Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

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

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work, or the method employed in its production. Once only, upon the body of
one of the Deir el Baharî princesses, did I find a royal cartouche
embroidered in pale rose-colour. The Egyptians of the best periods seem to
have attached special value to plain stuffs, and especially to white ones.
These they wove with marvellous skill, and upon looms in every respect
identical with those used in tapestry work. Those portions of the winding
sheet of Thothmes III. which enfolded the royal hands and arms, are as fine
as the finest India muslin, and as fairly merit the name of "woven air" as
the gauzes of the island of Cos. This, of course, is a mere question of
manufacture, apart from the domain of art. Embroideries and tapestries
were not commonly used in Egypt till about the end of the Persian period,
or the beginning of the period of Greek rule. Alexandria became partly
peopled by Phoenician, Syrian, and Jewish colonists, who brought with them
the methods of manufacture peculiar to their own countries, and founded
workshops which soon developed into flourishing establishments. It is to
the Alexandrians that Pliny ascribes the invention of weaving with several
warps, thus producing the stuff called brocades (_polymita_); and in the
time of the first Caesars, it was a recognised fact that "the needle of
Babylon was henceforth surpassed by the comb of the Nile." The Alexandrian
tapestries were not made after exclusively geometrical designs, like the
products of the old Egyptian looms; but, according to the testimony of the
ancients, were enriched with figures of animals, and even of men. Of the
masterpieces which adorned the palaces of the Ptolemies no specimens
remain. Many fragments which may be attributed to the later Roman time
have, however, been found in Egypt, such as the piece with the boy and
goose described by Wilkinson, and a piece representing marine divinities
bought by myself at Coptos.[76] The numerous embroidered winding sheets
with woven borders which have recently been discovered near Ekhmîm, and in
the Fayûm, are nearly all from Coptic tombs, and are more nearly akin to
Byzantine art than to the art of Egypt.

[68] We have a considerable number of specimens of these borderings,
cartouches, and painted tiles representing foreign prisoners, in the
British Museum; but the finest examples of the latter are in the
Ambras Collection, Vienna. For a highly interesting and scholarly
description of the remains found at Tell el Yahûdeh in 1870, see
Professor Hayter Lewis's paper in vol. iii. of the _Transactions_
of the Biblical Archaeological Society. - A.B.E.

[69] The _Tat_ amulet was the emblem of stability. - A.B.E.

[70] That is, the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties.

[71] There is a fine specimen of one of these sledges in the Leyden Museum,
and the Florentine Museum contains a celebrated Egyptian war-chariot
in fine preservation. - A.B.E.

[72] See the coloured frontispiece to _Thebes; its Tombs and their
Tenants_, by A.H. Rhind. 1862. - A.B.E.

[73] Since the publication of this work in the original French, a very
splendid specimen of a royal Egyptian chair of state, the property of
Jesse Haworth, Esq., was placed on view at the Manchester Jubilee
Exhibition. It is made of dark wood, apparently rosewood; the legs
being shaped like bull's legs, having silver hoofs, and a solid gold
cobra snake twining round each leg. The arm-pieces are of lightwood
with cobra snakes carved upon the flat in low relief, each snake
covered with hundreds of small silver annulets, to represent the
markings of the reptile. This chair, dated by a fragment of a royal
cartouche, belonged to Queen Hatshepsût, of the Eighteenth Dynasty. It
is now in the British Museum. - A.B.E.

[74] In this cut, as well as in the next, the loom is represented as if
upright; but it is supposed to be extended on the ground. - A.B.E.

[75] For a chromolithographic reproduction of this work as a whole, with
drawings of the separate parts, facsimiles of the inscriptions, etc.,
see _The Funeral Tent of an Egyptian Queen_, by H. Villiers
Stuart. - A.B.E.

[76] An unusually fine specimen of carpet, or tapestry work from Ekhmîm,
representing Cupids rowing in papyrus skiffs, landscapes, etc., has
recently been presented to the British Museum by the Rev. G.J.
Chester. The tapestry found at Ekhmîm is, however, mostly of the
Christian period, and this specimen probably dates from about A.D. 700
or A.D. 600. - A.B.E.

3. - METALS.

The Egyptians classified metals under two heads - namely, the noble metals,
as gold, electrum, and silver; and the base metals, as copper, iron, lead,
and, at a later period, tin. The two lists are divided by the mention of
certain kinds of precious stones, such as lapis lazuli and malachite.

Iron was reserved for weapons of war, and tools, in use for hard
substances, such as sculptors' and masons' chisels, axe and adze heads,
knife-blades, and saws. Lead was comparatively useless, but was sometimes
used for inlaying temple-doors, coffers, and furniture. Also small
statuettes of gods were occasionally made in this metal, especially those
of Osiris and Anubis. Copper was too yielding to be available for objects
in current use; bronze, therefore, was the favourite metal of the
Egyptians. Though often affirmed, it is not true that they succeeded in
tempering bronze so that it became as hard as iron or steel; but by varying
the constituents and their relative proportions, they were able to give it
a variety of very different qualities. Most of the objects hitherto
analysed have yielded precisely the same quantities of copper and tin
commonly used by the bronze founders of the present day. Those analysed by
Vauquelin in 1825 contained 84 per cent. of copper 14 per cent. of tin, and
1 per cent. of iron and other substances. A chisel brought from Egypt by
Sir Gardner Wilkinson contained only from 5 to 9 per cent. of tin, 1 per
cent. of iron, and 94 of copper. Certain fragments of statuettes and
mirrors more recently subjected to analysis have yielded a notable quantity
of gold and silver, thus corresponding with the bronzes of Corinth. Other
specimens resemble brass, both in their colour and substance. Many of the
best Egyptian bronzes offer a surprising resistance to damp, and oxidise
with difficulty. While yet hot from the mould, they were rubbed with some
kind of resinous varnish which filled up the pores and deposited an
unalterable patina upon the surface. Each kind of bronze had its special
use. The ordinary bronze was employed for weapons and common amulets; the
brazen alloys served for household utensils; the bronzes mixed with gold
and silver were destined only for mirrors, costly weapons, and statuettes
of value. In none of the tomb-paintings which I have seen is there any
representation of bronze-founding or bronze-working; but this omission is
easily supplemented by the objects themselves. Tools, arms, rings, and
cheap vases were sometimes forged, and sometimes cast whole in moulds of
hard clay or stone. Works of art were cast in one or several pieces
according to circumstances; the parts were then united, soldered, and
retouched with the burin. The method most frequently employed was to
prepare a core of mixed clay and charcoal, or sand, which roughly
reproduced the modelling of the mould into which it was introduced. The
layer of metal between this core and the mould was often so thin that it
would have yielded to any moderate pressure, had they not taken the
precaution to consolidate it by having the core for a support.

[Illustration: Fig. 276. - Bronze jug.]

[Illustration: Fig. 277. - Same jug seen from above.]

Domestic utensils and small household instruments were mostly made in
bronze. Such objects are exhibited by thousands in our museums, and
frequently figure in bas-reliefs and mural paintings. Art and trade were
not incompatible in Egypt; and even the coppersmith sought to give elegance
of form, and to add ornaments in a good style, to the humblest of his
works. The saucepan in which the cook of Rameses III. concocted his
masterpieces is supported on lions' feet. Here is a hot-water jug which
looks as if it were precisely like its modern successors (fig. 276); but on
a closer examination we shall find that the handle is a full-blown lotus,
the petals, which are bent over at an angle to the stalk, resting against
the edge of the neck (fig. 277). The handles of knives and spoons are
almost always in the form of a duck's or goose's neck, slightly curved. The
bowl is sometimes fashioned like an animal - as, for instance, a gazelle
ready bound for the sacrifice (fig. 278). On the hilt of a sabre we find a
little crouching jackal; and the larger limb of a pair of scissors in the
Gizeh Museum is made in the likeness of an Asiatic captive, his arms tied
behind his back. A lotus leaf forms the disk of a mirror, and its stem is
the handle. One perfume box is a fish, another is a bird, another is a
grotesque deity. The lustration vases, or _situlae_, carried by priests and
priestesses for the purpose of sprinkling either the faithful, or the
ground traversed by religious processions, merit the special consideration
of connoisseurs. They are ovoid or pointed at the bottom, and decorated
with subjects either chased or in relief. These sometimes represent
deities, each in a separate frame, and sometimes scenes of worship. The
work is generally very minute.

[Illustration: Fig. 278. - Spoon (or lamp?).]

[Illustration: Fig. 279. - Bronze statuette of the Lady Takûshet.]

[Illustration: Fig. 280. - Bronze statuette of Horus.]

[Illustration: Fig. 281. - Bronze statuette of one Mosû.]

Bronze came into use for statuary purposes from a very early period; but
time unfortunately has preserved none of those idols which peopled the
temples of the ancient empire. Whatsoever may be said to the contrary, we
possess no bronze statuettes of any period anterior to the expulsion of the
Hyksos. Some Theban figures date quite certainly from the Eighteenth and
Nineteenth Dynasties. The chased lion's head found with the jewels of Queen
Aahhotep, the Harpocrates of Gizeh inscribed with the names of Kames and
Ahmes I., and several statuettes of Amen, said to have been discovered at
Medinet Habû and Sheikh Abd el Gûrneh, are of that period. Our most
important bronzes belong, however, to the Twenty-second Dynasty, or, later
still, to the time of the Saïte Pharaohs. Many are not older than the first
Ptolemies. A fragment found in the ruins of Tanis and now in the
possession of Count Stroganoff, formed part of a votive statue dedicated by
King Pisebkhanû. It was originally two-thirds the size of life, and is the
largest specimen known. A portrait statuette of the Lady Takûshet, given to
the Museum of Athens by M. Demetrio, the four statuettes from the Posno
collection now at the Louvre, and the kneeling genius of Gizeh, are all
from the site of Bubastis, and date probably from the years which
immediately preceded the accession of Psammetichus I. The Lady Takûshet is
standing, the left foot advanced, the right arm hanging down, the left
raised and brought close to the body (fig. 279). She wears a short robe
embroidered with religious subjects, and has bracelets on her arms and
wrists. Upon her head she has a wig with flat curls, row above row. The
details both of her robe and jewels are engraved in incised lines upon the
surface of the bronze, and inlaid with silver threads. The face is
evidently a portrait, and represents a woman of mature age. The form,
according to the traditions of Egyptian art, is that of a younger woman,
slender, firm, and supple. The copper in this bronze is largely intermixed
with gold, thus producing a chastened lustre which is admirably suited to
the richness of the embroidered garment. The kneeling genius of Gizeh is as
rude and repellent as the Lady Takûshet is delicate and harmonious. He has
a hawk's head, and he worships the sun, as is the duty of the Heliopolitan
genii. His right arm is uplifted, his left is pressed to his breast. The
style of the whole is dry, and the granulated surface of the skin adds to
the hard effect of the figure. The action, however, is energetic and
correct, and the bird's head is adjusted with surprising skill to the man's
neck and shoulders. The same qualities and the same faults distinguish the
Horus of the Posno collection (fig. 280). Standing, he uplifted a libation
vase; now lost, and poured the contents upon a king who once stood face to
face with him. This roughness of treatment is less apparent in the other
three Posno figures; above all in that which bears the name of Mosû
engraved over the place of the heart (fig. 281). Like the Horus, this Mosû
stands upright, his left foot advanced, and his left arm pendent. His right
hand is raised, as grasping the wand of office. The trunk is naked, and
round his loins he wears a striped cloth with a squared end falling in
front. His head is clad in a short wig covered with short curls piled one
above the other. The ear is round and large. The eyes are well opened, and
were originally of silver; but have been stolen by some Arab. The features
have a remarkable expression of pride and dignity. After these, what can be
said for the thousands of statuettes of Osiris, of Isis, of Nephthys, of
Horus, of Nefertûm, which have been found in the sands and ruins of
Sakkarah, Bubastis, and other cities of the Delta? Many are, without doubt,
charming objects for glass-cases, and are to be admired for perfection of
casting and delicacy of execution; but the greater number are mere
articles of commerce, made upon the same pattern, and perhaps in the self-
same moulds, century after century, for the delight of devotees and
pilgrims. They are rounded, vulgar, destitute of originality, and have no
more distinction than the thousands of coloured statuettes of saints and
Virgins which stock the shelves of our modern dealers in pious wares. An
exception must, however, be made in favour of the images of animals, such
as rams, sphinxes, and lions, which to the last retained a more pronounced
stamp of individuality. The Egyptians had a special predilection for the
feline race. They have represented the lion in every attitude - giving chase
to the antelope; springing upon the hunter; wounded, and turning to bite
his wound; couchant, and disdainfully calm - and no people have depicted him
with a more thorough knowledge of his habits, or with so intense a
vitality. Several gods and goddesses, as Shû, Anhûr, Bast, Sekhet, Tefnût,
have the form of the lion or of the cat; and inasmuch as the worship of
these deities was more popular in the Delta than elsewhere, so there never
passes a year when from amid the ruins of Bubastis, Tanis, Mendes, or some
less famous city, there is not dug up a store of little figures of lions
and lionesses, or of men and women with lions' heads, or cats' heads. The
cats of Bubastis and the lions of Tell es Seba crowd our museums. The lions
of Horbeit may be reckoned among the _chefs-d'oeuvre_ of Egyptian statuary.
Upon one of the largest among them is inscribed the name of Apries (fig.
282); but if even this evidence were lacking, the style of the piece would
compel us to attribute it to the Saïte period. It formed part of the
ornamentation of a temple or naos door; and the other side was either built
into a wall or imbedded in a piece of wood. The lion is caught in a trap,
or, perhaps, lying down in an oblong cage, with only his head and fore feet
outside. The lines of the body are simple and full of power; the expression
of the face is calm and strong. In breadth and majesty he almost equals the
fine limestone lions of Amenhotep III.

[Illustration: Fig. 282. - Bronze lion from Horbeit, Saïte.]

[Illustration: Fig. 283. - Gold worker.]

The idea of inlaying gold and other precious metals upon the surface of
bronze, stone, or wood was already ancient in Egypt in the time of Khûfû.
The gold is often amalgamated with pure silver. When amalgamated to the
extent of 20 per cent, it changes its name, and is called electrum
(_asimû_). This electrum is of a fine light-yellow colour. It pales as the
proportion of silver becomes larger, and at 60 per cent. it is nearly
white. The silver came chiefly from Asia, in rings, sheets, and bricks of
standard weight. The gold and electrum came partly from Syria in bricks and
rings; and partly from the Soudan in nuggets and gold-dust. The processes
of refining and alloying are figured on certain monuments of the early
dynasties. In a bas-relief at Sakkarah, we see the weighed gold entrusted
to the craftsman for working; in another example (at Beni Hasan) the
washing and melting down of the ore is represented; and again at Thebes,
the goldsmith is depicted seated in front of his crucible, holding the
blow-pipe to his lips with the left hand, and grasping his pincers with the
right, thus fanning the flame and at the same time making ready to seize
the ingot (fig. 283). The Egyptians struck neither coins nor medals. With
these exceptions, they made the same use of the precious metals as we do
ourselves. We gild the crosses and cupolas of our churches; they covered
the doors of their temples, the lower part of their wall-surfaces, certain
bas-reliefs, pyramidions of obelisks, and even whole obelisks, with plates
of gold. The obelisks of Queen Hatshepsût at Karnak were coated with
electrum. "They were visible from both banks of the Nile, and when the sun
rose between them as he came up from the heavenly horizon, they flooded the
two Egypts with their dazzling rays."[77] These plates of metal were forged
with hammer and anvil. For smaller objects, they made use of little pellets
beaten flat between two pieces of parchment. In the Museum of the Louvre we
have a gilder's book, and the gold-leaf which it contains is as thin as
the gold-leaf used by the German goldsmiths of the past century. Gold was
applied to bronze surfaces by means of an ammoniacal solvent. If the object
to be gilt were a wooden statuette, the workman began by sticking a piece
of fine linen all over the surface, or by covering it with a very thin coat
of plaster; upon this he laid his gold or silver leaf. It was thus that
wooden statuettes of Thoth, Horus, and Nefertûm were gilded, from the time
of Khûfû. The temple of Isis, the "Lady of the Pyramid," contained a dozen
such images; and this temple was not one of the largest in the Memphite
necropolis. There would seem to have been hundreds of gilded statues in the
Theban temples, at all events in the time of the victorious dynasties of
the new empire; and as regards wealth, the Ptolemaic sanctuaries were in no
wise inferior to those of the Theban period.

Bronze and gilded wood were not always good enough for the gods of Egypt.
They exacted pure gold, and their worshippers gave them as much of it as
possible. Entire statues of the precious metals were dedicated by the kings
of the ancient and middle empires; and the Pharaohs of the Eighteenth and
Nineteenth Dynasties, who drew at will upon the treasures of Asia,
transcended all that had been done by their predecessors. Even in times of
decadence, the feudal lords kept up the traditions of the past, and, like
Prince Mentûemhat, replaced the images of gold and silver which had been
carried off from Karnak by the generals of Sardanapalus at the time of the
Assyrian invasions. The quantity of metal thus consecrated to the service
of the gods must have been considerable, If many figures were less than an
inch in height, many others measured three cubits, or more. Some were of
gold, some of silver; others were part gold and part silver. There were
even some which combined gold with sculptured ivory, ebony, and precious
stones, thus closely resembling the chryselephantine statues of the Greeks.
Aided by the bas-relief subjects of Karnak, Medinet Habû, and Denderah, as
well as by the statues in wood and limestone which have come down to our
day, we can tell exactly what they were like. However the material might
vary, the style was always the same. Nothing is more perishable than works
of this description. They are foredoomed to destruction by the mere value
of the materials in which they are made. What civil war and foreign
invasion had spared, and what had chanced to escape the rapacity of Roman
princes and governors, fell a prey to Christian iconoclasm. A few tiny
statuettes buried as amulets upon the bodies of mummies, a few domestic
divinities buried in the ruins of private houses, a few ex-votos forgotten,
perchance, in some dark corner of a fallen sanctuary, have escaped till the
present day. The Ptah and Amen of Queen Aahhotep, another golden Amen also
at Gizeh, and the silver vulture found in 1885 at Medinet Habû, are the
only pieces of this kind which can be attributed with certainty to the
great period of Egyptian art. The remainder are of Saïte or Ptolemaic work,
and are remarkable only for the perfection with which they are wrought. The
gold and silver vessels used in the service of the temples, and in the
houses of private persons, shared the fate of the statues. At the beginning
of the present century, the Louvre acquired some flat-bottomed cups which
Thothmes III. presented as the reward of valour to one of his generals
named Tahûti. The silver cup is much mutilated, but the golden cup is
intact and elegantly designed (fig. 284). The upright sides are adorned
with a hieroglyphic legend. A central rosette is engraved at the bottom.
Six fish are represented in the act of swimming round the rosette; and
these again are surrounded by a border of lotus-bells united by a curved
line. The five vases of Thmûis, in the Gizeh Museum, are of silver. They
formed part of the treasure of the temple, and had been buried in a hiding-
place, where they remained till our own day. We have no indication of their
probable age; but whether they belong to the Greek or the Theban period,
the workmanship is purely Egyptian. Of one vessel, only the cover is left,
the handle being formed of two flowers upon one stem. The others are
perfect, and are decorated in _repoussé_ work with lotus-lilies in bud and
blossom (fig. 285).

[Illustration: Fig. 284. - Golden cup of General Tahûti, Eighteenth

[Illustration: Fig. 285. - Silver vase of Thmûis.]

The form is simple and elegant, the ornamentation sober and delicate; the
relief low. One is, however, surrounded by a row of ovoid bosses (fig.
286), which project in high relief, and somewhat alter the shape of the
body of the vase. These are interesting specimens; but they are so few in
number that, were it not for the wall-paintings, we should have but a very
imperfect idea of the skill of the Egyptian goldsmiths.

[Illustration: Fig. 286. - Silver vase of Thmûis.]

[Illustration: Fig. 287. - Ornamental basket in precious metal. From wall-
painting, Twentieth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 288. - Crater of precious metal, borne by slaves. Wall-
painting, Eighteenth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 289. - Hydria of precious metal. Wall-painting,
Eighteenth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 290. - Enamelled cruet. Wall-painting, Eighteenth

[Illustration: Fig. 291. - Enamelled cruet. Wall-painting, Eighteenth

[Illustration: Fig. 292. - Gold centre-piece of Amenhotep III. Wall-
painting, Eighteenth Dynasty.]

The Pharaohs had not our commercial resources, and could not circulate the
gold and silver tribute-offerings of conquered nations in the form of coin.
When the gods had received their share of the booty, there was no
alternative but to melt the rest down into ingots, fashion it into personal
ornaments, or convert it into gold and silver plate. What was true of the
kings held good also for their subjects. For the space of at least six or
eight centuries, dating from the time of Ahmes I., the taste for plate was
carried to excess. Every good house was not only stocked with all that was
needful for the service of the table, such as cups, goblets, plates, ewers,
and ornamental baskets chased with figures of fantastic animals (fig. 287);
but also with large ornamental vases which were dressed with flowers, and
displayed to visitors on gala days. Some of these vases were of
extraordinary richness. Here, for instance, is a crater, the handles
modelled as two papyrus buds, and the foot as a full-blown papyrus. Two
Asiatic slaves in sumptuous garments are represented in the act of
upheaving it with all their strength (fig. 288). Here, again, is a kind of

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