Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Ebony Caskets of Sit Hathor Yunet

Fig. 1 - Ebony boxes from the tomb of Sit Hathor Yunet
     Sit Hathor Yunet had in her tomb two caskets that were painstakingly restored by Brunton and Mace at the Metropolitan Museum.

     The wood box on the left in figure 1 had decayed into a black mass by the time archaeologists found the tomb, but it was determined that the original wood was likely Sudanese Ebony. The exterior is decorated on its sides with six "djed" columns alternating with five false doors framed by thin veneers of ivory. The ends were decorated with four "djed" columns and three false doors.

Fig. 2 - alabaster oil pots from one of the Princesses' caskets
     The lid of this casket was partially curved and was decorated with four heads of Hathor separated by hieroglyphic inscriptions containing the names of Amenemhat III (From left to right: "Son of Ra of his body, Amenemhat", "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Men-maat-ra" and "Horus of Gold, Great of Souls" (the "Ba" that the Egyptians believed was a part of every person). The interior of this object probably was divided into compartments and may have had trays and / or drawers, but an exact reconstruction is impossible to make.

     The casket on the right, which like the first casket had a semi-curved lid and was made of Sudanese Ebony, originally held eight alabaster jars of oils (see figure 2). A "kohl" pot (the small, squat, black obsidian pot in figure 2) was also found in the tomb. It would have contained an eye make-up that was applied with a "kohl stick".

Photos copyright 2013 by John Freed

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sit Hathor Yunet - Rings, Anklets and Wristlets

Fig. 1 - one of the Princesses' rings
      Sit Hathor Yunet had other jewelry that was quite beautiful. A pair of virtually similar rings was found in the tomb. The bases of the rings are simple gold plates, while the backs of the rings are gold cloisonne inlaid with stone. The head of one ring is carved from Lapis Lazuli, while the other (see figure 1) is made of green feldspar.

     A pair of wristlets (Fig. 2) is made of red and blue beads arranged in 37 rows and separated by gold. The clasps are made of gold with red inlay decorated with Amenemhat III's throne name.

Fig. 2 - one of Sit Hathor Yunet's wristlets
     Petrie also found a pair of anklets in the tomb with twenty three rows of beads and simple clasps made of gold. The tomb also contained a gold circlet with a pair of gold plumes in the rear and a uraeus in the front (now in the Cairo Museum). Pectorals comprised of the names of either Senwosert II or Amenemhet III flanked by Hawks with a solar disk on their heads were also included in the Princesses' grave goods.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sit Hathor Yunet's Jewelry

Fig. 1 - the princesses' leopard head girdle
     Sit Hathor Yunet's jewelry is among the most beautiful that has survived from ancient Egypt. Figure 1 is another girdle found in her tomb. This time the gold work consists of seven double leopard heads separated by a double string of amethyst beads. The leopard heads were made in two parts and soldered together in the same way as the cowrie shell girdle (see the previous post), with one of the leopard heads acting as a sliding clasp to make putting the girdle on easier. Six of the leopard heads had pellets inside of them, which would have caused them to rattle as the princess walked around in the girdle.
Fig. 2 - one of the crouching lion bracelets

     Also in the jewelry boxes were four bracelets made of double rows of different colored beads separated by small crouching lions. The beadwork consisted of seven turquoise, three gold, and five carnelian beads in each section, with each section repeating several times. The base of the lions measure only 16 by 6 mm.

Photos copyright (c) 2013 by John Freed

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Treasure of Sit Hathor Yunet

Fig. 1 - the girdle of Princess Sit Hathoe Yunet
     The Princess Sit Hathor Yunet was likely the daughter of the Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Senusert II. She seems to have survived the death of her father by quite a few years and likely passed away during the reign of her father's grandson, Amenemhat III.

     She was laid to rest in a tomb located in the pyramid complex of her father. Included in her burial were several chests of jewelry that survived the looting of her tomb.The niche that the jewelry was in was right beside the entrance of the tomb and when the robbers entered, the filling of the burial shaft covered the niche and hid the chests from view.

     Sir Flinders Petrie cleared the Princesses' tomb in 1914. The Cairo Museum took only a small part of the treasure as they had pieces from the tomb of a Princess found at Dashur that were virtually identical to those found in Sit Hathor Yunet's burial. Petrie decided not to split the find among several musesums and the artifacts  made their way to the Metropolitan Museum, where Herbert Winlock prepared a classic publication of the objects (Winlock, Herbert. The Treasure of El Lahun, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1934).

     I originally saw these objects back in the 1970s on a trip to New York with my parents. I fell in love with them then and always make sure to stop by and see them whenever I am in the Met. These objects are not only beautiful works of art, they are also objects that the Princess used during her life and that gives them a personal feeling that many other examples of Egyptian art do not have.

     Over the next few posts I will show some of the objects that Petrie found and describe them in some detail. Just to start, I have included a photo of the Princesses' girdle. The Princess was quite slim and this object would have been worn around her waist. The eight gold cowrie shells were made up of two pieces of gold soldered together and the cowries are separated by different colored stone beads. One of the cowries is a clasp that made getting the girdle on a bit easier. Similar girdles have been found in the burials of both commoners and in the burial of  a Princess found at Dashur by De Morgan.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cyprus and Egypt in the 6th Century B. C.

Fig. 1 - A Cypriote stela form the 6th century B. C.
     Egypt had long had relationships with Cyprus. In New Kingdom tombs there are representations of Cypriotes bringing copper to the court of the Egyptian Pharaoh.

     In the sixth century B. C. the relationship changed as Egypt, during the reign of Ahmose II (also known as Amasis II) conquered Cyprus in 570. Cyprus had a high level of independence under Egyptian rule and there was a noticeable upsurge in the influence of Egyptian motifs in the art of Cyprus at this time.

     One particularly common motive is that of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. Representations of her are very common, particularly at Amathus. The limestone stela shown here, and dating to the mid-sixth century, is said to be from the necropolis of Golgoi and is a typical representation of Hathor with her usual cow ears and unique wig. The stela is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Fig. 2 - Detail of the stela showing a very typical representation of Hathor

     In 545, Cyprus became a part of the Persian Empire under the rule of Cyrus the Great. In 526 Ahmose passed away and was succeeded by his son Psammetichus III. A year later Cambyses, who had succeeded Cyrus to the Persian throne, was planning an invasion of Egypt and Cyprus sided with the Persian king. The battle of Pelusium resulted in a complete victory for the Persians and Egypt joined Cyprus a part of the Persian Empire.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Alexander at Issus

Fig. 1 - Alexander Charging Darius
     One of the decisive battles of history is Alexander the Great's victory over the Persians at Issus, in what is now Turkey. Alexander had defeated a Persian army commanded by one of Darius III's Satraps (provincial governors) in 334 B. C. and moved East. A second Persian army, commanded by Darius in person, collided with Alexander in 333 B. C.

Fig. 2 Darius on his Chariot
     Alexander fought from a horse among his cavalrymen and led a charge directly at Darius, who fled the field. The Persian army collapsed as their King left the field and the Persian Empire, which was the largest in the world at the time, was brought to an end. Alexander eventually marched to the Persian capital of Persepolis, which was looted and burned.

     In Pompeii, a now famous mosaic was found showing Alexander on horseback charging a panic stricken Darius. This mosaic is now in a museum, but a copy of it has been put in the house in Pompeii where the original was found.
Fig. 3 - Close up of Darius
     The photos here are of the copy that is now in Pompeii. Figure 1 shows Alexander on horseback leading the charge against the Persian King. Figure 2 shows Darius fleeing the battlefield on his chariot, while figure 3 shows a lose up of the panicked expression on Darius' face.