Libyan and Ethiopian
Art & Culture
EVIDENCE FROM LANGUAGE, ART, AND RELIGION
In conjunction with the attempt to bring the period of Libyan
and Ethiopian domination in Egypt into correct alignment — within the
framework of the history of that land and in proper synchronism with the
histories of foreign countries — I shall select several examples from
the fields of language, art, and religion to demonstrate that the revised
chronology does not contradict the natural evolutionary process we would
expect to find in these various fields. To the contrary, the evidence
in all these fields will argue for the new version of history.
Paradoxical finds will no longer be paradoxical and enigmatic solutions
will be easily understood. We shall elucidate, on such examples, the close
following of the Libyan and Ethiopian dynasties upon the Eighteenth and
their precedence in relation to the Nineteenth Dynasty.
On the other hand, the comparison of language, art, and
religion of the Eighteenth Dynasty with examples from the same three fields
under the Nineteenth Dynasty exhibits a veritable gulf, or break in tradition.
With the beginning of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Egypt was a changed
world . The author of this evaluation, Sir Alan Gardiner, explained:
it is impossible not to notice the marked deterioration of the art,
the literature, and indeed the general culture of the people. The language
which they wrote approximates more closely to the vernacular and incorporates
many foreign words; the copies of ancient texts are incredibly careless,
as if the scribes utterly failed to understand their meaning. (1)
Considering that, in the conventional chronology, between
the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (King Ay) and the beginning of the Nineteenth
(counted from Ramses I) only some fifteen to twenty years are available
(and Haremhab is supposed to fill them) — and even taking into account
the revolutionary tendencies of Akhnaton — a break in all aspects of cultural
development marking the transition between the two dynasties, the Eighteenth
and the Nineteenth, is more than enigmatic.
THE LITERARY STYLE OF THE LIBYAN PERIOD
The oracular stele of Thutmose IV, father of Amenhotep III
and grandfather of Akhnaton, is a famous relic. Thutmose, when still a
prince in his teens, visited the oracle of the Great Sphinx at Gizeh.
There he fell asleep and heard in his dream that he, not the eldest among
his brothers and not in the line of succession, was destined to follow
his father Amenhotep II on the throne. The oracle required Thutmose, upon
his ascent to the throne, to clear the Sphinx of the desert sand that
had swept in around it; when pharaoh, Thutmose fulfilled his vow and also
erected a stele with a description of both the oracular dream and his
freeing of the Sphinx from the sand. This stele was found between the
paws of the Sphinx when in modern times the sand, that had again buried
the huge figure above its paws, was removed under the supervision of archaeologists.
A. Erman, an eminent Egyptologist, tried to prove that the
stele is a product of a late dynasty, possibly the Libyan. He presented
the evidence of literary style, epigraphy, and spelling, concluding that
the stele must have originated between the tenth and sixth centuries,
and not in the fifteenth which was the accepted time of Thutmose IV.(2)
Our Sphinx stele is thus to be regarded as a restored inscription,
but obviously a careless and free restoration. The time at which it was
completed cannot be estimated exactly; it is not in any case later than
the Saitic period, but can be placed equally well in the 21st or 22nd
[Libyan] dynasty. (3)
Ermans position was disputed by another equally eminent
Egyptologist, W. Spiegelberg, who presented the argument that the late
style and spelling are actually not late and that, furthermore,
the texts of the Saitic period are conspicuous for their classical style;
additionally, no marked difference is evident between the texts of these
two periods. The good archaizing texts of the Saitic period are
conspicuous in their use of correct classic orthography.
Spiegelberg concluded that, because of this similarity in
the art of writing in these two periods, separated by half a millennium
and more, Ermans argument was unfounded and the stele must have
been carved in the days of the pharaoh whose name it bears, Thutmose IV.
Is it not strange that the style and epigraphy of two periods,
thought to be separated by such a large span of time, are so similar as
to engage two specialists in such a dispute?
The Eighteenth Dynasty and the Libyan period in Egypt produced
very similar literary works. In no language, ancient or new, would four
to seven hundred years have passed without very considerable changes:
one need think only of the metamorphosis of English between the time of
Geoffrey Chaucer and that of Oscar Wilde. It was no different with the
Egyptian language; and most likely, the two epochs under consideration
show so little change simply because there was so little time difference.
Thus the conflicting opinions are much less conflicting if only scores
of years, not five centuries, separate the time of Thutmose IV from the
beginning of Libyan rule.
THE ART OF THE EIGHTEENTH AND LIBYAN DYNASTIES
The Libyan Dynasty, following directly upon the Eighteenth,
perpetuated not only its literary style, but many of its artistic traditions
as well. In some instances, the resemblance was so close that experts
mistakenly attributed a work of art to the wrong Dynasty; and while the
difference in time actually amounted to not more than a few decades, on
the conventional time scale many centuries were involved — centuries which
could not have passed without profound changes in the mode of execution
of statues, bas-reliefs, and paintings.
Metal sculpture: One such instance is the Carnarvon
statuette of Arnun, a rare chef-doeuvre discovered by Howard
Carter at Karnak in 1916. When first exhibited in 1922 it was described
by Carter as a Statuette of the God in the Likeness of Thotmosis
III . This attribution has never been challenged by any of
the scholars who have published illustrations of the specimen, wrote
Cyril Aldred in 1956, (5)
and the present writer must include himself among those who accepted
without cavil a dating to the Tuthmosid period. But a more detailed
examination of the statuette convinced Aldred that a date in the
Eighteenth Dynasty is untenable . The statue was not of the Eighteenth
Dynasty. It was not even Ramesside. There is, in fact, nothing in
this statuette which does not belong to the style of the Third Intermediate
Period [the Libyan and Ethiopian dynasties] and everything is in favour
of such a date. . . . If a more precise dating within the Third Intermediate
Period be insisted upon, then the writer is inclined to place this statuette
of Amun early in the Twenty-second Dynasty, since it shows the stylistic
features of such metal sculpture in fully developed form. . (6)
Conventional chronology puts almost six hundred years between
the the time of Thutmose III and the early Libyan (Twenty-second) Dynasty
kings. Were the changes in the execution of the sculptures so minute in
this span of time that they could not be detected by an art expert? Or
was the elapsed time much shorter, a century perhaps, as the revised chronology
In trying to explain how a blunder of this magnitude was
possible, Aldred goes on to discuss the history of metal sculpture in
Egypt. Metal sculpture, introduced under the Eighteenth Dynasty, experienced
a setback under the Nineteenth Dynasty, but becomes plentiful again in
the Libyan period. With the time of Libyan domination immediately following
on the Eighteenth Dynasty, there was no interruption between the introduction
of the technique under the Eighteenth Dynasty and its greatest florescence
in Libyan times.
We can cite another instance of misattribution of a sculpture
in metal. A bronze figurine of Anubis, dated to the Libyan period in 1963,
was only three years later re-dated by half a millennium to the Eighteenth
or early Nineteenth Dynasties.(7)
Sculpture in stone: Problems not unlike those involved
in the dating of metal sculpture arose in the attribution of monumental
sculpture in stone. In a private communication, the late Egyptologist
Walter Federn brought to my attention the case of the sphinxes erected
at Karnak in the temple of Mut. According to Federn:
"In the temple of Mut at Karnak stand more than a hundred
statues of the lion-goddess Sekhmet. The majority date from [the time
of] Amenhotep II, and can be so identified by their inscriptions. Many
were dedicated also by Shoshenk I, and are without the inscriptions characteristic
of the others; they are notable for their somewhat careless execution.
. . . It is remarkable also that one statue, which is the largest of all,
and which was formerly taken to be the oldest of them, originates rather
from Shoshenk I. (8)
Was the completion of the Sekhmet sphinxes interrupted for
more than six centuries? Why did Seti the Great or Ramses II not complete
the work, if, as is generally thought, they followed the Eighteenth Dynasty?
It was the Libyan kings who completed the decoration of the temple begun
by Amenhotep II, only a few decades after his death; and they did so in
a style hardly distinguishable from the original work.
Chalices: Chalices, or drinking vessels with relief
decorations, are unique objects; they seem to have been made by
the same group of men over no long period of time .(9)
Some of them definitely belong to the Libyan period (Twenty-second Dynasty)
because the names of Libyan kings, such as Shoshenk , are
inscribed on them. These come from Memphis, at the apex of the Delta;
but another group of somewhat finer workmanship originates in the town
of Tuna in the vicinity of Hermopolis, almost directly across the river
from Tell el-Amama. The style of the uninscribed chalices from Tuna recalled
so strongly the el-Amarna style of art that several experts ascribed to
them a late Eighteenth Dynasty date. The case was argued most forcefully
by Ricketts in an article he published in 1918.(10)
In the decoration of one chalice Ricketts found an
almost Asiatic richness of design, a certain lack of severity which
tended to confirm his impression that it belonged to an age of experiment,
even of cross-influences, such as the later years of the Eighteenth Dynasty
.(11) Another cup which
he examined made him even more secure in his attribution: it was yet
richer in aspect and, with its sparse figures, more certainly in the temper
of the Eighteenth Dynasty .(12)
A spirited fowling scene on a third chalice, so familiar from
Eighteenth Dynasty painted tombs, strengthened his case still more.(13)
The arguments presented in 1918 for a late Eighteenth Dynasty
date for some of the chalices were at first accepted by most scholars;
and when Sotheby, the renowned art dealer, listed them in his 1921 catalog,
he also labeled them as such.
Soon, however, several art experts expressed their unhappiness
at such an early attribution, chiefly because of the similar, though somewhat
inferior, chalices from Memphis, which could be dated securely to Libyan
times on the basis of inscriptional evidence. It was unthinkable that
there could have been a gap of over four centuries between the two groups.
It was difficult to imagine that the art of manufacturing the objects
died out under the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Dynasties,
only to be revived under the Twenty-second or Libyan Dynasty. Scholarly
opinion swung toward a Libyan date for all the chalices. Ricketts
paper of 1918, so carefully argued on the basis of artistic analogies,
was termed misleading (14)
- yet no real reasons were adduced to invalidate the Eighteenth Dynasty
attribution of the objects discussed by him.
The solution to the dilemma becomes obvious when the Egyptian
dynasties are placed in their correct sequence. The chalices were made
as Ricketts deduced, during the Amarna period — the late Eighteenth Dynasty.
They continued to be manufactured under the Libyan Dynasty that followed,
even while exhibiting the same decline in artistic standards which characterized
all Egyptian art in the wake of the civil war and foreign invasion that
precipitated the end of the house of Akhnaton. And if they were made,
as Tait argued, by the same group of men over no long period of
time , they appear to have been manufactured in the space of two
or three consecutive generations.
SURVIVALS OF THE CULT OF ATON
IN LIBYAN AND ETHIOPIAN TIMES
The Eighteenth Dynasty saw, toward its end, the worship
of Aton. Akhnaton in his religious reform — or heresy as it is usually
called — instituted Aton as the supreme god. His heirs, Smenkhkare and
Tutankhamen, having worshipped Aton in their earlier years, reverted again
to the worship of Amon, and the circumstances of these religious vacillations
are described in my Oedipus and Akhnaton. These kings, however,
reigned for a few years only and died in their youth; they served as prototypes
for Polynices and Eteocles of the Theban cycle of tragedies.
Under the Libyan Dynasty not only the worship of Amon, but
even the worship of Aton survived. Amon was a deity through long periods
of Egyptian history, but the worship of Aton was very characteristic for
the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty only.
now in the Cairo Museum, shows a priest in office under king Osorkon II,
one of the later Libyan pharaohs. The priest is described in the text
as Prophet of Amonrasonter in Karnak who contemplates Aton of Thebes
, a somewhat peculiar description which H. Kees remarked upon. He noted
that it is as if the priest had lived in Amarna times! .(16)
At the beginning of this century James H. Breasted drew
attention to the fact that the Ethiopian temple-city Gem-Aten, known from
the annals of the Nubian kings, carries the same name as Akhnatons
temple at Thebes, and that the two must be in some relation, despite the
great difference in age. A relief in a Theban tomb shows Akhnaton with
his family worshipping in the temple of Gem-Aten. The name of the
Theban temple of Aton therefore furnished the name of the Nubian city,
and there can be no doubt that lkhenaton [Akhnaton] was its founder, and
that he named it after the Theban temple of his god. . . . We have here
the remarkable fact that this Nubian city of lkhenaton survived and still
bore the name he gave it nearly a thousand years after his death and the
destruction of the new city of his god in Egypt (Amarna). (17)
Recently, Alexander Badawy discussed the worship observed
by Akhnaton at the Gem-Aten ("Meeting of the Aten ) which stood
at Amarna. It is thought that the king used to come to meet the Aton daily
in the eastern open courts of the Gem-Aten .(18)
Music and singing, rattling of sistra, presentation of incense and
flowers gave a festive note of jubilation to the daily liturgy of Aten.
The Gem-Aten (or Gempaton) of the annals of the Nubian kings
was found by F. Addison at Kawa in 1929.
The further excavations of Griffith and Macadam at the site
uncovered two documents of Amenophis III which attested the foundation
by this king of the historical Gempaton .(20)
Breasteds conclusion that the later Ethiopian temple went back to
the Amama period was now confirmed by archaeology.(21)
This only underlines the remarkable fact that
the city carried, through the many centuries that supposedly elapsed between
the Amama period and Ethiopian times, a name recalling a heretical cult
and, moreover, remained unnoticed throughout this period in contemporary
documents. After Akhnatons time the name Gem-Aten is first referred
to in an inscription of Tirhaka in one of the side-chambers of the Gebel-Barkal
temple(22)— yet its
earlier history is totally unknown .(23)
Between the Amama period and the time of Tirhaka, the accepted chronology
inserts almost 700 years — but we know that in fact only little more than
a century elapsed, the period of Libyan domination; and we have seen that
the cult of Aton persisted through the Libyan period.
Possibly the cult of Aton was perpetuated for a time by
priests who fled south when, about - 830, the tide turned back in favor
of the religion of Amon and the Libyan kings from the Delta were pushing
toward Thebes. In any case, the religion of Atenism did not survive into
Ethiopian times. When Piay (Piankhy) invaded Egypt about - 725 he did
so under the guidance of Amon — but even then, ironically, Amons
chief sanctuary in Ethiopia retained the name it had received from Akhnaton
a century earlier.
THE TOMB OF MENTUEMHAT
The Ethiopian period, following the Libyan, came between
the Eighteenth and the Nineteenth Dynasties, and its art shows affinities
with both. This can be seen for instance in the decoration of the tomb
of Mentuemhat, governor of Thebes in the time of Tirhaka and Assurbanipal.
In 1947 the Brooklyn Museum purchased a fragment of
limestone relief of exceptional quality .(24)
It was evaluated by John D. Cooney of the Egyptian Department as a product
of the late Eighteenth Dynasty. The bas-relief contains scenes already
known from paintings in the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Menna in the Theban
necropolis (tomb no. 69) — a peasant girl sitting on a chair and taking
a thorn out of the foot of another girl sitting opposite her; and a second
scene of a woman with a child in a sling at her breast arranging fruits
in a basket (Plate XIV). Both scenes, of exquisite bas-relief technique,
have so many identical details with the paintings of the tomb of Menna
that Professor Cooney was not acting inconsiderately when he assumed he
purchased objects of art of the late Eighteenth Dynasty.
However, only a few months later, Professor
Cooney narrates, two other fragmentary reliefs were offered to the
Museum and were assessed by him as dating from the seventh century.(25)
They were also purchased at a price appropriate for art of the Saite period,
or the seventh and early sixth centuries, which is by far below the value
of comparable art pieces of the Eighteenth Dynasty. The two fragments
contained a scene depicting musicians and scribes with certain details
that made a Saite date completely certain (26)
(Plates XIII and XVI).
Of the first acquisition Cooney wrote: I was so convinced
of the early date of the relief with peasant scenes that I failed even
to consider a relationship between it and the Saite pieces. (27)
Yet when, at the suggestion of a colleague (W. Stevenson Smith), he compared
all three reliefs he found that the limestone and the heights and divisions
of the registers were the same in all of them; the conclusion became unavoidable
that all three had been made in the seventh century, and actually were
recognized as being derived from the same tomb (Theban tomb no. 34) —
that of Mentuemhat, the governor of Thebes under Tirhaka the Ethiopian.(28)
Because of the artistic similarities between the scenes
in the tombs of Menna and Mentuemhat, Professor Cooney had to assume that
the Eighteenth Dynasty example was still accessible and artistically influential
after more than seven hundred years had elapsed. The lucky preservation
of the Eighteenth Dynasty original, wrote Cooney, which served
as model to the Saite sculptor provides an ideal chance to grasp
the basic differences between the art of these periods separated by a
span of almost eight centuries. (29)
Actually, however, between the time of Menna and the time of Mentuemhat
not 800, but ca. 200 years passed, only a fourth of the span noted by
Upon having surveyed some of the problems in language (style
and trends) and art (including religious art), in comparing the Eighteenth
Dynasty with the Libyan and Ethiopian dynasties, the conclusion is irresistible
that the logical development of Egyptian culture requires re-ordering
the sequence of the dynasties as they are presently known from Manethonian
heritage to modern scholarship.
At the same time, the obvious rift between the language,
art, and religion of the latter part of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the
language, art, and religion evident at the inception of the Nineteenth
Dynasty is extremely difficult to explain given the proximity of the two
dynasties in the conventional scheme of Egyptian chronology.
A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Oxford,
1964), p. 247.
A. Erman, Ein neues Denkmal von der grossen
Sphinx, SKPAW, 1904, p. 1063.
W. Spiegelberg, Die Datierung der Sphinxstele,
Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, Vol. 7 (1904), pp. 288ff.
Cyril Aldred, The Carnarvon Statuette
of Arnun, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 42 (1956),
Ibid, p. 7.
N. Dorin Ischlondsky, Problems of Dating
a Unique Egyptian Bronze, Journal of Near Eastern Studies
25 (1966), pp. 97-105.
Cf. Percy E. Newberry, The Sekhemet statues
of the Temple of Mut at Karnak, Proceedings of the Society
of Biblical Archaeology XXV (1903), pp. 217-221; Henri Gauthier,
Les Statues Thebaines de la déesse Sakhmet, Annales
du Service des Antiquites delEgypte XIX (1920), pp. 177-207;
Kurt Sethe, Zu den Sachmet-Statuen Amenophis III,
Zeitschrift fürAegyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, 58 (1923),
G. A. D. Tait, The Egyptian Relief Chalice,
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 49 (1963), p. 132.
C. Ricketts, Two Faience Chalices at
Eton College from the Collection of the Late Major W. J. Myers,
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 5 (1918), pp. 145-147.
Ibid., pp. 145-146.
Tait, The Egyptian Relief Chalice,
Catalogue no. 4 2213.
16. . .. als ob er in der Amarnazeit
gelebt hatte! - See Ein Sonnenheiligtum im Amonstempel
von Karnak, Orientalia, Nova Series 18 (1949), p. 442.
James H. Breasted, A City of Ikhenaton
in Nubia, Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache 40 (1902/1903),
A. Badawy, The Names Pei-Hay/Gem-Aten
of the Great Temple at Amarna, Zeitschrift für Aegyptische
Sprache 102 (1975), p. 13.
Ibid., p. 12.
Jean Leclant and Jean Yoyotte, Notes
dhistoire et de civilization ethiopiennes, Bulletin
de lInstitut Français dArcheologie Orientale 51 (1952),
T. Säve-Soderbergh, Aegypten und Nubien
(Lund, 1941), p. 162, affirms that the city, while founded by Amenhotep
III, received its name from Akhnaton.
R. Lepsius, Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien,
Part V, (Vol. 10), pi. 12.
Breasted, A City of Ikhenaton in Nubia,
John D. Cooney, Three Early Saite Tomb
Reliefs, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 9 (1950), p.
Ibid., p. 193.
Ibid., p. 194.
Ibid., p. 196.