Monday, December 26, 2016

Crocodile God of the Fayum

Fig. 1 - Limestone Statue of Sobek
     The Ancient Egyptians often represented their gods as having a human body and the head of an animal. The Middle Kingdom statue of the god Sobek in Figure 1 illustrates this perfectly.

     The god is shown wearing a collar on his upper chest area and a wig with long, almost female, hair. The hair may be shown this way since Sobek was associated with Isis in caring for Osiris.

     The sculpture is of limestone, dates to the reign of Amenemhat III and is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Sobek first appears, as far as we know, in the Pyramid Texts and is worshiped until the end of ancient Egyptian civilization.
Figure 2 - Crocodile Eating a Catfish

     The Egyptians often took mummified animals to the temple of a particular god as offerings. Sobek's temple at Kom Ombo has a large collection of mummified crocodiles, which were stacked haphazardly in a storeroom the last time I was there. Some of the mummies were from medium sized crocodiles that must have been rather dangerous to capture and kill. Mummified crocodile eggs were also presented to the the god as votive offerings.

     Crocodiles were often represented in Egyptian art in their non-divine form as well. Figure 2 shows a Middle Kingdom relief of a crocodile that is devouring a catfish while a reed boat floats above it. This relief is likely from a tomb and may have originally been part of a standard fishing / fowling scene that was so common in Middle Kingdom tombs.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Black Obelisk of Salmaneser III

Fig. 1 - the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III
     Shalmaneser III was a powerful Assyrian King who pushed the borders of Assyria eastwards into Babylonia and Iran, westwards into Urartu and Syria and then southwards  up to the borders of ancient Israel. This obelisk describes his conquests in text located at the top and bottom of the object.

Fig. 2 - and Elephant and Three Monkeys Being Brought as Tribute
     In between the text descriptions of this King's victories are illustrations of some of the tribute brought to Assyria by foreigners. Figure 2 shows an elephant and three monkeys being brought to Shalmaneser's palace at Nimrud. Figure 3 shows a pair of double humped camels being presented to his highness while Figure 4 shows Jehu, the King of Israel, kissing the ground before Shalmaneser's feet.

Fig. 3 - Camels Brought Before the King
     Shalmaneser ruled a little over 100 years earlier than Sargon II (who built Khorsabad). He ordered this obelisk to be set up in Nimrud, which was the Assyrian capital during his reign. This object is now in the Oriental Institute, in Chicago.
Fig. 4 - King Jehu of Israel Submits to Shalamneser

     No word on who cleaned up after all these animals were paraded before the ruler.

All photos copyright (c) John Freed 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Colossal Statue of Tutankhamen

     Tutankhamen is one of Egypt's most famous Pharaoh's, but not for anything he did in his life. He was a completely minor King whose existence was not recognized by later rulers of Egypt. Very few objects from his reign, other than the objects found in his tomb, still survive. This statue, which is now in the Oriental Institute in Chicago, is possibly the largest surviving statue of the king. If it really is Tutankhamen.

     The statue bears the name of Horemhab carved over the erased name of Aye. But artistically, this statue looks like it dates to Tutankhamen's reign. Possibly it was only partially finished when the young ruler died and it was usurped first by Aye, and then by Horemhab.

     In any event, this statue is huge, standing about 17 feet high and weighing about six tons. Tutankhamen is shown wearing a Nemes headdress surmounted by the double crown and wearing the false beard of the Pharaoh.

     There is an indication that this work of art originally had the King's wife standing next to him, but only the feet of the Queen remain. This statue was found with a second, very similar, statue that is now in the Cairo Museum.

     If you look carefully at the photos, you will notice that the statue is heavily restored. The Oriental Institute has, correctly I think, left the restored portions of the work a different color so that visitors can tell the difference.