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Monday, 31 August 2020

Egypt and its Neighbours: Object-centred Approaches to Articulating Local Identity and Cultural Diversity in Antiquity

The blog post for this week has been written by Dr Ersin Hussein, a lecturer in Ancient History at Swansea University with a specific focus on Roman Cyprus. Since arriving to Swansea in 2018, Ersin has been a great supporter and collaborator with the Egypt Centre. This post details the most recent collaboration, which resulted in funding to develop a new display of non-Egyptian objects in the museum.

2020 has been quite a year for teaching and research institutions globally! The pandemic has forced us all (staff and students alike) to react quickly and rethink how we engage and interact with one another—whether in a personal or professional capacity. For many, research has taken a back seat as the focus has been on expediting and maintaining excellent teaching remotely as well as support for each other during these difficult times. The challenges have been met admirably and with tireless energy by my colleagues across the board here at Swansea.

One aspect of university life that has been affected dramatically has been the crucial work that the university’s award-winning Egypt Centre does. While the temporary closure of the museum has seen staff, volunteers, students, and visitors unable to ‘get hands on’ with antiquity (something that this institution does so well with its focus on object-centred research and teaching initiatives), work has carried on remotely to ensure that the local community can continue to come together in a research and social capacity.

Fig. 1: From left to right: two Roman oil lamps; a terracotta figurine from Cyprus; a marble head of a goddess from Cyprus; a terracotta figurine from Boeotia; a terracotta horse from Cyprus; and (one of my favourite objects!) a votive of a man holding a sacrificial animal from Cyprus.

By moving many of the museum’s research, teaching, and outreach initiatives online (such as its annual Wonderful Things conference), opportunities to seriously rethink how to develop public engagement arose. This blog post introduces my ongoing work with the Egypt Centre that has focused on raising awareness about the museum’s lesser-known collection of classical artefacts (fig. 1). It also discusses the impact that a generous grant, awarded by the Institute of Classical Studies, will make to this collaboration.

Fig. 2: The Egypt Centre: a local institution with global impact. The museum is internationally recognised for innovation in widening participation and education. It plays an integral role in teaching, research, and widening participation across Swansea University. The museum attracts ca. 22,000 visitors each year and welcomes on average four schools (KS1–2) a week (in total ca. 150 a year). Valuable research and teaching resource embedded in the university and local community.

The Egypt Centre (fig. 2) houses almost 6,000 artefacts, 300 of which are non-Egyptian. Since joining the university in January 2018 I have worked closely with the curators and Collections Access Manager to develop initiatives in and beyond the classroom to raise awareness about this lesser understood aspect of the museum’s collection. Over the past two years, this has involved examining the collection behind the scenes independently or with staff and students across the university. For example, in 2019 I was awarded SURGE funding from the university to investigate the materiality of metalwares held by the Egypt Centre—research of which is ongoing in collaboration with the College of Engineering here at Swansea and the School of History, Archaeology, and Religion at Cardiff University (fig. 3). Students have had the chance to get involved behind the scenes too and contribute to the process of thinking about how we can better communicate information about our non-Egyptian artefacts by scanning digital slides of landscapes, participating in workshops on a voluntary basis (fig. 4), engaging in handling sessions tied to specific modules, and by attending public talks. Working with colleagues and students across the university is crucial as it inspires us to think even more creatively about how to showcase our artefacts to the wider public and highlights where (and how) demands and needs can be met.

Fig. 3: Two images from a day of scanning a range of metal artefacts from the collection to determine their composition – in collaboration with Dr Liz Sackett from the College of Engineering. This work was also carried out with Dr Phil Parkes from Cardiff University.
Fig. 4: Working with students from my Ancient Cyprus module to identify and catalogue artefacts.

This year, on 26th June, I delivered a paper on the history of Cypriot artefacts held not only at the Egypt Centre but at Swansea Museum. While this was an opportunity for me to develop my ongoing research on the culture and society of ancient Cyprus and the history of Cypriot artefacts held here in Swansea, I was also able to gather feedback using a poll (and the chat functionality on Zoom) following the talk from the audience. Questions posed were very specific regarding general awareness of the history of the collection here at the Egypt Centre and the feedback gathered confirmed our suspicions. The general public (and students) were largely unaware about the Greco-Roman collection … and they wanted to know more! For example, polling showed that 70% of the attendees wanted to see the installation of a new display that showcased artefacts from across the ancient Mediterranean, not just Egypt (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: A snapshot of some of the more ‘low-level’ initiatives using social media and public talks to raise awareness about classical artefacts held in the Egypt Centre.

Around a similar time to the talk, the Institute of Classical Studies advertised a call for applicants seeking financial support for developing public engagement projects. Having received a generous donation they announced that they would be able to support two projects for the duration of a year with a one off grant. This was too good an opportunity not to apply for and we reacted quickly to the call. I am pleased to say that we secured one of the awards!

With the need and demand for a new installation made clear, funding secured will be used to install a new display of objects entitled: Egypt and its Neighbours in the House of Life gallery (fig. 6). The function and aims of this will be manifold. It will serve as a catalyst for student and public engagement with a number of topics that lie at the heart of many current debates regarding the world in which we live today, such as racism, cultural diversity, self-presentation, and identity formation. The ancient world is rich with material to encourage meaningful discussion around these relevant topics. Several lecturers across the department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology already offer modules discussing these themes in the ancient world. More than this, Swansea University is one of the few places in the UK offering specialist modules on Egypt, Greece, Rome, Cyprus, Nubia, and the ancient Near East and we really wanted the display to bring together the research that we do in the museum setting not just for our students, but for visitors from school children to the general public.

Fig. 6: Funding will be used to purchase custom object stands to be displayed in a case such as this one.

The image below (fig. 7) presents a proposed outline of how the new case could be organised while some of the objects for the display are shown in figure 1 above.

Fig. 7: A proposed layout of the new case. There will be plenty of room for a bilingual interpretation panel, artefacts from across the Greco-Roman Mediterranean and beyond, and larger artefacts at the bottom of the case.

As already mentioned, public engagement in a pandemic is a challenge…but it also provides us with opportunities to rethink and improve our practice!

Bearing the issues of social distancing and remote learning in mind, we have thought of a number of initiatives to facilitate and improve engagement. These include developing:
  • Schools educational activities online for KS1 (ages 5–7) and KS2 (ages 7–11), such as:
  • Worksheets that focus on specific objects, highlighting connectivity between landscapes, and creative writing exercises.
  • A highlights booklet (based on the successful Egypt Centre 30 highlights booklet that was launched earlier this year) of ca. 20 objects. This could include:
    • Entries (ca. 170 words) by staff and students.
    • Short intros on the different cultures represented in the display.
    • Specific write-ups on the key themes that the display will inspire such as social identity, cultural diversity, tolerance, and inclusivity.
The launch of the Egypt Centre’s new online collections catalogue is also imminent (8th October 2020!) and means that there are ample opportunities to develop more interactive content for people to engage with the collection remotely. For example, catalogue entries could be accompanied by podcasts, videos, and other audio recordings.

This is ongoing work. Funding secured from the Institute of Classical Studies is crucial to get this stage of my collaboration with the Egypt Centre going. The impact of this stage of the project, and plans for future development, will be measured and guided through polls taken at the end of public engagement talks, questionnaires filled out by museum visitors, and data collated regarding website usage.

Join us on Thursday 10th September at 4.30pm when the ICS will host an online awards event where we will be sharing more details about the project. This is free to attend and all are welcome! Book your place by following the link to the ICS here. You can also follow developments by checking out our various social media platforms or by getting in touch directly. Your feedback (whether you are a student, researcher, volunteer, or member of the public) is crucial to the work we do and we would love to hear from you!

  • @SUAncientWorld
  • @TheEgyptCentre
  • @DrKenGriffin



Monday, 24 August 2020

Short Course on Deir el-Medina

A few weeks ago, my short course on the Religion of the Ancient Egyptians concluded. This was the second short course since the Covid pandemic, with fees going to support the Egypt Centre. Unlike previous courses organized by the Egypt Centre, which have been very much hands on object-focused learning, sessions have been conducted through the medium of Zoom. Yet this has proven quite beneficial, particularly in attracting a larger audience from across the world. Following the success of these short courses, I will be starting a new one in a few weeks entitled Deir el-Medina: The Village of the Artisans.

Fig. 1: Painted relief from Deir el-Medina depicting Khabekhnet and his wife Sahte offering to the gods

Deir el-Medina’s contribution to the study and understanding of ancient Egyptian civilisation is immeasurable. This village, which was occupied from the Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasty, was unlike any other Egyptian settlement site. Drawing on objects housed in the Egypt Centre collection, this course will examine the history, rediscovery, and daily lives of the inhabitants. Characters such as Paneb, Sennedjem, and Kenherkhepshef will help to transport us back in time to the “golden age” of Egyptian history.

Fig. 2: Offering stand belonging to Paneb

In order to be as accessible as possible, lectures will be run twice a week:
-        Sunday evenings 6–8pm (UK time)
-        Wednesday mornings 10–12am (UK time)
Additionally, one of the sessions will be recorded and made available to participants who may not be able to attend the sessions. As always, I’ll be drawing on relevant objects in the Egypt Centre collection, particularly those originating from the village. Participants will also receive exclusive access to the new Egypt Centre Online Catalogue ahead of its official launch on the 08 October.

Fig. 3: Bes vessel from Deir el-Medina

Course Outline
Week 1 (Sunday 06 September or Wednesday 09 September): The village and its rediscovery
Week 2 (Sunday 13 September or Wednesday 16 September): The workers and their families
Week 3 (Sunday 20 September or Wednesday 23 September): Religion at the village
Week 4 (Sunday 27 September or Wednesday 30 September): Justice at the village and the workers’ strikes
Week 5 (Sunday 04 October or Wednesday 07 October): The necropolis

The course costs £40 and can be booked via the following link

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Countdown has Begun! Fifty Days until the Launch of the New Egypt Centre Online Collection

Due to computer issues, the final blog post on the religion course did not appear on Monday. Instead, this blog post is written by Sam Powell, who launches the countdown to our new Egypt Centre Online Collections Catalogue!

Regular readers of this blog may recognise me a frequent contributor. I have been lucky enough to have been volunteering at the Egypt Centre for several years, most recently in the last eighteen months assisting Ken in the stores with condition checks and the transfer of material to the fantastic new storage facility.

Fig. 1: The countdown has begun!

It was during this time, whilst also researching the wooden funerary figures and other objects as part of my Masters degree, that I noted some of the limitations of the Egypt Centre’s online catalogue. The Egypt Centre was one of the first museums to provide an online catalogue of its entire collection way back in 2004, and whilst very ahead of its time then, there hasn’t been the capacity to update the software since. Abaset Collections (named after a rare goddess with a hedgehog on her head!) has been set up by myself to create a brand-new online collection for the Egypt Centre. As well as being a searchable dataset of the entire collection of over five thousand objects, there will also be audio descriptions, videos, and the option to curate your own “trail” of your favourite objects. As I’ve been working closely with the collection in-person (prior to the lockdown of course!), I’ve been able to apply my working knowledge of researching the objects to identify the needs of those researching the collection. I am also working in close collaboration with the staff in the museum to ensure the software created is fit for their purposes as well.

Fig. 2: A sneak preview of the intuitive search bar (click to enlarge)

Thanks to a grant from the Greatest Need Fund by Swansea University Alumni, I am very pleased to announce that The Egypt Centre Online Collection will be having a “soft” launch at 16:30 on 8th October. This coincides with Ken’s presentation The Egypt Centre, Swansea: Past, Present and Future at the British Egyptological Congress hosted by the Egypt Exploration Society (if you haven’t booked already, I highly recommend it!). A “soft” launch means that although work will be ongoing, we would be very grateful for your feedback on what you think works well and what can be improved.
Fig. 3: An example of the entry for W491 (click to enlarge)

As with any collection, research is constantly being undertaken and edits are constantly being made to the data. The Egypt Centre Online Collection will automatically update when new data is entered and so all information available will immediately become available online in real time. Due to the sheer size and variety of the data provided, the content is still being updated, some entries may not be complete, and some errors may still be displayed. Much of this is a result of transferring the data from our internal MODES catalogue to a new online format. The online collection has been designed to be as intuitive to use as possible, as well as to work on PC, mobile, and tablet. There will be many bespoke fields, which can be searched and selected for easy comparison. As well as the usual description, provenance, and image provided by most generic online catalogues, there will also be searchable fields for auction details, previous owners, translations and transcriptions of any texts, gods and goddesses represented, animals depicted, and much, much more. In addition, it will be possible to “drill down” through hierarchical searches, for example, to search for all objects in the collection from a specific excavation with ease.

Fig. 4: Additional details for W491 (click to enlarge)

As research continues (and I have more time once my dissertation is submitted!), The Egypt Centre Online Collection will continue to grow and evolve, particularly in light of the current Covid-19 restrictions, which has brought to light the importance of access online to this wonderful group of objects. Although an online catalogue will never replace the value of experiencing the objects “live”, the digital availability of the objects aims to allow access to the collection on a global scale. Further details about the new online catalogue will be posted on this blog over the coming months.

Just yesterday, we finished adding all the ancient personal names associated with the Egypt Centre objects, which will appear in both anglicised form and in transliteration. Why not say the hetep-di-nesu formula in memory of some of them!

Aaphety (ꜥꜣ-pḥty)
Aba (i͗bꜣ)
Ammonarion (Ἀμμωνάριον)
Amunemope (i͗mn-m-i͗pt)
Amunhotep (i͗mn-ḥtp)
Ankhefenmut (ꜥnḫ.f-n-mwt)
Ankhesenaset (ꜥnḫ.s-n-ꜣst)
Ankhesenptah (ꜥnḫ.s-n-ptḥ)
Ankhhapi (ꜥnḫ-ḥp)
Ankhkhonsu (ꜥnḫ-ḫnsw)
Ankhpakhered (ꜥnḫ-pꜣ-ẖrd)
Ankhpefhery (ꜥnḫ-pꜣ.f-ḥry)
Ankhwahibresaneith (ꜥnḫ-wꜣḥ-i͗b-rꜥ-sꜣ-nt)
Ankhwennefer (ꜥnḫ-wnn-nfr)
Asetemakhbit (ꜣst-m-ꜣḫ-bi͗t)
Asetirdis (ꜣst-i͗r-di͗.s)
Djedaset (ḏd-ꜣst)
Djedbastetiwefankh (ḏd-bꜣstt-i͗w.f-ꜥnḫ)
Djeddjehutiiwefankh (ḏd-ḏḥwty-i͗w.f-ꜥnḫ)
Djedhor (ḏd-ḥr)
Djedkhonsu (ḏd-ḫnsw)
Djedkhonsuiwesankh (ḏd-ḫnsw-i͗w.s-ꜥnḫ)?
Djedmontuiwesankh (ḏd-mnṯw-i͗w.s-ꜥnḫ)
Djedmutiwefankh (ḏd-mwt-i͗w.f-ꜥnḫ)
Habum (ḥbm)
Hapi (ḥpi͗)
Harsiese (ḥr-sꜣ-ꜣst)
Henuttawy (ḥnwt-tꜣwy)
Hermiysis (Ἑρμιῦσις)
Heru (ḥrw)?
Hetepwt (ḥtpwt)
Horbes (ḥrbs)
Hormes (ḥr-ms)
Iahirdis (i͗ꜥḥ-i͗r-di͗.s)
Iahweben (i͗ꜥḥ-wbn)
Ibiia (i͗b.i͗-i͗ꜥ)
Ibity (i͗bi͗ty)?
Ipw (i͗pw)
Iry (i͗ry)
Iwesenhesetmut (i͗w.s-n-ḥst-mwt)
Iwf (i͗wf)
Iwteknefer (i͗wṯk-nfr)
Kallistos (Καλλίστωι)
Kedmerut (ḳd-mrt)
Khabekhnet (ḫꜥ-bḫnt)
Khawlil (ḫwll)
Khnumemsaef (ẖnmw-m-sꜣ.f)
Khnumibre (ẖnm-i͗b-rꜥ)
Kollouthes (Κολλοῦθος)
Minaa (mnw-ꜥꜣ)
Namenekhamun (nꜣ-mnḫ-i͗mn)
Neb[...] (nb-[...])
Nebnetjeru (nb-nṯrw)
Nebuherdedeni (nbw-ḥr-dd-n.i͗)
Nedjem (nḏm)
Nefersenut (nfr-snwt)
Nes[...]re (ns-[...]-rꜥ)
Nesmin (ns-mnw)
Nespaneferher (ns-pꜣ-nfr-ḥr)
Nespasefy (ns-pꜣ-sfy)
Nethedjet (nt-ḥḏt)
Niankhhathor (ny-ꜥnḫ-ḥwt-ḥr)
Padiamun (pꜣ-di͗-i͗mn)
Padiamunneb[…] (pꜣ-di͗-i͗mn-nb-[...])
Padiamunnebnesuttawy (pꜣ-di͗-i͗mn-nb-nswt-tꜣwy)
Padiamunopet (pꜣ-di͗-i͗mn-i͗pt)
Padientanebu (pꜣ-di͗-n-tꜣ-nbw)?
Padiese (pꜣ-di͗-ꜣst)
Padineferhotep (pꜣ-di͗-nfr-ḥtp)
Padiusir (pꜣ-di͗-wsi͗r)
Pahat (pꜣ-ḥꜣt)
Pahemnetjer (pꜣ-ḥm-nṯr)
Pamenes (pꜣ-mns)
Paneb (pꜣ-nb)
Paraemhab (pꜣ-rꜥ-m-ḥb)
Paser (pꜣ-sr)
Pashedkhonsu (pꜣ-šd-ḫnsw)
Pasherienimhotep (pꜣ-šri͗-n-i͗i͗-m-ḥtp)
Pasherienmin (pꜣ-šri͗-n-mnw)
Payeftjawemawyaset (pꜣ.f-ṯꜢw-m-ꜥwy-ꜣst)
Petetriphis (Πετετρειφίος)
Psamtik (psmtk)
Ptahhotep (ptḥ-ḥtp)
Ptahirdis (ptḥ-i͗r-di͗-sw)
Ramose (rꜥ-ms)
Sahte (sꜣḥ-tꜣ)
Samenhetet (sꜣ-mnḥtt)
Satweret (st-wrt)
Senbet (snbt)
Senebtyfy (snb-ty-fy)
Senpeteminis (Σενπετεμινις)
Sharah (šrḥ)
Shebenwepet (šb-n-wpt)
Siamun (sꜣ-i͗mn)
Sobek (sbk)?
Tadiese (tꜣ-di͗-ꜣst)
Takha[...] (tꜣ-ḫꜣ-[...])
Takerheb (tꜣ-kr-hb)
Tantise (tꜣ-nt-ꜣst)?
Taremetj[...] (tꜣ-rmṯ-[...])
Tasenkh[...] (tꜣ-snḫ-[...])
Tashay (tꜣ-šꜣ)
Tawer (tꜣ-wr)
Tayet (tꜣyt)
Tery (try)?
Teti (tti͗)
Tjenti (ṯnty)
Tjesmutperet (ṯs-mwt-prt)
Userhatmes (wsr-ḥꜣt-ms)
Wahet (wḫt)
Wennefer (wnn-nfr)
[...]supakhered ([...]sw-pꜣ-ẖrd)?

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Priests and Priestesses in Ancient Egypt: A Case Study of Karomama and Takushit

The blog post for this week is written by Lore Anne McNicol, an American living in University Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC, with her husband (David) of 53 years, an economist. She has a PhD in Medical Sciences from the Boston University School of Medicine, with an emphasis on vaccine development, and did independent research on typhoid fever, cholera, malaria, and herpetic keratitis (a nasty eye infection; if you haven’t heard of it, keep it that way!). In retirement, Lore has followed her dream of the serious study of Egyptology. Along with her husband, she has been active in the Friends of Egyptian Art program at the Metropolitan Museum. After a prep year taking various MOOCs and Short Courses, Lore spent five years doing the online Certificate and Diploma courses at the University of Manchester. This year she completed the first of two years in the Manchester Masters of Egyptology program and is now writing a thesis entitled Ubiquitous Animal, Rare Artefact: the Howard Carter Pack Donkey.

The past week of the Egypt Religion course was devoted to Priests and Priestesses. Dr. Griffin treated the class to an energetic romp through this massive topic, vividly illustrated by texts and artefacts from the Egypt Centre collection and other museum holdings. The course was structured to present a look at how these individuals were chosen, how they were classified, and what they did. As always, he was comprehensive but never boring: who knew that the crew carrying a processional barque could be referred to as a sepa (for centipede)?

Compared with the typical introductory lecture to this topic, Dr. Griffin generously gave equal time to the women, going far beyond the typical gloss over of Amenirdis and Nitocris. This blogger would like to expand on one of his more intriguing inclusions: Karomama, the daughter of pharaoh Osorkon I. During the Twenty-second Dynasty, ~870 BC, she ruled in her own right as the Divine Adoratrice of Amun at Karnak, Daughter of Re, Mistress of Diadems, wearing royal insignia with her names in cartouches. Dr. Griffin shared her figurine of bronze and precious metal inlays (N 500) from the Louvre (fig. 1). It stands 59 cm (or 23 in) high and was assembled from separate elements cast from a variety of alloys using the lost-wax technology (imported to Egypt from Cyprus during the late New Kingdom to early Third Intermediate Period). The etched writing and other details were inlaid with precious metals using a technique termed “damascening”.

Fig. 1: Statue of Karomama (N 500)

The inscription tells us that this statue was commissioned by her chamberlain and Overseer of the Treasury, Ahentefnakht. The statuette is worn and missing many of its metal inlays, its nuanced patina, and other originally-colorful effects; but some of the gold leaf highlights are still present. She is shown as a queen with a severe expression, wearing a short wig and high crown, barefoot and striding forward, wearing a wide sleeved, close-fitting pleated dress giving her the appearance of being wrapped by wings. She appears to have been holding objects each hand, perhaps musical instruments such as the menit-necklace or the sistrum, or attributes of her office such as the flail, baton, or fly-whisk.

Fig. 2: Shabti of Karomama (BM EA 74324)

Karomama’s statue was discovered in Karnak and acquired by Champollion in 1829 before being presented to the Louvre. She is also known from an “unprovenanced” green faience shabti (fig. 2) in the British Museum (EA 74324) and a usurped statue of a priest holding a naos in the Berlin Museum (2278). The statue had been usurped in the Twenty-second Dynasty by a priest who altered the inscription to depict Karomama Meryetmut, who is shown shaking two sistra in front of a seated statue of Amen-Re (fig. 3). She wears a flowing dress, and the short Nubian wig crowned by a large modius of a vulture protecting a large uraeus. The inscription mentions that she is the daughter of the King’s Wife Nebettawy Henuttawy. Either her mother was named Henuttawy, titled as Lady of the Two Lands, or her unnamed mother carried the titles Lady of the Two Lands and Mistress of the Two Lands. In 2014, the tomb of Karomama was rediscovered underneath the temple of Tuya within the Ramessesum complex (Gautheir 2017; Lurson 2017; Lurson & Mourot 2018; Moje 2017).

Fig. 3: Karomama before Amun Re (Dods

Below are four views (figs 4–7) of a famous and fascinating statue, which is a “related object” to that of Karomama: the Princess and wab-Priestess Takushit, #110 in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. This piece was found in Lower Egypt in 1880, on the hill of Kom Toruga, near Chos village on Lake Mareotis, south of Alexandria. It was acquired and donated by Ioannis Dimitriou (1826–c.1900), who was a cotton and industrial merchant working in Egypt. He was a major donor of ancient Egyptian artifacts to the Athens Museum and he also excavated on his home island of Lemnos.

Fig. 4: Statue of Takushit (National Archaeological Museum, Athens 110)

This statue is larger than Karomama’s; at 69 cm (or 27 in), Takushit is just under half life-sized. It is a technological marvel, hollow-cast in separate large sections using the lost-wax technique, and then assembled using gold rivets. Takushit was cast using the black-bronze alloy process imported from the Middle East, which imparts a stunning shiny black patina to the finished product. Black-bronze is an alloy containing 8% gold and 8% silver added with the typical 12% tin to refined copper metal. This material was highly prized and the Egyptians identified it as a “precious metal” along with silver and gold. Karomama’s artisan employed black-bronze strips for some of the inlays in her statuette.

Fig. 5: Rear view of the statue of Takushit

Takushit’s complete surface is covered with a luminous latticework of divine figures and imagery, inscriptions and floral decorations worked from narrow inlaid strips of electrum metal, in the damasking technique used for Karomama’s statue. The etchings were inlaid with precious metals and ivory inlays were employed for the eye sockets, eyebrows, and toenails. The original base is missing but the soles of each foot carried a metal tang for insertion into a base of some type.

Fig. 6: Close-up on Takushit's legs

Takushit is presented barefoot, with the forward left foot conveying a sense of movement in a walking stance, adding to the realistic appearance of this statue. She displays the symbols of her religious office and high social standing: the bent left arm would have held the fly-whisk scepter indicating her office, and the extended right a menit musical instrument used during temple ritual. She wears a protective wesekh-collar and two bracelets. Her voluptuous body is emphasized by a full-length, fitted dress that seems almost diaphanous. Lower bands carry offering formulae fitting the votive character of the piece: “hetep-di-nesut on behalf of the princess and wab-priestess Takushit, daughter of Akanosh II, great chief of the Ma [Libyans]”. Prayers are addressed to the deities depicted on offering tables: Onuris, Mehyt, Osiris-Anedjty, Isis, and Harendotes, all worshiped in Takushit’s northeastern Delta homeland. On her back is a large djed-pillar, the funerary symbol of “stability”, linked to inscriptions referring to her as a “justified Osiris”.

Fig. 7: Side view of Takushit's statue

Takushit lived approximately 200 years later than Karomama, during the Third Intermediate Period, late Twenty-fifth Dynasty (ca. 670 BC). Although Takushit’s family was Libyan, her name translates as “the Nubian”, perhaps through marriage to a member of the ruling Kushite dynasty. While she was alive, her statue was part of the permanent ceremonial equipment of the temple she served; during festival processions it would have been carried in the barque alongside the god’s cult image. After she died, it was buried within her sanctuary-precinct tomb, according to the custom of the time. As the statue embodied both votive and funerary functions, it was buried with her.

This blogger is sad to point out that next week ends our Short Course on religion. However, Dr. Griffin promises a stirring look at the Ancient Egyptians in full-throated religious party mode, as he takes on their Festivals and Processions. We can look forward to imaging the roles that Karomama and Takushit would have played on these stages!

Ayad, Mariam F. 2009. God’s Wife, God’s Servant: the God’s Wife of Amun (ca.740–525 BC). London; New York: Routledge.
Delange, Élisabeth, Marie-Emmanuelle Meyohas, and Marc Aucouturier 2005. The statue of Karomama, a testimony of the skill of Egyptian metallurgists in polychrome bronze statuary. Journal of Cultural Heritage 6 (2), 99–113.
Gauthier, Nicolas 2017. De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu: première synthèse des résultats des fouilles 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, 87–94. Bruxelles: Safran.
Jurman, Claus 2016. Karomama revisited. In Becker, Meike, Anke Ilona Blöbaum, and Angelika Lohwasser (eds), “Prayer and power”: proceedings of the conference on the God's Wives of Amun in Egypt during the First Millennium BC, 61–88. Münster: Ugarit.
Lurson, Benoît (ed.) 2017. De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu: première synthèse des résultats des fouilles 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. Connaissance de l’Égypte ancienne 18. Bruxelles: Safran.
Lurson, Benoît and Franck Mourot 2018. From the foundations to the excavation: a stratigraphy-based history of the temple of Tuya. In Pischikova, Elena, Julia Budka, and Kenneth Griffin (eds), Thebes in the first millennium BC: art and archaeology of the Kushite period and beyond, 193–213. London: Golden House Publications.
Moje, Jan 2017. Die Uschebtis von Karomama Meritmut G: ein Überblick. In Lurson, Benoît (ed.), De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu: première synthèse des résultats des fouilles 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, 103–112. Bruxelles: Safran.

Monday, 3 August 2020

Houses of the Gods: The Temples of Ancient Egypt

The blog post for this week is written by Jeanne Whitehurst, who has completed her Certificate of Egyptology from the University of Manchester. She moved to Egypt nearly ten years ago, just before the revolution. Initially, she lived in Luxor, overlooking Karnak Temple, but now she lives in Aswan overlooking the First Cataract. She was extremely fortunate to work with Ted Brock on the sarcophagus of Merenptah (KV 8) as a volunteer.

How wonderful the Egypt Centre’s lectures have been. All interesting subjects, superbly presented, and the administration is efficient but very friendly. It is now on my bucket list to visit the Egypt Centre when I’m next in Britain. There should be a different word for Ken’s course as he delivers his talks in an informal, informative manner making you feel engaged and wanting to know more. Each week, Ken takes a different aspect of Ancient Egyptian Religion, with each lecture suitable for all levels of expertise and taking us on a journey of discovery.

Week three of the course was dedicate to Egyptian temples, which were built for over 3,500 years. Some of the earliest were the sun temples with open courts, which were dedicated to the sun-god Re, while one of the last to be built was the cult temple to Isis at Philae in Aswan. Most temples that have survived are from the Graeco-Roman Period, such as Esna (fig. 1), Edfu, Kom Ombo, Dendera, and Philae, but we also have many temples from other periods, especially in Southern Egypt due to the drier climate.

Fig. 1: Esna Pronaos

Reasons for Egyptian Temples
In hieroglyphs, the word for “temple” translates into the house or mansion of the god. However, they also performed a deeper mythological function, which we can see either in the name of the temple or the surrounding area. They re-created the primordial mound where the cosmic egg was laid and all life started, which is represented by the ground of the temple rising gradually to recreate this; the holy of holies being at the highest point. All the decoration around also emphasises the beginning of the world, such as the stars on the ceiling and plants are around the base. Within them, the Egyptian priests performed a variety of rituals, the central functions of Egyptian religion: giving offerings to the gods, reenacting their mythological interactions through festivals, and warding off the forces of chaos. These rituals were seen as necessary for the gods to continue to uphold maat (fig. 2), the divine order of the universe (Teeter 1997). Housing and caring for the gods was the obligations of pharaohs, who therefore dedicated prodigious resources to temple construction.

Fig. 2: The Presentation of Maat (Temple of Seti I at Abydos)

The temple is also an interface between earth and heaven, between the world of the living and divine. Pylons represent the horizon, akhet, in which the sun would rise between the pylon gates. A good example of this is the Winter Solstice at Karnak, where the sun rises directly between the pylons on the main axis on this date. A lot of thought went into building the temple, including selecting the area, which was often based on myth and tradition. For example, the Graeco-Roman temple of Hathor at Dendera was built atop an original Middle Kingdom temple. The god’s birthplace or burial site was also significant. The best example of this is at Abydos, the cult centre of Osiris, the mythical first king of Egypt, where the First and Second Dynasty kings were buried. The ancient Egyptians believed that one of the tombs (that of Djer) must have belonged to Osiris (O’Connor 2009). It could also be just for practical reasons, such as the fact that it was near to a settlement or often in line with the Nile. They could be orientated East to West or North to South. Temples could also have a stellar alignment, such as Thoth Hill, where two temples were built (Vörös 1998). First, the Archaic and then a Middle Kingdom temple, with the outline of the temples being slightly different. Egyptologists have concluded the reason for this is because the stars changing alignment during the intervening time.

Foundation Rituals
The ancient Egyptian equivalent of our groundbreaking ceremony were the “foundation rituals”, which conferred the protection of the gods was on the construction works and the finished building. There are ten different rituals, the first and probably the best known with many different examples is the “stretching the cord” (fig. 3), which is overseen by the goddess Seshet (goddess of writing, measurement, libraries). The “cord” in question is the mason’s line, which was used to measure out the dimensions of the building and align the monument with the stars or the points of the compass. They would mark the four corners of the building at night to align with the stars, stretch the cord, driving the stakes into the ground, and marking out the limits of the building. Next came hoeing the ground, where the pharaoh would dig the first foundation with a wooden hoe, representing the upper limit of the waters of Nun. This was followed by the moulding of the first brick with the pharaoh’s name one it. Howard Carter replicated this at his house on the West Bank of Luxor by having a brick made in England with his initials engraved on it. The fourth element, the pouring of the sand, was performed first by the pharaoh and then by the workmen who would fill in the trenches to make the foundations. Next came the burying of the deposits in a mudbrick lined ditch, which would consist of model tools plus other symbolic items such as baskets, jewellery etc. This was followed by the actual construction of the temple before the final acts of purifying the monument and dedicating it to the gods.

Fig. 3: Stretching the Cord (Medinet Habu)

Temple construction
Early temples were built of mudbrick, which was gradually replaced by stone. By the New Kingdom, temples were predominantly built of stone, including sandstone, limestone, granite, alabaster, and basalt. The sandstone from the New Kingdom onwards was quarried from Gebel el-Silsila, an amazing site between Edfu and Kom Ombo. The building of the temple was either by a mudbrick ramp, such as the one still preserved behind the First Pylon at Karnak (fig. 4), which is believed to have been built by Nectanebo I of the Thirtieth Dynasty. Alternatively, wooden scaffolding could be used, as seen on the Nineteenth Dynasty ostraca from Deir el-Medina, now in Hildesheim, or depicted in the tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100) at Thebes. Egyptians today, when building houses, use the same type of wooden scaffolding, and just like the ancient Egyptians they build on poor foundations! After being built, the walls were then smoothed from top to bottom.

Fig. 4: Remains of the mudbrick ramp at Karnak

Structures outside the temple enclosure included the landing quay and the avenue of sphinxes, the latter for protection. Inside the enclosure wall, the sacred lake was often constructed, which would be used to bathe the god, for the priests to be ritually cleaned, and for the temple utensils to be washed. Connected to this was the nilometer, often with a flight of steps with marks on the walls that would indicate the height of the Nile in the Inundation. Obelisks with a pyramidion at the top covered in electrun (a mixture of gold and silver) would welcome the first rays of the sun. Workmen worked in gangs with each having a specific job, such as outlining the image, filling in the image etc., You can see many examples where the reliefs were only partially completed, such as the rekhyt bird frieze from the Mammisi at Dendera, where the central bird decoration hasn’t been completed (fig. 5). N.B. Dr Ken Griffin is an expert on the rekhyt bird so I am loath to make any comment on them! Basically, from the outer part, there is a pylon, open court, a hypostyle hall, and the most sacred part, the sanctuary, where the god resided. Around the outside was an enclosure wall made of mudbrick, which was “wavy” to either represent the waters of Nun or, from an engineering point of view, to make it stronger to withstand earthquakes.

Fig. 5: Incomplete frieze at Dendera

Decorating the temple
The temples were carved in either raised (bas relief) or sunken relief (incising). The naos and the holy of holies were usually carved in raised relief, while the open parts accessible to the public and outside walls were in sunken relief (the sun reflects on the carvings giving them depth) before being painted. Columns are part of the architecture but also part of the decoration since they represented the marshes (Phillips 2002). At Saqqara, there are bundles of reeds represented, while in the New Kingdom palmiform or papyriform columns were used. There are even tent pole columns found in the Akhmenu of Thutmose III at Karnak. In the Graeco-Roman Period, they become multi-floral.

Progression of temples
Predynastic and Early Dynastic temples (3100–2649 BCE) were a quite simple in their design with a small number of anti-chambers before the sanctuary. Reeds or mudbrick were the materials of these early temples. An example is Hierakonpolis, ancient Nekhen, near present day Esna, which was dedicated to the god Horus. Its excavators have found the post holes where the large wooden flagpoles made of sycamore fig would have stood. There was a gateway to the north, a shrine to the south, and a large sand mound in the middle.

During the Old Kingdom (2649–2150 BCE) there were three types of temples: cult, mortuary, and sun temples (which were a combination of the two). These sun temples were constructed at Abu Gurab during the Fifth Dynasty and were dedicated to the sun-god Re. The first six rulers of the Fifth Dynasty constructed sun temples, although only those of Userkaf and Niuserre (fig. 6) have been identified (Nuzzolo 2018). The ancient Egyptians thought Re (the sun) died at night and needed to be resurrected each morning by the priests. Fortunately, we have the Abusir papyrus, which gives details of these rituals. Re’s main cult centre was at Heliopolis, which is near to present-day Cairo Airport.

Fig. 6: Large offering table within the court of the Sun Temple of Niuserre

Middle Kingdom temples (2061–1690 BCE) would originally have been made of mudbrick and in time would be replaced by stone, particularly doorjambs and lintels. There are very few remains from the Middle Kingdom, although one example is Medamud, to the north of Luxor, which was dedicated to the local god of war, Montu. Additionally, Medinet Madi in the Faiyum is one of the best examples dating to the late Twelfth Dynasty. The reason we have so few remaining is because succeeding pharaohs used them as infill or in their own temples. For example, the White Chapel, a way station, was built in the reign of Senwosret I but later dismantled and used as infill within the Third Pylon of Amenhotep III at Karnak. It is on view in the Open Air Museum at the site (fig. 7). The way station was a resting place for the priests carrying the god in his or her barque from one temple to another. There would be steps leading up to the dais and steps at the other end leading down. Another good example of a Middle Kingdom temple is that of Montuhotep II on the West Bank of Luxor. This memorial temple is located next door to the now famous temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari.

Fig. 7: White Chapel of Senwosret I

During the New Kingdom (1549–1077) there was an explosion of temple construction, especially around Luxor (Thebes), which had become the religious capital. This was the “golden age” of the Egyptian empire, especially in the reign of Amenhotep III and Ramesses II. The pharaohs often tried to outdo the previous pharaoh, including their fathers, and wrote expressions such as “never had the like been seen!” The largest monument is the cult temple of Amun at Karnak, which covers 247 acres and has over twenty chapels and temples within its boundary walls. The main temple was dedicated to Amun, which was built along an East–West axis, while the Mut Temple, his wife, is on a North–South axis. The hypostyle hall is a feature of New Kingdom temples. The largest is the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, started by Seti I and continued by his son Ramesses II, which consists of two rows of columns, twelve in all, lining the central nave. Reaching twenty metres in height with shaped capitals representing papyrus stalks in bloom. To either side of these were two adjoining rows of smaller columns, which hold the clerestory windows to allow in some light as the roof would have covered the columns (fig. 8). There are one hundred and twenty-two of these shorter columns, the capitals representing closed papyrus flowers, each measuring fourteen metres in height and supporting the lower roof. The New Kingdom temples have depictions of pharaohs quelling and smiting the enemies of Egypt, hunting scenes, and the king riding his chariot, all showing the might of Egypt and especially the pharaoh and to show the king maintaining maat! These are to be found on the outside walls or in the peristyle courts. The pharaoh’s children may be depicted here, as seen in Luxor temple. This is all before the hypostyle hall and inner rooms, which is where the religious rituals are usually shown.

Fig. 8: Columns and clerestory windows within the Great Hypostyle Hall

During the Amarna Period there were radical changes. With the worship of the Aten, a form of the sun god, the temple reverted to the open plan sun courts. In the case of the Great Temple at Amarna, there was the addition of two stone buildings, one at the front, the long temple, and the sanctuary at the rear. There was a raised platform in the outer court where Akhenaten and his family would offer prayers and offerings to the Aten. Unusually, there are scenes of everyday life in these temples.

For the Graeco-Roman temples (332–30 BCE), the architecture remains virtually the same, although with some modifications. Kom Ombo is unusual as it is a double temple to the gods Sobek and Haroeris (Horus the Elder) and is split into two different sides, each one mirroring the other. Philae is another example. As it is built on an island, its architectural plan follows the terrain. The Mammisi or birth house, where the deity was born and the juvenile god was celebrated in the form of a mystery play, become an important fixture. They are found outside the main temple, but to the side of the courtyard and are commonly topped with images of the god Bes for protection. The wabet (pure hall) was an important addition with its open courtyard and elevated position, which was associated with the New Year’s festival (Coppens 2007). Screen walls are found in Graeco-Roman temples, which are walls built just under half way between the columns in order to stop the ordinary person from seeing in. However, they allow light to enter the pronaos (fig. 9), which is in front of the hypostyle hall. Its function was to act as a reception area for the visiting deities, representing the unification of Egypt.

Fig. 9: Pronaos of Hathor at Dendera

Visiting Egyptian temples has a special magic, everyone has a favourite. I have a few but I would like to tell you more about Karnak Temple from my personal view of living there. I lived near to “the red mound” and the chapel of the hearing ear on the East Side of the temple. It was wonderful to see the sun setting over the temple, but not as wonderful hearing the Sound and Light show in all the different languages. One of the treats was eating dates from the temple complex itself, making them very special. My friend, who lives on the West side, is married to an Egyptian whose family have worked in the temple for generations. They actually lived in the temple itself at one time; their “new” flat still has a wonderful view of the temple from her roof. The temple has many moods during the day. The colours of the various temples change and at night it has a mystical form from the subdued lights and the moon. Knowing many locals who live around the temple, overlooking the Mut Temple, the Ninth Pylon, and the different gigantic gateways, you get different perspectives of this great temple complex from these different areas. I have even walked all around the perimeter! Perhaps, the most magical experience was having the temple to myself for three hours during the revolution, walking through the hypostyle hall, sitting admiring the views from different perspectives, and looking closely at hieroglyphs. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Temples are a reminder of the extraordinary ability to build by the architects and craftsmen of the ancient Egypt. We are very privileged to visit all these temples!

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