Some thoughts about royal authority in New Kingdom towns in Nubia

Back in 2016, I presented a paper about aspects of constructing royal authority in Nubian temple towns during the New Kingdom at the 8. Tagung zur ägyptischen Königsideologie in Budapest. The proceedings have just been published and cover a wide and very stimulating range of topics related to royal authority.

My own contribution focuses on the well-known practice of decorating private residences with scenes of adoring the ruling king, represented by his cartouches, and with corresponding texts giving praise to the king during the New Kingdom. I’ve tried to outline that such scenes and texts are highly relevant for the New Kingdom temple towns of Nubia which were built on behalf of the living ruler within a ‘foreign’ landscape (Budka 2017). Thanks to the recent discoveries by AcrossBorders, a case study from the mid-18th Dynasty (Nehi) and one from the Ramesside period (Hornakht) are used to present the key features of royal authority at the sites and their development during the New Kingdom.

I argue that the cartouche adoring scenes are linked to royal statue cult and deifications of living kings. And here it is necessary to stress that these phenomena were during the mid-18th Dynasty (Thutmose III) primarily restricted to the Nubian region! More precisely to temple towns, which are in many cases, and definitely for Sai, built in areas almost void of earlier Egyptian settlement structures and lacking a strong local priesthood as it was the case back home in Egypt, in the urban centres in Lower and Upper Egypt. The first public display of the adoration of the living king in settlement contexts is in my opinion strongly linked to the character of the sites and the Egyptian administration set up in Nubia with the viceroy of Kush as important representative of the king, fulfilling the role of a mediator.

Interestingly, there is a big change regarding the use of cartouche adoring scenes in Egypt during the time of Akhenaten. These were now becoming standard types in the large villas of his officials in the new town at Amarna. Of course this is connected with the special ideology of kingship under Akhenaten, but certain aspects were until now overlooked: the situation of displaying royal authority and the adoration of deified aspects of the king at Amarna is in some parts quite similar to the temple towns in Nubia. Within a new home away from home and especially far away from long-established priesthoods, the concept of divine kingship was obviously easy to develop further and was then “standardised” – and this can then be traced in Ramesside times both in Egypt and Nubia.

Reference

Budka, Julia. 2017. Constructing royal authority in New Kingdom towns in Nubia: some thoughts based on inscribed monuments from private residences, in: 8. Königsideologie, Constructing Authority. Prestige, Reputation and the Perception of Power in Egyptian Kingship. Budapest, May 12–14, 2016, ed. by Tamás Bács and Horst Beinlich, Wiesbaden, 29–45.

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Winter in Egypt, week 3 at Elephantine

Having had a very pleasant visit from Friends of the Egyptian Museum in Munich today, I was just reminded that actually winter has arrived in Europe… Someone told me that it’s even supposed to snow in Munich early next week – well, I’d better not think to much about this… Anyway, I thought I share some pictures of the beauty of Aswan, especially for all of you who are not enjoying the very nice weather here in Egypt!

Week 3 just started, some more days to go before I have to head back to Munich (and will face real winter after all…). We are still focusing on Nubian wares and other pottery vessels; Oliver will be concentrating on pots from the early phases of use of House 55 this week. Lucia has already produced wonderful drawings of the numerous net weights and will continue with female figurines in the next days. Daniela is busy polishing the database and completing some entries. Making very good progress, more to come!

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Nubian wares of House 55

This working week at Elephantine just flew by… I am back concentrating on another of my favorite topics within the intriguing House 55: the Nubian wares, comprising both fine wares and household wares, including drinking, serving and storage vessels as well as abundant cooking pots.

Most fascinating about the considerable assemblage of Nubian wares is besides the broad spectrum of forms and types that we find them in all levels of use of House 55 – thus, they are not restricted to the earliest phases from the 17th Dynasty and very early 18th Dynasty, but continue well into Thutmoside times. This also holds true for Kerma Black topped fine ware which is in particular of special importance – and of particular interest for us as we find good parallels in the New Kingdom town of Sai and AcrossBorders’ most recent works there.

My database currently holds 222 Nubian vessels from House 55 – 29 are Black topped fine wares, the well-known beakers, but also dishes, and small cups. Three more boxes full of Nubian sherds are still waiting to be documented, so these numbers will definitely increase in the next days. Detailed statistics and assessments of course have to wait until the very end, but the prospects are already really exciting!

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Start of week 2 on Elephantine

It’s almost unbelievable – after four busy years, the excavations in House 55 on Elephantine are really finished! Today, Martin Fera took some last photos with the most recent details, including a newly emptied silo, to be added for the image based modelling of the complete building. Documentation will now focus on ceramics and finds – and the aim is, to have an overview at the end of the season of all materials.

The pottery is already well assessed – more drawings and photos will be produced, but with 2000 vessels in the database, the record is now very strong and representative.

The small finds will still keep us busy for a while – currently c. 3600 objects are in the database, but more are still waiting to be recorded. Today, I focused on some re-used sherds which are attested in a very high number. I am in particular interested in the various types of net weights. Most common in House 55 is type C in the classification by Cornelius von Pilgrim (1996). Currently, 64 net weights were recorded and except for one, all fall into this type. The single other weight is type A, the so-called axe-shape type.

Today’s focus: net weights from re-used sherds.

This dominance of type C net weights, mostly produced from Marl C and Marl A4 sherds, is striking – in particular in comparison with Sai Island. As outlined earlier, type C is quite rare in the new Kingdom town of Sai and definitely outnumbered by type A.

In 2013, I was still very unsecure about the interpretation of this difference – with little material excavated on Sai back then, all might have been accidental. But after five seasons on Sai and four seasons of work on House 44, it is now clear that the original line of interpretation is the most likely one, based on a large set of data from both sites.

As von Pilgrim has proposed (von Pilgrim 1996, 275–278) type C, recycled from pottery sherds, seems to represent the ad hoc product for individual needs. The distribution of net weights at Sai was probably organized at a more formal level than in Elephantine, with imported net weights of type A and only rare cases of versions from re-used sherds. A “centralized system of food production” as reflected in the use of net weights of type A was already suggested by Smith for the Middle Kingdom phase at Askut (Smith 2003, 101) and seems to be supported by the evidence from Sai in close comparison with Elephantine.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, full of net weights, sherds and other interesting traces of activities on 18th Dynasty Elephantine!

References

von Pilgrim 1996 = C. von Pilgrim, Elephantine XVIII. Untersuchungen in der Stadt des Mittleren Reiches und des Zweiten Zwischenzeit, AV 91, Mainz am Rhein 1996.

Smith 2003 = St. T. Smith, Wretched Kush. Ethnic identities and boundaries in Egypt’s Nubian Empire, London and New York 2003.

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Back at work on Elephantine

The last excavations of the Swiss Institute Cairo in House 55 on Elephantine will start tomorrow – fieldwork is almost finished and during the last 10 days, Martin Fera and Seta Stuhec produced for AcrossBorders a complete photogrammetric documentation. An image based 3D model will soon be available, allowing a better illustration of the complex situation within the buildings with its multiple installations and various rooms.

House 55 was quite a challenge for SFM documentation.

Martin taking the very last photos this afternoon…

The focus of the 2017 season is again on ceramics, small finds and other objects. Daniela and Lucia are busy documenting objects, Oliver is producing pottery drawings and I am processing the remaining ceramic assemblages from the 46th season on Elephantine (fall 2016 and spring 2017). The focus of all of us is on the early phases of use of House 55. I am currently busy with very interesting material from the long corridor in the entrance area of the building – the amount of Nubian pottery is extremely high and raises various questions. Besides typical Pan grave style cooking pots there is also Kerma Black Topped fine ware present as well as Nubian storage vessels.

3 more busy weeks ahead of us and the final season of work at House 55 looks very promising so far!

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We proudly present: Khnummose’s shabti in full detail

Khnummose’s shabti is, together with the stone heartscarab, definitely the highlight from Chamber 6 in Tomb 26. The shabti belongs to a homogenous group of five stone shabtis from Egyptian officials, found at Aniba, Toshka and Sai, and identified by Ann Minault-Gout as originating from one workshop, dating from the mid-18th Dynasty (Minault-Gout 2012). A common origin might explain why on SAC5 350 the name of Khnummose was inscribed in different hand writing, obviously at a later stage than the remaining text with Book of the Dead Chapter VI. In addition, the raw material used for this group of shabtis is not local to Sudan. The prime sources for serpentinite are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla) – suggesting that the corresponding workshop was probably also located somewhere in Egypt. This is all very significant for the organisation behind Egyptian elite burials in New Kingdom Nubia.

Khnummose’s shabti was now documented in full detail – besides proper photographs, Cajetan created a very useful 3D model based on images and Patrizia did a beautiful drawing which is especially relevant for the inscription.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still have 2 more days to finish off our study season here in Khartoum – and it has been a great success so far!

Reference:

Minault-Gout, A. 2012. ‘La figurine funéraire Saï inv. S. 964 (SNM 23424) et un groupe de quatre chaouabtis de la XVIIIe dynastie de même type’, Cahiers de Recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille 29, 189-200.

 

 

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Miniature canopic jars from Tomb 26

Among the interesting finds associated with the southernmost burial in Chamber 5 of Tomb 26 on Sai Island are four miniature jars. The burial was placed in a wooden coffin, had a funerary mask and many flakes of gold foil were discovered in the area of the upper body. In addition to the steatite scarab found at the left hand, an uninscribed heart scarab was found directly between the ribs, thus it was placed on the breast of the deceased.

More items of typical Egyptian New Kingdom burial equipment are the four small ceramic jars which were found close to the skull.

The four small, globular jars as they were found in situ.

These jars are clearly miniature canopic jars – their lids were found a few centimeters apart from the jars, buried between the debris from the collapsed ceiling. All lids show human heads and are also made in clay. Interestingly, the jars were made in Egyptian Marl clay and imitate with their coated surface stone vessels. Miniature canopic jars were also documented in several tombs of SAC5 excavated by the French mission – but none of them is the same type of vessel and the lids are also markedly different (see A. Minault-Gout/F. Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5), Fouilles de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire 69, Cairo 2012, Pls. 90 and 131).

Miniature canopic jars united with their lids today in Khartoum.

Today, we finished the photographic documentation of this interesting and so far unique set of 18th Dynasty miniature canopic jars from Sai, drawings will be produced in the next days – another step done towards the final publication of Tomb 26!

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Khartoum study season: Working on 3D models of selected finds

After busy days working on pottery and small finds from the town, we are now focusing in our current study season at NCAM in Khartoum on the objects from Tomb 26. In addition to drawings and photographs for future publications, we will document some objects with Structure From Motion to capture also their 3D structure. The three most important pieces in this respect are the beautiful signet ring from Chamber 5, a real masterpiece of jewelry, as well as the stone heart scarab and the shabti who both belonged to Khnummose.

Cajetan Geiger was already responsible for all the SFM documentation during the 2017 field season at Sai, continuing our site specific technique Martin Fera established back in 2014. Cajetan now set up a very nice “in-door” installation for objects in 3D and thanks to our new full-frame camera the results from Image Based modelling should be of highest quality! I am very keen to see these new 3D models of the highlights of AcrossBorders’ work on Sai – and will of course share them, just keep track of our blog posts during the next 8 days ;-)!

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We like it hot – in Khartoum

Since Saturday, a small AcrossBorders team is busy working in Khartoum in the National Museum of Sudan. This two-week study season is dedicated to the documentation of finds from our 2017 fieldwork season on Sai Island. Due to the amazing discoveries both in the town and the cemetery, we simply ran out of time back in March and had to postpone the study of some objects. I am especially grateful to our colleagues from NCAM for their constant support and for a very productive setup and generous working hours! And we are really delighted that Huda Magzoub, our dear colleague, inspector and friend, joined as for this ultimate AcrossBorders season in Sudan. Temperatures here in Khartoum are quite a change compared to Vienna and Munich ;-).

Besides work on objects from Tomb 26, we are currently busy with material from the two large cellars we excavated in SAV1 East (Features 83 and 85). Both cellars represent very good contexts from the mid-18th Dynasty and therefore their pottery and small finds have particular importance for our study of the material culture in New Kingdom Sai.

I was especially looking forward to start working on the sherds from Feature 83. Below the collapsed bricks from the vault of this cellar, some smashed pottery vessels were found on the floor.

Broken pots at the bottom of Feature 83 – note the smashed jar in the middle of the picture.

These ceramics clearly belong to the latest phase of use of the structure and can be dated to the mid-18th Dynasty – but back in Sai, they were all broken vessels, not allowing proper photographs or drawings. In the last days here in Khartoum, I managed to reconstruct them – my personal favourite is this nice imported jug with painted decoration. A real beauty came out of those smashed sherds!

Reconstructed imported jug from Feature 83.

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On the move again – from Munich to Berkeley

Thanks to the general agreement of cooperation between the University of California, Berkeley and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), I was able to visit the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time!

In June, we enjoyed an inspiring workshop dedicated to “Archaeologies of human mobility and migration” here at the LMU – this past week, we gathered in Berkeley to discuss the theme “On the move” further. My own presentation focused on Tomb 26 – presenting some of the preliminary data from our ongoing analysis of the systematic variation in the isotopic composition of strontium in the environment of Sai and its significance for exploring the origin of people and their migration along the Nile. I also stressed the significance of Khnummose’s shabti: its raw material serpentinite is not local to Sudan, the prime sources are located in Egypt (Wadi Semna and Wadi Atalla); furthermore, name and title of Khnummose were added in a different handwriting, suggesting an “off the shelf” purchase – so we can assume that this shabti, one of AcrossBorders highlights of five years of digging on Sai, was actually an “object on the move”, being produced at a workshop probably located in Egypt (or close to the border).

I am very grateful to all LMU and Berkeley colleagues for these wonderful days both in Munich and Berkeley – especially to the organisers Carline von Nicolai and Benjamin Porter. Loads of thanks go also to Ruth Tringham for a marvellous tour through “her” San Francisco – this was definitely the highlight of my first trip to California!

 

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