Sunday, July 31, 2016

Amarna at Philadelphia

Fig. 1 - cloth hanging with a face of Akhenaten and one of his stelae
Fig. 2 - statuette of an Amarna Princess
     The Penn Museum also has a small display of Amarna Period objects from Egypt. They are now displayed downstairs, next to Merneptah's temple (they were upstairs last time I was at the museum) near a cloth hanging with a large image of a statue of Akhenaten (Fig. 1). A rather odd stela of Akhenaten can be seen in the lower left corner of Figure 1. It is odd in that portions of the royal figures have been carved very deeply so that something could be used to fill the figures and give the object a very unique look. However, since the filling material has long since disappeared, the stela today looks strange indeed.

Fig. 3 - statuette of Tutankhamen as the god Amun
Fig. 4 - Tutankhamen statuette, showing the broad collar and divine beard
     Figure 2 is a statuette of one of Akhenaten's daughters. We can be sure it is one of his daughters (rather than Nefertiti) because the bottom of the sidekick of youth (worn by children until they came of age) is visible on the princess' right shoulder (on the left side of the picture).

     Last, but not least, is a statuette of the god Amun that probably also represents Tutnkhamen. He is shown wearing a divine beard, a broad collar and a kilt that has the Knot of Isis on it (just below the Kings navel).

All photos on this website are copyright (c) 2016 by John Freed unless otherwise noted

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Great Sphinx of Phildelphia

Fig. 1 - front view of the UPENN sphinx
     One of the highlights of a trip to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia is a visit to the underground level of the Egyptian collection. Here they have columns from a palace go Merneptah as well as a sphinx from the reign of Rameses II (to which Merneptah added his name). All of these objects were originally found at the site of the temple of Ptah at Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital which was slightly south of modern day Cairo.

     Josef and Jennifer Wegner recently detailed the story of this huge statue in their book The Sphinx that Travelled to Philadelphia: the Story of the Colossal Sphinx in the Penn Museum. The sphinx, which weighs about 15 tons, arrived in Philadelphia in 1913 and has been a popular city treasure ever since. One of the stories told in this book is how the dock workers refused to unload the sphinx from the ship that brought it to the United States until the 1913 World Series (which was being played in Philadelphia that year) was over.

The face is heavily weathered (Fig. 1), although the body of the Sphinx is well preserved (Fig. 2). The statue is, as all Egyptian sphinxes are, a lion with the head of a human. The head of the statue wears a "nemes" head dress and is adorned with the false beard of the king.

     Today the sphinx is displayed in a very atmospheric setting. The room is dimly lit with spotlights used to highlight the sphinx and palace columns.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sumerian Votive Statuette

     In the last post I showed a silver statuette of a man that dates from around 800 B. C. I mentioned that the large eyes this figure had reminded me of Sumerian statuettes made from alabaster. Here is an example of such a statuette dating to 2600 - 2350 B. C. This object (from Khafaje, Iraq) is carved from alabaster and has shell eyes and lips lazuli pupils. The man's hands are clasped in front of him in the same way that they are clasped in front of the silver figure in the previous post. The similarities exist in the style of small statuettes from temples in spite of the fact that there is well over 1,000 years sepearating these two works of art.

     The purpose of this statuette is not completely certain. Does it represent a priest? Is it a votive statuette left in the temple by someone trying to impress a god or goddess with his piety? No one knows for sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Anatolian Silver Work

Fig. 1 - Figure of a Priest
     The ancient civilizations in Turkey produced some great silver work. Here are a number of pieces from different time periods. Some (fig. 1 to 3) are in the Penn Museum and the
others (figures 4 and 5) are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 2 - Detail of a Silver Statuette of a Priest
     The first object (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) is a silver statuette of a priest that dates from around 800 - 700 B. C. It was found in Bayidir in a tumulus burial. Note the rather large eyes of the priest, something I have seen in Sumerian votive statues (usually made of alabaster) as well.

     Figure 3 is an Omphalus (drinking) bowl dating to somewhere between 800 and 700 B. C. and is from the same tumulus (tumulus D) burial as the statuette of the priest.

Fig. 3 Silver Drinking Bowl from Bayidir, Tumulus D
Fig. 4 - Hittite Silver Drinking Rhyton in the form of a Stag
     The Silver Rhytons are from the Hittite Period in Turkey and date to about 1400 - 1300 B. C. Figure 4 shows a rhyton in the form of a stag. The antlers and handle were added separately and the owner drank from the rear of the Rhyton. The frieze at the rear of  the object show a god and a goddess separated by an incense burner, with three men also being shown making offerings to the deities. The bull Rhyton may represent the god Teshub. The eyes and brows of the bull were once inlaid.
Fig. 5 - Hittite Silver Drinking Rhyton


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Burial of Midas' Father

Fig. 1 - Phrygian Bronze Cauldron
     The Penn Museum has a really interesting exhibit that gives the visitor a very good idea of what the burial of a Phrygian King, in this case the father of the famous King Midas (the king with the golden touch), must have been like.

     The burial is what is known as a tumulus interment. The deceased was buried in a chamber that was then covered by a huge (and I mean huge!) mound called a tumulus. This particular burial dates to about 740 B. C. and was found in Turkey, which is where the Phrygian empire was located.

Fig. 2 - Winged Figure from the Bronze Cauldron
     Midas' father was apparently past his 60th birthday when he died. He was buried with dozens of objects made of bronze, including a large "cauldron" (fig. 1). The cauldron had four winged figures on its rim and each of these figures had a ring attached to it. Was this pot at times suspended in the air using these rings? There were also smaller bronze pots and bowls found within this tumulus (fi. 3).

Fig. 3 - Bronze Pots and Bowls from Tumulus MM

The museum has also included an interactive display of what the burial chamber looked like at the end of the funeral. You can see the body of the deceased (fig. 4) and then scroll around the burial chamber to see where all of the objects were left before the tomb was closed.

Fig. 4 - Computer Display of the Burial as it Originally Appeared
     The Phrygians do not often get mentioned in books about archaeology, but the bronze work from this tomb is highly sophisticated and, in its own way, quite attractive. Sometime soon, perhaps I will have a chance to cover the Phrygians in more detail.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Tomb of Puabi

     During the course of his excavations at Ur, Woolley found the burial of a woman named Puabi who is often referred to as a Queen, but in truth her exact status is not certain. She must have been an extremely important woman as her burial (which dates to around 2600 B. C.) was truly splendid.

     Her tomb was entered via a sloping corridor the led to a pit at the bottom of which was a stone covered burial chamber. Her burial included a lyre (a musical instrument similar to a harp) which was decorated by a golden bull's head like the one shown in the previous post on this blog. It also contained a great deal of jewelry which covered Puabi's body. In fig. 1 you can see the huge gold headdress that adorned her body. Also note the almost impossibly large gold earrings. The beads below the headdress were worn around the Queen's shoulder, like a shawl.

     Her tomb also contained the bodies of oxen and numerous retainers who were buried with her. They were either killed just before the burial pit was covered over, or they were drugged and left in the tomb to be covered with earth while still alive! Many of these retainers were decked out in golden finery before their deaths. When found, the bodies of these sacrificial victims had been crushed by the weight of the earth piled up on top of them. The skulls of some of these persons are on display at the Penn Museum with the flattened gold jewelry that adorned them still in place.