“The Temple of Amun at Medinet Habu: Birth Place and Burial Place of the Primordial Deities” Lucia Gahlin

At the beginning of July Lucia Gahlin visited the Essex Egyptology Group to talk about the Small Temple at the site of Medinet Habu which was actually more important to the ancient Egyptians than the big temple of Ramesses III that we go to visit as modern tourists. Click here to see my write up of this talk on my sister blog, Other People’s Tales.

Relief of Nebhepetre Montuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor

This is a really stunning piece of relief, which came from the temple of Montuhotep II at Deir el Bahri. It was made for the main sanctuary which was built near the end of Montuhotep II’s reign. Even this soon after the start of the Middle Kingdom art has reached new heights.

It’s been carved in low relief and then each hieroglyph has details incised into it and is artfully painted to turn each into a work of art in its own right. If you look closely at the palace facade in front of the king you can see it has lots of delicate crosshatching.

To the right of the scene is Hathor – she was originally damaged on Akhenaten’s orders as part of his focus on the worship of the Aten. She was later restored in the 19th Dynasty but that was done with plaster which has since fallen out again.

Relief of Nebhepetre Montuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor. From the temple of Montuhotep II, Deir el Bahri. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, late reign of Montuhotep II, c. 2010-2000 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 07.230.2

It’s now at the Met Museum, acc. no.: 07.230.2, and I saw it as part of the Ancient Egypt Transformed exhibition in 2015.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1655/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3c6dfadbf8ad
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14823c7e898b

Relief of Offerings

These two pieces of relief come from the tomb of a man called Dagi, who counted amongst his titles “sealer, sole companion, favourite of the god, director of those who are among the gods”. He lived during Dynasty 11, and was buried at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna in tomb TT103/MMA807.

The primary point of this relief is to provide Dagi with food in his afterlife, and the offering table is certainly piled high with readily identifiable tasty things. He even has a whole stack of bread moulds for the afterlife bakers to make his daily bread in!

The inscription below gives us those titles I listed earlier and the text at the top is part of what the Met Museum calls his “menu” but I prefer to think of as his shopping list! The full grid originally listed with quantities the foodstuffs necessary for his funerary cult.

Relief of Offerings. From TT103, Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, Thebes. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, late reign of Mentuhotep II, c.2010-2000 BCE or reign of Mentuhotep III c.2000-1988 BCE. Acc. No.s: 12.180.245, 12.180.244

The relief fragments are now in the Met Museum, acc. no.s: 12.180.244 and 12.180.245

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1283/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=21cec3866b22
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3e121235c66c

Shabti of Senebimi

I saw this shabti as part of the Met Museum’s exhibition called Ancient Egypt Transformed, but it is part of their permanent collection (acc. no.: 11.150.14) and was excavated at Meir in 1910 by Sayyid Pasha Khashaba who sold it to the museum a year later.

Shabtis are plentiful, a single tomb from later Egyptian history might contain hundreds! This one is notable because it is a very early example – it dates to the early 12th Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom not long after shabtis began to be a part of the funerary goods of the elite.

So it’s not surprising that some of the later standard features are missing – like the text on the front is an offering formula requesting offerings for the deceased rather than the shabti spell requesting the shabti to stand in and work for the deceased.

It also has no hands. Later examples generally have arms crossed on their chests and hold the tools of their trade (agricultural implements or overseer’s whips and flails) but this mummiform figure has his hands underneath his wrappings.

I particularly like the slender elegance of this piece, which probably arises from its maker working within the constraints of the piece of wood he had available. The face is also very striking and finely carved.

Shabti of Senebimi. From Meir. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, c. 1981-1802 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 11.150.14

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1637

I’ve written about shabtis on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/02/01/here-am-i/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14f6f3ce3891
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b2a852172db

Pectoral and Necklace of Sithathoryunet

This beautiful piece of jewellery was found in the tomb of a woman called Sithathoryunet, who had the titles King’s Daughter and King’s Wife. She was buried next to the pyramid of Senwosret II, and it’s thought that she was his daughter and wife of his son Senwosret III.

The pectoral was made using the cloisonné technique which involves cutting semiprecious stones to the right size to fit perfectly into the gold framework. Given it’s only just over 3 inches wide at its widest it displays an awe-inspiring level of skill on the part of its crafter!

The cartouche contains one of Senwosret II’s names, and the piece can be read as the sentence: “The god of the rising sun grants life and dominion over all that the sun encircles for one million one hundred thousand years to King Khakheperre”. Propaganda, as well as beauty!

Pectoral and Necklace of Sithathoryunet. From the Tomb of Sithathoryunet (BSA Tomb 8), Lahun. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Senwosret II, c. 1887-1878 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 16.1.3

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1645/

It’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 16.1.3) and they have a long write-up on their site explaining the symbolism: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544232

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=34b4e26f41e1
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3b3ec607fc4f

Stela of Tetu and Nefertjentet

This stela makes up in enthusiasm for what it lacks in skill. It dates to Dynasty 11, and is still quite clearly in a “provincial” First Intermediate Period style, when local elites didn’t have access to the skilled craftsmen of the court of the Old Kingdom kings.

The couple seated on the right are Tetu and his wife Nefertjentet. In front of them their 5 daughters and two sons present offerings to them, including a table piled high with food. The text labelling each of their children is a mix of hieroglyphs and hieratic.

The artist has clearly had a bit of a tough time working out how to position Tetu and Nefertjentet on their chair. It’s obvious they’re supposed to be side by side, but is she on his left as her arm position suggests or his right as her legs suggest.

But for all its technical flaws I rather like it. It has a dynamism that some of the more formal art can lack.

Stela of Tetu and Nefertjentet. From debris east of TT279, el-Assasif. First Intermediate Period – Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, c. 2124-1984 BCE. Acc. No.: 19.3.33

It’s now in the Met, acc. no.: 19.3.33

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1209

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=22156ac9be41
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1aacc33f7050

Model Boat of Ukhhotep

This is a model boat which was probably found in the tomb of Ukhhotep in Meir, dating to the 12th Dynasty around 4000 years ago. It apparently bears the name of Ukhhotep although it’s not visible in this photo.

It’s showing a part of a funeral – the deceased in his coffin, presumably representing Ukhhotep, is being transported by boat to his final resting place. He’s accompanied by two women mourners, representing Isis and Nephthys mourning the dead Osiris, and two priests.

I like all the little details in this scene. The canopy over the coffin has a leopard skin on top, and both priests are also wearing leopard skins (their official “uniform”). You can even see the head of the cat on the shoulder of the priest at the back of the photo.

The priest closest to us holds an incense burner, looking like a spoon on a long stick. And the priest at the rear has a scroll which has an actual offering text written on it (you can’t see it in any of my photos, but the museum has a good one).

Model Boat of Ukhhotep. Probably from the Tomb of Ukhhotep, Meir. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, c. 1981-1802 BCE. Acc. No.: 12.183.3

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 12.183.3

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1238/

See a top down photo on the Met’s site: https://collectionapi.metmuseum.org/api/collection/v1/iiif/545439/1228134/main-image

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1f82f640eb0f
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=005eca7a34d4

El-Tod Treasure

This collection of silver objects are part of what is known as the el-Tod Treasure, which was found buried under a Middle Kingdom temple at el-Tod in 4 bronze chests labelled with the cartouche of Amenemhat II and dedicated to the god Montu. It’s now mostly in the Louvre.

Where everything came from, why it was collected together, why it was buried and who did the burying are all unknowns. But it does seem most plausible that it was a ritual deposit of items as an offering to the temple’s god that had been collected together over a long period.

It’s very unusual for Egypt because there is a lot of silver in the deposit. Silver was actually more valuable in Egypt than gold (at least for the first half of its history) because there aren’t local sources like there are for gold.

El-Tod Treasure. From a deposit in the temple foundations of the Temple of Montu at el-Tod Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Amenemhat II, c. 1919-1885 BCE. Acc. No.s: Musée du Louvre E 15144, E 15166, E 15173, E 15190, E 15195, E 15202, E 15203, E 15207

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1624/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=354a5cf1fb46
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=057838dc4a16

Apotropaic Rod

This is an apotropaic rod – it was used to ward off harmful spirits. It comes in four segments, which might be related to the “birthing bricks” used to protect women during childbirth. And it’s covered in protective motifs, particularly protective animals.

This is a Middle Kingdom object but the animals on the top remind me a lot of some Early Dynastic objects that are also in the Met. I don’t know if they had the same meaning or not – the earlier frog & crocodile were donated to temples, these are magic in a domestic setting.

Apotropaic Rod. Provenance unknown. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Senwosret III, c. 1878-1640 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 26.7.1275

It’s not known where this rod was found, but it’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 26.7.1275).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1640
Frog & Crocodile Early Dynastic figurines: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1396
Lion Early Dynastic figurines: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1397

I’ve written about frogs on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/12/21/hundreds-of-thousands/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=16f85b538b17
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=26cad3d879fe

Photos from the Ancient Egypt Transformed Exhibition

In 2015 when we visited New York we timed our trip to coincide with an exhibition on at the Met called “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom”. This examined how the Egyptians re-imagined their cultural constructs in this period, as reflected in the changes in their art.

One of the things that stuck with me most from the exhibition was the idea that although we generally think of the Middle Kingdom as split into three (11th, 12th & 13th dynasties) if you look at the art it splits into two at the reign of Senwosret III in Dynasty 12.

This photo I’ve picked out illustrates the new more mature & careworn appearance of Senwosret II’s statuary, rather than the idealised youthful face of his predecessors. Reflecting, presumably, a shift in the underlying ideas of what a king should be.

I took a few photos in the exhibition which I’ve just finished moving to my photo site, and you can see them here: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/index.php?/category/8

Senwosret III as a Sphinx. From Thebes (probably from Karnak). Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Senwosret III, c. 1878-1840 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 17.9.2

This photo is here: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1651 and you can compare it to Senwosret I here: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1652

I’ve written about Senwosret III on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/12/15/change-under-the-cover-of-restoration/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2f89abc0aff9
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=18ba3ba0a427