Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Book of the "Living"?

     I am reading a rather large and very scholarly, two volume set called The Organization of the Pyramid Texts, by Harold M. Hays. Dr. Hays spends a fair number of pages early in volume one of this work talking about a copy of the Book of the Dead written in the New Kingdom for a man named Nu.

     One point the author makes is that a number of the spells in this copy of the Book of the Dead have rubrics attached to them indicating that they are to be performed by the owner of the scroll while he is still alive. For instance, in Utterance 18 is written, "Should a man recite this utterance while pure, it means going out into the day after he dies and making the metamorphosis which his heart [gives]. And as for anyone who recites it [for himself] every day, (it means) he is prosperous on earth, he goes forth from every fire , and no evil comes near him". Another example is Utterance 17 where it is said, "It is beneficial for the one who does it upon earth".

     The major conclusion to be drawn from this is that many spells in the Book of the Dead were meant to be used during life. Perhaps we should refer to this text as the "Book of the Living"?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Some Travel Pictures Posted by a Friend

     A friend of mine, Dave Rudin, is a professional photographer and has posted a few pictures he took in Egypt a number of years ago. Take a look at them at his website.

     Dave - post some more pictures!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Sumerian Bearded Bull's Head

Fig. 1 - Sumerian Bronze Bull's Head, Michael C. Carlos Museum
     The Carlos Museum collection also has a number of Middle Eastern pieces from places other than Egypt. The one shown in figure 1 is a Sumerian bronze bull's head which may once have decorated a musical instrument like those found at Ur.

     The bull often represented the god An, who was a fertility god and also was considered the source of the king's power and right to rule.

Figures 2 and 3 show examples of bull's heads mounted on re-constructed harps from Ur, which are now in the British Museum. In figure 2 the bull's head is made of gold with the beard made of Lapis Lazuli, as is the beard on the harp in figure 3.

     When Leonard Wooley excavated the harps at Ur, he was unable to preserve the wood, but he was able to make plaster casts of the harps as they remained in the ground and these casts were used to re-construct the wooden portions of the harps. Note the "tuning pegs" at the top of the harp in figure 3.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection

     On Friday night the attendees of the annual ARCE convention jumped on a bus and headed over to Emory University for a reception at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. The highlight of the evening was the museum's collection of Middle Eastern art.

     One of the most unusual pieces in the collection was a Sixth Dynasty mummy from Egypt. Very few mummies survive from the Old Kingdom. This one is wrapped differently from later mummies in that the limbs are wrapped separately and the ears are modeled in linen on the sides of this young man's head. The head of the mummy rests on a wooden head rest and the deceased lies on his side. It was not until after the end of the Old Kingdom that mummies were laid to rest prone without the head rest.

     This particular mummy was found at Abydos.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ancient Egyptian Hairballs

     Kevin Cahill of the University of Pennsylvania gave a lecture (entitled “Elite Tomb or Family Burial Vault? Report on Recent Excavations at South Abydos, 2015 – 2016”) at the annual ARCE convention that takes the prize for the oddest discovery of the 2015 - 2016 excavation season (see the final paragraph below).    

      Several New Kingdom tombs were excavated at Abydos near the funerary temple of Senwosret III. One tomb (from early Dynasty 19) was for the “Scribe” and “Overseer of Stables” Horemhab. Tomb TC.16 was probably used for two burials and contained a Mycenean stirrup jar. Another tomb had a couple of ushabtis, which were carved with texts, except that one of them had the name of the owner written on it in ink, rather than carved. Obviously it was an “off the shelf” ushabti.

     Tomb TC.17 was of mud brick construction with a vaulted roof. It had a stairway and two chambers, all on a straight line. The main chamber was loaded with bones from an estimated 32 persons (15 females, 14 males and 3 persons whose sex is uncertain). Some of the bones had arthritis and some showed signs of anemia at a young age. The tomb also contained some “Cross Line” bowls which date to the Late Middle Kingdom to the end of the Second Intermediate Period. A biconical vase probably dates to the reign of Tuthmose I. The tomb also had sixty very odd objects called :hair balls" by the excavator. These are balls of mud containing human hair and their exact purpose is unclear. A small limestone face was also found which might have been part of one of the Second Intermediate Period “micro-face” masks. The rear chamber had some fragments of what might have been a Rishi coffin.