Thursday, February 27, 2014

Archaic Egypt.

Walter B. Emery
A Pelican Book
Penguin Books Ltd
Great Britain
ISBN-10:  0140204628

This 1961 book is written by famous Archaeologist Walter B. Emery and a treasure for anyone wishing to learn about ancient Egypt's Predynastic period into the earliest dynasties of the Pharaonic age. From the beginning of the book, it is obvious the importance of what Professor Emery writes about and the depth of the authors knowledge.

Professor Emery lays down the known facts that existed before the end of the nineteenth century and what has been discovered since by usually more educated excavators than their predecessors. Men like Sir Flinders Petrie managed to rescue the archaic royal burials though not before a treasure hunter had devastated them.

The book is well written and easy to understand especially impressive because of the remoteness of the age the author writes about. The book gives a good run down of the period of the earliest dynasties on issues of the arts, the ancient gods and goddess', the written script and its development. Part of what makes this book an easy read are the numerous diagrams and photographs that accompany the authors words.

Professor Emery's knowledge is well put out and his writing ability is excellent and easy to enjoy. It is amazing how almost fully formed the arts of the archaic period were, with the exception of writing and the continuity continued for thousands of years after, through all of Pharaonic history.

The author tells about the known kings of the Ist Dynasty and which order they should be in, including their tombs and the tombs of a couple of queens and aristocrats of the period, one of who's tomb yielded chambers full of equipment intact as laid out 5000 years before. The subsidiary burials which surround the royal burials of this dynasty are what appear to be sacrificial burials, a practice which was disposed of by the end of the dynasty.

Professor Emery continues on with a similar rundown of the shadowy kings of Dynasty II except the burial places of many of these kings remain unknown. The definition of what separates the two dynasties is unknown as both monarchies were of Thinis origin, though there appears to have been a religious dispute in Dynasty II.

We are next on to the military organization of the archaic period, a military armed with bows and arrows, maces, daggers and axes, guarding fortress'. The carved palettes and mace heads of the era tell the story of conquering tribes and assimilation of the defeated tribes gods into the victorious gods attributes.

The author tells us of the gods which there is proof that was present even at this remote time and already had cults with strange anthropomorphized deities, of which some still remain enigmatic today. An overview is given of burial custom of the classes of the Archaic age from the king and noble with boat burials to the humblest laborers pit in the desert.

The book's middle section contains a large arrangement of excavation photos of the material of the period, and is pure heaven if that type of thing turns you on as it does myself, particularly of interest is an amazing photo of a mummy of the IInd Dynasty in-situ in its coffin.We continue the exploration of burial customs in Dynasty II.

Professor Emery next is on to the art of the period beginning with reliefs that contain elements common with Mesopotamian art. Sculpture in the round is represented by only a few surviving examples including a kneeling official in Cairo with the names of three consecutive kings of the age.

Painting of the era is concerned with mural decorations in the patterns of mats used in the period as wall hangings, a theme that would be repeated throughout Pharaonic history. Professor Emery relates various building techniques found in the archaeological record for the Archaic period, included the use of mud bricks of various sizes, wood, and even stone.

Of language very little can be discerned from the limited evidence of labels, jar sealings and inscriptions on pots and stelae, except that the development of language and writing was probably fairly advanced by the First Dynasty though much of this material is still indecipherable. The author shows a number of examples of these types of the script on the following pages.

The signs of trade for this period is known from examples of foreign goods in Egypt as well as discoveries of Egyptian materials of the period in settlements around the Mediterranean. We next explore the various industry practiced by the archaic artisan including of course pottery, stone vessel making, as well as furnishings while using only the most rudimentary tools.

Professor Emery now deals with the agricultural product of the people which would have included cereals like emmer, barley, and millet. These cereals were accompanied by fruits, vegetables and meat depending on class and occasion.

In this last chapter, we deal with domestic life on low to the floor chairs, tables, and beds on mats which also would have hung on the walls. In the appendix, Professor Emery gives us Manetho's remarks on the Archaic kings told to us by Africanus.

As much as I like this read it is not probably of interest to a child seeing the book as more of a college student level and up. No doubt I will read it many more times as this book is a treasure on a little known period from the dawn of recorded history. Professor Emery has left to us a rare document of the first rate in this landscape of Archaic Egypt.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ancient Papyri Discovered at Luther College

A student examining the archives in the college library discovered a cardboard box donated in the 1980's and containing nine 2000 year old Egyptian papyrus documents.

Photo: Luther College

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rare XVII Dynasty Coffin Found

The fine folks working at the tomb of Djehuty in the Theban necropolis of Dra Abu El Naga have found a well preserved rishi coffin from about 1600 BC, containing a well preserved mummy in the courtyard of Djehuty's tomb. The find by the Spanish mission, directed by Dr. Jose M. Galan is only the most recent discovery and should prove to be a noble of the era.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Lady of the House

"The day of bringing King Usermaatre-Septenre, the great god out of this tomb of King Menmaatre- Setymer(en)ptah that he might be taken into this high place of Inhapi which is a great place","and in which Amenophis rests" (1) 


In the cliffs which hang above the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri lay a most ingenious tomb that may have belonged to one of the XVII Dynasty king's wives Inhapi. The kings' wife had been buried away from the family necropolis of Dra Abu el-Naga perhaps because of her status as a secondary wife, though Inhapi did produce a child for her husband King Sequenenre II, a daughter named Henttimehu.(2)

The mummy of Henttimehu is that of an old woman who would have died many decades after her mother's burial, yet there is a possibility that her mother's tomb was opened and Henttimehu added sometime around 1600 BC, so she may join her mother in her "mansion of eternity", as she was present with her when found in 1881.

The evidence for Inhapi's tomb exists in three inscriptions on the coffins of the first three king's of Dynasty XIX, and the mummy of a woman found in Theban Tomb 320 with them inscribed with the name of Inhapi on her shroud. The three inscriptions are all dated to year 10, 4 prt, 17, and mention the kings are on their way to the "High place of Inhapi" in which that Amenophis I is already present. Two of the three inscriptions, those of Seti I and Ramesses II are followed by another inscription which tells that three days later they had arrived, but in both cases, the tomb of Inhapi is now referred to as the "Mansion of Eternity", with again a mention of Amenophis I's presence.

The evidence that the tomb TT320 where the mummy of the Kings Wife Inhapi, the three XIX Dynasty king's and Amenophis I were found in 1881 is Inhapi's tomb is presented.

 An inscription found at the bottom of the well of TT320 tells about the burial of the High Priest Pinudgem II on the same date as mentioned on the coffins of Seti I and Ramesses II, as entering the mansion of eternity where Amenophis I already was. The connection of dates is anything but coincidence with the potential scale of the operations taking place on that day would negate to me the possibility of coincidence just too much to accomplish including the high priests burial and the potential transfer of thousands of objects and dozens of coffins that each would have required at least 6 to ten men to maneuver the heavy cases to the tomb and in place within.

We can be assured that by the time the XIX Dynasty king's entered the tomb everything, including the mummy of King Amenophis I, and all of the XXI Dynasty mummies found in the end chamber were in place. Seti's coffin was brought in and now blocked the bend in the first corridor of the tomb, no one else could have gone beyond its massive bulk, ending the ancient journey of  Ramesses I, and his immediate successors around 850 B.C., about 800 years after Inhapi's burial.

It is here that the emergency excavation of the tomb clouds the issue as when the tomb was opened an XVII Dynasty coffin was found in the first corridor second from the door. Gaston Maspero, the head of Egypt's antiquities service and national museum in 1881 recorded in his publications that the second coffin from the door in the entrance corridor was of XVII Dynasty appearance but does not clarify who's coffin it was. In one case he said it was the coffin containing the mummy of Inhapi but in later print appears to have reversed his position that it was just a coffin of that date.

Wherever Inhapi's mummy was positioned in the tomb would have been second-hand knowledge to Mr. Maspero as he was in Paris at the time of discovery. Leaving the find to be investigated and excavated by Emile Brugsh on behalf of the antiquities service. The tomb contained only two coffins of XVII Dynasty appearance among dozens of coffins within the cache and one would expect that the coffin containing Inhapi would be back in the burial chamber if the tomb TT320 was the high place mentioned on the coffins of the king's.

It must be remembered that the coffins were seen in the dark before being wrapped in sail cloth for their journey to the museum's steamer and onto the museum where removed of their sail cloth coverings, the coffins could be examined more closely. That is to say this of the operation, the excitement of the find combined with the lack of notes and photographs of the in-situ material makes Mr. Brugsh's words an amusing story but little more.

That is the head of the Egyptian antiquities authority of the time Gaston Maspero was unsure as to the occupant of the coffin second from the entrance of the tomb, that likely means that Emile Brugsh himself was probably confused about of this coffin's occupant, and it may well be that King Sequenere II, was in that coffin and that the coffin of Rai which contained the mummy of Inhapi was actually found back in her burial chamber?

Inevitably the museums finder Emile Brugsh would remember who was first at the door and where King Seti I, was, as his enormous coffin blocked the bend in the entrance corridor but after going past the Thutmoside king's confusion and the job ahead might well have overwhelmed Mr. Brugsh observations as I would expect of anyone conducting this excavation in a couple of days.

 The Ancient Egyptian priestly class was occupied with some of histories most superstitious smoke reading dream interpreters.

To officials who conducted these operations in the tomb in ancient times there would have been no sparing of magic spells to which the Egyptians were some of histories biggest purveyors of, and that within this physical salvation came spiritual considerations to be taken to best accommodate the tombs' occupants civility and to the workers of the operations own spiritual well-being. Within this vein, the mummy of Inhapi may have played a bigger part in the re-internment activities within the tomb in ancient times than is normally granted.

On his outer coffin in the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Butehamun has the titles of "Opener of the gates in the necropolis",  "Opener of the gates of the underworld" and "Overseer of works in the house of eternity". He is also shown in a vignette on the coffin in adoration of a number of king's and queen's including Amenophis I, Ahhotep, Ahmose-Nofretari, Sitamun, Meryetamun and Prince Sipair and as it happens all were found in tomb TT320 (4), and all had likely come from that families burial ground at Dra Abu el Naga.,

Butehamun's name also appears on the bandages wrapping the mummy of King Ramesses III who was also found in the tomb still containing golden scarabs overlooked or left by Butehamun and his workers on the murdered king's mummy, and again Butehamun's name appears in the inscription of the burial of Pinudgem II at the bottom of the tombs shaft.

As the restoration parties were restoring tombs around the necropolis' Butehamun would have been very susceptible to any of his royal charges that should appear to him in his dreams or omens he witnessed. Butehamun in his job would likely be open to any instructions those persons may have communicated to him while he slept, whether he had restored the burials or lightened the royal mummies of their amulets.

Most people on occasion bring home their work in thoughts and dreams and which in our modern society is little interested but the ancient Egyptians were consciously searching dreams for omens. Butehamun probably took his job with piety and conscious that he did not want the spirits of those he was reburying bothering him. Butehamun was proud of his job and put his name in many places in the operations he oversaw in the tomb.

Inscriptions on the shroud of Ramesses IX, tells that the king's mummy was removed from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings and taken to the temple of Medinet Habu for restoration.(1)  Be it that the "High place of Inhapi" was in good order when found by the priests in ancient times they may have removed her mummy and equipment whole to the temple to be unwrapped and lightened of her jewels in a temple surrounding while her tomb was being altered for a mass burial of notables.

The last docket on the coffins of Seti I and Ramesses II tell of arriving at the "Mansion of Eternity" three days later. It would not be unreasonable for the burial party to have changed course during the three days journey from the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings to Deir el Bahri tomb 320.

All three coffins of the king's related to Seti I say in the five dockets of journey and arrival to the tomb that Amenophis I is already present, which for me makes it less likely that Amenophis I was also moved ahead of these three kings to the new tomb. I have always felt the unrelated very large male mummy found at the entrance of TT320, in the coffin of Nebseni may well be at this position as a bodyguard honored to guard the tomb with the reintroducing of Queen Inhapi to the front behind the bodyguard as her place in the tomb.

The Overseer of works in the house of eternity Butehamun may have realized the need for the lady of the house to take her place as hostess and rightful claimant at the door of TT320, as it is her "Mansion of Eternity", and everyone else no matter how great was a guest of hers.

Except, the principle of Occam's razor, that the fewest assumptions are the best answer, would mean that it was King Sequenenre's coffin in the entrance corridor leaving the lady of the house in the burial chamber!


(1) Dockets:  The Theban Royal Mummy Project 
(2) Stela of Hentimehu and Ahmose Inhapi
(3) The Royal Mummies, G. Elliot Smith, ISBN 071562959 X
(4) The Complete Valley of the Kings, Nicholas Reeves & Richard H. Wilkinson, ISBN: 978-0-500-2840-3-2, Pg. 205
(5) Entrance to TT320: Keith Hazell
(5) Mummy of Inhapi:  E.G. Smith, Catalogue General Antiquites Egyptiennes du Musee du Caire: The Royal Mummies, Cairo, 1912; The University of Chicago Library

Sunday, February 9, 2014

More Discoveries In Dakahliya

Archaeologists who are working the excavation at Dakahliya have come upon late period burials including a mummy with the cartouche of Psamtick I. The find includes hundreds of shabti and faience amulets which were found in decayed wood box's.

Photo: Nevine El-Aref