AELT 9: Abstracts

Please find abstracts of papers to be presented at the workshop.

“To Isis the Great, Lady of Benevento”: Preparing a New Edition of the Twin Obelisks of Benevento.

Luigi Prada (Oxford University)

In the years 88/89 AD, a pair of obelisks was erected in the southern Italian city of Beneventum (modern Benevento) in honour of the Emperor Domitian, famously keen on Egyptian cults, and of the goddess Isis, at the entrance of whose temple the twin obelisks stood. The two monuments remain today in Benevento, one virtually complete in Piazza Papiniano and the other, much more fragmentary, in the nearby Museo del Sannio. The obelisks and their hieroglyphic inscriptions—expressly composed for the occasion—have been known to Egyptologists and studied since the time of Jean-François Champollion, and are still celebrated amongst the most impressive evidence for the spreading of the cult of Isis in the Roman Mediterranean. Nevertheless, much of their texts remains unclear, in terms of their palaeography, grammar, and lexicon, with serious implications for our historical understanding of their content. Within the context of the constitution of a corpus of hieroglyphic inscription on Roman obelisks (see my paper at AELT 7 Glasgow, on the Barberini Obelisk), and with the assistance of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA, I had the opportunity to collate copies of the inscriptions based on newly taken photographs of the obelisks, on the basis of which I have prepared my re-edition. In this paper, I will offer an overview of these peculiar monuments and go through their texts, presenting the most problematic passages and discussing possible solutions to them.


An Unpublished Coptic Text from Ikhmindi (Nubia) in the British Library

Jennifer Cromwell (University of Copenhagen)

An unpublished leather manuscript in the British Library bears a land sale from Ikhmindi (Coptic Mohande), located on the western bank of the Nile just south of el-Maharraqa in Nubia. Only two Greek inscriptions are known from the site, together with another Coptic legal document, which was described by Krall in 1900 but is now lost. Immediately, the London manuscript is therefore of interest for the history of the site, which is named several times among the witness statements: its provenance is certain. In terms of its contents, while much of the body of the text is lost, what survives preserves a practice hitherto unattested in Coptic texts, which is instead known from 10th/11th century Old Nubian texts: the tradition of providing food for witnesses. This paper will discuss the contents of the document, its date, and its importance not only for the history of Ikhmindi, but for the history of this social act and legal tradition in Nubia. I will also provide an overview of the other Coptic manuscripts from Nubia in the British Library, all of which are in need of new editions and study.


H is for Hibis

John Tait (UCL)

The almost standardised “alphabetical order” evidenced by some Late-Period, Greek-Period, and Roman-Period texts in the form of “lists” has received considerable discussion in the past thirty years; the latest contribution appeared just a matter of months ago. The order is plainly close to the haleḥame-sequence known to us in South-Semitic material, and still employed in connection with several languages of Ethiopia and Eritrea. There has been almost universal agreement that it was a borrowing by the Egyptians. A few Egyptian texts that show this “alphabetical order” link the individual sounds of Egyptian with individual bird-names, and these associations seem, for a time, to have formed an accepted tradition. The present writer has raised the question as to why birds play this role. In the light of the periodic emergence of fresh evidence, the point is worth reconsidering. This presentation tries to take the issues further: at the least, a number of possible explanations can be discarded.


On two wheels in Thebes

Andreas F. Winkler (Oxford University)

Although wheeled vehicles are attested as early as the Old Kingdom and appear not to have been uncommon in the pharaonic period, they are relatively rarely detailed in the written sources. Literary accounts of chariots are known from the New Kingdom, but usually references to wagons and carts in Egyptian texts are limited to mentions of various transports. The situation does not change drastically in the Graeco-Roman period and legal texts on wagons are more or less non-existent before Late Antiquity. Nevertheless, a recently discovered Demotic ostracon from Roman Thebes changes the situation; the text is a lease of a cart used for agricultural purposes. My presentation focuses on the text’s description of the wagon, the legal issues surrounding such a lease, and some economic aspects of wagons and carts in Graeco-Roman Egypt.


The Ritual of the Hours of the Night (Stundenritual): New readings and problematic passages

Kenneth Griffin (Swansea University)

The Ritual of the Hours of the Day and Night (the Hour Ritual or Stundenritual) is one of a series of texts relating to the cycle of the sun-god. While the Hours of the Day have been the subject of a long study by Erhart Graefe, the Hours of the Night have been largely overlooked and erroneously interpreted as simply consisting of extracts from the Book of the Dead. Recent work conducted by the author within the Twenty-fifth Dynasty tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223), as part of the South Asasif Conservation Project (SACP), has shown that the text of the Hours of the Night is much more complex than originally thought. This new research reveals that during the Late Period the text consisted of three distinct parts: introduction (part A); excerpts of the Book of the Dead (part B); awakening hymn (part C). In fact, the tomb of Karakhamun represents the earliest known example of the Ritual of the Hours of the Night to be attested on the walls of a private tomb. This paper will present some recent developments in the reconstruction of the texts within the tomb of Karakhamun, including new readings of several difficult sections.


A Structuralist Approach to the Study of Egyptian Texts

Roberto A. Díaz Hernández (Institute of Egyptology at Ludwig-Maximilian-University & Munich State Museum of Egyptian Art)

Nowadays, when studying Egyptian texts, one has to follow either the revisionist trend, which rejects Polotsky’s Standard Theory of Egyptian grammar and strives to develop new approaches (e.g. James P. Allen, Marc Collier, Sami Uljas), or the traditional trend, that sticks to the Standard Theory while trying to strengthen it with new ideas (e.g. Marc Brose, Leo Depuydt, Wolfgang Schenkel). Instead of “Standard Theory”, I prefer to call this second trend “Structuralist Approach”, for Polotsky uses a dichotomy system to explain Egyptian grammar. After discussing the works by authors of both trends, included Polotsky, I apply this Structuralist Approach to examine the historical-biographical texts and the literary texts of the Middle Kingdom, and find that both groups of texts are written in the same refined language, i.e. the “official language” of the Middle Kingdom, though the historical-biographical texts feature some archaic elements of which the literary texts are lacking. This leads me to label the language of the historical-biographical texts as “traditional speech” and the language of the literary texts as “artistic speech”. A third variety of speech has been identified in the official language of the Middle Kingdom —the “bureaucratic speech” of documentary texts recently studied by Marc Brose in his Grammar. It must be added that in texts of the Second Intermediate Period the bureaucratic speech and early Late Egyptian influenced both traditional and artistic speech.

As a result of my research I have collected over 700 sentences that make up an Exercise Book of Middle Egyptian based on Wolfgang Schenkel’s Tübinger Einführung. Its purpose is that students become acquainted with the most common constructions of Middle Egyptian grammar and that they reap translation skills based on the grammar rules of Egyptological Structuralism.


Jaroslav Černý, a coeval of the Annales school

Hana Navratilova (Oxford University)

Jaroslav Černý is best known to Egyptology for his systematic study of Egyptian texts, grammar, and etymologies. His interest in philology, however, was accompanied by an appreciation of archaeological evidence and also of a geographical context of archaeological sites.

Černý was a contemporary of the nascent Annales School, although his contact with it might have been indirect at most. Yet, he was promoting an integration of geographical knowledge, material culture and written culture to achieve a multidimensional historical account. From early on, Černý’s interest was focused on the community of workmen in Deir el-Medina, offering a corpus of material enabling social and economic history studies of a defined community in a specific time period. In an unpublished manuscript, he identified the alleged ‘timelessness’ of the Egyptian civilization as a major problem in the modern ahistorical attitude to Egypt, and one he was scrupulous to avoid.

His unpublished papers, including a corpus of his correspondence, are as unique and rich a resource for a study of ‘scholarly social machine’ and cultures of knowledge as are other, better-known corpora of scholarly letters. They proffer solid material for history of an intellectual development of Oriental studies. Institutional practices, as well as research policies may be followed, including assessments of other academics, examinations and  advice on academic careers.

The letters also demonstrate that Egyptology in Černý’s time was not tied to bounded concepts, but was actively trying to solve fundamental questions of linguistic, archaeological and historical research, necessary to be addressed in order to establish sound methodologies and practices of research. It was a complex of emerging and developing paradigms of a discipline that was still making its building blocks in the period of the 1930s to 1970s – grammars, archaeological and epigraphy methods, as well as emerging research infrastructures such as the Annual Egyptological Bibliography or the Topographical Bibliography.



PhD students:

For a new typology of Egyptian Hieroglyphs: perspectives in Egyptian Linguistics

Simon THUAULT – Ph.D. Student (3rd Year) under the supervision of MCF HDR Bernard MATHIEU (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier)

Grammatical questions have always been a central element in studies about Egyptian Linguistics, since J.-Fr. Champollion himself. The last decades have seen the increase of paleographical works, for which H.G. Fischer was a forerunner, followed by D. Meeks for example. Parallel to that, there are some attempts to explain the functions of hieroglyphic signs and many different typologies: W. Schenkel, L. Morenz, those of Berlin and Liege schools, etc. Usually, Egyptian hieroglyphs are divided into three big groups: ideograms (or logograms), phonograms and determinatives. Some under-categories can be added, with many different names: phonetic complements or Lesehilfe, phonetic determinatives, classifiers… Nonetheless, in light of the works of many linguists like C.S. Peirce, U. Eco or L. Hjemlslev (among others), we think that it is possible to offer a new classification. For example, the phonograms category has to be revised, like the names of the others big groups: “semograms”, “determinatives”, etc. This new nomenclature will allow to join the studies about Egyptian writing to theoretical works about Linguistics and to succeed in the universalization of the different hieroglyphs’ functions. Consequently, future researches about hieroglyphic system will be helped and will take advantage of a better understanding by the whole Egyptological community. In this lecture, we aim to set out the main linguistic theories allowing the establishment of our hieroglyphic signs’ new classification. We will illustrate this nomenclature with examples from various temples and tombs, mainly Old Kingdom inscriptions. These texts will justify our proposals and will surely stimulate discussions between specialists and interested scholars. To conclude, thanks to all these elements, we will be able to present a global typology of hieroglyphs’ functions closer to the Egyptian thought about this writing system.


Questions about Questions: The Late Egyptian yes\no questions system revisited

Samuel Dupras, Doctorant (Université de Liège)

The paper proposed here consists on the presentation of the main lines of my doctoral project which focuses on the revaluation of the yes\no questions system in Late Egyptian. So far, specialists acknowledge the existence of two major interrogative particles for this stage of the Egyptian language which, when placed in front of an assertive sentence, transformed it into a yes\no question: (j)n, in use since the Old Kingdom, and jsT that was used in Middle Egyptian mostly to mark a subordinate clause. It is also known that each one of those particles possesses few syntactic variants (respectively jn-jw and js(-bn)) and various significant graphical variants.

Instead of considering the latest ones as such, the research presented here start with the assumption that they may possess in fact different meanings and\or uses compared to the two major interrogative particles of the system. In short, this doctoral project is based on the study of those various interrogative markers not only through spatiotemporal dimensions, but also in relation with the context of production (i.e. the (non)-literary genres) in order to bring out their main linguistic features. Finally, I will discuss the methodology as well as the theoretical approaches adopted for this project.