Manual Cosmos Of Khnumhotep: 2 (Studies in Egyptology)

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  1. Opere generali
  2. Symbolically Speaking
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  4. Cosmos Of Khnumhotep: 2 (Studies in Egyptology)
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Many of the tombs at Beni Hassan include full-panel representations of animals in their natural habitats, including marsh and desert scenes that show a keen observation of animal behavior. Other images show wild animals being hunted in the deserts or encountered in the marshes along the Nile. The degree of detail in the paintings can give the impression that they might be an accurate record of extant flora and fauna for the time in which they were produced.

But according to Lydia Bashford, whose research at Macquarie focuses on birds in ancient Egyptian culture, the paintings are unlikely to be reliable as sources. Furthermore, she explains that certain animal species held significant cultural meaning, and so their images were often reproduced whether the animals were present or not. Of those, 12 are embellished with artwork and belonged to government officials of the eastern Egyptian province called the Oryx nome. Paint made from ground minerals was sometimes applied directly to the limestone, or onto a finish made of gypsum plaster.

Though the motifs of the Beni Hassan paintings are diverse, much of the subject matter depicted in them is similar from tomb to tomb, suggesting that specific scenes were considered an essential part of any memorial.

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Some panels depict events that officials were required to oversee every year, such as grain harvest and shipment to other parts of the kingdom. I helped the king maintain order by doing my job. The strength of the local army appears as a theme in the same location in three separate tombs in which the walls are divided into two sections: the upper showing many rows of wrestlers, presumably soldiers undergoing training, and the lower depicting the siege of a fortress and troops crowding onto boats.

These wrestling scenes depict all kinds of grips and holds that give us a window into ancient Egyptian sport, or, in these cases, more likely physical training for soldiers.

Symbolically Speaking

Differences in the content of the paintings across the site might reflect the individuality of tomb owners and the wide array of themes they wished to include. Beni Hassan has yielded images of animals hardly ever seen in Egyptian art, such as bats, pigs, and an incredibly rare image of a pelican. The bird is shown in the process of taking flight and was found in the tomb of an official named Baqet II. Nearby, in the tomb of Baqet III, dozens of species of birds are depicted along with the Egyptian names for each, almost as though the deceased had been an avid bird watcher or amateur ornithologist.

It is important to note, according to Evans, that animal images often had a symbolic function, and potentially carried a deeper spiritual or magical meaning to the Egyptians.

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One theme that seems to run across many of the tombs at Beni Hassan as an allegory of sorts is the idea of the dominion of the local officials over forces of chaos or disorder. Evans says that hunting scenes, in particular, can be thought of in a similar way to images of local leaders upholding their commitment to the king.

Ancient Egyptians, she explains, often saw birds as emblematic of problems such as societal disharmony or, especially, invasion by foreigners. Therefore, imagery such as that on display in the tomb of Khnumhotep II, which shows a hunter hauling in a net of water birds, can be read as symbolic of victory over the potential calamities they represent. In another example, perhaps the only one of its kind in Egyptian art, a hunter leads a mongoose on a leash. There are a couple of really wonderful statues that have seated scribes.

The scribe statue goes back to the Old Kingdom. You have these people sitting cross-legged and they've got papyrus unrolled on their lap. Well, my favorite version of those comes from the New Kingdom. Thoth was the patron god of writing, and he can be represented as an ibis or as a baboon. There's this one statue in particular, there's this scribe that has a baboon perched on his head.

For me, this kind of sums up whole hieroglyphic nature of sculpture, because you don't really have somebody sitting around with a baboon on his head, but it shows that he's being protected by Thoth. That's what I mean by Egyptian art is just an elaborate hieroglyph—it always means something. I read that kings and queens did not know how to read and write, but would have scribes do it for them. Why didn't they want to learn this skill?

I don't personally believe that; I've heard that also. My personal opinion is they probably were trained to read and write.

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In fact, King Tutankhamun actually had a bunch of his own personal writing stuff buried with him, which is pretty thoroughly in favor that they did know how to write. And, one of the palettes has a name of his wife on it and one of his other princesses. I think the royal children learned to read and write for sure.

A penholder and a palette and a papyrus burnisher, used to smooth out the papyrus, and all this scribal equipment was buried with him. He's got a lot of it. He has child-size and adult-size, so why would he have that stuff if he didn't learn how to read and write? And, the first scribal statue known is of a prince. So I don't buy it. Subscribe or Give a Gift.

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Cosmos Of Khnumhotep: 2 (Studies in Egyptology)

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Beni Hasan Ii - AbeBooks

Magazine Current Issue. Give a Gift. Subscribe Top Menu Current Issue. Archaeology U. History World History Video Newsletter. Like this article? Previous Article Romancing the Stone. Next Article Digging up Egypt's Treasures. Sand strikers, also known as bobbit worms, are primitive-looking creatures that lack eyes, or even a brain.

Despite this, they are savage predators who shoot out grapple-like hooks to reel in passing fish.