Sculpture Saturday: Field Museum

Mind Over Memory has a weekly invitation for sculpture photos. Last year, when we got home from our trip to the Middle East, we visited the Egyptian exhibit at The Field Museum in Chicago. These are sculptures – or sculpted wooden mummy cases. Royalty in ancient Egypt would encase their mummified loved ones in several of these cases. The wooden ones might be painted, while others were made of bronze or glass.
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Next to this polished wood mummy case are canopic jars, buried with the deceased, containing their vital organs, which are removed before mummification.

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Small sculptures of gods would also be buried in the tomb to offer protection in the afterlife.

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Figurine of the god Osiris
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Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s architect, Senmet holding her daughter

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Sculpture Saturday 4/25/20

Square Tops: Birds on Rocks

We took a boat ride around the islands at Aswan, Egypt, to see wildlife. There were mostly birds. These birds were mostly on top of rocks, so they fit the TOP theme of Becky’s month of squares! I see we have a similar topic today, Becky – except your bird is higher up!

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I decided to include these last two bird pictures, even though they were not on rocks! (And I didn’t square them either!)SONY DSC

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The ibis in ancient Egypt was associated with the god Thoth, god of letters and knowledge. Thoth is often depicted in ancient Egyptian art with an ibis’ head.

Journey to Egypt, Part 19: Temple at Kom Ombo

December 31, 2018

Kom Ombo Temple is probably my favorite of all the ancient Egyptian sites I saw on this trip. It has several interesting features that make it unique.
20181231_145553dAbout 30 miles north of the city of Aswan, Kom Ombo is located in a region that has a large Nubian community that was resettled here after the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which flooded the area they had come from originally. I will write more about the Nubians in a future post.
20181231_150507.jpgThe town of Kom Ombo has grown considerably in the last 35 years since its founding. It was an important town in ancient times because it was located at a convergence of trade routes to the Nile Valley, the Red Sea, and Nubia.20181231_145713The Temple of Kom Ombo is a double temple, to worship the gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Horus (the falcon god). Both these gods were depicted, as Egyptian gods often were, as either an animal or a person with the animal’s head.

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Two images of Horus (with falcon heads) anoint the king (middle) by pouring water on his head; Sobek (with crocodile head) stands behind them on the left.

 

Kom Ombo Temple was built during the Ptolemaic era, between the 2nd century BCE and the 1st century CE. All the remains of the temple date to that period and later, although there has been evidence found of earlier structures, most notably an 18th Dynasty gateway.
20181231_150430d.jpgThe temple is called a “double temple” because it has two of almost everything, which allowed the priests to conduct equal worship rituals for two gods simultaneously. The southern part of the temple is dedicated to Sobek, the northern part to Horus. In addition, there is a small shrine dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
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Reliefs on outer walls

Crocodiles, sacred to Sobek, were worshipped here at Kom Ombo and were regarded as semi-divine. They were fed the finest foods, provided with golden earrings, and were even given manicures to gild their nails! Sacred crocodiles, when they were alive, were kept in the northwestern part of the temple. There is now a crocodile museum (included in the entrance ticket) adjacent to the temple where crocodile mummies and other artifacts are on display. We went there after our tour of the temple, but it was quite dark inside and we were not allowed to take photos anyway. However, here is one from a professional photographer.

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Crocodile mummies in the Crocodile Museum

 

The double entrance opens onto a large courtyard, the only shared space inside the temple’s boundaries. The entrance was oriented toward the river, facing roughly west.
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There are two doorways from the courtyard to the outer hypostyle (columned) halls, inner hypostyle halls,

SONY DSCa series of offering halls, and twin sanctuaries, for Horus on the left and Sobek on the right.

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Sobek with feathered headdress, holding a staff in his left hand and an ankh in his right hand.
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Sanctuary entrance

Mohamed showed us a calendar on the southwest wall of the Offering Hall, the first one we had seen.


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The goddess Hathor (with cow horns & a sun disk on her head) and the falcon god Horus (wearing the white crown)
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Colorful paintings of the winged vulture on the bottom of the lintel over a doorway
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Over an adjacent doorway is the symbol of two cobras on either side of a sun disk, with spread wings, like this one.

 

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Detailed relief of Sobek
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Lovely dual relief, with the pharaoh offering jugs of water and lotus flowers. The confusing thing about this image is that the pharaoh is both female (with a breast) and a male (beard symbolic of the pharaoh). A female monarch perhaps? I don’t know…

20181231_151458.jpgAnother interesting feature is on the back wall of the outer enclosure – carvings of surgical instruments. Surgical tools found at archaeological sites match those in these carvings – quite amazing!
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Another common theme was food, either being offered to the gods by the pharaoh or depicted upon a table.

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In this relief, water is being poured onto the food, representing the nourishment of food crops by rain and the river.
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On this column, the pharaoh of all Egypt (he is wearing the double crown) offers food to Horus.

Some of the reliefs show deep carving, especially the largest figures which cover an entire wall. This is the foot of Horus…
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…who is holding a staff and an ankh.
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Behind him is a carving of Hathor, also holding a staff and an ankh.
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Some of the feet show  details of the toes, such as this one of Hathor’s foot – she has very long toes!
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This temple was also known for being a place of healing. High up on a wall is a small doorway with a carved ear on either side. These “listening ears” are where people could go to tell the gods about their medical problems in hopes of healing.
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Throughout the temple were reliefs amazing in their artistry and imagination.
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This bas relief is an interesting one, containing several figures. In the center stands the king, surrounded by familiar gods. To the left are Hathor and Thoth (ibis-headed god); to the right are a lion and two images of Horus. The lion was a symbol of strength and mastery of the natural world when depicted alongside the king. This shows that the lion/pharaoh is the guardian of order, or Ma’at, which was an important concept for the ancient Egyptians. Some gods also assimilated leonine aspects, such as Horus.
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Horus assimilated the god Tjel (a feline god), giving a lion image to a god almost always depicted as a falcon. That seems to be the symbolism of this remarkable image, which shows both the lion’s head and the falcon’s wings in motion. Right underneath the lion with wings is Horus in his true nature as a falcon.
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The lion is often depicted as female, such as in this relief. This female feline goddess was eventually incorporated into a domestic cat goddess, Bastet.
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Enjoy these additional photos of this fascinating and beautiful temple!!
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Kom Ombo (16)
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Sources: Symbolism of the Lion in Ancient Egypt by Michael Fassbender
The Temple of Kom Ombo on website Ancient Egypt Online.  In this article,
Horus and Sobek are said to be in conflict, which is why the temple had to
separate them. I had not found this idea of conflict in any other source.
Kom Ombo, Wikipedia.
Fodor’s Egypt, 2009 edition
My own notes from information given to us by our guide

 

 

 

 

 

Journey to Egypt, Part 17: Horemheb’s Temple & Gebel Silsila Quarry

December 30, 2018

This afternoon we arrived at the narrowest stretch of the Nile, an area that the Egyptians called “Khenu” or the place of rowing. At Gebel Silsila, high sandstone cliffs come down close to the water’s edge.DSC_0387
20181230_150716dThe Temple of Horemheb is small and not well-known.
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Nile cruise ships don’t stop here because they are too large to moor in this area.

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Cruise ship passes us by as we stand on shore. To the right is another moored dahabeya, which possibly had a famous passenger – the queen of Belgium! She is apparently working with or observing archeologists at the site.

The temple itself is not in great condition compared to others we had seen and would see over the next few days. It was interesting because of the different inscriptions, not just hieroglyphic writing, but also hieratic script, demotic writing of later times, with Greek influences, and Coptic script from early Christian times. Early Christians stopped here to shelter and escape persecution during the early years of Islamic reign in Egypt. They are likely the people who wrote some of the later-age inscriptions. For this reason, this site is of particular interest to epigraphic studies (study of inscriptions).

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Thoth, depicted with the head of an ibis, was important to ancient Egyptians, for he was the god who gave them the gift of writing. In fact, what we call hieroglyphics (a Greek word), was medu-netjer to the ancient Egyptians, meaning “the god’s words”.  Note the modern writing (graffiti) that a more recent visitor carved, to Thoth’s lower right.

The temple dates from the end of ancient Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, during the reign of Horemheb, who dedicated the temple to Sobek (the crocodile god), …

Amun (pictured below, distinguishable by his large feather headdress),
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…and other gods, including Thoth.

Thoth, in ancient Egyptian belief, was born with immense knowledge, the most important of which was the power of words. Although he gave this knowledge to humans, he expected them to take it seriously. The main purpose of writing was not decorative or literary. It was to provide a means to bring into existence concepts and events. If something was written, it could be “made to happen” again and again.

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Hieroglyphics consisted of phonograms, logograms and ideograms. Phonograms are alphabetic signs, where one hieroglyph represents a single consonant or sound. There are 24 of these in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and they are the most common. Phonograms could also represent 2-3 sounds, like diphthongs and blends. Ideograms (pictures conveying a concept) were often at the end of words.
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Egyptian writing could be written from left to right, right to left, up-down or down-up (and sometimes started in the middle!). Symbols of people or animals, however, always faced the beginning of the text, so if an image of a bird or a woman was facing the right, the text was meant to be read right to left.
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This photo shows an example of hieratic writing, which was a faster script, using simplified versions of hieroglyphic symbols. Hieratic writing developed early in the dynastic periods, after hierpglyphic writing had been firmly established. Around 800 BCE, hieratic developed into a cursive script.
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This is an example of demotic writing, which replaced hieratic script c. 700 BCE. Demotic writing was called sekh-shat, or document writing.  It was developed in the Nile Delta region and spread southward during the 26th Dynasty (c.1069-525BCE). This became the most popular script for the next 1,000 years.

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Note the different costumes worn by the people in the carved image to the left of the writing.

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At the top of this photo is an image of people fanning the pharaoh with large palm fans as he is carried on a platform. Below is yet another type of writing – Coptic script. Coptic script was that used by the early Christians. Demotic writing had continual use until it was replaced by Coptic script during Roman Egypt. Coptic script uses the Greek alphabet with some additions from demotic script. Hieroplyphic writing only fell completely out of favor with the rise of the new religion, Christianity.
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Rosetta stone image (downloaded from Bing): The Rosetta stone provided the key to reading hieroglyphic and demotic writing. The text is a proclamation written in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphic script from the reign of Ptolemy V (204-181 BCE). All three are the same text, in keeping with the Ptolemaic ideal of a multicultural society. Until the Rosetta stone was discovered, no one knew how to read or interpret hieroglyphic or demotic writing.

Information on the history of ancient Egyptian writing was taken from the online article Ancient Egyptian Writing by Joshua J. Mark.

Horemheb’s Temple was one of the earliest examples of temples made from sandstone. During the reign of Akhenaten in the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian temple builders switched from limestone to sandstone.
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The pharaoh, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, offers sacred lotus flowers to the god Thoth.
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Although this looks like a repeated image and hieroglyphics, on closer inspection, one can see that it isn’t. On the far left are two figures seated side by side, and each of the other single figures has some differences – the second on the left, for example, is holding an ankh in one hand, and the cartouches with names of pharaohs and priests contain some different symbols.
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Someone crossed out one of the figures, which appears to be a pharaoh wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt.

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Sandstone is lighter in weight and the area of Gebel Silsila had abundant sandstone. In fact, this site was used as a quarry for constructions as far away as Luxor and Amarna, 800 km to the north.
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There was a steep path leading up to this hole, which was once part of a temple. Some people in our group, including Mohamed, climbed up and had their pictures taken!

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Little niches, or holes, on the rocks near the river’s edge, were where boats were tied next to the shore.
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20181230_155944There is an epigraphic survey project going on at Gebel Silsila by a team of archaeologists studying inscriptions, under the auspices of Lund University in Sweden.

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The archaeologists’ felucca

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DSC_0399That night, back on the Aida, we were enjoying a delicious dinner when several crew members appeared, playing instruments and singing! The captain danced with a couple of the women in our group.
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Worship in the Middle East

Frank Jansen at Dutch Goes the Photo has selected worship as his photo challenge theme for Holy Week. I share the sadness of the world for the devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. But there are many holy places around the world that inspire awe where people worship.
Below are photos of worship from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, and the ancient Egyptian religion.

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Prayer at the symbolic tomb of King David (not his real tomb) – Jerusalem, Israel

 

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The Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem is the only remaining vestige of the ancient temple of Jerusalem. Every day people come here to pray for loved ones, either those lost or those far away. It is customary to write the name of the person you are praying for on a scrap of paper and insert it into a crack in the wall. Every week these papers are collected by rabbis and kept in a sacred place – they are never thrown away. When a person is finished praying at the wall, they walk backwards, still facing the wall. Some maintain this all the way across the square; others after a short distance from the wall.
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A Muslim man praying in the “mihrab” at Al-Azhar Mosque – this niche in the wall of a mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. Muslims must face Mecca when they pray.
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Open courtyard at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, with two of its minarets rising up behind. Five times a day, verses from the Koran are broadcast from these minarets, calling Muslims to prayer. 
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Altar at the Church of the Virgin Mary (or the “Hanging Church”), a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo. Those of Orthodox faith do not have statues in their churches, which are considered idolatry. Instead they have icons, or images, of the Holy Family, disciples and saints.
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At the Garden Tomb site in Jerusalem (where it is believed that Jesus was buried), groups of Christian pilgrims gather for holy communion.  The “wine” (grape juice, actually) was served in tiny cups made of olive wood, which we were given to keep as a remembrance.

The ancient Egyptians had a pantheon of gods that they worshipped, and many of their temples contain images of pharaohs and others worshipping the gods.

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Altar and shrine in the sanctuary of the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt. Horus was one of the most important gods for the Egyptians and is often depicted with the head of a falcon.

 

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A typical scene portraying a pharaoh making offerings to a god. The image on this pillar in Kom Ombo, Egypt shows the pharaoh (left) making an offering to Horus, the falcon god (right).
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Akhenaten was considered the “heretic” king because he tried to introduce monotheism to the Egyptian religion. He banned the worship of many gods, claiming that Aten (the Sun, represented by a disk with rays flowing downward) was the one and only true god. In this relief at the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, Akhenaten (in front) is shown worshipping Aten, along with his wife, Nefertiti, and two of their daughters, by offering up lotus flowers (the sacred flower of ancient Egypt) to the sun god. After Akhenaten’s death, the Egyptians reverted back to worshipping their many beloved gods.