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Stelae from Egypt and Nubia in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, c. 3000 BC–AD 1150

Stelae from Egypt and Nubia in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, c. 3000 BC–AD 1150

By Geoffrey Thorndike Martin. Pp. xiii + 202, figs. 127, table 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005. $190. ISBN 0-521-84290-5 (cloth).

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The volume under review presents a complete publication of all the Egyptian stelae from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, ranging from Early Dynastic to Coptic material. Even a possible fake is included. All in all, 127 pieces written in seven different scripts (Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Carian, Greek, Cufic) are presented in black-and-white photographs and line drawings with full description and commentary. While Martin figures as the main author, six other scholars add their expertise for the different scripts. The volume is well produced. One would wish for more publications of such completeness to be undertaken both in Cambridge for other types of material and in other museums. A few comments on details:

Catalogue Number: 1.
The lower sign seems to be rounded at the right upper edge, wherefore the proposed reading as š is rather unlikely. However, it should go without saying that all my epigraphical proposals here and below should be checked again on the originals.

Catalogue Number: 4.
While indeed the second sign does not seem to be a knife, a Ḥw is also far from being as clear as stated. Also in view of the seemingly small square in the lower right corner, the first sign looks much more like a Ḥw.t than like the proposed p.

Catalogue Number: 12.
From an art-historical point of view, the depiction of some of the female figures with two breasts in frontal view is remarkable. The inner column on the left side reads, “May she proceed upon the good ways of the necropolis as one revered by the great (instead of ‘good’) god....” The god in question is doubtlessly Osiris of Busiris.

Catalogue Number: 15.
It seems striking that the owner of this stele as well as the wife of the owner of catalogue number 16 are both a Senet, born of Hepy, even if the two names are orthographically slightly different. Unfortunately, it is not stated when and where this piece was purchased, as a connection of the two pieces seems quite tempting.

Catalogue Number: 24.
The profession of the three brothers as criers (n ḫt-ḫrw) seems remarkable.

Catalogue Number: 39.
This piece is strikingly similar in motive to the shield amulets featuring Amenhotep I published by the present writer a few years ago (RÉg 51 [2000] 103–14, pls. 19–22). The piece Louvre N 2268 is almost identical but for the inscription, including the flowerlike bushel of hair, at which the king holds the prisoners crouching in front of him (here broken away). The object even has a hole off-center, which is characteristic for the shield amulets bound onto mummies. However, it is made of limestone and is much bigger than the shield amulets, which are made of wood. Even more puzzling, those amulets date to the late 20th or even the early 21st Dynasty, while the king on the Cambridge stele stylistically clearly belongs to the immediate post-Amarna period. There are two possible solutions to this: either the shield amulets had earlier forerunners not known until now or this unprovenanced piece is an early forgery executed after the Rosellini drawing of said Louvre shield amulet. A possible hint in the latter direction could be the paleography of the (quite clumsy) hieroglyphs, which does not really fit the style and date of the depiction.

Catalogue Number: 41.
A substantial published study on the tree goddess would be Keel’s “Ägyptische Baumgöttinnen der 18.–21. Dynastie” (Das Recht der Bilder gesehen zu werden [Fribourg 1992] 61–138).

Catalogue Number: 47.
The king adored is not Amenhotep I but his father Ahmose. As Mn-st and Ḥr-ḥr-’Imn.w are given in the sources as two distinct place- names, they should not be lumped together without very good reason.

Catalogue Number: 52.
There seems to have occured some confusion of the names. Instead of Tⳅ-bⳅ(kt-nt)-bs, read Tⳅ-bTⳅ-sTⳅ. With the son Pⳅ-bs, to the contrary, there is no reason to give Pⳅ-bⳅ-sⳅ in brackets.

Catalogue Number: 53.
It is a bit daring to indiscriminately translate sn.t=f as “wife” instead of the literal “sister.”

Catalogue Number: 55.
Read Ḫmn.w instead of H̱mn.w. Are sn=f n i̓ti̓=f (literally “his brother of/by his father”), sn.t=f n mw.t=f (“his sister of/by his mother”), and sn.t i̓ti̓=f (“the sister of his father”) really to be translated indiscriminately as “the brother/sister of his father/mother,” respectively?

Catalogue Number: 57.
The mentioning of “Imseti and his ennead” is remarkable.

Catalogue Number: 58.
Sobek seems preferable to Anubis, judging from the form of the snout. This fits very well with the figure of Thot of Gereget opposite him. This clearly must be the Gereget in the Fayum. In the Book of the Fayum (H. Beinlich, Das Buch vom Fayum [Wiesbaden 1991] line 415), there is a place called Gereget mentioned as a place of Horus, while the deity mentioned right before (line 409) is Thot. On the Cambridge stele, there is clearly the lower half of a hawk hieroglyph to be discerned above the ibis of Thot. Also, the remains of the head of the god to the left look more like a hawk’s beak than like an ibis, although they are very indistinct. So the name of the deity is to be restored as ⎡Horus⎤-Thot, [lord of] Gereget. The epithet of Sobek remains unclear (there is, by the way, a Sobek of Gereget mentioned in the Book of the Fayum [Beinlich 1991] line 722). The goddess behind Sobek is most likely to be a form of Hathor, as several of those occur in the Book of the Fayum in relative proximity to the naming of Gereget. The prominent Fayumic character of the monument should raise some suspicion about the Akhmimic provenance reported by Budge, especially since he is known to have made up provenances in other instances as well.

Catalogue Number: 61.
Again, the authenticity of this unprovenanced object is to be questioned. Especially odd is the solar disk with the misshappen šn-rings and senseless, lonely below. Also, one would expect the two cartouches to end level with each other, which is not the case. Finally, the uraeus with the little sticklike protusion on its head needs to be mentioned.

Catalogue Number: 64.
As the prince seems to be a divine being himself, he is most probably the god Shed.

Catalogue Number: 68.
There is now a new monograph on this type of monument: Morgan, Untersuchungen zu den Ohrenstelen aus Deir el Medine (Ägypten und Altes Testament 61 [Wiesbaden 2004]).

Catalogue Number: 76.
Stylistically, Late New Kingdom seems a bit early for this piece. The name ’Ir.t-Ḥr-r.r=w also speaks in favor of a later dating.

Catalogue Number: 78.
A dating oscillating between Ramesside and the 21st Dynasty is proposed by the author. However, the problem is easily solved, as the style of the figures as well as the paleography are distinctly different on both sides. Therefore, side 1 is to be interpreted as the original Ramesside decoration and side 2 as a later 21st-Dynasty addition. In how far the adorant on side 2 could be identified from his titles with the owner of Theban Tomb 290 is not understandable to the present writer.

Catalogue Number: 83.
There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of this piece, but it is surely not earlier than the Roman period. A monument like this would never have been “planted . . . to find,” as forgeries always have a goal, either financial gain or scholarly misleading. Neither would be valid in this case.

Catalogue Number: 91.

Read both with Re-Harakhte as well as with Osiris “the great god” instead of “the good god.” Also, the name of the owner is to be read Ir.ti-r.r=w instead of Ir.t-irw (likewise for cat. no. 92).

Catalogue Number: 96.
Contrary to the statement in the catalogue, the wings of the sun disk seem to be present, if only faintly visible.

Catalogue Number: 104.
The adorants depicted are evidently not the stele owner and his wife but a pharaoh and queen. The invoked god Φραμάρης is not to be read as “Ra-Moeris” but as “Pharao Mares” (i.e., as divinized Amenemhet III).

Catalogue Number: 122.
Why this uninscribed piece is placed in the Coptic section eludes the present writer, especially as the small Anubis jackal clearly demonstrates that the owner did not subscribe to Christianity.

To conclude, it should have become evident that just browsing through this new catalogue is an inspiring experience.

Alexandra von Lieven
Freie Universität Berlin
Altensteinstrasse 33
14195 Berlin

Book Review of Stelae from Egypt and Nubia in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, c. 3000 BC–AD 1150, by Geoffrey Thorndike Martin

Reviewed by Alexandra von Lieven

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 111, No. 2 (April 2007)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1112.vonLieven

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