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Ancient Egypt Magazine -- No. 117 (Vol 20.3) December 2019 / January 2020

Book Reviews

Book Reviews Index

 

The Art of Describing:
The World of Tomb Decoration as Visual Culture of the Old Kingdom.
Studies in Honour of Yvonne Harpur

edited by Peter Jánosi and Hana Vymazalová

 

Czech Institute of Egyptology, Charles University, 2018

ISBN 978-807-308770-8

Hardback, £65.

Yvonne Harpur is best known among Egyptologists as one of the foremost scholars of ancient Egyptian art and architecture from the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom, in particular for her detailed studies of tomb scenes. In his paper, Karol Myśliwiec reiterates this by stating that “The devil is in the details, and nobody knows it better than Yvonne Harpur”. Notably, Harpur’s pioneering work on the Oxford Expedition to Egypt: Scene Details Database provides all who use it with a comprehensive online resource of details from Old Kingdom tomb scenes throughout Egypt. This is especially useful for students and for those who wish to examine a particular tomb, or type of tomb scene, in detail.

This volume, written in honour of Harpur, brings together a set of papers that range in focus from detailed studies of particular Old Kingdom tomb scenes and sculpture, to the presentation of the decoration programmes of burial chambers.

Material culture relating to familiar characters from the Old Kingdom, including Kagemni and Rashepses, is examined from new viewpoints that prove that we still have much to learn from the rich artistic outputs of the Old Kingdom. One paper in particular – that on the ‘Serdab-Statue of Ty’ by Paolo Scremin – highlights how new light can be shone on even those monuments which we believe we already know so much about.

The papers are beautifully illustrated throughout with colour and blackand- white images and line drawings, which bring the discussions on the different artistic representations to life.

One particularly useful feature of this book is a set of lined ‘note’ pages at the back, where readers can add their own notes on the subject should they wish. This book will appeal to those interested in the art of the Old Kingdom, as well as to readers who would like to extend their knowledge of ancient Egyptian art and architecture more generally.

Anna Garnett

The Archaeology of Egypt in the Third Intermediate Period

by James E. Bennett.

 

Cambridge University Press, 2019

ISBN 978-1-108-48208-0

Hardback, £85.

Study of the Third Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt has to date largely focussed on chronology and funerary material but, as with other periods, the advent of modern technology has re-focussed attention onto regions previously thought to be unexploitable by archaeological method.

In Egypt this has meant that data from cultivated areas is now being retrieved. In short, settlement archaeology is moving onto the centre ground where once funerary monuments and religious stone buildings dominated study.

This book by James Bennett, which arose out of a doctoral thesis, sets out to define concepts of transition and continuity following the breakdown of centralised government after the Twentieth Dynasty and proposes a model for assessing Egyptian cultural evolution and historical development by examination of settlement archaeology.

This is achieved in five well-stocked chapters, all demonstrating the author’s comprehensive investigation of evidence both textual and material.

Following a brief historical survey of the Period, Bennett discusses settlement patterns and land policy. Here the difficulties of excavating sites devastated by sediment deposition, urban expansion, agriculture and looting (ancient and modern) are surveyed in order to establish a methodology for defining the political landscape of the time. He then analyses settlement sites and remains, revealing patterns of urban development which illustrate how local populations mainly became self-sufficient within the fragmented organisation of the country. This is reinforced in the next chapter where a wide range of domestic materials is quantified to indicate social and religious changes that characterise the Third Intermediate Period. A final chapter summarises and defines how we can assess the Period through the lives of the ‘common people’ rather than from bald royal statistical information.

Throughout the volume, the emphasis on inclusivity is impressive. The author has obviously examined a vast amount of data on a very wide range of topics to provide a solid foundation from which scholars may determine what changed, and what did not change, after the breakup of the New Kingdom. Egypt became rather insular during the 400-odd years of the TIP, which is reflected by a downturn in imported goods and materials, leading to self-sufficiency and re-use at all levels. However, any popular concept of the Period being one of disorder is firmly denied by the evidence reviewed here. People may have been slightly poorer overall, but life, religious and practical, continued in the same way as during governance high points such as the New Kingdom.

The author provides an excellent gazetteer of Third Intermediate Period sites providing information on known archaeology, helpfully providing modern Arabic names where known, and notes on the more important places. Temple building is dealt with in Appendix 2, and there is an extensive, comprehensive bibliography.

While never intended as ‘fireside’ reading, this scholarly work provides the reader with a refreshingly up-todate survey of an important period of Egyptian history, sourced not from tomb or temple, but from the still under-studied settlement arena.

Alan L. Jeffreys

Life Within the Five Walls:
A Handbook to Deir el- Medina

by Benedict G. Davies.

 

Abercromby Press, 2019

ISBN 978-1-912246-02-1

Hardback, £60 / AE Readers £45 (see below).

As Editor of AE, there are a few books on my bookshelves that show signs of very frequent use, such as the British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, and I suspect that this masterpiece by Benedict Davies will be another. It contains a series of informative and clearly-written articles covering every aspect of the life within the “Five Walls” (not only the Workmen’s Village of Deir el-Medina, but also the administrative area surrounding it), arranged in alphabetical order from “Abandonment of Deir el- Medina” to “Workmen’s Marks”.

There is even an explanation for the “Grand Puits”, the huge (dry) well that became the dumping- ground for hundreds of ostraca.

Administrative records from the village give fascinating glimpses of the daily lives of the tomb workers and ancillary staff and the community’s thriving network of personal business dealings. A diverse mix of personalities living in in such claustrophobic conditions led to frequent conflict, with cases of abuses of power, embezzlement, adultery, acts of violence against other workers, worker’s strikes and prosecutions brought against tomb robbers all documented.

Also included and equally useful is a series of Annexes, including: a Timeline showing the important developments relating to the activities of the villagers, arranged in order of the reigns of the relevant pharaohs; ancient Egyptian weights and measures; the names of the inhabitants of the houses in the village where these are known (including the infamous Chief Workman Paneb, well-noted for his violence and intimidation); and the names of the owners of the Deir el- Medina tombs. There is an extensive Bibliography, List of Sources and a comprehensive Index. This is a reference book par excellence and is highly recommended to all readers of AE and indeed all professional Egyptologists.

JPP AE Magazine readers can order this book at a special discounted price of £45 (quoting AP/2019) from:

www.abercrombypress.co.uk

The Egyptian Collection at Norwich Castle Museum: Catalogue and Essays.

by Faye Kalloniatis.

 

Oxbow Books, 2019

ISBN 978-1-7892-5196-8

Hardback, £45.

It is a rare occurrence in modern publishing to encounter a printed treatment of a single collection of objects as comprehensive as this. Faye Kalloniatis has assembled a huge amount of information on the collection of Norwich Castle Museum, giving a depth of coverage that many museums – including the reviewer’s own – can only dream of. Importantly, she has mustered a team of specialists to comment on discrete parts of the collection, providing interpretational depth in addition to the value of the book as a catalogue in itself.

The volume opens with Kalloniatis’ own very useful overview of the history of the Norwich collection. Notably, this features the first proper discussion of the agency of local businessman (and mustard magnate) Jeremiah Colman (1830-1898), but also the Egyptophile writer Sir Rider Haggard, Greville Chester (clergyman and collector) and other donors. In a catalogue such as this it is interesting to establish what is known about each of these people early on, and see how the objects under discussion relate to (and were perhaps chosen by) each of them.

John Taylor provides a detailed commentary on the mummies and coffins of Ankhhor and Heribrer (of Dynasties Twenty-two and Twenty-five respectively); Irmtraut Munro discusses the recently-identified early Eighteenth Dynasty Book of the Dead shroud of Ipu; and Gabriele Wenzel writes about Norwich’s detailed painted granary model. Special consideration is given to all the texts that appear on the shroud, granary and mummy bandages – in an exemplary level of detail.

The rest of the volume resembles an archaeological finds report, and covers the full range of material held at Norwich – from coffins to amulets, with descriptions and footnotes citing parallels and relevant discussion elsewhere.

Everything is illustrated by at least one black-and-white image, while many key items also appear in colour plates at the back of the volume.

The strength of this book is in its combination of serious, in-depth discussion and universal coverage.

Similar projects for other collections have been frustrated by a variety of factors; so it is inspiring to see this traditional treatment applied to a significant group of objects. Hopefully, as well, this will bring the material in Norwich to a much wider audience, both among the interested public and scholars. And it is pleasing to report that this comprehensive catalogue of material is available at a reasonable price!

Campbell Price

Book Reviews Index

 

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