Alabaster artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun

May 7, 2012 10:49

Treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb … In the popular view, this precious funerary mask, the piles of gold and precious stones. In general, the untold wealth. Stereotype fabulous Aladdin's cave not far from the truth. British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922, the young ruler of Egypt, was amazed by the treasures that went along with the pharaoh to the afterlife. But among the thousands and thousands of precious objects wormed several dozen articles made from alabaster discreet. Why did the rulers of Egypt, they were so expensive?

Domestic researchers argue that these things are symbols, which can penetrate into the inner essence of the ancient Egyptian concept of worldview. Alabaster statues — the key to the Amarna era, one of the most intriguing periods in the history of the New Kingdom.

Ancestral Heritage

Bowl for incense and bark with goat heads from Tutankhamun's tomb, made of alabaster, characteristic of the art Amarn period Photo:

The scientific literature on the tomb of Tutankhamen, until recently, was based on an analysis of only a fifth of the things found in it. Most artifacts, including crafts and alabaster, were available for study only in 2008 after the publication of material in the archive Carter. It was then that the Russian Egyptologist and drew attention to the unusual items. Here are just some of them. So, in the tomb were two unusual lamp, one is in the form of three lotus petals, and the other marked translucent image of a king and queen, which appear only when the lamps are lighted. Emphasis is placed on the vase, striking bizarre shapes and perfect proportions. Ushabti many curious figures depicting people. Alabaster also performed barge decorated goat heads, and the ark for Canopy — vessels in which to store the internal organs of the deceased pharaoh.

Each of the things that accompanied the pharaoh's last journey, by definition, had to be strong functionality. Ancient Egyptians gave a special meaning throughout, and only funerary rites in particular. "For example, figures Ushabti — suggests one of the researchers, graduate of the Moscow State Art and Industry Academy Stroganov Oleg Call — placed in the tomb to the next world they serve the lord and otherwise protected it from the physical of labor. " As for the boats, the opinions of its mission so far apart. In one version of it made in the tomb, so that in the afterlife the pharaoh could travel in comfort. According to another version the key here is the picture of Capricorn — the symbol of male power.

"Not all things are of alabaster, are present in the tomb, — says Oleg Bells — were made at Tutankhamen, in a fairly short period of his reign." In all likelihood, these items — the work of masters of Amarna, which was called by the name of the settlement, located 300 kilometers south of Cairo. It was there that the predecessor of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian throne, the legendary Akhenaton, built a new capital — Ahetaton. For the famous pharaoh apostate whose reign occurred in the middle of the XIV century BC, Alabaster could play some sacramental role. But which one? To understand this, we had to go deep in the ancient chronicles.


Barca-headed goat from the tomb of Tutankhamun Photo: SEUX Paule ( AFP)

Itself Amarna era was paradoxical. And all because of the personality of Akhenaten. "He was a tyrant, but at the same time, a genius — the deputy head of the Department of Ancient History History Department of Moscow State University Egyptologist Olga Tomasevic. — I would call it one of the most outstanding personalities in the history not only of ancient Egypt, but also to all people. He reigned for less than twenty years, and during that period put Egypt on its hind legs. "

Akhenaten was not afraid to break with the traditional Theban priests, whose influence in Egyptian society was very great. Not only that, he made a break of almost all temples of Egyptian gods. "By the time of Akhenaten Egypt for nearly fifteen hundred years of existence as a state, — says Olga Tomasevic. — If, before the issue of why the king is a god, no one will arise, since the coming to power of Akhenaten, these doubts are increasingly growing stronger — people began to complain of hunger and disease. Akhenaten did his best to dispel doubts about his chosen people. " And the first thing started a religious reform, does away with the worship of all gods except one — the sun god Aten. "The reform of this was very difficult and theologically sound around — explains Olga Tomasevic — but if possible to simplify it, are reduced to the fact that the world has two masters — the god Aten and his son Akhenaten." This era could not find its reflection in ancient Egyptian art. In the canonical tradition of godlike pharaohs depicted physically perfect, without any flaws. Health governor indicated the health and strength of the society, they are headed. At the same time, true to ancient Egypt is the one pharaoh who followed the principle of Maat — the principle of righteousness, truth, universal, cosmic harmony. Akhenaten was obsessed with this principle and, therefore, is in conflict with itself. On the one hand, he is a god, the other — sought to demonstrate its human, not a superhuman being. From the work of the masters of the court is now required marginal credibility, which would be accompanied by an abundance of details. This requires a suitable material.

"The era of the Old Kingdom was a solid, powerful, and therefore used in the art of solid rock, — says Oleg Bells — and when Akhenaten took something more subtle and easy to thread, allowing to express specific details." Alabaster ancient Egyptian craftsmen used and to the reign of Akhenaten, but that's when it became the most popular ornamental material. One of mineral deposits located 15 miles from the city erected by Pharaoh Ahetatona, and is unlikely to be considered a coincidence.

Funerary mask of Tutankhamun, which is famous only because of his own grave, and not his deeds Photo: Tibor Bognar (Photononstop AFP)

Researchers of ancient Egypt almost no doubt that in addition to convenience, the alabaster handling it carried a still and sacred meaning. "There are several versions, — says Oleg calls. — According to one, the name itself comes from the name of alabaster cat-goddess Bast. But I think that the perception of alabaster as sacred material went to a great extent from the inner feeling. He's out the sun, and the sun plays a fundamental role in Egyptian theology. " Perhaps surrounding themselves objects of alabaster, wonderfully capable of transmitting at the same time maintain a sunlight Pharaoh emphasized his closeness to the sun god — Aton.

Alas, following the principle of Maat, the symbol of the sun or Akhenaten did not protect against sudden death and subsequent debunking of his cult. What about Tutankhamun? Until Carter finds yes and after it in the scientific community, in modern terms, not quoted. Rule the country was at the age of 10 years and 9 years of the reign was under the influence of a third party — first legendary beauty Nefertiti, and then an elderly courtier Ay. As noted by Carter himself, the chief merit of the pharaoh was the fact that he died and was buried with honors. If not for him, unusual alabaster objects could not make it to this day and do not reveal another little secret of a great civilization.

Anastasia Reznichenko

Olga Dyuzheva, a senior researcher at the Department of the Ancient Orient Museum of Fine Arts. Pushkin:

— Alabaster Egyptians used since the ancient times, but I for one is not aware that this mineral to be of importance. Just stuff rugged, durable, and for the Egyptians it was considered important because the objects laid in the tomb, to be stored for centuries and millennia. In this sense, alabaster is much safer than, say, a ceramic. I doubt that it is widespread it is in the era of Amarna. Yes, refined forms characteristic of the art of the New Kingdom, but it appeared to Amarna — at Amenhotep III.

Michael Chegodaev, PhD, senior lecturer in the history of Eastern Institute of Oriental Studies:

— With alabaster Egyptians masterfully managed since predynastic times. Its very easy to handle, it is softer than granite and allows thin translucent things. For example, beautiful vessels were found in the pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. One of them, by the way, kept in our Pushkin Museum. For the art of the Amarna characteristic smooth lines. And, for example, a figure girl sitting in a barge from the tomb of Tutankhamun, made in the style Amarn small plastic. But I would not categorically state that these are the forms of vessels characteristic Amarn period. General items of alabaster often intended for life. Even in subjects from the tomb of Tutankhamun is seen to have been used in the home, not in the ritual practice. So I doubt the sacred role of alabaster.

Ivan Bogdanov, Ph.D., senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts

— Alabaster in the era of the Old Kingdom was used to trim some of the pyramids and other buildings, in the era of the Middle and New Kingdoms of him erected a chapel at all times made the statues, sarcophagi. Alabaster vases used as an important ritual utensils in Egypt since ancient times. But of any special religious significance in alabaster Amarn time, especially in its relation to the solar cult texts say nothing.

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