Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt online

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heart. These, having outspread wings attached, were fastened to the breast
of the mummy, and are inscribed on the underside with a prayer adjuring the
heart not to bear witness against the deceased at the day of judgment. In
order to be still more efficacious, some scenes of adoration were
occasionally added to the formula: _e.g._, the disc of the moon adorned by
two apes upon the shoulder; two squatting figures of Amen upon the wing-
sheaths; on the flat reverse, a representation of the boat of the Sun; and
below the boat, Osiris mummified, squatting between Isis and Nephthys, who
overshadow him with their wings. The small scarabs, having begun as
phylacteries, ended by becoming mere ornaments without any kind of
religious meaning, just as crosses are now worn without thought of
significance by the women of our own day. They were set as rings, as
necklace pendants, as earrings, and as bracelets. The underside is often
plain, but is more commonly ornamented with incised designs which involve
no kind of modelling. Relief-cutting, properly so called (as in cameo-
cutting), was unknown to Egyptian lapidaries before the Greek period.
Scarabaei and the subjects engraved on them have not as yet been fully
classified and catalogued.[55] The subjects consist of simple combinations
of lines; of scrolls; of interlacings without any precise signification; of
symbols to which the owner attached a mysterious meaning, unknown to
everyone but himself; of the names and titles of individuals; of royal
ovals, which are historically interesting; of good wishes; of pious
ejaculations; and of magic formulae. The earliest examples known date from
the Fourth Dynasty, and are small and fine. Sometimes Sixth Dynasty scarabs
are of obsidian and crystal, and early Middle Kingdom scarabs of amethyst,
emerald, and even garnet. From the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty scarabs
may be counted by millions, and the execution is more or less fine
according to the hardness of the stone. This holds good for amulets of all
kinds. The hippopotamus-heads, the hearts, the _Ba_ birds (p. 111), which
one picks up at Taûd, to the south of Thebes, are barely roughed out, the
amethyst and green felspar of which they are made having presented an
almost unconquerable resistance to the point, saw, drill, and wheel. The
belt-buckles, angles, and head-rests in red jasper, carnelian, and
hematite, are, on the contrary, finished to the minutest details,
notwithstanding that carnelian and red jasper are even harder than green
felspar. Lapis lazuli is insufficiently homogeneous, almost as hard as
felspar, and seems as if it were incapable of being finely worked. Yet the
Egyptians have used it for images of certain goddesses - Isis, Nephthys,
Neith, Sekhet, - which are marvels of delicate cutting. The modelling of the
forms is carried out as boldly as if the material were more trustworthy,
and the features lose none of their excellence if examined under a
magnifying glass. For the most part, however, a different treatment was
adopted. Instead of lavishing high finish upon the relief, it was obtained
in a more summary way, the details of individual parts being sacrificed to
the general effect. Those features of the face which project, and those
which retire, are strongly accentuated. The thickness of the neck, the
swell of the breast and shoulder, the slenderness of the waist, the fulness
of the hips, are all exaggerated. The feet and hands are also slightly
enlarged. This treatment is based upon a system, the results being boldly
and yet judiciously calculated. When the object has to be sculptured in
miniature, a mathematical reduction of the model is not so happy in its
effect as might be supposed. The head loses character; the neck looks too
weak; the bust is reduced to a cylinder with a slightly uneven surface; the
feet do not look strong enough to support the weight of the body; the
principal lines are not sufficiently distinct from the secondary lines. By
suppressing most of the accessory forms and developing those most essential
to the expression, the Egyptians steered clear of the danger of producing
insignificant statuettes. The eye instinctively tones down whatever is too
forcible, and supplies what is lacking. Thanks to these subtle devices of
the ancient craftsman, a tiny statuette of this or that divinity measuring
scarcely an inch and a quarter in height, has almost the breadth and
dignity of a colossus.

The earthly goods of the gods and of the dead were mostly in solid stone. I
have elsewhere described the little funerary obelisks, the altar bases, the
statues, and the tables of offerings found in tombs of the ancient empire.
These tables were made of alabaster and limestone during the Pyramid
period, of granite or red sandstone under the Theban kings, and of basalt
or serpentine from the time of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. But the fashions
were not canonical, all stones being found at all periods. Some offering-
tables are mere flat discs, or discs very slightly hollowed. Others are
rectangular, and are sculptured in relief with a service of loaves, vases,
fruits, and quarters of beef and gazelle. In one instance - the offering-
table of Sitû - the libations, instead of running off, fell into a square
basin which is marked off in divisions, showing the height of the Nile at
the different seasons of the year in the reservoirs of Memphis; namely,
twenty-five cubits in summer during the inundation, twenty-three in autumn
and early winter, and twenty-two at the close of winter and in spring-time.
In these various patterns there was little beauty; yet one offering-table,
found at Sakkarah, is a real work of art. It is of alabaster. Two lions,
standing side by side, support a sloping, rectangular tablet, whence the
libation ran off by a small channel into a vase placed between the tails of
the lions. The alabaster geese found at Lisht are not without artistic
merit. They are cut length-wise down the middle, and hollowed out, in the
fashion of a box. Those which I have seen elsewhere, and, generally
speaking, all simulacra of offerings, as loaves, cakes, heads of oxen or
gazelles, bunches of black grapes, and the like, in carved and painted
limestone, are of doubtful taste and clumsy execution. They are not very
common, and I have met with them only in tombs of the Fifth and Twelfth
Dynasties. "Canopic" vases, on the contrary, were always carefully wrought.
They were generally made in two kinds of stone, limestone and alabaster;
but the heads which surmounted them were often of painted wood. The canopic
vases of Pepi I. are of alabaster; and those of a king buried in the
southernmost pyramid at Lisht are also of alabaster, as are the human heads
upon the lids. One, indeed, is of such fine execution that I can only
compare it with that of the statue of Khafra. The most ancient funerary
statuettes yet found - those, namely, of the Eleventh Dynasty - are of
alabaster, like the canopic vases; but from the time of the Thirteenth
Dynasty, they were cut in compact limestone. The workmanship is very
unequal in quality. Some are real _chefs-d'oeuvre_, and reproduce the
physiognomy of the deceased as faithfully as a portrait statue. Lastly,
there are the perfume vases, which complete the list of objects found in
temples and tombs. The names of these vases are far from being
satisfactorily established, and most of the special designations furnished
in the texts remain as yet without equivalents in our language. The greater
number were of alabaster, turned and polished. Some are heavy, and ugly
(fig. 215), while others are distinguished by an elegance and diversity of
form which do honour to the inventive talent of the craftsmen. Many are
spindle-shaped and pointed at the end (fig. 216), or round in the body,
narrow in the neck, and flat at the bottom (fig. 217).

[Illustration: Fig. 215. - Perfume vase, alabaster.]

[Illustration: Fig. 216. - Perfume vase, alabaster.]

[Illustration: Fig. 217. - Perfume vase, alabaster.]

They are unornamented, except perhaps by two lotus-bud handles, or two
lions' heads, or perhaps a little female head just at the rise of the neck
(fig. 218). The smallest of these vases were not intended for liquids, but
for pomades, medicinal ointments, and salves made with honey. Some of the
more important series comprise large-bodied flasks, with an upright
cylindrical neck and a flat cover (fig. 219). In these, the Egyptians kept
the antimony powder with which they darkened their eyes and eyebrows. The
Kohl-pot was a universal toilet requisite; perhaps the only one commonly
used by all classes of society. When designing it, the craftsman gave free
play to his fancy, borrowing forms of men, plants, and animals for its
adornment. Now it appears in the guise of a full-blown lotus; now it is a
hedgehog; a hawk; a monkey clasping a column to his breast, or climbing up
the side of a jar; a grotesque figure of the god Bes; a kneeling woman,
whose scooped-out body contained the powder; a young girl carrying a wine-
jar. Once started upon this path, the imagination of the artists knew no
limits. As for materials, everything was made to serve in turn - granite,
diorite, breccia, red jade, alabaster, and soft limestone, which lent
itself more readily to caprices of form; finally, a still more plastic and
facile substance - clay, painted and glazed.

[Ilustration: Fig. 218. - Perfume vase, alabaster.]

[Illustration: Fig. 219. - Vase for antimony powder.]

It was not for want of material that the art of modelling and baking clays
failed to be as fully developed in Egypt as in Greece, The valley of the
Nile is rich in a fine and ductile potter's clay, with which the happiest
results might have been achieved, had the native craftsman taken the
trouble to prepare it with due care. Metals and hard stone were, however,
always preferred for objects of luxury; the potter was fain, therefore, to
be content with supplying only the commonest needs of household and daily
life. He was wont to take whatever clay happened to be nearest to the place
where he was working, and this clay was habitually badly washed, badly
kneaded, and fashioned with the finger upon a primitive wheel worked by the
hand. The firing was equally careless. Some pieces were barely heated at
all, and melted it they came into contact with water, while others were as
hard as tiles. All tombs of the ancient empire contain vases of a red or
yellow ware, often mixed, like the clay of bricks, with finely-chopped
straw or weeds. These are mostly large solid jars with oval bodies, short
necks, and wide mouths, but having neither foot nor handles. With them are
also found pipkins and pots, in which to store the dead man's provisions;
bowls more or less shallow; and flat plates, such as are still used by the
fellahin. The poorer folk sometimes buried miniature table and kitchen
services with their dead, as being less costly than full-sized vessels. The
surface is seldom glazed, seldom smooth and lustrous; but is ordinarily
covered with a coat of whitish, unbaked paint, which scales off at a touch.
Upon this surface there is neither incised design, nor ornament in relief,
nor any kind of inscription, but merely some four or five parallel lines in
red, black, or yellow, round the neck.

[Illustration: Fig. 220.]

[Illustration: Fig. 221.]

[Illustration: Fig. 222.]

[Illustration: Fig. 223.]

The pottery of the earliest Theban dynasties which I have collected at El
Khozam and Gebeleyn is more carefully wrought than the pottery of the
Memphite period. It may be classified under two heads. The first comprises
plain, smooth-bodied vases, black below and dark red above. On examining
this ware where broken, we see that the colour was mixed with the clay
during the kneading, and that the two zones were separately prepared,
roughly joined, and then uniformly glazed. The second class comprises vases
of various and sometimes eccentric forms, moulded of red or tawny clay.
Some are large cylinders closed at one end; others are flat; others oblong
and boat-shaped; others, like cruets, joined together two and two, yet with
no channel of communication[56] (fig. 220). The ornamentation is carried
over the whole surface, and generally consists of straight parallel lines,
cross lines, zigzags, dotted lines, or small crosses and lines in
geometrical combination; all these patterns being in white when the ground
is red, or in reddish brown when the ground is yellow or whitish. Now and
then we find figures of men and animals interspersed among the geometrical
combinations. The drawing is rude, almost childish; and it is difficult to
tell whether the subjects represent herds of antelopes or scenes of
gazelle-hunting. The craftsmen who produced these rude attempts were
nevertheless contemporary with the artists who decorated the rock-cut tombs
at Beni Hasan. As regards the period of Egypt's great military conquests,
the Theban tombs of that age have supplied objects enough to stock a museum
of pottery; but unfortunately the types are very uninteresting. To begin
with, we find hand-made sepulchral statuettes modelled in summary fashion
from an oblong lump of clay. A pinch of the craftsman's fingers brought out
the nose; two tiny knobs and two little stumps, separately modelled and
stuck on, represented the eyes and arms. The better sort of figures were
pressed in moulds of baked clay, of which several specimens have been
found. They were generally moulded in one piece; then lightly touched up;
then baked; and lastly, on coming out of the oven, were painted red,
yellow, or white, and inscribed with the pen. Some are of very good style,
and almost equal those made in limestone. The _ûshabtiû_ of the scribe
Hori, and those of the priest Horûta (Saïte) found at Hawara, show what the
Egyptians could have achieved in this branch of the art if they had cared
to cultivate it. Funerary cones were objects purely devotional, and the
most consummate art could have done nothing to make them elegant. A
funerary cone consists of a long, conical mass of clay, stamped at the
larger end with a few rows of hieroglyphs stating the name, parentage, and
titles of the deceased, the whole surface being coated with a whitish wash.
These are simulacra of votive cakes intended for the eternal nourishment of
the Double. Many of the vases buried in tombs of this period are painted to
imitate alabaster, granite, basalt, bronze, and even gold; and were cheap
substitutes for those vases made in precious materials which wealthy
mourners were wont to lavish on their dead. Among those especially intended
to contain water or flowers, some are covered with designs drawn in red and
black (fig. 221), such as concentric lines and circles (fig. 222),
meanders, religious emblems (fig. 223), cross-lines resembling network,
festoons of flowers and buds, and long leafy stems carried downward from
the neck to the body of the vase, and upward from the body of the vase to
the neck. Those in the tomb of Sennetmû were decorated on one side with a
large necklace, or collar, like the collars found upon mummies, painted in
very bright colours to simulate natural flowers or enamels. Canopic vases
in baked clay, though rarely met with under the Eighteenth Dynasty, became
more and more common as the prosperity of Thebes declined. The heads upon
the lids are for the most part prettily turned, especially the human
heads.[57] Modelled with the hand, scooped out to diminish the weight, and
then slowly baked, each was finally painted with the colours especially
pertaining to the genius whose head was represented. Towards the time of
the Twentieth Dynasty, it became customary to enclose the bodies of sacred
animals in vases of this type. Those found near Ekhmîm contain jackals and
hawks; those of Sakkarah are devoted to serpents, eggs, and mummified rats;
those of Abydos hold the sacred ibis. These last are by far the finest. On
the body of the vase, the protecting goddess Khûit is depicted with
outspread wings, while Horus and Thoth are seen presenting the bandage and
the unguent vase; the whole subject being painted in blue and red upon a
white ground. From the time of the Greek domination, the national poverty
being always on the increase, baked clay was much used for coffins as well
as for canopic vases. In the Isthmus of Suez, at Ahnas el Medineh, in the
Fayûm, at Asûan, and in Nubia, we find whole cemeteries in which the
sarcophagi are made of baked clay. Some are like oblong boxes rounded at
each end, with a saddle-back lid. Some are in human form, but barbarous in
style, the heads being surmounted by a pudding-shaped imitation of the
ancient Egyptian head-dress, and the features indicated by two or three
strokes of the modelling tool or the thumb. Two little lumps of clay stuck
awkwardly upon the breast indicate the coffin of a woman. Even in these
last days of Egyptian civilisation, it was only the coarsest objects which
were left of the natural hue of the baked clay. As of old, the surfaces
were, as a rule, overlaid with a coat of colour, or with a richly gilded

[Illustration: Fig. 224. - Glass-blowers from Twelfth
Dynasty tomb.]

[Illustration: Fig. 225. - Parti-coloured glass vase, inscribed Thothmes

[Illustration: Fig. 226. - Parti-coloured glass vase.]

[Illustration: Fig. 227. - Parti-coloured glass vase.]

[Illustration: Fig. 228. - Parti-coloured glass goblets of Nesikhonsû.]

Glass was known to the Egyptians from the remotest period, and glass-
blowing is represented in tombs which date from some thousands of years
before our era (fig. 224). The craftsman, seated before the furnace, takes
up a small quantity of the fused substance upon the end of his cane and
blows it circumspectly, taking care to keep it in contact with the flame,
so that it may not harden during the operation. Chemical analysis shows the
constituent parts of Egyptian glass to have been nearly identical with our
own; but it contains, besides silex, lime, alumina, and soda, a relatively
large proportion of extraneous substances, as copper, oxide of iron, and
oxide of manganese, which they apparently knew not how to eliminate. Hence
Egyptian glass is scarcely ever colourless, but inclines to an uncertain
shade of yellow or green. Some ill-made pieces are so utterly decomposed
that they flake away, or fall to iridescent dust, at the lightest touch.
Others have suffered little from time or damp, but are streaky and full of
bubbles. A few are, however, perfectly homogenous and limpid. Colourless
glass was not esteemed by the Egyptians as it is by ourselves; whether
opaque or transparent, they preferred it coloured. The dyes were obtained
by mixing metallic oxides with the ordinary ingredients; that is to say,
copper and cobalt for the blues, copperas for the greens, manganese for the
violets and browns, iron for the yellows, and lead or tin for the whites.
One variety of red contains 30 per cent of bronze, and becomes coated with
verdegris if exposed to damp. All this chemistry was empirical, and
acquired by instinct. Finding the necessary elements at hand, or being
supplied with them from a distance, they made use of them at hazard, and
without being too certain of obtaining the effects they sought. Many of
their most harmonious combinations were due to accident, and they could not
reproduce them at will. The masses which they obtained by these
unscientific means were nevertheless of very considerable dimensions. The
classic authors tell of stelae, sarcophagi, and columns made in one piece.
Ordinarily, however, glass was used only for small objects, and, above all,
for counterfeiting precious stones. However cheaply they may have been sold
in the Egyptian market, these small objects were not accessible to all the
world. The glass-workers imitated the emerald, jasper, lapis lazuli, and
carnelian to such perfection that even now we are sometimes embarrassed to
distinguish the real stones from the false. The glass was pressed into
moulds made of stone or limestone cut to the forms required, as beads,
discs, rings, pendants, rods, and plaques covered with figures of men and
animals, gods and goddesses. Eyes and eyebrows for the faces of statues in
stone or bronze were likewise made of glass, as also bracelets. Glass was
inserted into the hollows of incised hieroglyphs, and hieroglyphs were also
cut out in glass. In this manner, whole inscriptions were composed, and let
into wood, stone, or metal. The two mummy-cases which enclosed the body of
Netemt, mother of the Pharaoh Herhor Seamen, are decorated in this style.
Except the headdress of the effigy and some minor details, these cases are
gilded all over; the texts and the principal part of the ornamentation
being formed of glass enamels, which stand out in brilliant contrast with
the dead gold ground. Many Fayûm mummies were coated with plaster or
stucco, the texts and religious designs, which are generally painted, being
formed of glass enamels incrusted upon the surface of the plaster. Some of
the largest subjects are made of pieces of glass joined together and
retouched with the chisel, in imitation of bas-relief. Thus the face,
hands, and feet of the goddess Ma are done in turquoise blue, her headdress
in dark blue, her feather in alternate stripes of blue and yellow, and her
raiment in deep red. Upon a wooden shrine recently discovered in the
neighbourhood of Daphnae,[58] and upon a fragment of mummy-case in the
Museum of Turin, the hieroglyphic forms of many-coloured glass are inlaid
upon the sombre ground of the wood, the general effect being inconceivably
rich and brilliant. Glass filigrees, engraved glass, cut glass, soldered
glass, glass imitations of wood, of straw, and of string, were all known to
the Egyptians of old. I have under my hand at this present moment a square
rod formed of innumerable threads of coloured glass fused into one solid
body, which gives the royal oval of one of the Amenemhats at the part where
it is cut through. The design is carried through the whole length of the
rod, and wherever that rod may be cut, the royal oval reappears.[59] One
glass case in the Gizeh Museum is entirely stocked with small objects in
coloured glass. Here we see an ape on all fours, smelling some large fruit
which lies upon the ground; yonder, a woman's head, front face, upon a
white or green ground surrounded by a red border. Most of the plaques
represent only rosettes, stars, and single flowers or posies. One of the
smallest represents a black-and-white Apis walking, the work being so
delicate that it loses none of its effect under the magnifying glass. The
greater number of these objects date from, and after, the first Saïte
dynasty; but excavations in Thebes and Tell el Amarna have proved that the
manufacture of coloured glass prevailed in Egypt earlier than the tenth
century before our era. At Kûrnet Murraee and Sheikh Abd el Gûrneh, there
have been found, not only amulets for the use of the dead, such as
colonnettes, hearts, mystic eyes, hippopotami walking erect, and ducks in
pairs, done in parti-coloured pastes, blue, red, and yellow, but also vases
of a type which we have been accustomed to regard as of Phoenician and
Cypriote manufacture.[60] Here, for example, is a little aenochoe, of a
light blue semi-opaque glass (fig. 225); the inscription in the name of
Thothmes III., the ovals on the neck, and the palm-fronds on the body of
the vase being in yellow. Here again is a lenticular phial, three and a
quarter inches in height (fig. 226), the ground colour of a deep ocean
blue, admirably pure and intense, upon which a fern-leaf pattern in yellow
stands out both boldly and delicately. A yellow thread runs round the rim,
and two little handles of light green are attached to the neck. A miniature
amphora of the same height (fig. 227) is of a dark, semi-transparent olive
green. A zone of blue and yellow zigzags, bounded above and below by yellow
bands, encircles the body of the vase at the part of its largest
circumference. The handles are pale green, and the thread round the lip is
pale blue. Princess Nesikhonsû had beside her, in the vault at Deir el
Baharî, some glass goblets of similar work. Seven were in whole colours,
light green and blue; four were of black glass spotted with white; one only
was decorated with many-coloured fronds arranged in two rows (fig. 228).
The national glass works were therefore in full operation during the time
of the great Theban dynasties. Huge piles of scoriae mixed with slag yet
mark the spot where their furnaces were stationed at Tell el Amarna, the
Ramesseum, at El Kab, and at the Tell of Eshmûneyn.

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