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Ceremonial Execution and Public Rewards: Some Historical Scenes on New Kingdom Private Stelae by Alan

Ceremonial Execution and Public Rewards: Some Historical Scenes on New Kingdom Private Stelae by Alan R. Schulman Review by: William A. Ward Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 152-155 Published by: The University of Chicago Press

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VOL. 51



recording of the Eighteenth Dynasty "Book of the Dead" copies, the historical aspect of the promulgation of this tradition is not given the attention one might like to see. Despite some efforts, the question of what generated the form of funerary writings commonly designated as "Book of the Dead" in the end remains unan- swered. It should be said that the book contains vast amounts of detailed information for any- one interested in diving into the complexity of the written tradition of a corpus of religious writing. A word has to be added about editorial pol- icy, which has nothing to do with the undis- puted merits of the study itself. Egyptological research is an ongoing process and whatever is achieved, impressive and convincing as it might appear, is lastly a stepping-stone to, one hopes, an ever-increasing understanding of an- cient Egypt and the ancient Egyptians. It is an

unending dispute over a specific human mani- festation, and the awareness of the relativity of the efforts in no way diminishes the accom- plishment. The merits and viability of the intel-



meaningful balance with the pecuniary aspect of their presentation. The series, which is pro-

duced by off-set from author-supplied stencils,


might be

Egyptological publishing.

of intentional rip-off. It contemplate the aims of







priced at a level




The Johns Hopkins University





Scenes on New Kingdom Pri-




Some Historical




Biblicus et Orientalis 75. Freiburg, Switzer-

Gottingen: Van-

denhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988. Pp. xxix + 223 +

land: UniversitUtsverlag and

35 figs.

+ 6 pls.

74 Swiss


This work is the latest in a series of studies by Schulman on various iconographic themes found on New Kingdom Stelae. Among these are his articles on the Opening of the Mouth

Ceremony,' the 3h ikr n Rc stelae,2 and several essays on the Canaanite deity Reshep.3 All of Schulman's research is thorough, and he has done much to explain why given scenes or themes appearrepeatedly on funerary and other stelae of the New Kingdom. The basic thrustof his research is that many scenes are not stereo- types but are records of real events in which the owners of these stelae participated. The present volume consists of two more iconographic studies: scenes showing the king giving rewards of gold to individuals, and the

traditional scene of

head of a kneeling captive before him. Schul- man defines these two scenes as follows

(pp. 140-41).

favored officials was a private matter where the emphasis is on the recipient of the gold and the honor being conferred. This scene thus belongs primarily to the repertoire of private tomb art. The theme of the king slaying captives was a public affair with the emphasis on the king himself, performing an act of thanksgiving to the gods for their support in battlefield victo- ries. This theme is found in monumental art only in a temple context which carries over to private commemorative stelae. The thesis of this book is that both the awarding of gold collars and the king ritually slaying enemies were real events that took place before a public audience. One cannot ar- gue otherwise concerning the awarding of gold. Artistic and literary sources combine to show that giving gold collars and other gifts to de- serving officials was indeed a common way by which a king rewarded service to the state. Such an important event in an individual's life was therefore a suitable moment to be por- trayed in his tomb chapel reliefs or on a stelae.

the king about to crush the

The granting of gold collars to

' A. R. Schulman,"The

Iconographic Theme:

'Opening of the Mouth' on Stelae," JARCE21

(1984): 169-96.

2 Idem, "Some Observations on the 3h ikr n Rc-

Stelae," BiOr 43 (1986): 302-48.

69-84; "Reshep on

3 Idem,"The WingedReshep," JARCE16 (1981):

Horseback,"JSSEA7 (1977):

13-17; "Reshep Times Two," in W. K. Simpson and

W. M.

Aegean, and the Sudan: Essays

Dunham on the Occasion

June 1, 1980 (Boston, 1980), pp. 157-66.

Davis, eds., Studies in Ancient


Egypt, the

in Honor of Dows


90th Birthday,




But I am not very comfortable with the idea

that representations on private stelae of

slaying captives reflect a reality. Schulmanfeels

that on stelae of the New Kingdom-his

rial dates from the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty to the beginning of the Twentieth-this smiting scene reflects "a real event which took place at a specific time, after a successful militaryopera- tion, in a real temple" (p. 57). When this motif

appears on private stelae, it means that the owner of the stela was himself present in the

courtyard of a temple and personally

the royal club smashing the head of a sacrificial victim. The "triumphal sacrifice" of humanvic- tims was therefore a very real part of the victory celebrations upon the completion of a success-

ful military campaign and was open to public view. It was recorded on private stelae since in- dividuals who had been present at such ritual sacrifices looked upon thatevent as a significant highlight of their lives. I must admit that my reluctance to embrace the idea of Egyptian kings practicing human sacrifice to show gratitude to their gods after winning a war stems partially from my own

view of the

as brutal in battle as any of their contemporar-

ies; no society

from the collective and individual barbarity

that makes brutes of otherwise ordinarypeople when they go off to war. But it is quite a differ- ent thing to postulate the planned, public exe- cution of captured prisoners by grateful rulers as a "thank you" to deities who have cast their blessings of victory over the land. One expects this of the Assyrians, not the Egyptians. This

the king



Egyptian character. They could be

in history has been immune


just does

Egyptian national character, nor is there reason

to believe they thought their gods required hu- man sacrifice in any context. When it comes right down to it, Schulman's

argument is basically

(pp. 4 and 195) that other scenes depicted on

private stelae-for example, a god delivering an oracle, the performance of the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony-do reflect real events in which the owners of these stelae took part. This indicates that many so-called conven-

such as the deceased making

tional scenes,

offerings to a god, represent actual events and

not seem



to be

part of

one of analogy. He notes

are not just repetitious artistic devices to em- phasize piety, or the like. This is all quite true,

but we have more than just artistic representa-

tions to prove it is true. We know from literary sources that statues of deities delivered oracles

in public places, that the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony was very much a part of Egyptian funerals, and that people did make offerings to

the gods. To find such events portrayed on

vate stelae presents no problem. We know that ordinary Egyptians witnessed and took part in such events. That an individual would record a particular event of personal significance in his own life is natural, and there is ample support- ing written documentation. The public, royal sacrifice of captives as en- visioned by Schulman, however, has no docu- mentation other than the rather rare portrayals themselves on a mere score of stelae. He does offer a long list of Egyptian barbaritiesas indi- rect literary evidence in support of the sup- posed royal sacrifice (nn. 121-23, pp. 89-91), but these were acts committed during war or its immediate aftermath. For the public human sacrifice he postulates, only the small group of twenty-one stelae collected in this study have a direct bearing on the problem at hand. Several of these stelae have no text, or the text is bro-

ken off, but in none of the extant inscriptions on the rest is there any hint that the scene they accompany was a real event. These inscriptions consist of the usual praises of the king and the names and titles of those who erected the ste- lae. The only textual evidence brought to bear on the question is the Amada Stela of Amenho- tep II (p. 46), which notes that this king, hav- ing killed seven enemy chieftains, brought their corpses back to Egypt to be hung from temple walls at Thebes and Napata. But this is

quite a

that these enemies were killed in Canaan, not in a ritual human sacrifice in Egypt. Again, this

was an act of war. A major objection, then, to Schulman's theory is that there is no supporting literary evidence. No theory can be proved on the basis of analogy alone. This is not to say that this particulartheory should be rejected out of hand. Some of Schul- man's arguments are valid. On several of these stelae, for example, the smiting scene is shown


different matter. The text clearly states






within a temple and, in two cases, the entrance pylon is likewise portrayed with the smiting scene behind the entrance as if in the open, outer temple court. He is surely correct in be- lieving that the figures of the deities before whom the smiting takes place are actual cult statues brought out for the occasion. Given these facts, it follows that a public ritual did take place and that this ritual was considered by some Egyptians of the New Kingdom to have been sufficientlypersonally important to them to be recorded on private commemorative stelae. My main objection to the whole idea is the assumption of an actual human sacrifice before the cult statue of a god. Schulman repeatedly emphasizes that what took place was the real execution of real people. If so, then why should the god Ptah be so prominent on these stelae? Of the twenty-one stelae, most portray the cult statue of the god before whom the king slays his enemy: Amon-re is shown three times, Seth and Horus one time each, Ptah ap- pears on thirteen of these documents. Ptah was not a god of war, nor is there anything in his cult which suggests that the offering of human sacrifices was appropriate to his worship. That Ptah appears so frequently on these stelae is best explained by the fact that Memphis was the northern capital of Egypt and the primary cult of that city was that of Ptah. The royal cer- emony in question, whatever its nature, would therefore be celebrated at Memphis more fre- quently than anywhere else, and in the temple of Ptah, the city's foremost deity. In short, I can accept Schulman's theory that a public ceremony did take place from time to time in which the king "slew" an enemy in the presence of a cult statue of a deity, but was this an actual execution? I think not, since it would be a unique example in Egyptian cultural his- tory of human sacrifice which, if I understand the Egyptians at all correctly, was a concept foreign to their mentality. The solution lies in a different direction. Religious drama played a significant role in Egyptian ritual whereby simulated events were staged,4 and it seems to me that this is what is

K. Sethe, Dramatische Texte zu altaegyp-

tischen Mysterienspielen (Leipzig, 1928); B. van de


involved here. The motif of the king clubbing enemies kneeling before him is one of the more common artistic themes from archaic times on. It would appear that during the period when Egypt controlled an empire-which about equals the time-span of the stelae Schulman has collected-this age-old royal motif came to be included in victory celebrations as a stage re-enactment of the eternal triumph of Egypt

over her enemies.5 It was not necessary to actu-


through the motions which would suffice to

serve the purpose of announcing yet another


rifice, the simulated act alone would leave a deep impression on those who saw the drama, enough to move some to record it on a com- memorative stela of their own. In general, this book takes us one more step toward an understanding of the private stelae of New Kingdom Egypt. Schulman'sthesis that significant events in the lives of individuals were illustrated on their stelae, funerary or otherwise, is a refreshing one, and he has shown that this can be a fruitful avenue of re- search. In the present case, he has collected ample evidence on two such events-the pub- lic awarding of gold to royal favorites and a temple ritual concerned with royal victory celebrations at the conclusion of successful

kill someone in this ritual, only to go

war. Even without a real human sac-



cherchedu theatrede


Originesegyptiennes du theatredrama-

(1930):37-50; E. Drioton,"A la re-

l'ancienneEgypte," ArtsAsia-


dramahas re-

tiques 1 (1954): 96-108. A reassessment of ancient

cently beenundertaken by L. B. Mikhail,whooffers


EgyptologicalApproach to

Is it Timefor a Revision?,"GM75 (1984): 19-26;

77 (1984):25-33; 78

29; and by thesame author, "Dramatic Aspects of the

OsirianKhoiak Festival,"GM81 (1984): 29-54.


for any given militarysuccess,in productions, were performed at


this, of course,is the Ramesseum Dramatic Papyrus,

the script fora coronation play. To allowall of Egypt



taken"on the road"so that

might witnessthis simulated crowning of theirnew


interpretations. See his "The

Dramain Ancient Egypt:

(1984):69-77; 79 (1984): 19-


the formof

5 It is not inconceivablethat

stage several main cult throughout the land.The primeexample of

participate in this importantevent, the play was

APRIL 1992



military operations. While I believe he has gone too far in explaining the latter, there is little doubt that the smiting scenes shown on private stelae do reflect an actual event. That I prefer to place this in the realm of religious drama rather than human sacrifice does not deny the reality of the event itself. The book includes drawings of all the stelae discussed and photographs of those published here for the first time. The text is copiously documented and fully annotated.The only lack in the format is an index without which any book is somewhat less easy to use.

Brown University


Scarabs from Recent Excavations

in Israel.






et Orientalis 83. Freiburg, Switzerland: Uni-


& Ruprecht, 1988. Pp. 114 + figs. + 9 pls. This work was only partially finished at the time of the author'sdeath so that a good deal of credit must go to the editors for the uniform excellence of the final product. Posthumous

works which must be completed by others are sometimes completed rather badly;' fortu- nately, this is not the case with Giveon's book. This small volume contains 122 items, mostly scarabs found in excavations in Israel, and is a welcome addition to the growing repertoire of these objects with archaeological contexts. This work takes the form of a cata- logue in which each entry gives a description

of the object, parallels, precise archaeological provenance, date, and bibliography for previ-

ously published pieces. It is

with a short paragraphgiving the pertinent in- formation from the excavations at each. All the

versitditsverlag and


arranged by



my reviewof P. Lacau,Les Nomsdes par-

ties du corps en Jgyptien et en seimitique (Paris,

1970), in Bibliotheca Orientalis 29 (1972): 18-23.

objects are shown in line drawings, usually the back, side, and base, which is the proper way

to publish scarabs.

signs are included on plates at the end of the volume. The collection ranges in date from the Twelfth Dynasty to post-Empire times and runs the gamut from very poor to rather good crafts- manship. As should be expected in a collection of this kind, there are a few locally made imita- tions. Among these are no. 16, with a Cypro- Phoenician design; no. 61, a crude scaraboid; no. 76, an amethyst scarab with a griffin and ibex design, certainly the finest piece in this collection; no. 120, a stone scarab with a winged griffin design. While the editors have done a first-rate job with Giveon's partially finished manuscript and notes, there are a few points which deserve comment.

Nos. 2 and 4. From Tell Abu Zureiq, they were found in a disturbedtomb the contents of which cover the whole Middle Bronze Age. Both have designs including standing male figures engraved in a quite un-Egyptian style; both are made of green jasper, a material not ordinarily used in Egypt for scarabs before the New Kingdom. The Thirteenthto Fifteenth Dy- nasty date assigned to these scarabs is too gen- eral. I would place them at the very end of the Hyksos period, the lower limit allowed by the context, though the material, style of design, and the head and back types would normally point to a later date.2 Both pieces are probably locally made ratherthan imports.3

Photographs of the base de-

2 The

simple lunateheadsareof a type character-



isticof scarabsmadebeforetheMiddle Kingdom and

EighteenthDynasty. The

large V-shapedmarkings on the elytra


this detailis not normally shownwith

Similar markingsappear on a scarabfroma MB IIC

context in


werethen very rareuntilthe


represent the humeral callosity,although

O. Tufnell, Lachish, vol. 4 (London,



1958), pl. 32:112, and on scarabsof

ruled during that period;idem, Studieson Scarab

Seals, vol. 2


(Warminster,1980), nos. 3438, 3451,



vol. 4, pl.

thatof no. 4.

36:236,with a design almostidenticalto