water sanctuary (EC403)|
|Fig. 7: Archival photo of the baths with two sꜣ-symbols still in-situ (Török pl. 32)|
While the objects presented here are all rather small and fragmentary, they present an important link between excavation, archival, and museum research.
Dixon, D. M. and K. P. Wachsmann (1964) A sandstone statue of an auletes from Meroë. Kush 12, 119–125.
Garstang, J. (1911) Meroë, the city of the Ethiopians: being an account of a first season’s excavations on the site, 1909–1910. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Nenna, M.-D. and Merwatte Seif el-Din (2000) La vaisselle en faïence d’époque gréco-romaine: catalogue du Musée gréco-romain d’Alexandrie. Études alexandrines 4. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
Pope, J. (2014) The double kingdom under Taharqo: studies in the history of Kush and Egypt, c. 690–664 BC. Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 69. Leiden; Boston: Brill.
Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
Török, L. (1997) Meroe City, an ancient African capital: John Garstang’s excavations in the Sudan. Egypt Exploration Society, Occasional Publications 12, 2 vols. London: Egypt Exploration Society.
Žabkar, L. V. (1975) Apedemak Lion God of Meroe: a study in Egyptian-Meroitic syncretism. Warminster: Aris and Phillips.