Thursday, June 15, 2023

Photographs and Stereoviews of Felix Bonfils

 Here is a self portrait by 19th century photographer of Middle Eastern scenes Felix Bonfils.  He was one of the earliest commercial photographers of the monuments of Egypt, Greece and Palestine with this articles focus being Egyptian monuments. The cards in question are from about c.1875 free of tourists and many of these sites are unexcavated. These cards are known as stereoviews which were meant to be viewed with a stereocope. The era of the stereoscope is from approximately c.1860 to c.1939. Felix Bonfils images were available as tourist souvenirs as individual photos and in books as well as stereoviews. I have not corrected spelling from the quotes.

                                Card 42). Temple of Denderah, The Temple of Tentyris

The description on the back gives the information that the temple was a relatively late construction being begun in the Ptolemaic era and finished by Nero with the portico being built under Tiberious. 19th century Egyptologist M. Maspero says of the goddess Hathor whom the temple is for "represents beauty, order, and harmony; it is through her that all is renewed and subsists.

                                                         Card 47). Triumphal Gate

"The statues of Rameses are buried in sand up to the breast", "and are very much mutilated like most statues of this description are. They are sitting statues and seem to have a total height of 13 meters." The scenes and inscription on the pylon refer to a campaign of Rameses and gives a date more than 100 years before modern Egyptologists give for the reign of Rameses II.


                                              Card 56).  Dromos - Basement-Hall and Obelisk

"The gate of the second vestibule is 20 meters broad and 60 meters high; it opens on the great basement hall, or hall of pillars constructed in the reign of Seti, father and predecessor of Rameses II. It is the largest which exist in any of the Egyptian monuments." "The vertical walls of 30 meters high are decorated with religious pictures. The sculpture of this imposing vestibule belongs to the reign of Rameses II," We are again given an inaccurate date for the reign of this king.

                                              70.  Great Temple of Medinet-Abou

"The way to the ((Kings' Gate)) (Biban-el-Molouk), branches off to the left from a point where four roads meet, about a hundred meters north of the temple of Kournak. The plain is bounded here by ranges of steep calcareous hills, the rocky slopes of which have been roughly shaped into walls and pierced by numerous rows of sepulchres. These excavations are generally of small dimensions and decorated with sculpture. Their openings look, from a distance, like the windows of an immense building."

                                              79. Thebes - Second Hall of the Ramesseum 

"This hall is 41 meters wide and 31 deep. It is entered by three gates of black granite. The lateral walls are in ruins. The ceiling was supported by 48 columns arranged in 8 lines; but only five of these lines have remained upright. The ceiling was painted with golden stars on a blue ground."

                                                     84. Thebes - Rock Cut Sepulchres

"The great temple of Medinet-Abou is the work of Ramesess III was, like the temple of Tutmes, dedicated to Ammon, the solar God of Thebes. The first pylon, obstructed by ruins, leads to a court, 34 meters wide by ..." (Wrong description), While the number on the front and back of the card is 84 clearly this is a description of the temple of Ramesses. Sadly for me this descriptive mistake is on perhaps my favorite of the stereoviews. The subject is one of the Theban cemeteries probably Sheik-abd el-Gourna. Fun to see how it looked back in the late 1860,s early 1870,s. Sure doesn't look like that anymore. Love it!

                                                     107. Propylon of The Temple of Isis

In my incomplete collection I am particularly rich in cards from the Island of Philae. "The temple of Isis was begun in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285 - 247B.C.) and finished by his successor Ptolemy Euergetes (247 - 222 B.C.)" "An inscription traced under its gate in 1799 informs us that the French army under Desaix, pursuing the Mamelucks, after the battle of the pyramids, reached Philae on the 13th of Vendemiaire in the year VII of the Republic (oct. 4th 1798). Fragments of obelisks and lions in red granite lie scattered about in front of the gateway."

                               114.Front and 115. Back; General View of the Temple of Phylae

"The worship of Isis maintained itself here as late as the close of the Sixth century after Christ. A Greek inscription of the chamber of Osiris, on the terrace of the great temple, proves that on the year 453 of our era the goddess Isis still had her college of priests there. It was only in 577 that the worship of Isis was abolished and the Christian religion took its place. Bishop Theodore placed the Temple under the patronage of St-Stephen."

                                      132. Nubia - Perspective of the Temple of Kalabcheh

A number of these stereoviews are missing their back descriptions including this card again another favorite. A Roman period construction which in the 1960's the temple of Kalabcheh was rescued from the rise of the waters of lake Nassar with the help of  Germany, and, in gratitude, the Egyptian government gave one of the temples gates to Germany which is somewhere in some museum in Berlin.

                                           136.Front and 135. Back; Temple of Dakkeh

"It was founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus by Ergamenus King of Ethiopia, and continued by Philopator, Euregetes and Augustus. Here Petronius in his march on Napata, (B.C 23) defeated the troops of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. The sculptures were covered with mud, which preserved them. In this temple was found a very curious monolith, an inscription relative to the gold mines of the desert.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Search for Senenmut

 The supposed success with finding King Hatshepsut has brought to light many new questions about the location of the mummy of her foremost courtier Senenmut. The thought that he may be among the unidentified royal mummies is intriguing. Though the finding of Hatshepsut was made by the presence of a tooth there is still a lot of faith being placed in DNA perhaps not with mummified tissue but with bone or teeth.

Fortune has played its hand with the discovery of the intact tomb of Hatnofer and Ramose in the courtyard of their son Senenmut's prominent tomb at Sheik Abd el Qurna, TT71. Senenmut's tomb was explored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's expedition in 1936 with the prize being the smashed brown quartzite sarcophagus which because it was unfinished has led some to believe that it was never used by Senenmut.

Though if it was used by Senenmut hopefully his mummy was not in it at the time of its thorough destruction. The DNA of Hatnofer and Ramose may well identify their son out of the unknown royal mummies if his mummy has been found though the chances of discovery of this individual are very remote

As it happens Senenmut's father Ramose was a skeleton when found and was probably not mummified while his mother was mummified but since excavation has become mostly a skeleton as well. This is good as little damage will occur to their remains for DNA tests to find their famous son.

Among the male mummy's from the cache tombs DB 320 and KV 35 that appear not to be a direct family member of the Thutmoside king's families. Perhaps the best choice must be the mummy in the coffin inscribed for Nibsoni and known as "Unknown man C". Described in his 1912 "Mummies Royal" G. E. Smith refers to the mummy as "tall, vigorous man","must have seemed a very giant amongst them, and is hardly likely to have sprung from such puny stock".

Mr. Smith makes this statement in reference to the XVIII Dynasty king's found in the cache with our unknown man "C". He says little more about this mummy other than the mummy had been riffled in modern times before the official discovery of the tomb. Unfortunately, the research on this individual is sparse though Mr. Smith believed the mummy's arm position suggests he dates before Thutmosis II.

A contender from around the correct period of the early Thutmoside king's including the reign of Hatshepsut. A couple thoughts have come to me in that the king's cache tomb DB 320 held a box with the name of Hatshepsut though the body of that king was not found in that cache. The box seems to be all that was collected from its find-spot unless it was found, and came into DB 320 with one of the mummies found there.

It has come to my notice that many if not most of Senenmut's statues are in good condition suggesting that he and his statues did not face a thorough damnatio memoriae after death, and that might make the smashed sarcophagus an anomaly that could have occurred hundreds or even thousands of years after Senenmut's passing.

From the king's cache at Deir el-Bahari was found the small box that contained the tooth belonging to the mummy identified as Hatshepsut found in Valley of the Kings tomb KV 60. Somehow the box became separate from Hatshepsut's burial. Hard to believe that the reburial commission would take the box and leave the kings mummy behind. There has to be the thought that her mummy was already gone by the time the reburial commission entered whichever tomb the box was found in. Perhaps removed by Thutmosis III, Hatshepsut's successor.

Senenmut had two choices for his burial including a tomb inside the Hatshepsut quarry near her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari. The tomb, when found by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's excavations was completely empty. It suggests that he was buried in his extremely prominent hilltop tomb at Sheik Abd el-Qurna where the smashed sarcophagus was found, and where his parents were buried.

Still, he may have died before Hatshepsut and been buried in her tomb. Thutmosis III or his successors may have removed the queen to KV 60 and left Senenmut and the box still in the tomb when found by the reburial commission, and as such both mummy and box may have ended up together in tomb DB 320.


Saturday, January 8, 2022

Collecting Ancient Egypt in Stereo cards

The above is an 1870s view of the Sphinx and the great pyramid at Giza this is an early very rare French tissue card that has a second layer of tissue behind the tissue photograph which is colored in absurd pink and green so that when the light passes through these colors show through. As one can imagine these tissue windows are easily broken. Egypt is an uncommon subject of these tissue cards which often center around prominent rooms in European palaces and gardens.
Francis Frith was an early photographer photographing Egypt's and Nubia's monuments in the late 1850s. The above example shows the now lost temple of Gerf Hussein of which today the temple's inner sanctum lies at the bottom of Lake Nassar. Note the photographers signature in the bottom left corner.

Felix Bonfils was an early photographer of the middle east including Egypt and was the first photographer to market images of the middle east on a large scale certainly nothing like the companies that followed like Keystone or Underwood & Underwood. Here we have the temple of Dendur which today resides at 1000 5th Avenue New York in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Felix Bonfils cards in good condition run from around $50-$100 and up each.
This card is a typical example of an Ingersoll card which was made on thinner cardboard in the early twentieth century 100 years later these cards have not curled the way most older stereo-views have. Ingersoll cards are in color but the same subjects also can be found in black and white. The reader would be advised to avoid buying Ingersoll, Keystone, and Underwood cards as singles as most are very common and are a better value buying in lots. Very similar cards were also distributed in cereal containers and are marked as such on the back.

 As stereoscope cards go this is a visual time machine that takes the viewer back more than 100+ years to this museum display. Today the pharaoh's mummy is no longer presented in his original coffin but in a hermetically sealed glass case under a piece of fine linen as befits the great king's dignity, unfortunately, the king's arms are no longer exposed. This like many Keystone cards can also be found in sepia by Underwood. The era of the stereoscope was between ca.1858-1939 which is around 80 years so many cards including this one are very common even today a century later though some sellers will try to convince the buyer that they are rare they are not. King Seti's mummy should be listed as a must-have in any Egyptian collection and is easily found for sale on the internet.
To start your own collection buy a nice condition stereo-viewer with a few dozen cards this should cost about $100, make sure the sliding bar that holds the cards is present often they are sold missing this element be picky get a nice intact one they are common. Back in the heyday of stereo-views the machine was often given away for free.
Here we have a card by H. C. White whose production output began in 1899 and was almost as great as Keystone and Underwood though, the quality of White's stereo-views are of higher standards than its rivals.

 Finally many cards are overpriced so shop around you never know when something hard to find like this card of Seti 1's mummy,( though it says it is the mummy of Ramses 2). Have fun!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Still No Sign of Amenia

Here we have the last pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty Horemheb with what is suspected to be his first wife Amenia. The statue was found in a chapel of the tomb of the pharaoh at Saqqara in the 1970s by the Anglo-Dutch Mission. Reliefs and statuary from the tomb complex are highly prized by a number of European museums who acquired their pieces in the first half of the 19th century.

As you can see by the photo below sometime after its collection the statue was mutilated with the successful removal of Amenia's head and torso by thieves the remains of the statue is in the Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art.

I try to run this plea for her return once a year she may no longer be white she may have been painted to disguise her and or had some of the base of the torso removed to shorten her appearance wherever she is it is time for her to come home if she is badly damaged she can be restored by the expert restorers at the museum. Amenia is not the only item missing visit Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities site to find out more.


Photos courtesy of the Supreme Council of Antiquities
Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art