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Monday, 29 November 2021

A Canopic Jar for Psamtek, son of Iahweben

One of the most common items of funerary equipment buried with the deceased is a set of four canopic jars. These jars were used from the Old Kingdom through the Ptolemaic Period to house the internal organs of the deceased. The most common materials for these jars is stone, particularly limestone or travertine (alabaster). The Egypt Centre has twelve objects categorised as canopic jars in its collection, most of which are lids. Particularly is W498, which belongs to the God’s Father Psamtek, son of Iahweben (fig. 1). The 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). But what makes this jar so special?

Fig. 1: Canopic jar of Psamtek (W498)


W498 is a travertine canopic jar measuring 47cm in height. Despite the thickness of the vessel, it is still translucent when artificial light is placed against it. The lid of the jar depicts a man, who is commonly associated with Imsety, one of the four sons of Horus who protect the internal organs. However, a lightly incised inscription on the front informs us that the jar is associated with a different son, Qebehsenuef, who has the head of a raptor and usually guards the intestines. Is this a case of the wrong head being placed on the jar, either in antiquity or more modern times? Given that it was common in the Late Period, when this jar dates to, for the full set of jars to have human heads, it is quite possible that this is the right head after all (Dodson 1994). The jar is incised with two columns of hieroglyphs with a spell that invokes Qebehsenuef to protect the contents (fig. 2). The inscription also identifies the owner as the God’s Father Psamtek, son of Iahweben.

Fig. 2: Inscription on the canopic jar (W498)

So what do we know of Psamtek, son of Iahweben? The name Psamtek was one of the most common during the Late Period, particularly in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, with three kings bearing this name. The fact that his canopic jar is in Swansea would indicate that his tomb has been discovered, yet its current location is unknown. Despite this, there is little doubt that it is located beneath the sands of Saqqara where so many of his contemporaries were buried (Stammers 2009). Psamtek was first known from two painted limestone stelae in Leiden (AP 57 & AP 58), which were published by Boeser (1915, 5–6, nos. 14–15, pl. 15, nos. 14–15). The two stelae are almost and provide valuable details about the life of Psamtek (fig. 3). In particular, they provide his date of birth, death, and the number of days between his death and internment in the necropolis (Jurman 2010, 250–252). Additionally, while only his father’s name is recorded on the canopic jar in Swansea, the stelae also tell us that his mother’s name was Ankhenites.

Fig. 3: Leiden stelae AP 57 & AP 58)


A third stela and two statues for Psamtek were discovered in 1988 within the New Kingdom cemetery at Saqqara by Sayed Tawfik (Gohary 2009; Handoussa 2009; Radwan 2009). Now in the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara (SQ.CU.149), this stela confirms the length of time that passed between Psamtek’s death and burial. While it is often stated that the mummification process lasted for seventy days, inscriptional evidence clearly indicates that this was not always the case. With Psamtek, the mummification process only lasted for thirty-two days (Jurman 2010, 252).

Birth: regnal year 1, month 3 of šmw, day 1 of Necho II (= 19 November 610 BCE)

Age at death/life-span: 65 years, 10 months, 2 days

Death: regnal year 27, month 4 of prt, day 28 (of Ahmose III = (31 August 544 BCE)

Duration of embalming process: 32 days spent in the pr-nfr

Burial: regnal year 27, month 1 of šmw, day 29 (of Ahmose III = 1 October 544 BCE)

 

While such details are rare, they provide a valuable insight into life and death of private officials. W498 appears to be the only item of Psamtek’s funerary equipment known, besides the aforementioned stelae. Yet it is possible that the other three jars and shabti figures remain unidentified in museum collections. In fact, an old label (V.15) written on the lid of the jar must relate to a previous collection (fig. 4). If any readers to this blog are familiar with this numbering system or know of other funerary equipment for Psamtek son of Iahweben, I would love to hear!

Fig. 4: Old number written on the lid


Bibliography:

Boeser, Pieter Adriaan Aart (2015) Die Denkmäler der saïtischen, griechisch-römischen und koptischen Zeit. Beschreibung der Ägyptischen Sammlung des Niederländischen Reichsmuseums der Altertümer in Leiden VII. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Dodson, Aidan (1994) The canopic equipment of kings of Egypt. Studies in Egyptology. London: Kegan Paul International.

Gohary, Said (2009) ‘A stela of the god’s father Psametik’. 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. 121–124.

Handoussa, Tohfa (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.

Jurman, Claus (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. Bareš, F. Coppens and K. Smoláriková. Prague: Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University in Prague. 224–267.

Radwan, Ali (2009) ‘Sayed Tawfik in Saqqara: einiges zu fünf Fundobjekten aus seinen Ausgrabungen’. 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. 169–174.

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.

Stammers, Michael (2009) The elite late period Egyptian tombs of Memphis. BAR International Series 1903. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Monday, 22 November 2021

The Funerary Equipment of the Chantress of Amun Iwesenhesetmut

The blog post for this week is written by Glenn Janes, who was born in Wiltshire, England in 1954 and educated at Marlborough Grammar School and North East Essex Technical College and School of Art. A professional violinist for many years with the BBC Northern Symphony Ochestra and the BBC Philharmonic, his interest in Ancient Egypt dates back to the British Museum’s Tutankhamen Exhibition of 1972. Glenn gained a Certificate in Egyptology with Distinction under Professor Rosalie David at the University of Manchester and has made shabtis his speciality since then as an independent researcher visiting museums all over the world and meeting leading scholars in the subject. He is the author of a number of well received catalogues and books on shabtis, as well as a book about the Dutch ‘absurd realism’ artist Jean Thomassen.

This blog post presents an overview of the burial equipment of the Chantress of Amun, Iwesenhesetmut, whose inner anthropoid coffin is now housed in the Egypt Centre. She is known to have had a fine set of anthropoid coffins that were found complete with her mummy. These were probably acquired in Luxor sometime between 1817 or 1818 by Rev. Robert Fitzherbert Fuller (1794–1849). It has been suggested that Giovanni Belzoni might have been involved in the excavating and then the selling of the assemblage and presumably other items of the deceased’s funerary equipment because he was ‘working’ in Egypt at that time. However, there is no conclusive proof of this. Perhaps because the Fuller family did not like the idea of having the mummy and coffins in their home in Sussex, Robert presented the whole lot to the Devon and Exeter Institution in Cathedral Close, Exeter in 1819. The contents of this institution were transferred to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter in 1868. The outer coffin was destroyed by insect infestation sometime prior to the date of the transfer to Exeter, and the mummy of Iwesenhesetmut was cremated, seemingly without reason, in Exeter crematorium in 1973 (fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Coffin (W1982) and mummy of Iwesenhesetmut with C.V. Anthony Adams, early 1960s (Dodson 2011, fig. EXE.3.1)

The inner coffin for Iwesenhesetmut was given as a gift to the University College, Wellcome Museum, Swansea in 1982 and it is now to be found in the Egypt Centre (W1982). The coffin is typical of the Twenty-first Dynasty: crowded scenes of the afterlife painted on a white background, which has since turned yellow because of the ancient varnish used (figs. 2–3). Scenes on the coffin include the ‘weighing of the heart’, during which time Iwesenhesetmut’s heart is weighed against the feather of truth. If the heart is lighter than the feather, then she has led a good life and can proceed to the afterlife. However, if it is heavier, Iwesnnhesetmut’s heart would be eaten by Ammut (the devourer), who was part lion, crocodile, and hippopotamus. The coffin was briefly published by Kate Bosse-Griffiths, the former curator of the collection at Swansea (Bosse-Griffiths 1984; 1991). For the decoration of the coffin, see the following resources. A mummy-board (A417) for Iwesenhesetmut is still to be found in Exeter (Dodson 2011, Fig. EXE.4.1).

Fig. 2: Coffin of Iwesenhesetmut (W1982)

Fig. 3: Coffin lid of Iwesenhesetmut (W1982)


Iwesenhesetmut is also well-known from her shabti figures (Janes 2002, 64–65). Figure 4 is a mummiform shabti wearing a tripartite wig with striations added in black. The wig is very voluminous where it rises on the top of the head towards the back. The arms, which are poorly defined, are crossed above the waist and each hand carries a hoe. The one carried in the right hand is painted in a higher position than the one held in the left. The face is poorly shaped and only the eyes and brows, which are widely spaced, are shown in paint. The eyes have quite long cosmetic lines. Ears are not indicated. A diamond–hatched basket with loops for attaching a carrying cord or rope is painted on the back. Seven columns of a painted inscription give the name of the owner as Iwesenhesetmut with titles of Lady of the House and Chantress of Amun–Re, King of the Gods. The titles and name are followed by a version of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead.

Fig. 4: Shabti of Iwesenhesetmut


Of the parallel shabtis so far known for Iwesenhesetmut, unlike the previous example, some of the workers wear a seshed-headband around the wig. The implements are either just painted on the shabti, while others in the series are modelled in raised relief and painted. The arms on some of the worker shabtis are crossed right over left or left over right. The ‘overseer’ shabtis wear a short bipartite wig with a seshed-headband added in black. The lower ends of the front lappets are detailed with vertical lines, a feature that was often modelled on ‘overseer’ shabtis. The edge of the wig is highlighted in black around the face. The right hand carries a whip that is modelled in relief and painted black or, on one of the known examples, just painted and not modelled in relief. The apron on the shabtis is long and reaches down to the ankles. Some of the ‘overseers’ are inscribed with Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead, while others just have a single vertical column giving Iwesenhesetmut’s titles and name (fig. 5). It is interesting to note that the fully inscribed ‘overseers,’ despite having the complete version of Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead thus giving duties and tasks, carry no implements with which to help undertake themthey carry the whip as to be expected on ‘overseer’ shabtis whose duty was to keep the worker shabtis at their tasks.

Fig. 5: Overseer shabtis for Iwesenhesetmut in the University Museum of Aberdeen and Bonhams)


The opening vignette from a funerary papyrus for Iwesenhesetmut was once to be found in Darmstadt (Hessisches Landesmuseum) but it was destroyed in World War II. A stone heart scarab is also recorded as being in Darmstadt (fig. 6), which Morkot (2016, 365) notes was also destroyed in World War II. However, it was only damaged by a fire that resulted from the museum being partly destroyed by a bomb strike on 11th September 1944 (Droste zu Hülshoff & Schlick-Nolte 1984, 25). The original record or inventory cards were destroyed, hence why it has no official number. A further fragment from a Book of the Dead papyrus for Iwesenhesetmut is to be found in Brooklyn (37.1801E). This was once in the Edwin Smith Collection before being given to the New York Historical Society in 1907. It was loaned to Brooklyn Museum from 1937 before being acquired by them in 1948 (Ritner 2010, 173).

Fig. 6: The base of a heart scarab inscribed for Iwesenhesetmut
(Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt).

The name of Iwesenhesetmut’s parents or husband is not given on the coffins, heart scarab, shabti, or papyri. However, papyri for a certain Lady of the House and Chantress of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, Nesikhonsu to be found in Copenhagen (Papyrus Carlsberg 488, formerly in the H. O. Lange Collection, bought from the well-known Cairo antiquities dealer, Maurice Nahman in 1929) and Houston (Museum of Fine Arts 31.72 – formerly in the Annette Finnegan Collection, bought from the well-known dealer Mohareb Todros in Luxor for EG£30) give the name of her mother as Iwesenhesetmut (Christiansen & Ryholt 2016, 4–5 [no. 2], pls. 13–21; Ritner 2010, 167–174, pls. I–IV). Because the latter is such an unusual name that is not known from any other source, they must indeed be mother and daughter with Nesikhonsu following her mother into the profession of being a Chantress (fig. 7). Another papyrus in Houston (Museum of Fine Arts 31.73 – also formerly in the Annette Finnegan Collection) Nesikhonsu, although with an extra title, Singer in the Choir of Mut, might also belong to the same lady (Ritner 2010, 168).

Fig. 7: Papyrus of Nesikhonsu (https://emuseum.mfah.org/objects/44453)


Iwesenhesetmut’s titles of Lady of the House and Chantress of Amun–Re, King of the Gods were fairly common and indicate that she was a religious singerprobably attached to a templeand as such she would have been held in high esteem. Schneider (1977 I, 330) states that during the Third Intermediate Period only high-ranking persons had their shabtis inscribed with the full shabti formula and usually only found on larger sized shabtis. However, Ritner (2010, 176) comments that holders of these titles suggests a person of lower rank. Surely the fact that Iwesenhesetmut had a seemingly fine set of coffins and other items of funerary equipment, including fully inscribed shabti figures, whilst not being in the upper echelons of the female priesthood, would indicate she would still have a been of considerable importance.

 

Bibliography:

Bosse-Griffiths, Kate 1984. Cerddores yn Cwrdd âí Duwiau = A musician meets her gods. Swansea: Swansea College.

Bosse-Griffiths, Kate 1991. Remarks concerning a coffin of the 21st Dynasty. Discussions in Egyptology 19, 5–12.

Christiansen, Thomas and Kim Ryholt 2016. The Carlsberg Papyri 13: Catalogue of Egyptian funerary papyri in Danish collections. CNI Publications 41. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.

Dodson, Aidan 2011. Catalogue of Egyptian coffins in provincial collection of the United Kingdom I: the south west. Available at: https://cpb-eu-w2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.bristol.ac.uk/dist/7/677/files/2020/07/Exeter-cat-5a.pdf

Droste zu Hülshoff, Vera von and Birgit Schlick-Nolte 1984. Museen der Rhein-Main-Region, Lieferung 1: Aegyptiaca diversa, Teil 1. Corpus antiquitatum Aegyptiacarum: Lose-Blatt-Katalog ägyptischer Altertümer. Mainz/Rhein: Philipp von Zabern.

Janes, Glenn 2002. Shabtis: a private view. Ancient Egyptian funerary statuettes in European private collections. Paris: Cybèle.

Morkot, Robert G. 2016. Eaten by maggots: the sorry tale of Mr Fuller’s coffin. In Price, Campbell, Roger Forshaw, Andrew Chamberlain, and Paul T. Nicholson (eds), Mummies, magic and medicine in ancient Egypt: multidisciplinary essays for Rosalie David, 355–368. Manchester: Manchester University.

Onstine, Suzanne Lynn 2005. The role of the chantress (šmꜥyt) in ancient Egypt. BAR International Series 1401. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Ritner, Robert K. 2010. Two Third Intermediate Period Books of the Dead: P. Houston 31.72 and P. Brooklyn 37.1801E. In Hawass, Zahi and Jennifer Houser Wegner (eds), Millions of jubilees: studies in honor of David P. Silverman 2, 167–183. Cairo: Conseil Suprême des Antiquités.

 Schneider, Hans D. 1977. Shabtis: an introduction to the history of ancient Egyptian funerary statuettes with a catalogue of the collection of shabtis in the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden, 3 vols. Collections of the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden 2. Leiden: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Being Human 2021. New Beginnings: The Hope of the Lotus Flower

Ersin Hussein (Lecturer in Ancient History in the dept. of History, Heritage, and Classics) writes this week’s blog post about the 2021 Being Human Festival. Together with Ken Griffin and Hannah Sweetapple (The Egypt Centre’s Collections Access Manager and Education Officer respectively) she designed and led a day of activities on Saturday 13th November as part of this year’s festival. Being Human is unique as a festival of the humanities and is run by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. This year events are taking place both in-person and online between 11th–20th November. For information about the full programme, please visit the Being Human website: www.beinghumanfestival.org. The festival can be found @BeingHumanFest on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and the hashtag is #BeingHuman2021.

‘Renewal’ is the theme of this year’s Being Human festival and the lotus flower, one of the most enduring symbols from ancient Egypt associated with rebirth and new beginnings, was the inspiration for the two workshops that I hosted with Ken Griffin and Hannah Sweetapple at the Egypt Centre. Our aim was to bring people together in a relaxing space to connect, to reflect, and to look forward in a positive way. With the reopening of the Egypt Centre in September and the start of the new academic year that saw the return to of students to campus, it seemed like more than an appropriate way to mark the moment and look forward to new beginnings after a challenging eighteen months.

Fig. 1: Materials for the first workshop of the day set out and ready to go!


On Saturday 13th November, we ran two workshops to do this. The morning event was for families and colouring in pictures of lotus flowers and making lotus flower origami were the main activities (fig. 1). The afternoon one included wreath making using a vibrant array of artificial flowers, foliage, and accessories. Hannah and I led the arts and crafts activities throughout the day. Origami flower making proved incredibly fiddly but was rewarding…the results were not too bad either (fig. 2)!

Fig. 2: Some completed origami lotus flowers.


Designing and creating wreaths was equally fun and gently inspired conversation about the past year, connecting with others through learning and crafting activities, and discussion of future plans. The range of materials available for attendees to choose from purposefully represented the four seasons of the year to coincide with the festival’s focus on renewal. If the pictures of the complete wreaths are anything to go by, it seems that Christmas was the most popular theme of the day (figs. 3–4)!

 

Fig. 3: Hannah setting out materials for the second workshop

Fig. 4: A snapshot of some of the final results!

  

Ken oversaw object handling sessions that accompanied both workshops. Artefacts that featured lotus flowers were showcased and it was notable how prominently they featured in Egyptian material culture in a wide range of contexts, such as faience beads and vessels, a wooden lotus flower, a cornice from a coffin, fragments of wall plaster, and painted plaster from a tomb relief (fig. 5).

 

Fig. 5: The artefacts selected for the object handling sessions

 

To learn more about the lotus flower and take a closer look at some of the objects housed by the Egypt Centre, visit the following trail that was created for the event New Beginnings: The Hope of the Lotus Flower: https://egyptcentre.abasetcollections.com/Trails/Details/27?trail=Lotus_Flower

All in all, it was a wonderful day of getting creative and learning something new, be it about the ancient world or learning how to craft! More than that, we thoroughly enjoyed getting together with well-known friends and making new connections too (fig. 6).


Fig. 6: Ken Griffin, Ersin Hussein, and Hannah Sweetapple


Another event that focuses on the ancient world features in this year’s Swansea programme for the festival. On 17th November, Ian Goh will lead an online cook-along entitled A Pretty Pickle: A Roman’s Country Recipes for Preserves. To find out more and register (there is still time!) click here: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/cultural-institute/events/being-human-2021/#bbq=on

Monday, 8 November 2021

A Golden Wave in Egypt’s Vast Ocean of History: The New Kingdom

Iris C. Meijer holds a Master’s Degree in International Law and a deep love for Ancient Egypt in her heart. When her career was cut short by chronic illnesses, she decided to do what she had planned for eventual retirement and moved to Egypt almost 19 years ago. She now lives in Luxor, ruled by 17 rescued Fluffy creatures.

As anyone who has ever dipped even the tiniest toe into the vast waters of Ancient Egyptian history will know, it is an enormous expanse of time that is almost impossible to truly wrap one’s mind around as a phenomenal, single culture. Luckily, the current course of the Egypt Centre, taught with great aplomb by Dr Ken Griffin and moderated with fabulous finesse by Sam Powell, takes on an incredible period of 4700 years (4400 BCE–300 CE; from the Badarian Period to the end of the Graeco-Roman Period) and breaks it down for us into delectable bite-sized piecesbecause even though we tend to speak of Ancient Egyptian history as one block, it is of course nowhere near as straightforward as that. There were fluctuations, changes in culture, adaptations of style and religion, periods of high glory and periods of great struggle and fragmentation, periods of expansion and periods of reduction in size, and so on. And yet, through it all, it remains unmistakably identifiable as Ancient Egyptian, in basic concepts, art, outlook, religion, stratification of society, and more.

The golden ages when Ancient Egypt was united and strong are referred to as the Old, the Middle, and the New Kingdom, while the times in between when the unity fell apart and the control over the country was fragmented are called Intermediate Periodsearlier and later periods go by other names yet. Each period has its own specific traitsand is important to note that all these monikers are modern inventions in an effort to divide up that vast expanse of time into periods that can be handledthe ancients themselves never used these terms. Most Egyptophiles I know have very specific periods that they are particularly drawn to. I certainly do. It was this period of the New kingdom that stole my heart at 10 years old, when I first clapped eyes on its stunningly elegant statuary (fig. 1) at the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands, and was shaken to my core and gripped for the rest of my life.


Fig. 1: New Kingdom statues in Leiden
(https://www.world-archaeology.com/features/secrets-of-saqqara/)


The New Kingdom is known as the Age of Empire, a golden age during which through conquest by intrepid kings, Egypt reached the largest borders it ever had. It spans a phenomenal heyday from around 1550–1069 BCE when the might of Egypt could not be denied and stretched from the Levant all the way down into the Sudan. Next to campaigns of war, enormous building projects were undertaken (granted, no pyramids any longer, but I defy anyone to walk through the Temple of Karnak (fig. 2), for instance, and not be overwhelmed by the soaring columns, the impressive pylons, the delicate reliefs, immaculate hieroglyphs, and gorgeous chapels and smaller temples in that precinct, which all taken together is arguably the largest temple complex in the world to this day!), stunning statuary was commissioned, giant tombs were dug in the Valley of the Kings and decorated with all kinds of magical spells to see the pharaohs through the journey of the afterlife, as well as smaller ones close to that sacred place, for the elite full of charming scenes of daily life with ‘lower’ level magic spells to get them to the Field of Reeds, an ancient Egyptian’s view of paradise, and everywhere was the glow of goldjust think about the treasures of Tutankhamun!


Fig. 2: The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak


And the history of the New Kingdom! It has everything one could possibly desire in a good fictional yarn even though it is not fiction: strong heroes and heroines, dastardly foes, palace intrigue, heresy, vindication, plots, revenge, exploration of foreign lands, treasure being brought home (fig. 3), treasures stolen, you name it. And the Ancient Egyptians very kindly left us just enough sources to build a narrative, but also just enough holes to leave room for speculation and discussion.

Fig. 3: Seti I presenting tribute to Amun

 

A case in point is my own favourite king: Hatshepsut (fig. 4), who reigned from about 1479–1458 BCE. Originally not a king but a king’s wife (and half-sister!), when the king died and his heir by another wife was too young to rule, she took over the reins of the country as his regent. This all went very well for a few years, but then, in an unprecedented move and with the rightful king still alive and doing well, she decided to declare herself king as well! Egypt was a very patriarchal land, so this was a move that must have been shocking to many but she did itand ruled for about 20 very prosperous and peaceful years as the true king, even taking on male form and the full five-fold titulary of a proper pharaoh on her monuments. She even claimed to be a direct daughter of the supreme god of the time, Amun-Ra, who in the guise of her father had sown the seed for her in her mother, thus marking herself as his chosen one. She did quite often also depict the younger pharaoh (who later became Thutmose III), but always in a position behind herself, sending a clear message as to who was really in charge: she herself, King Ma’atkare (her throne name).

Fig. 4: Hatshepsut "stretching the cord" with Seshat

After the end of her reign, Thutmose III (fig. 5) took over seamlessly and just incorporated her years of rule to his ownhe had still also been king during that time, after all. But what to do with such a predecessor, what to do with her ascendancy that might give other female royals ideas beyond their station? Her memory must be obliterated, of course. And so it was done, she was erased from history for Ancient Egyptian civilisation. But here something interesting happens, which also shows that history is always a matter of new discoveries and of interpretation, coloured by the ‘glasses’ of the times that are regarding that long-ago time now.


Fig. 5: Statue of Thutmose III


With the modern rediscovery of ancient Egypt, slowly, slowly her story, monuments and art did come to light again in the nineteenth century CE. The erasure had not been completeit could be pieced together again (fig. 6). As clues to her story began to emerge, the belief was at first that Thutmose III must have hated his aunt for stealing his throne, and in revenge chiselled out all her representations and names. However, it later came to light that this erasure did not happen until the end of his own very long solo rule. How could he have curtailed his hate so long? Why should he? More thought led to the current belief that this damnatio memoriae probably only started after Thutmose III had appointed his chosen successor, later to become Amenhotep II, as co-regent, and it was quite likely that it was he, not Thutmose III, who ordered the memory of Hatshepsut removed (luckily rather unsuccessfully in the end). It is very probable that Thutmose III and Hatshepsut had rubbed along quite happily togethershe taking care of the tiresome business of actually ruling, whilst he was honing his skills off with the army to later become the greatest general of Egypt (sometimes dubbed “the Napoleon of Ancient Egypt” by later historians). We do not know this for truth, of course, as the intricacies of their mutual relationship was never commented on as suchno paparazzi in those ages! We also do not know exactly why the later Amenhotep II (we think) all of a sudden tried to erase her from history, decades after the end of her reign. Remember those holes that leave room for delicious speculation and delightful discussion that I mentioned earlier? Well, this is definitely one of them! A tale that many books can and have been written aboutscholarly ones as well as novels, with the holes filled in with whatever version the author thought most likely. Juicy, right? And that is just one example of one reign (or two intertwined ones, actually) inside one dynasty (the Eighteenth) of the fascinating 500 years or so of the New Kingdom.

Fig. 6: Erased image of Hatshepsut at Karnak

I’ve already remarked on the enormous expanse of history that Dr Ken Griffin is audaciously taking on in this fantastic 10-week course. I should also mention that each session is only half pure history. The other half is illustrating that history through objects of the Swansea Egypt Centre’s lovely collection. This is a special treat as thanks to Zoom, those of us who may not have the chance to visit that charming museum in real life, get to peek inside its collection with fascinating objects that each have their own intriguing history. One of the most beautiful objects (but I am biased, as I love Eighteenth Dynasty art above all other Ancient Egyptian art) is comprised of a beautiful fragment of relief, most likely depicting Neferure, Hatshepsut’s only daughter (fig. 7). This relief has a tale of its own that shows that studying Ancient Egypt is still a treasure hunt, a search through even the most minute of clues to find the truth of an object, a period in history, an occurrence, a belief, a link to that a-ha moment. It is, and will remain, endlessly intriguing. For the story of this relief, see this wonderful 30-minute lecture by Dr Ken Griffin on how an object he himself had never seen before, through a handling session of object-centred learning, suddenly changed from a possibly Eleventh Dynasty piece that no one knew anything about, to a revelatory piece of this amazing part of Eighteenth Dynasty history: The Princess Who Never Became King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYhm1C6AX4c.

Fig. 7: Relief depicting Neferure


Monday, 1 November 2021

The Cast of a Relief of Nubkheperre Intef VI from Coptos

This past week, the course on the History of Ancient Egypt through the Egypt Centre Collection moved on to the Second Intermediate Period. For the blog post this week, I would like to present the cast of a relief (fig. 1) depicting Nubkheperre Intef VI, the original of which is now on display in the Petrie Museum in London (UC14780). Nubkheperre Intef was a Theban king during the Seventeenth Dynasty, when Egypt was largely ruled by the Hyksos. Intef is one of the better-known kings of the Seventeenth Dynasty. His tomb was originally entered by tomb robbers in 1827 when some of its treasures made it into the hands of Western collectors; his unique rishi style coffin was purchased by the British Museum from the Henry Salt collection (BM EA 6652). His tomb was later found by early Egyptologists around 1881 but knowledge of its location was lost again until it was rediscovered in 2001 by Daniel Polz and his team. The tomb, located at Dra' Abu el-Naga', was originally covered with a small pyramid (approximately 11 m at the base, rising to a height of approximately 13 m).

Fig. 1: Front face of EC642


Nubkheperre Intef is known from several monuments, including blocks from a chapel at Coptos. These were excavated by Flinders Petrie in 1894. The blocks, in both raised and sunk relief, can now be found in the Petrie Museum, Manchester, Berlin, Ashmolean, and Philadelphia. EC642 in the Egypt Centre is a cast of UC14780, which is a small block carved in high-quality raised relief. It depicts the upper half of the god Min facing to the right, with traces of the head of Intef directly behind him. This block, along with the others dating to the reign of Intef, were found face down and reused as a pavement of a later addition to the temple at Coptos. The cast in Swansea was produced soon after the relief was discovered, as is evident by the note attached to the reverse of the object (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Back of EC642


The note reads: “The original of this slab was found at Koptos (the modern Keft of Koft) the present place on the site to the Red Sea by the old trade route, by Professor Petrie in the spring of 1894. The original slab was in a very perfect state as far as the characters go and was found bedded face down forming one of the foundation courses of a more recent temple. The cartouche is that of Antef V of the eleventh dynasty. Nov. 27. 1894. Given to me by James Butler Esqr Blyth House, Humber Road, Blackheath a.c(?)”. James William Butler was elected to the Royal Society of Arts in 1904. Butler seems to have been an inventor, with a Google search bringing to light several patents. For example, in 1886 he patented (patent 352,504) apparatus for moulding perforated blocks for containing electric wires (fig. 3).

Fig.3: Butler's patent


What I have been unable to find is the connection between Butler and Petrie. It is also unclear who wrote the note on the back of the cast in the Egypt Centre. Additionally, how was the object obtained by the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and when? Like so many objects in the collection, there are a lot of unanswered questions. EC642 is currently on display in the Fakes, Forgeries, and Replicas at the Egypt Centre.