Tag Archives: Deir el-Medina

Deir el-Medina Double Lecture by Cédric Gobeil 07/04/18

“Life in the Royal Workmen’s Town of Deir el-Medina”
by Dr Cédric Gobeil, Director of the Egypt Exploration Society

Tattoo

Manchester Ancient Egypt Society and the Egypt Exploration Society
Join us for two lectures by EES Director Dr Cédric Gobeil about his excavations at Deir el-Medina and his research on the tattooed mummy recently identified at Deir el-Medina
Saturday 7th April 11am – 2pm
Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum
The University Of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9PL

10:30am – Doors open

11am – Introduction from Dr Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan

11:10 – 12:00 Lecture 1

12:00 – Lunch

13:00-14:00 Lecture 2

14:00 – Close

 

Tickets £20
Booking form here: EES MAES booking form

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Texts in Translation # 14: The stela of Ramose (Acc. no. 1759)

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Detail of Ramose from his stela

This finely carved limestone stela (60.5cm in height) comes from the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of King Ramesses II. The stela was dedicated by an important man named Ramose, who held the title of Senior Scribe in the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina during the reign of Ramesses II (c. 1279-1213 BC).

Ramose is known from over 40 individual monuments from the Theban area. According to accounts on ostraca, he was appointed by the Vizier Paser as Scribe of the Tomb in year 5 of Ramesses II – a role in which he served until at least year 38 of that king. His position afforded him the opportunity to commemorate himself in a range of monuments. The large number may have been motivated by the desire of Ramose and his wife for a child; the couple eventually adopted a son called Kenhirkhopeshef – a scribe well-known to Egyptologists as a keen collector of papyri. Ramose might also have received an income from outside the Village, and his association with the cult of Ramesses II seems to have made him particularly prominent amongst the workmen.

Stela of Ramose (Acc. no. 1759)

Stela of Ramose (Acc. no. 1759)

In the Manchester stela, Ramose addresses Ptah, the ‘patron’ god of craftsmen, and his daughter Maat, the personification of cosmic justice.

Caption above Ptah and Maat:

Ptah, lord of Truth, king of the Two Lands, beautiful of face, who fashioned the gods, great god, lord until eternity. Maat, daughter of Re […]

Purity, purity for your Kas, in every good thing.

Text in front of Ramose:

Giving praise to Ptah, lord of Truth, king of the Two Lands, with beautiful [face], [who is on] his great throne, lord of destiny, who creates fortune, who sustains the two lands with his crafts, and kissing the earth for Maat, daughter of Re, mistress of the sky, mistress(?) of all the gods, eye of Ra, who is before him, with beautiful face, who is in the barque-of-millions, lady of the Estate of Amun, so that they may give a good burial after old age in the Theban necropolis, the district of the Two Truths, for the Ka of the Osiris, true scribe in the Place of Truth, Ramose, justified.

Ramose_outlineThe original context of this stela is not clear. It may have been moved to the Ramesseum long after Ramose’s death. Interestingly, however, Quibell recorded finding parts of the nearby temple of Tuthmose IV reused in the Ramesseum; Ramose appears to have held an important position in the mortuary temple of Tuthmose IV prior to becoming Senior Scribe at Deir el-Medina – implying that building material was perhaps already being taken from the temple of Tuthmose IV whilst there was still an active cult there. Ramesses II is certainly well-known as a recycler of the monuments of his ancestors; the creation of his own “temple of millions of years” seems to have sealed the fate of others.
The reading of this text has benefited greatly from the suggestions of Angela McDonald, and is based on a new annotated translation by Mark-Jan Nederhof.

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Masks and masking in ancient Egypt

123

Acc. no. 123

The Manchester Museum holds two very important objects that provide evidence for the use of masks in ancient Egypt. The first is one of the very few surviving masks that appears to have been worn by the living, rather than placed on a mummy. The Manchester example (Acc. no. 123) is made of layers of linen and plaster, and has been painted black – with signs of paint being applied over broken patches of plaster, implying ancient repair. There are holes for the eyes and nostrils, indicating practical considerations for the wearer. A green triangle has been painted between the brows, and the eyes, cheeks and lips have been picked out with red paint. Despite the common assertion that the Manchester mask represents the dwarf-god Bes, this does not seem obvious from inspection of the mask itself.

The mask was found by archaeologist W.M. Flinders Petrie during his 1888-9 excavations at the pyramid-builders’ town of Kahun. It was discovered in a room of one of the houses there. In the next room, in a hole in the floor, was found a group of objects including a pair of ivory clappers and a wooden figurine of a woman with a lionine face(mask). Although the latter was stolen from the excavation, it is comparable with another example from the Ramesseum tomb group – also in Manchester. These objects have been interpreted as the tools of a ritual performer, whose use was connected with music and magic. The exact context of such use is uncertain.

Ostracon 5886 second version

Acc. no. 5886

The other object is a flake of limestone (known as an ostracon), from western Thebes, probably of New Kingdom date and donated by Sir Alan Gardiner. It bears a unique ink sketch: a scene of a funeral. The sketch shows a tomb shaft – of the type known from Deir el-Medina – with a group of female mourners gathered around it. Within the shaft a man is seen descending, and within the chambers of the tomb itself the burial party carry a coffin into place. A striking detail is that one of the party has a jackal head. Given the informal medium, the sketch is likely to show the burial as it happened, albeit in schematic fashion. The implication is that one of the party is wearing a jackal-headed mask. A famous example in Hildesheim may represent such a mask, used for the impersonation of Anubis, the god of mummification.

Ancient Egyptian ritual centred on the knowledge and action of a ritual practitioner, not on abstract “beliefs”. Masking enabled ritualists to act as gods, bringing divine knowledge and power to confront a given problem or participate in ceremonial acts. Religious texts contain many assertions that the speaker is a specific deity. Such a declaration of authority enabled mortals – both men and women – to impersonate gods, and make their ritual actions more effective. The resulting positive psychological effects are well-attested.

Masks enabled ancient Egyptians to become divine, both during life and after death. Manchester is fortunate to have these two outstanding objects, which shed light on an otherwise sparsely-documented practice.

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Texts in translation #10: The Stela of Hesysunebef (Acc. No. 4588)

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Stela Acc. no. 4588. Photo by Paul Cliff.

This limestone stela is a unique record of some very interesting people who lived during the Ramesside Period. It was discovered near the Ramesseum in 1896 by Flinders Petrie, working on behalf of the Egyptian Research Account. Many of the individuals who are represented on the stela are known from Deir el-Medina, the New Kingdom community of workers on Theban royal tombs.

The top register in the round part of the stela (the ‘lunette’) shows Neferhotep, the foreman of the gang of workmen who lived at Deir el-Medina. He stands on the prow of the boat used to carry the statue of the goddess Mut. The middle register shows another man, called Hesysunebef, and his family, who are all kneeling in adoration before the foreman Neferhotep. The lower register shows five more people including the parents-in-law of Hesysunebef.

4588

After J. Quibell, The Ramesseum, 1898, pl. 10, 3.

The inscription on the top register says that the stela was ‘Made by the Chief of the Gang in the Place of Truth (Deir el-Medina), Neferhotep, justified’. Above the shrine of Mut, the hieroglyphs identify the goddess as ‘Mut the Great, Lady of Isheru’ (her temple at Karnak).

The hieroglyphs in the middle register caption the figures beneath: ‘[Made/done/praise] by the workman of the Lord of the Two Lands Hesysunebef, justified; his son Neferhotep (ii), his wife, the lady of the house, Huenro, justified; his daughter Webkhet, justified; his daughter, Nubemiry, justified’.

The hieroglyphs in the lower register list ‘The workman in the Place of Truth, Amenemope, justified; his wife, the lady of the house, Iset, justified; the temple-singer of Amun, Webkhet, justified; the workman in the Place of Truth, Mery-Re, justified; the lady of the house, Weretanu, [justified]’.

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Hesysunebef and family. Photo by Oliver Smith.

It appears that Neferhotep was the benefactor and adoptive father of Hesysunebef, whose name means ‘He who is praised by his lord’. It is unusual that Neferhotep is depicted standing in the sacred boat (or ‘barque’) of the goddess Mut. Ordinary people were not usually permitted this honour – not even the Pharaoh. At Deir el-Medina the carrying of such a barque in procession would have happened on a fairly regular basis; such priestly duties would have been shared by several workmen.

We know from other sources that Hesysunebef appears to have risen to the high rank of Deputy – the second-in-command at the village – although he started life as a slave before his adoption by Neferhotep.

Huenro was the wife of Hesysunebef. It is known that Huenro lived with the workman Pendua before she married Hesysunebef, and that she was unfaithful to both men with the infamous chief workman of the gang called Paneb. When he found out, Hesysunebef divorced Huenro in the second year of King Sethnakhte (c. 1190-1187 BC). After her divorce, Huenro was left penniless. She was given charity by one individual in the village who gave her a monthly ration of grain.

The stela has been subject of pioneering work with interactive technology by Loughborough University. This allows us to tell the stories of these colourful characters in a more comprehensive way than was previously possible.

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Texts in translation #5: An ostracon showing Amun-Re as a ram (Acc. no. 9658)

Acc. no. 9658. © Paul Cliff

Acc. no. 9658. © Paul Cliff

I recently received an enquiry about the short inscription on this pottery sherd – or ostracon. The piece comes from the collection of Mr George Spiegelberg, a merchant in Manchester and brother of the famous German Egyptologist Wilhelm Spiegelberg (1870-1930). The ostracon shows the head of a ram deity with a rearing cobra before it, sketched first in red and then gone over in black.

The vertical caption reads: Beloved of Amun-Re, Lord of the Sky, Great God.
The text above the ram’s head reads: Amun-Re, the Light of Day.

The provenance of the sherd is most likely to be the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BC) village of Deir el-Medina, built to house the workers involved in the construction of tombs in and around the Valley of the Kings. Hundreds of similar sketches on limestone flakes or pottery sherds – in some sense the equivalent of modern ‘post-it’ notes – have been discovered there. Deir el-Medina was home to a variety of deities, local forms – differentiated by the addition of various epithets – of the gods worshipped in major state temples. Amun-Re was worshipped on the opposite side of the river to the village, at the great temple of Karnak, and is well attested in other contexts in the form of a ram. Here his epithet is ‘Shu en heru’. Shu was the god of air and sunlight, so a literal rendering of the text is ‘the light of day’.

The ostracon was most probably a draughtsman’s trial piece. Apprentices learnt to sketch in red, before a more experienced draughtsman went over this outline in black, correcting any mistakes. While the flake may have had a functional use as a practice piece, it could have served a votive function – as a record of piety – in and of itself.

Although no one is named as being ‘beloved’ of the god (it seems unlikely to me that the name has broken off), the rest of the text all appears to have been written entirely in black. The hieroglyphs fit around the image, within the edges of the sherd – suggesting the text is by a different, more confident hand than the first red outline. By the addition of this short caption, a draughtsman’s sketch is transformed into an explicit depiction of a god.

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