Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

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

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the prevalence of a religious idea which decided but enforced these
changes. The object of decoration was not merely the delight of the eye.
Applied to a piece of furniture, a coffin, a house, a temple, decoration
possessed a certain magic property, of which the power and nature were
determined by each being or action represented, by each word inscribed or
spoken, at the moment of consecration. Every subject was, therefore, an
amulet as well as an ornament. So long as it endured, it ensured to the god
the continuance of homage rendered, or sacrifices offered, by the king. To
the king, whether living or dead, it confirmed the favours granted to him
by the god in recompense for his piety. It also preserved from destruction
the very wall upon which it was depicted. At the time of the Eighteenth
Dynasty, it was thought that two or three such amulets sufficed to compass
the desired effect; but at a later period it was believed that their number
could not be too freely multiplied, and the walls were covered with as many
as the surface would contain. An average chamber of Edfû or Denderah yields
more material for study than the hypostyle hall of Karnak; and the chapel
of Antoninus Pius at Philae, had it been finished, would have contained
more scenes than the sanctuary of Luxor and the passages by which it is

Observing the variety of subjects treated on the walls of any one temple,
one might at first be tempted to think that the decoration does not form a
connected whole, and that, although many series of scenes must undoubtedly
contain the development of an historic idea or a religious dogma, yet that
others are merely strung together without any necessary link. At Luxor, and
again at the Ramesseum, each face of the pylon is a battle-field on which
may be studied, almost day for day, the campaign of Rameses II. against the
Kheta, which took place in the fifth year of his reign. There we see the
Egyptian camp attacked by night; the king's bodyguard surprised during the
march; the defeat of the enemy; their flight; the garrison of Kadesh
sallying forth to the relief of the vanquished; and the disasters which
befell the prince of the Kheta and his generals. Elsewhere, it is not the
war which is represented, but the human sacrifices which anciently
celebrated the close of each campaign. The king is seen in the act of
seizing his prostrate prisoners by the hair of their heads, and uplifting
his mace as if about to shatter their heads at a single blow. At Karnak,
along the whole length of the outer wall, Seti I. pursues the Bedawîn of
Sinai. At Medinet Habû Rameses III. destroys the fleet of the peoples of
the great sea, or receives the cut-off hands of the Libyans, which his
soldiers bring to him as trophies. In the next scene, all is peace; and we
behold Pharaoh pouring out a libation of perfumed water to his father Amen.
It would seem as if no link could be established between these subjects,
and yet the one is the necessary consequence of the others. If the god had
not granted victory to the king, the king in his turn would not have
performed these ceremonies in the temple. The sculptor has recorded the
events in their order: - first the victory, then the sacrifice. The favour
of the god precedes the thank-offering of the king. Thus, on closer
examination, we find this multitude of episodes forming the several links
of one continuous chain, while every scene, including such as seem at first
sight to be wholly unexplained, represents one stage in the development of
a single action which begins at the door, is carried through the various
halls, and penetrates to the farthest recesses of the sanctuary. The king
enters the temple. In the courts, he is everywhere confronted by
reminiscences of his victories; and here the god comes forth to greet him,
hidden in his shrine and surrounded by priests. The rites prescribed for
these occasions are graven on the walls of the hypostyle hall in which they
were performed. These being over, king and god together take their way to
the sanctuary. At the door which leads from the public hall to the
mysterious part of the temple, the escort halts. The king crosses the
threshold alone, and is welcomed by the gods. He then performs in due order
all the sacred ceremonies enjoined by usage. His merits increase by virtue
of his prayers; his senses become exalted; he rises to the level of the
divine type. Finally he enters the sanctuary, where the god reveals himself
unwitnessed, and speaks to him face to face. The sculptures faithfully
reproduce the order of this mystic presentation: - the welcoming reception
on the part of the god; the acts and offerings of the king; the vestments
which he puts on and off in succession; the various crowns which he places
on his head. The prayers which he recites and the favours which are
conferred upon him are also recorded upon the walls in order of time and
place. The king, and the few who accompany him, have their backs towards
the entrance and their faces towards the door of the sanctuary. The gods,
on the contrary, or at least such as do not make part of the procession,
face the entrance, and have their backs turned towards the sanctuary. If
during the ceremony the royal memory failed, the king needed but to raise
his eyes to the wall, whereon his duties were mapped out for him.

[Illustration: Fig. 108. - Obelisk of Ûsertesen I., of Heliopolis.]

Nor was this all. Each part of the temple had its accessory decoration and
its furniture. The outer faces of the pylons were ornamented, not only with
the masts and streamers before mentioned, but with statues and obelisks.
The statues, four or six in number, were of limestone, granite, or
sandstone. They invariably represented the royal founder, and were
sometimes of prodigious size. The two Memnons seated at the entrance of the
temple of Amenhotep III., at Thebes, measured about fifty feet in height.
The colossal Rameses II. of the Ramesseum measured fifty-seven feet, and
that of Tanis at least seventy feet. The greater number, however, did not
exceed twenty feet. They mounted guard before the temple, facing outwards,
as if confronting an approaching enemy. The obelisks of Karnak are mostly
hidden amid the central courts; and those of Queen Hatshepsut were imbedded
for seventeen feet of their height in masses of masonry which concealed
their bases. These are accidental circumstances, and easy of explanation.
Each of the pylons before which they are stationed had in its turn been the
entrance to the temple, and was thrown into the rear by the works of
succeeding Pharaohs. The true place of all obelisks was in front of the
colossi, on each side of the main entrance.[22] They are always in pairs,
but often of unequal height. Some have professed to see in them the emblem
of Amen, the Generator; or a finger of the god; or a ray of the sun. In
sober truth, they are a more shapely form of the standing stone, or menhir,
which is raised by semi-civilised peoples in commemoration of their gods or
their dead. Small obelisks, about three feet in height, are found in tombs
as early as the Fourth Dynasty. They are placed to right and left of the
stela; that is to say, on either side of the door which leads to the
dwelling of the dead. Erected before the pylon-gates of temples, they are
made of granite, and their dimensions are considerable. The obelisk of
Heliopolis (fig. 108) measures sixty-eight feet in the shaft, and the
obelisks of Luxor stand seventy-seven and seventy-five and a half feet
high, respectively. The loftiest known is the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsût
at Karnak, which rises to a height of 109 feet. To convey such masses, and
to place them in equilibrium, was a sufficiently difficult task, and one is
at a loss to understand how the Egyptians succeeded in erecting them with
no other appliances than ropes and sacks of sand. Queen Hatshepsût boasts
that her obelisks were quarried, shaped, transported, and erected in seven
months; and we have no reason to doubt the truth of her statement.[23]

[Illustration: Fig. 109. - Obelisk of Ûsertesen I., Begig, Fayûm.]

Obelisks were almost always square, with the faces slightly convex, and a
slight slope from top to bottom. The pedestal was formed of a single square
block adorned with inscriptions, or with cynocephali in high relief,
adoring the sun. The point was cut as a pyramidion, and sometimes covered
with bronze or gilt copper. Scenes of offerings to Ra Harmakhis, Hor, Tûm,
or Amen are engraved on the sides of the pyramidion and on the upper part
of the prism. The four upright faces are generally decorated with only
vertical lines of inscription in praise of the king (Note 11). Such is the
usual type of obelisk; but we here and there meet with exceptions. That of
Begig in the Fayûm (fig. 109) is in shape a rectangular oblong, with a
blunt top. A groove upon it shows that it was surmounted by some emblem in
metal, perhaps a hawk, like the obelisk represented on a funerary stela in
the Gizeh Museum. This form, which like the first is a survival of the
menhir, was in vogue till the last days of Egyptian art. It is even found
at Axûm, in the middle of Ethiopia, dating from about the fourth century of
our era, at a time when in Egypt the ancient obelisks were being carried
out of the country, and none dreamed of erecting new ones. Such was the
accessory decoration of the pylon. The inner courts and hypostyle halls of
the temple contained more colossi. Some, placed with their backs against
the outer sides of pillars or walls, were half engaged in the masonry, and
built up in courses. At Luxor under the peristyle, and at Karnak between
each column of the great nave, were also placed statues of Pharaoh; but
these were statues of Pharaoh the victor, clad in his robe of state. The
right of consecrating a statue in the temple was above all a royal
prerogative; yet the king sometimes permitted private persons to dedicate
their statues by the side of his own. This was, however, a special favour,
and such monuments always bear an inscription stating that it is "by the
king's grace" that they occupy that position. Rarely as this privilege was
granted, it resulted in a vast accumulation of votive statues, so that in
the course of centuries the courts of some temples became crowded with
them. At Karnak, the sanctuary enclosure was furnished outside with a kind
of broad bench, breast high, like a long base. Upon this the statues were
placed, with their backs to the wall. Attached to each was an oblong block
of stone, with a projecting spout on one side; these are known as "tables
of offerings" (fig. 110). The upper face is more or less hollowed, and is
often sculptured with bas-relief representations of loaves, joints of beef,
libation vases, and other objects usually presented to the dead or to the
gods. Those of King Ameni Entef Amenemhat, at Gizeh, are blocks of red
granite more than three feet in length, the top of which is hollowed out in
regular rows of cup-holes, each cup-hole being reserved for one particular
offering. There was, in fact, an established form of worship provided for
statues, and these tables were really altars upon which were deposited
sacrificial offerings of meat, cakes, fruits, vegetables, and the like.

[Illustration: Fig. 110. - Table of offerings, Karnak.]

[Illustration: Fig. 111. - Limestone altar.]

[Illustration: Fig.112. - Naos of wood in the Museum at Turin.]

The sanctuary and the surrounding chambers contained the objects used in
the ceremonial of worship. The bases of altars varied in shape, some being
square and massive, others polygonal or cylindrical. Some of these last are
in form not unlike a small cannon, which is the name given to them by the
Arabs. The most ancient are those of the Fifth Dynasty; the most beautiful
is one dedicated by Seti I., now in the Gizeh Museum. The only perfect
specimen of an altar known to me was discovered at Menshîyeh in 1884 (fig.
111). It is of white limestone, hard and polished like marble. It stands
upon a pedestal in the form of a long cone, having no other ornament than a
torus about half an inch below the top. Upon this pedestal, in a hollow
specially prepared for its reception, stands a large hemispherical basin.
The shrines are little chapels of wood or stone (fig. 112), in which the
spirit of the deity was supposed at all times to dwell, and which, on
ceremonial occasions, contained his image. The sacred barks were built
after the model of the Bari, or boat, in which the sun performed his daily
course. The shrine was placed amidship of the boat, and covered with a
veil, or curtain, to conceal its contents from all spectators. The crew
were also represented, each god being at his post of duty, the pilot at the
helm, the look-out at the prow, the king upon his knees before the door of
the shrine. We have not as yet discovered any of the statues employed in
the ceremonial, but we know what they were like, what part they played,
and of what materials they were made. They were animated, and in addition
to their bodies of stone, metal, or wood, they had each a soul magically
derived from the soul of the divinity which they represented. They spoke,
moved, acted - not metaphorically, but actually. The later Ramessides
ventured upon no enterprises without consulting them. They stated their
difficulties, and the god replied to each question by a movement of the
head. According to the Stela of Bakhtan,[24] a statue of Khonsû places its
hands four times on the nape of the neck of another statue, so transmitting
the power of expelling demons. It was after a conversation with the statue
of Amen in the dusk of the sanctuary, that Queen Hatshepsût despatched her
squadron to the shores of the Land of Incense.[25] Theoretically, the
divine soul of the image was understood to be the only miracle worker;
practically, its speech and motion were the results of a pious fraud.
Interminable avenues of sphinxes, gigantic obelisks, massive pylons, halls
of a hundred columns, mysterious chambers of perpetual night - in a word,
the whole Egyptian temple and its dependencies - were built by way of a
hiding-place for a performing puppet, of which the wires were worked by a

[21] That is, the spirits of the North, represented by On (Heliopolis), and
of the South (Khonû). - A.B.E.

[22] At Tanis there seems to have been a close succession of obelisks and
statues along the main avenue leading to the Temple, without the usual
corresponding pylons. These were ranged in pairs; _i.e._, a pair
of obelisks, a pair of statues; a pair of obelisks, a pair of shrines;
and then a third pair of obelisks. See _Tanis_, Part I., by
W.M.F. Petrie, published by the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1884. - A.B.E.

[23] This fact is recorded in the hieroglyphic inscription upon the
obelisks. - A.B.E.

[24] This celebrated tablet, preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale,
Paris, has been frequently translated, and is the subject of a
valuable treatise by the late Vicomte de Rougé. It was considered
authentic till Dr. Erman, in an admirable paper contributed to the
_Zeitschrift,_ 1883, showed it to have been a forgery concocted
by the priests of Khonsû during the period of the Persian rule in
Egypt, or in early Ptolemaic times. (See Maspero's _Hist. Ancienne
des Peuples de l'Orient_, chap, vi., pp. 287, 288. Fourth
Edition.) - A.B.E.

[25] The Land of Incense, called also in the inscriptions "The Land of
Pûnt," was the country from which the Egyptians imported spices,
precious woods, gums, etc. It is supposed to represent the southern
coasts of the Red Sea, on either side the Bab el Mandeb. Queen
Hatshepsût's famous expedition is represented in a series of coloured
bas-relief sculptures on the walls of her great temple at Deir el
Baharî, reproduced in Dr. Dümichen's work, _The Fleet of an Egyptian
Queen_, and in Mariette's _Deîr el Baharî_. For a full account
of this temple, its decoration, and the expedition of Hatshepsût, see
the _Deir el Baharî_ publications of the Egypt Exploration Fund.



The Egyptians regarded man as composed of various different entities, each
having its separate life and functions. First, there was the body; then the
_Ka_ or double, which was a less solid duplicate of the corporeal form - a
coloured but ethereal projection of the individual, reproducing him feature
for feature. The double of a child was as a child; the double of a woman
was as a woman; the double of a man was as a man. After the double (_Ka_)
came the Soul (_Bi_ or _Ba_), which was popularly represented as a human-
headed bird; after the Soul came the "_Khû_," or "the Luminous," a spark
from the divine fire. None of these elements were in their own natures
imperishable. Left to themselves, they would hasten to dissolution, and the
man would thus die a second time; that is to say, he would be annihilated.
The piety of the survivors found means, however, to avert this catastrophe.
By the process of embalmment, they could for ages suspend the decomposition
of the body; while by means of prayer and offerings, they saved the Double,
the Soul, and the "Luminous" from the second death, and secured to them all
that was necessary for the prolongation of their existence. The Double
never left the place where the mummy reposed: but the Soul and the "_Khû_"
went forth to follow the gods. They, however, kept perpetually returning,
like travellers who come home after an absence. The tomb was therefore a
dwelling-house, the "Eternal House" of the dead, compared with which the
houses of the living were but wayside inns; and these Eternal Houses were
built after a plan which exactly corresponded to the Egyptian idea of the
after-life. The Eternal House must always include the private rooms of the
Soul, which were closed on the day of burial, and which no living being
could enter without being guilty of sacrilege. It must also contain the
reception rooms of the Double, where priests and friends brought their
wishes or their offerings; the two being connected by a passage of more or
less length. The arrangement of these three parts[26] varied according to
the period, the place, the nature of the ground, and the caprice of each
person. The rooms accessible to the living were frequently built above
ground, and formed a separate edifice. Sometimes they were excavated in the
mountain side, as well as the tomb itself. Sometimes, again, the vault
where the mummy lay hidden, and the passages leading to that vault, were in
one place, while the place of prayer and offering stood far off in the
plain. But whatever variety there may be found as to detail and
arrangement, the principle is always the same. The tomb is a dwelling, and
it is constructed in such wise as may best promote the well-being, and
ensure the preservation, of the dead.

[26] These three parts are (l) the chapel, (2) the passage, or shaft, (3)
the sepulchral vault. If the latter was below the level of the chapel,
as in the time of the Ancient Empire, the communication was by a
sloping or vertical shaft. - A.B.E.

I. - Mastabas.

The most ancient monumental tombs are found in the necropolis of Memphis,
between Abû Roash and Dahshûr, and in that of Medûm;[27] they belong to the
mastaba type (Note 12). The mastaba (fig. 113) is a quadrangular building,
which from a distance might be taken for a truncated pyramid. Many mastabas
are from 30 to 40-feet in height, 150 feet in length, and 80 feet in width;
while others do not exceed 10 feet in height or 15 feet in length. The
faces are symmetrically inclined and generally smooth, though sometimes the
courses retreat like steps. The materials employed are stone or brick. The
stone is limestone, cut in blocks about two and a half feet long, two feet
high, and twenty inches thick. Three sorts of limestone were employed: for
the best tombs, the fine white limestone of Tûrah, or the compact siliceous
limestone of Sakkarah; for ordinary tombs, the marly limestone of the
Libyan hills. This last, impregnated with salt and veined with crystalline
gypsum, is a friable material, and unsuited for ornamentation. The bricks
are of two kinds, both being merely sun-dried. The most ancient kind, which
ceased to be used about the time of the Sixth Dynasty, is small (8.7 X 4.3
X 5.5 inches), yellowish, and made of nothing but sand, mixed with a little
clay and grit.

[Illustration: Fig. 113. - A Mastaba.]

The later kind is of mud mixed with straw, black, compact, carefully
moulded, and of a fair size (15.0 X 7.1 X 5.5 inches). The style of the
internal construction differs according to the material employed by the
architect. In nine cases out of ten, the stone mastabas are but outwardly
regular in construction. The core is of roughly quarried rubble, mixed with
rubbish and limestone fragments hastily bedded in layers of mud, or piled
up without any kind of mortar. The brick mastabas are nearly always of
homogeneous construction. The facing bricks are carefully mortared, and the
joints inside are filled up with sand. That the mastaba should be
canonically oriented, the four faces set to the four cardinal points, and
the longer axis laid from north and south, was indispensable; but,
practically, the masons took no special care about finding the true north,
and the orientation of these structures is seldom exact. At Gizeh, the
mastabas are distributed according to a symmetrical plan, and ranged in
regular streets. At Sakkarah, at Abûsîr, and at Dahshûr, they are scattered
irregularly over the surface of the plateau, crowded in some places, and
wide apart in others. The Mussulman cemetery at Siût perpetuates the like
arrangement, and enables us to this day to realise the aspect of the
Memphite necropolis towards the close of the ancient empire.

[Illustration: Fig. 114. - False door in mastaba, from Mariette's _Les

[Illustration: Fig. 115. - Plan of forecourt of mastaba of Kaâpir.]

A flat, unpaved platform, formed by the top course of the core (Note 13),
covers the top of the mass of the mastaba. This platform is scattered over
with terracotta vases, nearly buried in the loose rubbish. These lie
thickly over the hollow interior, but are more sparsely deposited
elsewhere. The walls are bare. The doors face to the eastward side. They
occasionally face towards the north or south side, but never towards the
west. In theory, there should be two doors, one for the dead, the other for
the living. In practice, the entrance for the dead was a mere niche, high
and narrow, cut in the eastward face, near the north-east corner. At the
back of this niche are marked vertical lines, framing in a closed space.
Even this imitation of a door was sometimes omitted, and the soul was left
to manage as best it might. The door of the living was made more or less
important, according to the greater or less development of the chamber to
which it led. The chamber and door are in some cases represented by only a
shallow recess decorated with a stela and a table of offerings (fig. 114).
This is sometimes protected by a wall which projects from the façade, thus
forming a kind of forecourt open to the north. The forecourt is square in
the tomb of Kaâpir (fig. 114), and irregular in that of Neferhotep at
Sakkarah (fig. 116). When the plan includes one or more chambers, the door
sometimes opens in the middle of a small architectural façade (fig. 117),
or under a little portico supported by two square pillars without either
base or abacus (fig. 118). The doorway is very simple, the two jambs being
ornamented with bas-reliefs representing the deceased, and surmounted by a
cylindrical drum engraved with his name and titles. In the tomb of Pohûnika
at Sakkarah the jambs are two pilasters, each crowned with two lotus
flowers; but this example is, so far, unique.

[Illustration: Fig. 116. - Plan of forecourt, mastaba of Neferhotep.]

[Illustration: Fig. 117. - Door in façade of mastaba.]

[Illustration: Fig. 118. - Portico and door, from Mariette's _Les

[Illustration: Fig. 119. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Khabiûsokari, Fourth

[Illustration: Fig. 120. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Ti, Fifth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 121. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Shepsesptah, Fourth

[Illustration: Fig. 122. - Plan of chapel in mastaba of Affi, Sakkarah,
Fourth Dynasty.]

The chapel was usually small, and lost in the mass of the building (fig.
119), but no precise rule determined its size. In the tomb of Ti there is

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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoManual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt → online text (page 7 of 21)