Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ramses II and His Time

Immanuel Velikovsky
Doubleday & Company, Inc.
United States
First Edition
ISBN : 0-385-03394-x

Here we have another edition of Immanuel Velikovsky's 'Ages of Chaos' series. The series was very entertaining and controversial and still is. In the introduction the author lays forth the breadth of this book in which he will attempt to identify three Dynasty XIX pharaohs including Ramses II with pharaohs of Dynasty XXVI.

The book opens with the famous battle of Kadesh which Ramses II claimed in a number of temples he had been glorious in victory when the reality was the worlds oldest known peace treaty saved the day. The location of ancient Kadesh could be any number of sites along the Orontes or Euphrates rivers. The authors theory is that King Necho of Dynasty XXVI is in fact Ramses the great, though historically the two kings reigns are separated by 700 years.

From the start I can see that this book will not appeal to a younger reader as it has few pictures and quotes passages from among other sources the Bible. Mr. Velikovsky's tale moves onto Ramses II and his battles with Nebuchadnezzar.

     'And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.' 
                                                                                                                                                                          II Kings 24:7

The authors theory is enormously complicated especially as the kings in the sources whether Egyptian, Babylonian, Hittite, Phrygian or any number of kingdoms occupying the Middle East and Mesopotamia histories have multiple names for each including five for the Egyptian king alone. The reader is presented, or burdened with documentary sources often fragmented and or telling what appear to be related events which have historically been dated hundreds of years apart. This includes removing the seven centuries that chronologically now exist between Ramses II in the thirteenth century BC and Nebuchadnezzer in the sixth century BC.

Every few dozen pages a couple pages of black and white pictures are presented usually representing reliefs, stelae and related material which for the most add little to Mr. Velikovsky's points. The tomb of King Ahiram found at Byblos contained Hebrew inscriptions in Phoenician letters warning intruders at the bottom of the shaft to his tomb and on the lid of his sarcophagus against intrusion. The violated tomb also contained two damaged vases bearing cartouches with the names of Ramses II.

The archaeological descriptions while interesting have not lessened the confusion of the authors theory being put forward thus far.

     'Then something happened of which they had not dreamed. Out of a steep slope facing a riverbed beneath the ancient ruins of Boghazkoi crept tablets inscribed with cuneiform signs.' 'In three weeks excavating with the help of the peasants and without taking  proper precautions, they hurriedly carried from the slope two thousand five hundred tablets and fragments.' 'The next year (1907) thousands more tablets and fragments were carried from the slope in Boghazkoi, raising the number to about ten thousand.'

The question of accession of the line of Babylonian kings presents again challenges as, according to Mr. Velikovsky and his points Nebuchadnezzer rewrote his history eliminating in later documents the reigns of his older brother and nephew. In the next chapter we find the autobiography of Nebuchadnezzer who in the Talmudic is regarded as Nebuchadnezzer the Dwarf. In his youth when as an ill child a vision came to his brother that the sickly boy should be placed under the guardianship of the Goddess Ishtar for his well being.

Growing up in the temple of Ishtar as a priest created great devotion on behalf of Nebuchadnezzer, devotion which would manufacture itself in his building and restoration of monuments to this goddess, though during his forty plus year reign the king would appease whichever god got the job done. For the most part the images presented are an average lot with the exceptions of the photographs of the sarcophagus of King Ahiram.

The connection with Chaldean culture to the lost Hittite culture appears clarified as a singular culture within the now classified "Hittite Archives" discovered at Boghazkoi in 1906 which have linked Egyptian annals in time with the tablets.

Having just passed the books halfway point I realize that I am enjoying this read and the volume is becoming hard to put down as was the authors "Oedipus and Akhenaton" published some eighteen years earlier. The reader is taken to the confusion of the Anatolian archaeological record between 1200 to 750BC. The Marriage stelae of year thirty four of Ramses II is put forward warranting a trip by Nebuchadnezzer to bring his daughter in marriage to Ramses.

     'At that time many princes and rulers of foreign countries were gathered in the residence of the pharaoh. But when they heard that the Great King of Hatti was coming, awe seized them. "The great chiefs of every land came; they were bowed down, turning back in fear, when they saw his majesty the chief of Kheta came among them, to seek the favor of King Ramses [II]."

Mr. Velikovsky brings together his characters in a summation of why he believes the kings of Dynasty XIX are one with the kings of Dynasty XXVI. In the epilogue our author attempts to resolve a number of issues which historically separate the two dynastic lines these include the location of the Ramesside capital at Tanis and the XXVI Dynasty capital at Sais believed to be on the Libyan side of the delta. The author has to contend also with the historical lengths of these kings reigns which leave a king like Seti the Great with a reign of over a decade in accepted sources while his Dynasty XXVI counterpart, a reign of over fifty years?

Every once in a while Mr. Velikovsky puts forward evidence for his cause which I can find flaw within. The author mentions the hole in the top of the head of the mummy of King Merneptah in the Cairo museum as evidence of a brutal murder of the king. He fails to mention that in the cache where Merneptah was found in  the tomb of Amenhotep II a number of other kingly mummies entombed beside him also had the same hole in their skulls which likely suggested that their mummies were hacked at on the top of their heads with a cutting weapon and peeled downward like a banana by robbers for the mummies accoutrement's.

The question of the validity of the Iron age, Bronze age dating system is put forward and not unreasonable from archaeological finds to suggest those cultures that were rich in iron ore deposits developed iron before the bronze rich societies such as Egypt leading to the passing of the Bronze age.

For myself Mr.Velikovsky was unable to reduce that seven hundred year gap in time for me to recognize the great King Ramses II as King Necho of Dynasty XXVI. Many points raised by the author were of definite interest but in the end the argument was not convincing to me and I would leave this book to those who enjoy Biblical archaeology.


Oedipus and Akhnaton

Friday, April 3, 2015

Masterpieces Of Tutankhamun

David P. Silverman
Abbeville Press Inc.
New York
ISBN: 0-89659-022-4

From the start I really like the books format with a beautiful colour photograph of a work of art on the right page while the left is reserved for the authors point beginning with a not frequently seen statue of Amenhotep III and the God Amon. Mr. Silverman writes in a compact description of about two or three paragraphs making his words clear for ages ten to one hundred and ten.

I have always loved the limestone relief of an Amarna princess eating a duck. The unfinished relief may have been a trial piece for the decoration of a wall in the North Palace  at Akhetaton where it was found. A particularly attract image displays two views of the small wood statuette of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus. The back of the head of Tutankhamun clearly shows that the statuette once wore jewelry, a back stud for an earring is still in place.

So many exquisite little chairs all  masterpieces of carpentry created for the royal children and interestingly assembled here by our author. One can only hope that when reviewing a book on this over popularized subject that at least one lesser or unknown object should enhance the publication and thankfully this is accomplished here. I am again faced with the gilded statuette of Tutankhamun on a skiff hunting hippopotamus's. The statuette or its mate was sadly smashed during the violation of the Cairo museum in 2011.

From here the author focuses on a series of elaborately decorated boxes and cabinets including game boards found in the tomb. These include a lovely ivory and wood chest decorated almost entirely in hieroglyphics in inscriptions and gilded fretwork representing the epitaph of "all life and dominion". The reader is next on to a short series of calcite vessels from Tutankhamun's tomb including my favorite of a waving lion which at the time of discovery was one of the few vessels in the tomb to still contain it's contents.

     "P.E. Newberry, one of Carter's associates, was able to determine the season in which Tutankhamun was buried on the growing seasons of the plants used in the kings garlands. According to Newberry, the burial occurred from the middle of March to the end of April."

A shrine shaped pendant containing the goddess Nut as a vulture and found in the Anubis shrine is a complex jewel if not entirely satisfactory in design and quality for my tastes. The small recumbent wooden figure of Tutankhamun on a funerary bed was a gift from the kings official Maya who was likely responsible for much of Tutankhamun's burial arrangements as Maya held the title of "Superintendent of building works in the Necropolis".

Two pages of images are devoted to the gorgeous statue of Selkit, one of four goddesses surrounding the canopic shrine. Artistically the statue is one of the great treasures in itself of the tomb furniture.The goddesses arms outstretched with an unconventionally slightly turned head she protects the kings internal organs when she is not overthrowing the serpent Apophis.

It cannot go without mentioning I encountered an error on page150, it should say the coffins weighed over three hundred pound with the gold coffin weighing over two hundred pounds though it says three and two thousand.

I enjoyed this book it was simple in presentation with Mr. Silverman's words nicely and briefly presenting his points making the book uncomplicated. The error I found with one of the last of Tutankhamun's stuff presented by the author was irrelevant to me. This volume was a good presentation put forward that I would give to a child to enjoy but plenty of adults would also like Masterpieces of Tutankhamun.

     "May your ka live;  May you spend millions of years, Oh, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind and your eyes beholding happiness."

                                                                                                  Tutankhamun's wishing cup 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tutankhamun's Egypt

Cyril Aldred
Charles Scribner's Sons
New York
ISBN 0-684-15795-0

Looking for the next volume from my collection to read I found three books I have not reviewed by the late Cyril Aldred and realized it was Christmas 2012 that I last reviewed the great mans work in his 'Jewels of the Pharaohs'.

You have to love a brief introduction and chronology with events of interest which occurred during Egypt's many dynasties including the Ptolemaic Dynasty who's pharaohs were responsible for the great temples at Dendera, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Esna, and Philae. The author begins with the Egyptian people and their lives in chapters that are short and filled with black and white pictures which often dominate the texts on many of the pages.

It amazes me how much information is crammed into the tomb paintings of the Egyptian nobles which by the Eighteenth Dynasty reveals the various trades and even how those trades were carried out. Inevitably the tomb paintings would always show the bountiful life with tomb owners sitting in front of tables overflowing with the produce of the land which made Egypt into a food exporter to her neighbors in hard times. The Kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty brought to the nobility of generations the sweet life.

In the pyramidion of the fallen obelisk from Karnak created by Hatschepsut it can be clearly seen that Amun has been attacked with a chisel and then re-carved at a later date. The same can be said for Amun's name on the obelisk leaving Hatschepsut and her throne name Maat-Ka-Ra untouched. A series of coloured images pass by including the launching of the night barque in the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of Kings. A statue of Amun bares the face of Tutankhamun representing likely the restorations carried out of Amun's statues and reliefs after the heresy created by the boy kings predecessor.

In the next chapter we find here the King is depicted as an inspirational warrior hero and protector to his people. The great King Amenophis II is shown on a granite stela found at Karnak riding his chariot while shooting his arrows through a copper ingot. The reader is presented with the tombs of the Kings beginning with the Eighteenth Dynasty King Thutmosis I who created his tomb likely in the Valley of Kings. The reader is also presented the three best surviving mortuary temples of the New Kingdom rulers a mile away along the Nile.

The peoples looked to the King to bring Maat to their world but without the effective governance of the Kings affairs by his officials harmony could easily be lost. Mr. Aldred puts forward a number of line drawings from the various officials tombs with my favorite being King Amenophis II on the lap of his wet nurse Amen-em-ipet. The Egyptian scribe was the fabric that held the monarchy and its bureaucracies together for thousands of years in records trivial and important.

Being a scribe there was plenty of room for advancement as was true of the military where a successful career could take a soldier to the top as in the case of Haremhab the last pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The army was made up of soldiers of many nationalities as in the case of King Akhenaten who's bodyguard contained Asiatic, Lybian and Nubian soldiers. Again I am impressed by the tomb representations of various trade workshops with just about every step represented in a small vignette.

Here the artist raises a pot from a piece of metal or fashions leather sandals, guilds a statue or creates a box through generations of artisans in reserved jobs past from father to son. These artworks for the most part exist as anonymous creations by an unrecognized craftsman with few pieces able to attribute to a specific artist. The technologies such as working and transporting stone and the creation of papyrus paper still present fantastic achievements to us today. The hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts could be written on papyrus to form libraries and archives of governorship of the resources including taxation and distribution.

The late Mr. Aldred ends his book with death and a goodly burial which often ignored the historical lessons that some day you may see someone wearing your dead mothers jewelry. I have to say that I figured it would be a fine read designed for the younger reader and to my delight it was rather lite on King Tutankhamun's treasure. The books concentration was less about Tutankhamun than the times he lived and the laws which governed Tutankhamun's Egypt .

'Well tended are men, the cattle of god. He created heaven and earth according to their desire. He made the breath of life for their nostrils. They are his images that have come forth from his body.'


Jewels of the Pharaohs
Quote pg.  82

Thursday, March 5, 2015

All Color Book of Egyptian Mythology

Richard Patrick
Octopus Books
ISBN: 7064 0128 x

It is not often that one finds a forty year old book meant for those younger readers in as nice a shape as I have found this copy even though yes it also happens to not be my favorite subject along with Cleopatra and King Tut, I could do without them all! The introduction given by Margaret Drower is a good rundown of Egyptian history with of course some minor issues of kingdoms expected from a presentation made more than forty years past.

Chapter one is on the ancient Egyptian creator gods and religion presented by the plates represented on the pages accompanied by relevant descriptions. As I was browsing through noticed a number of artifacts displayed that I have not seen before including the beautifully preserved Sekhmet relief carving from Imen-m-hebra and family in the Cairo Museum. In plate 15 the reader is presented with two pillars at Karnak created for Thutmosis III though here identified as of Nineteenth Dynasty date and just three plates later king Nectanebo II is described as a Twenty Sixth Dynasty Pharaoh. Right off the bat we have two strikes.

In the next chapter the author deals with the main gods within the Egyptian pantheon. In plate 24 the author implies that the tomb of Ramsses II's queen Nefertari is at Abu Simbel when it is actually at Thebes in The Valley of Queens far away from Abu Simbel. Plate 27 is described as a colossal statue of Ramsses II at Karnak when in reality the truth of the beautiful image is better. While it is Ramesses II it is not Karnak but rather the temple of Gerf Hussein which could not be saved from the rising waters of the high dam and now lies deep beneath Lake Nasser.

With an image from the tomb of Sennedgem at Deir el Medina the author describes its owner as a member of the royal household when in reality he was a craftsman who worked on the tomb of Ramesses II. These mistakes are lessened by the fact that so many of the objects and sites presented in the book are obscure and a fine selection. There are many beautiful images from the temple of Seti I at Abydos which presented on the pages with other illustrations really brings home the high quality of King Seti's reliefs.

In chapter three Mr. Patrick puts forward the role of kingship and here the reader is presented with another high quality monument. This time it is the wondrous reliefs in the chapel built at Karnak by theTwelfth Dynasty King Sesostris I. In this historical overview much of the authors concerns are based on Egypt's period of empire particularly the rulers of the later Eighteenth Dynasty, Hatschepsut onward.

The role of kingship is brought to its penultimate point under the Nineteenth Dynasty god-King Ramesses II. This kings extremely long reign dominated his dynasty and sadly the standard of craftsmanship declined. In plate 75 we find the interior of the temples of Abu Simbel baring crude reliefs though in the temples at Abu Simbel there are worse. These artworks bare striking contrast to the reliefs in the temple built by Ramesses father Seti I at Abydos.

The reader is presented with the afterlife described through various fragments of Books of the Dead though a typo lets us know that the book of Anhai is actually the only known copy of the Book of the Dad. In a final chapter I am presented with sacred animals with an unusual image in plate 96 of a faience sow and her piglets. In plate 100 we find a much damaged falcon with four wings in flight from the breast of a Ptolemaic mummy.

The list of plates was first rate in interest and for the most part well explained though there were about a half dozen bumps in the text which cause me concern as a gift especially for a child but for an adult like myself the All Color Book of Egyptian Mythology is worth having for the images alone.


An out of date synonym of stingy appears in the text which may be offensive to some readers