VA -- Richmond -- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts -- Ancient:
Bruce Guthrie Photos Home Page: [Click here] to go to Bruce Guthrie Photos home page.
Recognize anyone? If you recognize specific folks (or other stuff) and I haven't labeled them, please identify them for the world. Click the little pencil icon underneath the file name (just above the picture). Spammers need not apply.
Copyrights: All pictures were taken by amateur photographer Bruce Guthrie (me!) who retains copyright on them. Free for non-commercial use with attribution. See the [Creative Commons] definition of what this means. "Photos (c) Bruce Guthrie" is fine for attribution. (Commercial use folks including AI scrapers can of course contact me.) Feel free to use in publications and pages with attribution but you don't have permission to sell the photos themselves. A free copy of any printed publication using any photographs is requested. Descriptive text, if any, is from a mixture of sources, quite frequently from signs at the location or from official web sites; copyrights, if any, are retained by their original owners.
Spiders: The system has identified your IP as being a spider. I love well-behaved spiders! They are, in fact, how most people find my site. Unfortunately, my network has a limited bandwidth and pictures take up bandwidth. Spiders ask for lots and lots of pages and chew up lots and lots of bandwidth which slows things down considerably for regular folk. To counter this, you'll see all the text on the page but the images are being suppressed. Also, a number of options like merges are being blocked for you.
Note: Permission is NOT granted for spiders, robots, etc to use the site for AI-generation purposes. I'm excited for your ability to make revenue from my work but there's nothing in that for my human users or for me.
If you are in fact human, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can check if your designation was made in error. Given your number of hits, that's unlikely but what the hell.
Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
VMFAAN_140112_001.JPG: The Greeks:
"We do not imitate but are models for others."
The ancient Greeks defined themselves as people who spoke Greek -- and in antiquity Greeks lived throughout the Mediterranean. The most important settlements were in modern-day Greece and the western coast of Turkey, the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, and South Italy. A distinctive Greek culture began to emerge in the early Iron Age about 1000 BC, and both Greek history and art are divided into four periods: Geometric (ca 900-700 BC), Archaic (ca 700-480 BC), Classical (480-323 BC), and Hellenistic (323-30 BC). The Hellenistic period ended when the Romans conquered Ptolemaic Egypt, the last of the Hellenistic kingdoms.
The gods of the Greeks took human form, and it is perhaps for this reason that Greek artists developed ever more naturalistic modes to depict the human body. The most abundant evidence of this trend is from vases, but developments in vase painting paralleled developments in panel painting and sculpture in both stone and bronze (the more prestigious material). Human figures from the early periods, when the Greeks were greatly influenced by the great civilizations of Egypt and the Near East, appear stiff and schematic. In the Classical period, artists created more naturalistic figures but sought to depict the ideal human who could maintain an outward calm in all circumstances. Experimenting with new subjects and genres, Hellenistic artists often expressed the full range of human emotions and created complex, multi-figural compositions.
Greek art, like Greek literature, political thought, science, and philosophy, lies at the heart of the western tradition. Though the Greeks freely drew from other cultures, they have provided the models that others have followed for much of the past 2500 years.
VMFAAN_140112_012.JPG: The Bronze Age:
"Bronze Age" refers to a stage of cultural development in which copper alloys such as bronze are widely used. Three major Bronze Age cultures arose in the lands later inhabited by the Greeks.
The earliest was the Cycladic culture (ca 3000-2000 BC) of the Aegean islands, known only through archaeology. The simplified sculpted forms of Cycladic art have inspired modern artists for more than a century.
The seafaring civilization of the Minoans (ca 3000-1450 BC) was named after Minos, a mythological ruler of their island home of Crete. The Minoans are best known through elegant wall paintings depicting sea and land creatures, as well as youths leaping over bulls.
The Mycenaeans (ca 1500-1150 BC) lived on the Greek mainland and were greatly influenced by the Minoans, whom they eventually supplanted. The Mycenaeans wrote a form of Greek known as Linear B, and scholars now believe that their deeds inspired Homer's poems. They are named for the city of Mycenae, whose ruler, Agamemnon, led the Greek army at Troy.
VMFAAN_140112_016.JPG: Mythology and the Trojan War:
Myths -- the stories people tell to explain the world around them -- permeated ancient society. There could be countless versions of a story, each of which was considered equally true. For centuries, myths were the primary means by which poets and artists worked out their most profound thoughts; in doing so, they laid the foundation for ancient religion, literature, figurative art, philosophy and science.
Central to Greek mythology was the Trojan War, the great struggle between the Archaeans (Greeks) and Trojans. For Homer and later Greeks, the war was a historic event whose heroes and heroines (e.g. the warrior Achilles and Penelope, the virtuous wife of Odysseus) served as models of behavior. By reimagining the war, the ancients explained changed in their own world -- as Rome's power and influence grew, the city's roots were traced back to Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the sack of Troy and fled to Italy. In this was, myth also allowed individuals and states to find their place in the world.
VMFAAN_140112_052.JPG: Ancient Sport:
"When anyone is victorious by aid of toil, then it is that honey-voiced odes are a foundation for future fame, even a faithful witness to noble exploits."
-- Pindar, Olympian Odes
In the cities of both Greece and Rome, athletic practice was encouraged as a means of maintaining military fitness as well as an end in itself. Whether competing in the great pan-Hellenic games of the Greek world such as the Olympics or in the annual games at Rome such as the Ludi Romani and Ludi Apollinares (Games of Apollo), athletes strove to win glory for themselves and their city and to provide entertainment for the general population.
The most prestigious and strenuous competition was the pentathlon, which consisted of three field events (the long jump, javelin throw, and discus throw), a short foot race, and wrestling. There were also combat events such as boxing as well as equestrian events, including horse races (in The Cloud, Aristophanes satirizes a son's addiction to the sport), two- and four-horse chariot races, and, depending on the fashion of the time, mule-cart races.
In Greece, athlete practiced in the gymnasia, social spaces where they exercised naked, pursued their loved ones, and passed their time in conversation. The most famous gymnasia were the Academy and the Lyceum, which gave their names to the schools founded by the philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
"[The Temple of] Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors wished to be closed whenever peace had been secured by victories throughout the Roman empire by land and sea, was recorded to have been closed before I was born twice altogether since the foundation of the city, but the senate decreed that it should be closed on three occasions while I was princeps."
-- Augustus, Res Gestae
War was such a common feature in Greece that philosophers argued whether it was a natural state of affairs punctuated by peace, or whether peace was a natural state of affairs punctuated by periods of war. The consequences of war could be both devastating -- death and destruction as well as the enslavement of entire populations -- and enriching; some of the most spectacular monuments to survive from antiquity were built with the spoils of war.
In both Greece and Rome, citizens were required to serve in the military. Indeed, almost without exception ancient statesmen and politicians were also military leaders, and even the philosopher Socrates was proud of his service in the Athenian military. Ordinary citizens served in the infantry or the fleet and provided their own equipment; the wealthy who could afford to maintain horses (called hippos in Athens and equites in the later Roman Republic) served in the cavalry. Because the soldiers were citizens, most of whom engaged in agriculture, wars were usually fought during short campaign seasons to the soldiers could tend their farms.
VMFAAN_140112_118.JPG: The Etruscans
"Etruscans as a nation were distinguished above all others by their devotion to religious observances."
-- Livy, Founding of the City
The origins of the Etruscans have been debated for more than 2,000 years. Most theories suggest that they were either immigrants to Italy (perhaps from Anatolia, part of modern Turkey) or an indigenous people, heirs of the Villanovan culture that dominated Italy from the 10th to 8th centuries BC. Today, Etruscan culture is known largely from archeological explorations (many of their elaborate tombs were painted and filled with grave goods) and the often hostile writings of Greeks and Romans.
The most important Etruscan cities formed a loose confederation dominated by local oligarchs. The Etruscans were Rome's military rivals, but they also greatly influenced Roman culture (particularly its architecture, art, and religion). They lost their political independence to Rome by the 3rd century BC, and their culture had largely disappeared by the 1st century BC.
Beginning in the 7th century BC, Etruscan artists were heavily influenced by Greek art, which they directly encountered in South Italy. Etruscan art, however, tends to be more stylized than Greek art and, at its best, displays an exuberance and liveliness often absent from both Greek and Roman art. Etruscan bronzes were widely admired and exported throughout the ancient world.
VMFAAN_140112_128.JPG: The Romans:
"Remember, Roman, that by your lawful power you rule the world: these are your skills: to crown peace with justice, to spare the vanquished and to crush the proud."
-- Virgil, Aeneid
The Romans did, indeed, rule much of the world. Their empire stretched from Mesopotamia to Morocco and from Scotland to Ethiopia; their trade routes extended as far as Indonesia. Roman art, especially outside of Italy, is complex and exhibits a range of different styles and influences. In the early periods (from the city's mythical foundation as a monarchy in 753 BC until the end of the Roman Republic in 27 BC), both native Italic traditions (such as the art of the Etruscans) and Greek artistic traditions came together in Roman art. These two influences gave Roman art much of its dynamism i both the Republican and imperial periods (27 BC- AD 476), often in combination with elements from the local artistic practices of the provinces.
At the height of Rome's power in the 2nd century, the arts were supported by wealthy individuals throughout the empire as well as by the emperor and his court. Both official and private buildings were filled with statues, mosaics, and frescoes. Luxury goods of stone, glass, precious metals, and other materials were also widely available. Artistic patronage, though, was not limited to the extremely wealthy -- works such as VMFA's relief of a potter and his wife show that even craftsmen commissioned works of art that would commemorate their lives and times.
"An Athenian woman asks a Spartan woman, 'Why are you the only women to rule your men?' To which the Spartan woman replies, 'Because we are the only women who give birth to men.' "
Greeks expressed their notions of the female in both art and literature. Women were intended to be wives and mothers and, in most city-states, had little contact with men outside their families. Women are known to have worked as wet nurses and in a limited number of trades, but also as singers, dancers, and musicians. Many female entertainers were hetairai (courtesans), the most famous of whom, Aspasia, was the mistress of the Athenian statesman Perikles, taught rhetoric, and discussed philosophy with Socrates. Women also served as priestesses, some in cults that excluded all men.
Among the immortals, Hera, queen of the gods, was patroness of marriage while Aphrodite, goddess of love, is often shown beautifying herself. Artemis was goddess of childbirth and the hunt, Demeter of fertility and agriculture. Athens was named for Athena, goddess of war and wisdom -- but also of handcrafts such as spinning and weaving. There were also frightening images of women, like the snake-haired gorgons who turned all who beheld them into stone or the mythical tribe of warrior women called Amazons.
VMFAAN_140112_164.JPG: The Symposium:
The symposium, a central feature of Greek communal life, was rooted in the aristocratic culture of the 8th century BC. Xenophon and Plate left literary accounts of symposia that emphasize the elements of order and succession (one both spoke and drank in turns) and the important role of physical and spiritual love. Small groups of men reclined on couches in the andron (men's quarters) and conversed about such topics and philosophy, politics, and literature, sometimes inspired by the scenes on painted vases or other imagery in the room. The wine was mixed with water in a large krater or bowl (the poet Anacreon mentions 2:1 and 5:3 proportions of water to wine).
Most Greek lyric and mortal poetry (as well as drinking songs, called skolia) was probably composed for symposia. Though "respectable" women were excluded from symposia, hetairai (courtesans) were present and the best educated of them (such as Perikles' mistress, Aspasia) took part in intellectual discussions. Male and female slaves served the participants and provided other entertainment, such as acrobatic and musical performances. At the conclusion of some symposia, the revelry was carried into the streets of the city, where it occasionally turned violent.
Greek plays were dedicated to Dionysos, the god of theater, and were originally written for dramatic competitions held as part of harvest festivals. Greek drama originally grew out of religious worship and rituals, including 6th-century performances by dancers in animal masks. By the early 5th century, there were individual actors as well as choruses. The two principle types of plays were tragedies, which general retold myths, and comedies, which often ridiculed and parodies the themes of tragedy.
Some plays so seized the imagination of artists that they depicted scenes from them on vases; other vases are decorated with other generic theatrical scenes. Theatrical motifs such as actors' masks (like other imagery associated with Dionysus) appear in a variety of settings, both dramatic and funerary.
VMFAAN_140112_212.JPG: The Hellenistic Age:
The Hellenistic Age extended from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC until the death of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII Philopater in 30 BC. Its origin lay in Alexander's dream of conquering the world, and the period ended with the consolidation under Roman rule of all the Hellenistic kingdoms of eastern Mediterranean.
During this period, Greek culture was disseminated throughout the lands ruled by the dynasties established by Alexander's generals (especially the Seleucids, who ruled much of Asia Minor, and the Ptolomies in Egypt). The art of the period lost much of the coherence that Greek art had in the Archaic and Classical periods. It was created not only in traditional centers such as Athens and Syracuse but also throughout the eastern Mediterranean, including the new city of Alexandria in Egypt as well as the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom in Afghanistan. Dating Hellenistic art is particularly difficult as few surviving monuments can be associated with historical events, and a sometimes bewildering variety of styles were practiced simultaneously. In general, however, the innovations of Hellenistic artists are expressed in a greater mastery of realism and emotion than in earlier Greek art.
Even as the Hellenistic kingdoms were being absorbed into the Roman empire, Greek culture continued to spread through the western Mediterranean, leading the Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC) to remark that having been conquered by the Romans, the Greeks conquered Rome with their arts.
VMFAAN_140112_215.JPG: After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the vast empire he had conquered collapsed into a number of independent kingdoms amid the fighting of his generals. By 197 BC, when the Roman general Titus Quinerius Flamininus defeated Philip V of Macedon, the three most powerful Hellenistic kingdoms were ruled by the Attalids, Seleucids, and Ptolemies, whose capitals were Pergamum in Anatolia, Antioch in Syria, and Alexandria in Egypt.
The Greek and Roman religions were based not on believing in a credo or doctrine but on paying honor to the gods in order to maintain the proper balance in the universe, the pax deorum ("Peace of the Gods"). In both the public and private sphere, these religions were focused on the here and now; they were religions of doing rather than believing, often with the explicit understanding of do ut des -- "I give that you might give." Votives were often given -- or promised -- to a deity in the hope that the deity would intervene on the dedicant's behalf.
The central act of "doing" was the sacrifice, whether it was the slaughter of an animal on a public altar, the pouring out of a portion (libation) of wine before a meal, or the dedication to the gods of a portion of booty captured from a defeated enemy.
The public, or official religion, was celebrated with festivals (which included sacrifices) and processions, such as the panathenaic procession depicted on the frieze of the principal Athenian temple to Athena, the Parthenon (the temple itself was a form of civic votive offering to the goddess). Mystery rites and ecstatic rituals also existed, such as those associated with the god Dionysos, whose followers are often shown dancing and carousing.
VMFAAN_140112_280.JPG: Egyptian Civilization:
The civilization of ancient Egypt was defined by geography. Located in northeast Africa, Egypt was isolated from the east and west by vast deserts but nurtured by the Nile, the world's longest river, which flows through a narrow valley for some 4,000 miles from the African highlands to the Mediterranean Sea.
What we call Egyptian culture emerged around 3100 BC with the unification of Upper Egypt (the southern kingdom) and Lower Egypt (the northern kingdom in the Nile Delta) under the rule of a single king, Narmer. This civilization flourished largely unchanged until the defeat of Cleopatra VII by Octavian, the founder of the Roman empire, in 30 BC. Even under the Roman empire, however, many aspects of Egyptian culture persisted until they were banned by the early Christians in the late 4th century.
Egypt's distinctive culture was both physically dependent on the annual floods of the Nile and spiritually defined by the river. Egyptian religion was based on the belief that a creator god had established a definite and unchangeable order that governs the entire universe. This order, however, was constantly threatened -- both in the sphere of human activity and in the realm of the divine -- by chaos. The aim of Egyptian culture was to preserve this order, an aim reflected in the general conservatism of Egyptian art. Although changes did occur over the course of Egyptian history, Egyptian art and culture remained distinctive and recognizable for more than 3000 years.
VMFAAN_140112_291.JPG: The Scribe:
Sesh, the Egyptian word for scribe, was both a title and an occupation. Scribes were schooled in writing hieroglyphic, hieratic, and (from about 700 BC) demotic scripts. Most scribes were men who passed their knowledge down to their sons, establishing a hereditary class of bureaucrats. Scribes were responsible for virtually every type of written communication in Egypt, from personal letters and wills to diplomatic communications and official proclamations.
Thoth, who was the patron deity of scribes, who also scribe to the gods. Thoth, who was the patron deity of scribes, was also scribe to the gods. Thoth was depicted as an ibis, a baboon, or a human with the head of an ibis. In the underworld, Thoth recorded the judgment of the dead after the deceased's heart was weighed against the feather of truth, ma'at.
A written form of Egyptian developed alongside the creation of a unified state around 1300 BC and must have been essential for the smooth functioning of the administrative and military apparatus of a far-flung empire.
Ancient Egyptian belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family, which also includes the Semitic and African language spoken in antiquity and today. The earliest form of Egyptian writing is hieroglyphic, a term derived from a Greek word that is an almost literal translation of the Egyptian word medu-netjer, meaning "words of god." Each glyph (symbol) in this script is based on a natural form, such as an animal or plant. Around 2500 BC, a cursive form of writing hieroglyphs arose called hieratic script, which evolved into demotic script around 700 BC. All three scripts use a combination of phonetic signs to indicate the sounds that comprise a word and determinative signs that have no sound value but mark both where a word ends (Egyptian had no punctuation marks) and, more importantly, modify the meaning of a word.
The kings of ancient Egypt are usually called pharaohs (from pr-aa, "the great house"), although the Egyptians only began using this term from the middle of Dynasty 18 (around 1400 BC). Pharaohs were absolute rulers who were considered the embodiment of the god Horus. Although the pharaoh was treated as a god, it was the kingship itself that was divine, not the king. The role of the king was to meditate between gods and humans and to maintain ma'at, the balance between order and chaos, in both his kingdom and the universe.
The roles of the king are often recorded in art, such as VMFA's relief of a king (perhaps Nectanabo II, the last native ruler of Egypt) making offerings to a hawk-headed deity or the image of Seti I in his chariot in the midst of battle.
Women were essential to the Egyptian notion of royalty because the reigning pharaoh had to be the son of the Great Royal Wife, the principal wife of the previous pharaoh. In order to maintain the purity of the royal bloodline, the Great Royal Wife was usually the pharaoh's sister.
Although most kings were male, at least three women are known to have ruled Egypt. The best known is Hatshepsut (reigned ca. 1473-1458), who declared herself king during the reign of her stepson and nephew, Thutmost III (reigned ca 1479-1425).
VMFAAN_140112_336.JPG: Egyptian Sculpture in Stone:
Egyptian statues and reliefs met two fundamental religious needs -- glorifying the gods and housing the soul after death. The Egyptians believe sculptures placed in temples could make the daily offerings demanded by the gods, even if the king and priests failed to do so. Likewise, they believed a statue of the deceased placed in the tomb could house the dead person's spirit if the mummified body deteriorated or was damaged.
The Egyptians used local stones for their sculptures, choosing the hardest, such as granite, for the most important works. They painted nearly all their sculptures, where in relief on in the round, to make them more realistic.
Sculpture in the round was compact; it had few projections to sustain damage. The figures face front in static poses, men with the left foot forward, women with feed together, in relief sculpture, head and legs are in profile, but torso face front.
Egyptian artists observed these conventions for more than three thousand years. Distinct styles did develop, making it possible to date most Egyptian sculpture to a particular period, to dynasties of rulers within that period, and sometimes even to the reign of a particular ruler.
The revitalized art of sculpture flourished from the Late Period into the Greco-Roman period that began with Alexander the Great's conquest of Egypt in 332 BC.
VMFAAN_140112_339.JPG: Timeline of Egyptian History
Historians divide Egyptian history into periods of stability (the kingdoms) interrupted by periods of stability (the intermediate periods). On the basis of ancient king lists, historians have also identified a series of 30 dynasties from the establishment of the Old Kingdom until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. During the periods of instability, several dynasties could co-exist, each ruling only parts of the country.
VMFAAN_140112_351.JPG: The Gods and Goddesses and Egypt:
The ancient Egyptian religion, a complex assortment of cult, ritual, and magic, included hundreds of major and minor deities. Major gods such as Osiris, Isis, and Anubis were universal deities, worshipped throughout Egypt. Local gods such as Bastet, Thoth, and Hathor were from earliest times closely connected with specific places. Some of these local gods eventually became state deities, while other faded into obscurity and were replaced or combined with other gods.
To show the powers of their gods, the Egyptians represented them in human form, as human-animal combinations (usually with a human body and the head of an animal) or as animals sacred to the gods.
Small statuettes of the gods (often of bronze) were common, especially in the Late Period, and were probably intended as votive offerings dedicated in a temple or as tomb furnishings to invoke a [sic] the god's protection in the afterlife.
VMFAAN_140112_355.JPG: Egyptian Religion:
The ancient Egyptians expressed their relationship to the divine through sacrifice and other daily activities designed to maintain ma'at, the principle of order, balance, and truth brought into existence by a creator god.
Egypt's ruler maintained ma'at as the mediator between the people and their deities. The ruler -- or the priests acting on his or her behalf -- conducted rituals such as washing, clothing, and feeding the cult images in which gods and goddesses were believed to manifest themselves. Ordinary people were excluded from these rituals, but they took part in the official worship of the deities through festivals held at regular intervals.
In addition to the deities worshipped in the great temples, household gods and goddesses were worshipped in domestic shrines. Ordinary people could also establish a relationship with deities through the use of amulets and magic.
VMFAAN_140112_396.JPG: Funerary Figurines:
The grave goods deposited in Egyptian tombs included numerous figurines that could be called upon to do the menial tasks required of the dead in the afterlife. These figurines were called, in different periods of Egyptian history, ushabtis, shabtis, and shawabits. The root of all three words probably comes form wesheb, "to answer."
The figurines first appeared around 2000 BC, the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. During the New Kingdom, their number increased so dramatically that some tombs contained hundreds of them. The most common material for these figurines was faience, but they were also made from wax, terracotta, stone, metal, and other materials. In later periods, they were mass-produced using molds.
The modern study of Egypt began with Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798-1801), which included a scientific expedition to investigate ancient and contemporary Egypt. Among the most important archaeological funds of that campaign was the Rosetta Stone, which was taken to London following Napoleon's defeat. The bilingual inscription (ancient Egyptian and Greek) on this granite stele provided the key for the decipherment of the ancient Egyptian language by Jean-Francois Champollion in 1822.
The exploration of Egypt continued throughout the 19th century. The aim of many of the early excavations was to find treasures, most of which were removed from Egypt. The British archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie carried out more scientific excavations and introduced techniques of modern archaeology such as recording the location of finds and preserving even modest objects of little artistic interest.
In the past, many universities and museums sponsored excavations in Egypt through a system known as partage, in which most of the finds remained in Egypt but a portion were conserved and displayed by the institutions sponsoring the excavations. A number of works in VMFA's collection, including the mummy of Tjeby and his coffin, were discovered in the course of excavations carried out by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University.
VMFAAN_140112_414.JPG: Animals Mummies:
Virtually every animal in Egypt was associated with a deity, and many animals were mummified and dedicated to the gods. The most spectacular animal mummies were the Apis Bulls of Memphis (discussed in the Hellenistic gallery), but mummified cats, crocodiles, falcons, ibises, and baboons have also been found. Like human mummies, animal mummies were frequently placed in their own coffins. The animals used for mummies were not pets (though domestic animals were occasionally mummified and placed in tombs) but sacred animals buried in temple precincts. By the Late Period, the Egyptians kept quantified of animals that they sacrificed, mummified, and offered in temples, often as substitutes for more expensive bronze votives.
VMFAAN_140112_417.JPG: Mummy of an Ibis, ca 332-30 BC
VMFAAN_140112_422.JPG: X-ray of Ibis Mummy
VMFAAN_140112_428.JPG: X-ray of falcons
VMFAAN_140112_442.JPG: Canopic Jars:
For much of their history, the ancient Egyptians placed the internal organs that were removed during the mummification process into special vessels known (in modern times) as canopic jars. The jars could be made out of stone, wood, or terracotta and were kept together in canopic chests.
Four jars were used, each representing one of the four sons of the god Horus. Early jars had plain lids, which were supplanted by human-headed lids and then, during Dynasty 18, with animal-headed lids. The sons of Horus were minor deities who protected the organs: the falcon-headed Qebhsenuef (intestines); the jackal-headed Duamutef (stomach); the baboon-headed Hapi (lungs); and the human-headed Imsery (liver). The heart, considered the seat of consciousness, was left in the body.
Mummification arose out of the Egyptian belief that the deceased must be physically preserved in order for them to enjoy the afterlife. In the pre-Dynastic period (prior to ca 3100 BC) bodies were preserved naturally by dehydration in the hot, dry climate; beginning in the Old Kingdom (when only rulers were mummified), Egyptians developed a ritualized process by which a body was first embalmed and then wrapped to create a mummy.
The body of the deceased was taken to a tent known as an ibu (place of purification), where it was washed. All internal organs were removed except the heart, the seat of consciousness, which was left in place. The liver, lungs, stomach, and intestines were preserved separately, while the brain was discarded as unnecessary. The body was then packed and covered with a naturally occurring drying agent called natron (netjeryt, divine salt).
After forty days, the body could be wrapped. The cranium was filled with resin-soaked linens and the torso with packets of sawdust and myrrh. Several layers of linens were used for wrapping, with protective amulets placed between them. Once the mummification process was complete, religious ceremonies (such as the Opening of the Mouth) was performed. Religious texts (including the Book of the Dead) were placed with the body to aid the deceased in the afterlife.
VMFAAN_140112_475.JPG: The First Intermediate Period:
The objects in this case all date to the First Intermediate Period (ca 2150-2030 BC), which saw the breakdown of a centralized state in Egypt and the establishment of competing dynasties based in different capitals (Thebes in the south and Herakliopolis in the north). The period was brought to an end by the reunification of Egypt under Theban rule by Mentuhotep II in the middle of Dynasty 11.
Famine, civil war, and economic decline deprived artists of many of the raw materials that were available in the Old Kingdom as well as the centralized patronage that had maintained consistent stylistic standards. The burial practices of this period were much less lavish than those of the other times and the mummification techniques less accomplished.
VMFAAN_140112_496.JPG: Predynastic Egypt
Before the Pharaohs (ca 4500-3100 BC)
Before the time of the pharaohs, Egypt was divided into two culturally distinct regions known even today as Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Excavations have revealed the first recognizable elements of Egyptian culture at sites dating to the Badarian period (ca 4500-3800 BC). These sites include cemeteries with tombs in which the deceased were laid on their left sides facing west with their heads oriented toward the south.
Cemeteries became more widespread during the Naqada I period (ca 3800-3650 BC), which is distinguished by a greater variety of pottery. By the Naqada II period (ca 3650-3300 BC), some tombs included status items such as cosmetic palettes and jewelry, indicating increased social stratification. The decoration of the pottery from this period is more complex, showing geometric figures and abstract designs that foreshadow the emergence of the hieroglyphic writing system.
The Predynastic period came to a close in the Naqada III period (3300-3100 BC), when Upper and Lower Egypt were united for the first time under a single ruler (generally thought to be Narmer I, ca 3000 BC). Narmer's rule over the two regions was symbolized on a ceremonial palette that depicts him wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt on one side, and the red crown of Lower Egypt on the other.
VMFAAN_140112_505.JPG: The Egyptian Bureaucracy:
The highly centralized Egyptian state depended upon a class of bureaucrats to organize building projects, maintain the military, conduct trade, and feed its citizens. The literate members of this bureaucracy were charged, among other things, with an annual census of the arable lands and what those lands could be expected to produce. Taxes were paid on the basis of this census. Prior to the introduction of coinage in the 6th century BC, Egyptian society functioned on a barter system in which wages and taxes were paid in goods such as gold (received by high-level officials) and foodstuffs.
At the pinnacle of the bureaucracy was the pharaoh, the administrative, military, and religious head of state. The pharaoh was assisted by a vizier, usually a scribe, who oversaw the governors (nomarchs) of administrative units known as nomes. During times of instability, the governors often challenged the centralized power of the pharaoh.
Within this system, the temples owned vast stretches of land, repositories for the grain supply, and treasures. The priesthoods accumulated great power and also periodically challenged the power of the pharaohs.
AAA "Gem": AAA considers this location to be a "must see" point of interest. To see pictures of other areas that AAA considers to be Gems, click here.
Bigger photos? To save server space, the full-sized versions of these images have either not been loaded to the server or have been removed from the server. (Only some pages are loaded with full-sized images and those usually get removed after three months.)
I still have them though. If you want me to email them to you, please send an email to email@example.com
and I can email them to you, or, depending on the number of images, just repost the page again will the full-sized images.
Connection Not Secure messages? Those warnings you get from your browser about this site not having secure connections worry some people. This means this site does not have SSL installed (the link is http:, not https:). That's bad if you're entering credit card numbers, passwords, or other personal information. But this site doesn't collect any personal information so SSL is not necessary. Life's good!