Tag Archives: statue

Tutankhamun’s ‘Guardian’ Statues: Symbolism and Meaning

One of the most striking objects in the exhibition ‘Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’, which recently opened to sell-out crowds at the Saatchi Gallery in London, is a life-sized striding statue of the king. One of a pair (its mate remains in Cairo), in many ways these statues exemplify many of our misapprehensions about Ancient Egypt in general and Tutankhamun in particular.

Image result for tutankhamun guardian saatchi

In dramatic black and gold, the statues were said to be really ‘life-size’ because they represented the pharaoh at the same height as discoverer Howard Carter claimed the ‘boy king’ had been in life after measuring his mummified body.

The Tutankhamun exhibition – of which I was lucky to get a preview – emphasises the status of the king’s funerary assemblage as priceless, luxurious, consisting of one-of-a-kind treasures. In fact, it is clear from the broken remains of the contents of other tombs in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere that such statues were part of a standard set of funerary furniture that a king of Egypt’s New Kingdom could expect to be buried with. Tutankhamun’s was if anything a pared down version of the set.

Image result for burton burial chamber wall

Tutankhamun’s statues, with remains of shrouds, in situ. Photo by Harry Burton. Griffith Institute

The closest parallels to Tutankhamen’s statues come from the tomb of Ramesses I (KV 16). Giovanni Belzoni describes their discovery in the burial chamber in 1817:

…in a corner a statue standing erect, six feet six inches high, and beautifully cut out of sycamore-wood: it is nearly perfect except the nose… in the chamber on our right hand we found another statue like the first, but not perfect. No doubt they had once been placed one on each side of the sarcophagus, holding a lamp or some offering in their hands, one hand being stretched out in the proper posture for this, and the other hanging down.

Two similar, though less well-preserved, statues come from the tomb of Horemheb (KV 57). Like those of Ramesses I, these are somewhat over-lifesize in scale. One other statue of this type originates from the tomb of Ramesses IX now in the British Museum, and is roughly lifesize. All of these are resin-coated, and seem to have originally been gilded. The presence of this statue type throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty is indicated by fragments: in KV 20, the tomb of Hatshepsut/Thutmose I, the excavators noted “a part of the face and foot of a large wooden statue covered with bitumen”; Amenhotep II was provided with a resin-coated example in the same pose as later statues but at only 80 cm in height and fragments of sculpture on the same scale come from the tombs of Thutmose III and IV. Parts including “two left ears and two right feet” for “lifesize wooden statues” were found in the cache tomb WV 25 but perhaps washed in from the neighbouring tomb of Ay (WV 23). Taken together, this evidence suggests that such royal images increased in scale over time. Depictions of statues exactly similar to Tutankhamun’s appear in a scene of sculpture being produced in the tomb of the vizier Rekhmire (temp. Tuthmose III/Amenhotep II) – suggesting a consistent iconography over time.

25,25,388,409.700287

Scene from the tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

In Tutankhamun’s pair, one wears the nemes headdress and the other a khat bag-wig. The same head coverings also occur on the pair of statues of Ramesses I, although other statues are insufficiently preserved to know if this pattern was standard. The khat-wearing statue of Tutankhamun has a text on the kilt apron labelling it as: “The Perfect God… royal Ka-spirit of (the) Horakhty, (the) Osiris… Nebkheperura, justified”. This favours the interpretation of the statue(s) as a home for the royal Ka-spirit.

The supposed function of these sculptures as “guardians” arises from the position at the doorway of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun’s (albeit truncated) tomb, the seemingly threatening maces they hold and especially the over-lifesize scale of the Horemheb and Ramesses I examples.

Carter initially coined the term “guardian statue” and the contemporary press accounts emphasised this apparently defensive function in descriptions; that is still how the statue is described in the Saatchi exhibition interpretation. However, in no simple way is the statue a ‘guardian.’ The root of this persistent misinterpretation – absolutely typical for Egyptology – may lie in a deep-seated anxiety that the tomb was not supposed to be entered – the same apprehension that has fuelled countless examples of mummy fiction.

Kha-inpu

Fifth Dynasty falsedoor of Khainpu (Acc.no TN R4567/1937), showing the same iconography in two dimensions as Tutankhamun’s ‘guardian’ statues show in three-dimensions

One wonders if the statues actually represent a much more general freedom of movement and power for the deceased; spells from the Book of the Dead are illustrated by vignettes of the deceased holding a cane and sceptre and the same iconography notably occurs frequently on falsedoors from the Old Kingdom onwards. These images are not usually interpreted as ‘guardians’ of the tomb – although the precisely parallel in two-dimensions the ‘scene’ set up in front of the door to Tutankhamun’s burial chamber in three-dimensions.

As ever, Tutankhamun’s ‘treasures’ say more about our modern anxieties about looking inside the tomb than they do about the ancient functions of objects such as sculptures.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt events

Object biography #20: A baboon of Iuwlot (Acc. no. 1785)

1785

Acc. no. 1785

This imposing (65cm high) black granodiorite statue represents the god Thoth as a baboon (Acc. no. 1785). Damage to the baboon’s muzzle has resulted in a rather forbidding impression, although Thoth was appealed to as a god of wisdom and of healing.

The statue has until now been dated to the New Kingdom, following archaeologist W.M. Flinders Petrie’s 1894 publication of finds from the site of Coptos, just north of Thebes. Several of the finds unequivocally dated to the reign of Ramesses II and so Petrie assumed the baboon to be of that period as well. However, the reading of the unusual name of the donor of the statue – a High Priest of Amun, named in an inscription within a pectoral carved on the baboon’s chest – has always puzzled me.

Petrie read the name of the donor as ‘Iua-Mer’ but did not publish a photograph of the statue or a copy of the inscription in the excavation report. Perhaps as a result it does not appear in a standard reference work of monuments, the Topographical Bibliography of Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts. Unless someone had visited Manchester, it is unlikely they would know what the statue looked like.

Christies_Baboon

The Christie’s baboon

By chance, whilst perusing a Christie’s sale catalogue for an auction held on Thursday 2 May 2013, I happened upon the perfect doppelganger of our piece: a granodiorite baboon statue, identified as having been dedicated by a 22nd Dynasty high priest of Amun named Iuwlot. The unusual name, combined with a rare combination of hieroglyphic signs in its spelling mean there can be no doubt that this is the same man as dedicated our almost identical statue. Unsurprisingly given its apparent lack of publication, the author(s) of the Christies catalogue entry were unaware of the Manchester baboon.

Iuwlot is an intriguing but little-known character. He was the son of the Libyan king Osorkon I, and held the important title of High Priest of Amun at Thebes. He is attested from five other inscribed objects: two Nilometer Texts (no. 20 and 21), a stela from Thebes (British Museum 1224), a stela in Moscow and finally the so-called Stèle de l’apanage in Cairo.

1785_detail

Detail of the pectoral carved on acc. no. 1785

In the vexed subject of ancient Egyptian chronology, especially of the Third Intermediate Period, all attestations of named and titled individuals count. Two new records can now be added for Iuwlot in the form of the baboons from Coptos – as the Manchester one has a firm provenance, it is likely that they were set up as a pair, perhaps to flank a temple doorway at Coptos. Interestingly, Iuwlot’s son Wasakawasa is known from an electrum pectoral dedicated to Thoth, Lord of Hermopolis (Petrie Museum UC13124), perhaps implying a particular family regard for this god.

These baboons may have been carved much earlier and have been repurposed by the 22nd Dynasty royal family. Other monumental elements, such as granite jambs of Tuthmose III, were reused by Osorkon I at Coptos, and such reuse is widely attested in ancient Egypt.

This is proof, yet again, that even well-visited objects on display can hide secrets in their stories.

Our baboon can be viewed in our award-winning ‘Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed’ exhibition tour.

Leave a comment

Filed under Object biography

Object biography #15: A previously unidentified statue of Senenmut (Acc. no. 4624)

Front_blogJPEG

Acc. no. 4624. Photos copyright Manchester Museum

Our fragment (Acc. no. 4624) came to the Manchester Museum from the excavations of Edouard Naville at the site of Deir el-Bahri between 1894 and 1907. A more precise provenance for the piece or when exactly it entered the collection is not known. The fragment is 48.5cm high and 31cm wide, made of indurated limestone, and depicts the lower portion of a seated figure at about half lifesize. It is badly damaged but still carries hieroglyphic text on the sides of the seat, base and over the knees. Interestingly, the seat retains an artisan’s red ink guidelines for the inscription. Traces remain of blue pigment within individual hieroglyphic signs, implying that the statue was not, however, left unfinished.

Left_blogJPEGThe identity of the individual represented is recorded in our catalogue – based on hieroglyphs on the base – as ‘the priest of Amun, Userhat’ and the piece is there dated to the Middle Kingdom. I had often wondered who this mysterious priest Userhat was. Because the favour formula only begins to appear on elite statues at the end of the Middle Kingdom, I speculated if this was one of the first examples of it. And given that the formula usually only appeared on sculptures of the very high elite at this time, I wondered why a simple ‘priest of Amun’ had been so favoured.

I thought no more about the fragment until the visit last Autumn of Prof. Rainer Hannig, of the University of Marburg. During a very genial and informative discussion with Rainer, I pointed the piece out and – almost as an afterthought – he noted that the hieroglyphs identifying the owner (Hm-nTr n imn wsr-hAt) could be read as a single title: ‘the priest of Amun-Userhat (a name of the sacred barque of Amun at Karnak)’, a title known to be held by only one person: Senenmut – high official under Queen Hatshepsut and one of the most well-known individuals from ancient Egypt.

Right_blogJPEGIt was with considerable anticipation that I checked the other titles on the statue (‘nobleman’, ‘governor’, and the slightly more unusual ‘overseer of the priests of Montu in Armant’) and found that each was attested for Senenmut. Knowing that the statue was from Deir el-Bahri, the site of Hatshepsut’s famous mortuary temple, I became really rather excited. On closer inspection of the statue itself, it was apparent that the lap of the figure seemed to rise somewhat before the mid-thigh break and no hands were visible. Could it be that this was a broken example of Senenmut in his innovative pose with Hatshepsut’s daughter, Neferure, bound within his cloak on his lap? Perhaps most revealing of all, upon close examination of the remains of the favour formula which had first attracted my attention I noticed that the statue was given as favour not by a ‘king’ at all – but by a ‘god’s wife’. There is only one

Detail of favour formula. The tops of the 'Hmt nTr' signs can just be made out.

Detail of favour formula. The tops of the ‘Hmt nTr‘ signs can just be made out.

example known to me of this variant of the favour formula, and that statue (Cairo CG 42117) belongs to Senenmut. Whether this ‘god’s wife’ is Hatshepsut herself or her daughter is unclear.

Six more statues of the total of 25 known for Senenmut carry the statement that they were ‘given as favour of the king’. In the inscriptions of another (CG 42214), Senenmut makes the following unusual – and somewhat touching – appeal to Queen Hatshepsut, explaining perhaps why he possessed so many statues:

Grant that there be commanded for this your humble servant the causing that there be made for me many statues of every kind of precious hard stone for the temple of Amun in Karnak and for every place wherein the majesty of this god proceeds, as [was done] for every favoured one of the past; then they shall be in the following of the statues of Your Majesty in this temple.

Senenmut hoped that by dedicating a range of sculptures – many of them innovative in their motifs, and set up in different locations – he would increase the chances of his memory lasting for eternity. Others, it seems, had different ideas. There is evidence that some – though not all – of Senenmut’s images were maliciously attacked. Perhaps this was carried out by those with a unknown person grudge against Senenmut? Perhaps by those who thought his relationship with the Queen inappropriate? Or perhaps by those that hated Hatshepsut herself? Perhaps even by later people for whom the very idea of a female pharaoh was anathema? Whatever the motivation, maybe this is the reason that the Manchester fragment is so badly damaged.

Senenmut’s life has inspired more scholarly and popular writing than almost any other non-royal from Pharaonic times. I am quite sure that this bashed-up fragment, which has lain unrecognised in Manchester for over a century, represents the twenty-sixth attested statue for Senenmut. Information from its texts and archaeological context may well add important details to the Senenmut story, illustrating that exciting new finds await discovery in even the most supposedly well-known collections.

See further:

– Delvaux, L. 2008. Donné en récompense de la part du roi‖ (djw m Hswt nt xr nsw), Unpublished PhD dissertation: Strasbourg.

– Dorman, P. 1988. The Monuments of Senenmut: Problems in Historical Methodology, London.

– Meyer, C. 1982. Senenmut: Eine prosopographische Untersuchung, Hamburg.

– Price, C. 2011. Materiality, Archaism and Formula: The Conceptualisation of the Non-Royal Statue during the Egyptian Late Period (c. 750-30 BC), Unpublished PhD dissertation: Liverpool.

A full publication of the Manchester fragment is currently in preparation.

11 Comments

Filed under Object biography, Research projects

The mystery of the spinning statuette (II)

Several months ago, we noticed that one of our Middle Kingdom statuettes was spinning around imperceptibly slowly in its new case in our Egyptian Worlds gallery. We set up a time lapse camera to take one image every minute for a week. This is the result.

The cause may be subtle vibrations from footfall or traffic outside, but the statuette has been on a glass shelf in about the same place in the gallery for decades and has never moved before – and none of the other objects in the case move in any way. A mystery? See for yourself.

Video by Luke Lovelock, Media Technician, Manchester Museum.

133 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Collections Bites talk 01/05/13: ‘The Statue of the Admiral Hor’

Acc. no 3570 © Paul Cliff

Acc. no 3570 © Paul Cliff

Wednesday 1 May, 1.15-2pm.

Collections Study Centre, Manchester Museum

Join our series of guest speakers for lunchtime conversations discussing key objects from the collection. This month’s conversation will be:

The Kneeling Statue of the Admiral Hor: Ships and Sculpture in Sixth Century BC Egypt.

Often overlooked because of its damaged state, the kneeling statue of Hor [Acc. no. 3750] represents an important military man of the Egyptian Twenty-Sixth Dynasty (c. 595-589 BC). Hor was Admiral of Egypt’s royal Mediterranean fleet at a time of increasingly strained international relations. Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and the Sudan at the Museum, will discuss Hor’s role and the meanings of his temple statue.

FREE. Book on 0161 275 2648 or museum@manchester.ac.uk

1 Comment

Filed under Egypt events at the Manchester Museum

Curator’s Diary 13/3/13: Early Photographs of a Prince’s Journey in Egypt

Nakhtmontu stela

Stela of Nakhtmontu © HM Queen Elizabeth II

Last week I attended the opening of a new exhibition, ‘From Cairo to Constantinople’, at the Queen’s Gallery of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The exhibition presents photographs taken by Francis Bedford – the first official photographer to accompany a royal tour – on the trip around the Middle East made in 1862 by the then-Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).

The Royal Collection houses a number of objects that the Prince brought back from his travels, several of which are displayed in the exhibition. The most striking is the black granite statue of a 12th Dynasty queen (to an unnamed king), called Senet. Sadly the piece, which is less than half-life-size, lacks an exact provenance and the face of the statue has been damaged and restored in modern times. The Royal Collection is currently lending several objects to our temporary exhibition, ‘Breed: The British and their dogs’, and it was a pleasure to see some of their Egyptological material on display.

In addition to ancient scarabs mounted in gold as jewellery presented to Edward’s wife Princess Alexandra, the exhibition contains two further ancient Egyptian antiquities. The first is a painted wooden stela of early Ptolemaic date belonging to a priest named Nakhtmontu – mounted in a rather fanciful, Egyptianising gilt frame. The Prince records the stela’s discovery in his diary: “I was looking at some excavations… behind the Memnonium [the Ramesseum]; the Viceroy had been kind enough to give permission for them, and that everything that was found I might have; only a small mummy and a tablet were however found, wh[ich] I took with me.”

10939_small

Late Period wooden stela, Acc. no. 10939.

Although the ‘concessions’ awarded to the Prince were not scientifically recorded, it is satisfying to have some idea of provenance of this object. The Ramesseum location matches both the Theban titles mentioned in the text and known Late – Ptolemaic Period burials in the area. A similar, if somewhat earlier, stela in Manchester may derive from a similar context – all that is recorded is that it comes from the collection of a Lady Marten, and was given in 1953 (right).

Finally, perhaps most important in terms of its connections to other known objects, is a set of sheets cut down from the papyrus of a man called Nesmin, showing the Amduat, found ‘upon a mummy in a tomb…’ Only one sheet (out of seven) is on display, but highlights the crisp penmanship of scribes producing the best papyri at this period. Nesmin is most likely to be the same man that owned the early Ptolemaic Bremner-Rhind Papyrus in the British Museum.

The superbly displayed objects in the exhibition combine with the photographic and diary record to really bring to life this royal tour. The photographs themselves are a valuable record of many monuments before they were ‘cleaned up’ for more popular tourism, and they compare well with those of the Zangaki brothers and others (prints of which we found at the Museum in 2011), taken around the same time.

As a record of the exhibition and of the tour, the catalogue is a sound investment and highlights the key role of temporary exhibitions of this nature in putting on view material that is rarely, if ever, seen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curator's Diary

Texts in translation #9: The inscribed statue of the admiral Hor (Acc. no 3570)

Acc. no 3570 © Paul Cliff

This statue depicts a man named Hor (whose ‘good name’ was Psamtek), who held a pair of unusual titles that equate with a modern rendering of ‘Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet’. Although damaged, this life-size quartzite statue would have been of very high quality when complete. Hor is shown holding – and therefore eternally protecting – a shrine with an image of the lion-headed form of the goddess Bastet. This iconography supports the statue’s original location at the site where it was found by Flinders Petrie: Leontopolis (‘City of the Lions’) – modern Tell el-Yahudiya. By being shown kneeling in a submissive – but at the same time protective – gesture, it was hoped that the goddess would reciprocate and extend her own protection towards Hor in the form of his statue.

The statue’s texts combine ancient assertions of nobility, and novel titles concerning Egypt’s seafaring activities. A provisional translation, based on Petrie’s reading of the signs, is as follows:

At the front of the shrine is, on one side:

Chief of the royal fighting ships in the Great Green (Sea), Hor, whose good name is Psamtek

On the other:

… born of the Lady of the House Taanetempawia

At the top of the base is:

Petrie’s copy of the text

Commander of the Aegean island(er)s, Hor, whose good name is Psamtek

The inscription on the back pillar reads:

… in the heart of the Lord of the Two Lands, the Horus Menkh-ib, sweeter than all upon his throne of sweet wood

… command of the perfect god, Nefer-ib-re (Psamtek II), commander of the lands of the

Aegean island(er)s, Hor, his name is Psamtek.

Around the base, symmetrically arranged, are two lines of inscription:

The nobleman and governor, the royal seal-bearer, the beloved sole companion, satisfying the wishes of the king in the lands of the Greeks; one known to the Lord of the Two Lands because of his effectiveness,  Hor, whose good name is Psamtek.

The nobleman and governor, the royal seal-bearer, the beloved sole companion, exacting in his plans that were entrusted to him, pleasing (lit. widening the heart of) his lord in all his expeditions abroad, Hor.

The 26th Dynasty was a period when a number of ancient traditions were revived, in both visual culture and in texts. This may have had something to do with a resurgence in national feeling after a period of foreign domination, but appears to have begun under these non-native rulers themselves. The fashion for having a ‘good name’ dates back to the Old Kingdom and was reintroduced among the elite during the 26th Dynasty.  Hor’s ‘good’ name’ of Psamtek might refer to the sovereign under whom he served (Psamtek II, 595-589 BC), but more likely commemorates the much more illustrious Psamtek I (664-610 BC), during whose long reign Hor was probably born.

In Hor’s inscription, the ‘Great Green’ must refer to the Mediterranean Sea – though there has been much debate about this identification. During the 26th Dynasty, Egypt developed its own navy and employed Greek and Phoenician mercenaries to form the crew of its galley-type ships. These mercenaries were based in stratopeda (camps), which were described by Classical writers as being situated along the Pelusiac branch of the Nile – downstream of Tell el-Yahudiya, where Hor’s statue was set up. Commercial centres grew out of these military settlements, and Egypt’s population became increasingly cosmopolitan. It was, however, typical that commanding officers of these forces were Egyptian. Hor’s reference to “his (the king’s) expeditions abroad” implies a role in the expansionist foreign policy of the 26th Dynasty kings. Psamtek II, for example, campaigned in both Palestine and Nubia during his short reign.

11 Comments

Filed under Texts in Translation