The Valley of the Kings

One of the topics that was talked about in this week’s lectures that is actually quite popular is the Valley of the Kings.  However, I realized that before this week’s lectures and blog post, I really only knew of the Valley of the Kings rather than really knowing anything about it.  So for my week six post, I decided to do a little outside research and to learn a little more about this archaeological goldmine.

After the shift into the New Kingdom, there was less interest from the nobles in the ornate and lavish burials that were characteristic of the Old Kingdom [and the burials marked by the pyramids].  One of the reasons behind this shift in interest was possibly the economical situation of the New Egyptian Kingdom.  With the New Kingdom came a time of wealth, and thus, more grave-robbings.  The noble people lost interest in these lavish burials likely knowing they would be robbed.  So they began building tombs for their nobles and kings in two desert valleys  [the East and the West valleys] on the west bank of Thebes.

It is theorized by many archaeologists that the Valley of the Kings was chosen as a burial site because it is a small, easily guarded, close to the river, and perhaps most of all, because of a pyramid like natural mountain known as al-Qurn.  It was believed that instead of building more extravagant pyramids which beckoned robbers, the royalty and noble people saw al-Qurn as a symbolic pyramid which marked the significance of the Valley of the Kings, without being an obvious site for robbers [as it was a natural landmark and would not be so obvious].

There are 62 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, holding both royal and private noble mummies.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the tomb of Tutankhamen, which was discovered in 1922.  The tombs were elaborate underground mausoleums filled with everything from clothing and jewelry to pets and furniture, and even feasts of wine and food.

Most of the tombs have been excavated and were found around the same time as King Tut’s tomb was found, however there was a discovery of a new tomb as recent as 2005.  This tomb, although archaeologists are unsure of who was buried here has been named “KV 63” and contains sarcophagi, flowers, and even an embalming chamber.

After researching the Valley of the Kings, I not only have a new understanding of the level of importance that this discovery has for all of archaeology and Egyptology, but it truly does give you a better understanding of the shift of logic and economic understanding of the New Kingdom of Egypt.  I see their shift from the lavish monumental burial tombs to the hidden and underground mausoleums as a more logical and possibly secular thinking man.  Instead of building these huge monuments to themselves, they began building secret tombs that were not even meant to be seen.  By changing their mortuary culture in attempts to guard their belongings, they have used a problem solving technique that has altered their entire process surrounding noble death and funerary processes, which is of great significance as a growing civilization.

References:

  • Handwerk, B. (2012). The Valley of the Kings: Gateway to Afterlife Provides Window on the Past. Retrieved from: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/archaeology/valley-of-the-kings/
  • The Theban Mapping Project (1997-2006). The Valley of the Kings. Retrieved from: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/browse_tomb_450.html

 

Kahun: Ancient Worker’s Village of the Middle Kingdom

After completing the lectures and readings for week 5, I decided to write my post on the city of Kahun.  Kahun is an important site, and it was the first ancient Egyptian town that was ever excavated (Chapter 7).  Kahun is unlike other towns in that it was not a town that was meant for regular life and the general population.  Kahun was a temporary living site for the workers building the pyramid, Al-Lahun, and was abandoned on its 13th century completion.  This worker’s village was build under the reign of King Senusret.  Similarly to Antinoopolis, was disturbed after its abandonment.

 

Kahun was first excavated by Sir Flinders Petrie in the late 19th century, where he found papyri stating, “King Senusret is at peace”, signifying that the completion of the pyramid is what prompted these worker’s to be in Kahun.  Sir Flinders Petrie found Kahun to be especially interesting in that it was much larger and more intricate than many other worker’s villages.  Structures such as beamed houses and even porticoes were found in Kahun. There was also evidence that the King’s mortuary procedures took place in Kahun as religious figures were found to live in Kahun.

 

The village housed many people, and notably contained many lavish mansions including quarters that were suited for royalty.  We know that Kahun is a worker’s village as many of the artifacts excavated were tools such as: fishing nets, hoes, rakes, mallets, flints, chisels, and knives.  However, Kahun still had a functioning political and legal side as well.  Kahun had not only a mayor, but also a house of legal proceedings and administrative offices.  Documents such as land transfer deeds and wills were also found.

 

There were many documents and papyri found like the ones previously mentioned, but perhaps most interesting were the medical papyri found in Kahun.  The medical papyri contain passages which outline examined conditions and treatments used to treat them by the people of Kahun [and likely other people of the time period].  These conditions range from tooth aches to sore muscles and even infertility.

 

The town of Kahun was a large working village that unmysteriously just disappeared after the completion of the Pyramid for Senusret.  They left behind not only their advanced buildings and infrastruction, but their legal and periodic documents and medical papyri that tell us so much about the city and people of Kahun in the Middle Kingdom.

 

References:

 

-Britannica Encyclopedia. Kahun, Egypt.  2012.

 

-Chapter 7:  The Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period

 

-Parsons, M. Egypt: Kahun, Middle Kingdom Worker’s Village. African Travel Association, 1996.

 

 

Funerary Texts

After this week’s readings and lectures, I found myself particularly intrigued with the concept of the “Old Kingdom” and the documentary evidence we have from that time period. If not more than anything else I thought it was very interesting that there is more documentary evidence from the Old Kingdom than from the Unification. By means of texts such as pyramid texts, funerary texts and biography texts, we get a full picture of what is going on during this period.

However, I was specifically interested in funerary texts, as this is something that although I was familiar with the concept of tombs, I did not know they got information from the time period through funerary texts. I did a little bit of research and found that the first funerary texts date back to the fifth dynasty tomb of King Unas.

The Egyptians believed that the pharaoh had the ability to live after death as a Deity of sorts, and that after death he would either take on the role of the sun or of the God of Death, Osiris. In these funerary texts, spells, prayers and instructions of how he would achieve this transformation were inscribed in the king’s tomb. The Egyptians believed that in supplying these ritualistic texts in the tomb of the king, that they were ensuring him a safe “journey” to his new role in his afterlife.

During the Old Kingdom, it was believed that the king was the only person to which afterlife was possible, however, after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, the rights to this belief in afterlife was available to everyone. Because of this shift in beliefs, after the collapse of the Old Kingdom, Egyptologists began to find these “afterlife instructions and rituals” carved into coffins of common people, too, and not just in the tombs of the Pharaoh.

I find it especially interesting that beliefs of people shifted after the collapse of the Old Kingdom and when the political situation changed that people began to feel empowered and we find evidence of this through these funerary texts. Also, and more elementary, in reading some of these texts, I am blown away that we were able to translate them. It really just blows me away how advanced this society was for the time period in which they lived.

Sources:

Johnston, S. I. (2004).  Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Watrall, Ethan. (2012). The Old Kingdom. Lecture.

The Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt

One of the most intriguing topics when considering the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, is the lack of heavy military conquests.  Military conquests are so often a huge factor in other unifications and/or conquests in other civilizations throughout history.

Perhaps one of the more interesting things for me personally is that material culture played as large as a role if not larger of a role in the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt than military action.  However, it is puzzling that many of the people studying the unification process have theorized that military action was only a minor part of the process, because of the major influence of power in the evidence of unification.  For instance, the Narmer Palette shows Narmer in two extremely dominant positions: the first being himself standing over a kneeling slave or captive and about to strike him, and the second being him watching over rows of decapitated captives, and finally the picture of a bull attacking a walled city which is [allegedly] Buto.  Another example that I find quite interesting is the Scorpion Mase Head, which shows dead rekhyt birds, common to and symbolic of Lower Egypt hanging from specifically Upper Egyptian standards.  Finally, the Town’s Palette, although not provenience like the other two documents, it depicts Upper Egyptian native animals attacking fortified towns of Lower Egypt. (Watrall, Unification of Egypt: The End of the Predynastic lecture).

Although I do not doubt that military action was only a minor factor in the unification process of Upper and Lower Egypt, I find it extremely interesting that there appears to be a struggle to establish power and dominance between the leaders of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Naqada II burials of Upper Egypt also are evidence of this possible competition between Upper and Lower Egypt.  The Naqada II burials started to become larger and began to reflect higher status.  (Kohler). This, to me, shows an example of the other process, which is trademark of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, which was the spreading of material cultures.  Although the funeral processes were becoming more ornate in Upper Egypt, it appears as though it was done to be competitive with Lower Egypt, meaning that the staples in funerary processes would change as did ceramic pottery.

It is so interesting to me how the factor which is more of a minor influence on the unification appears to be much more pronounced in the evidence, however, when you really look at it, it almost seems as if the materials [ceramics, palettes] are almost showing the competitive tension between the areas and perhaps not war or military action itself.

References:

An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Chapter 5: The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization; pp 104-108.

Kohler, E. Christiana (2010).  Theories of State Formation.  In Willeke Wendrich (ed.), Egyptian Archaeology. (pp. 36-54)  Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Watrall, Evidence for Unification. Lecture.

Hello!

Hello Colleagues,

My name is Kaitlyn Strehl, and I am an Anthropology/German senior at state.  I am 22 years old, and living between East Lansing and Detroit until I graduate in the fall. I am also an avid equestrian, I have been riding, training and showing horses all of my life (aside from it being on hold throughout college).  I also have my dog with me at school, making life much more interesting, and much more fun!  He is a year old black lab named Utley, and I spend most of my time running, walking, swimming, biking or whatever with him around campus.

I decided to become an anthropology major because of my interest in the biological sciences. After meeting another anthropology major and picking their brain and realized how overlapping our academic interests were.  After that, I enrolled in ANP 202 (the biological evolution introductory course) and I have been hooked ever since.

I am taking this class because this course encompasses everything that interests me.  I have always been in awe of ancient Egypt and learning about the archaeology is fascinating.  This civilization was so ahead of their time and technologically advanced and it is certainly something that I cannot learn enough about.  So I suppose that my main motivation for taking this class is as a “breath of fresh air” because it is something that I am really looking forward to learning more about.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer so far, and I am really looking forward to interacting with all of you this semester!