Abstracts

AELT 5 Oxford: Abstracts

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A Textual and Iconographic Conundrum? King as, or and, Priest
John Baines & Elizabeth Frood (The Queen’s College & St Cross College, Oxford)
Many works of Egyptology state that the king was the sole legitimate priest in temples and that non-royal priests acted by delegation from the king. With minor exceptions, this understanding of the position of priests appears not to be supported by textual material, whether it be priestly inscriptions, royal inscriptions, or narratives of various sorts. Similarly, few images of the king show him wearing attributes of priestly status, while in temples priests are for the most part depicted only in marginal areas or scenes. In this paper, we survey and assess selected examples of such textual and visual evidence, focusing in particular on features of priestly self-presentation, including role-play. Is it possible to arrive at a different understanding of the king’s unquestionably dominant position as the representative of humanity in relation to temples and to the gods, whose office imparts a divine role to him?
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Pragmatics and Ancient Egyptian
Mark Collier (University of Liverpool)
People (everywhere and in every time) derive more meaning from the linguistic expressions they encounter (in speech or writing) than is necessarily provided directly by the form and configuration of linguistic expression itself, meaning which has input from the human use of language in context and the inferences which arise from such a use. One aspect of the modern field of pragmatics is the study of the role of the human subject and human cognition and reasoning/inferencing in the construction of contextualised linguistic meaning (‘speaker/hearer meaning’ in short) and has clear relevance for our study of Ancient Egyptian and its texts. Starting with work on conditionals, I have increasingly been looking over a number of years at the relevance and utility of such a Gricean-inspired pragmatics for the close reading of Ancient Egyptian in context (i.e. more at the end of the grammarian than the text interpreter). At AELT 1 and 2 I discussed conditionals and conditional reasoning as well as resolution of certain unmarked scope ambiguities. At AELT 5 I would like to look at a few case studies which, time permitting, will sample some of the following topics I have already worked on in Middle and Late Egyptian: conditionals (but if so, different exx. than in AELT 1 and 2), n … is negation, polarity sensitivity, questions (including negative questions), emphasis constructions, as well as perhaps some more directly Grice-like conversational implicature examples, and, if time allows, the relationship between pragmatics and philology.
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Identifying Scribes at Wadi Sarga: Accounting for Wine—Problems and Preliminary Observations
Jenny Cromwell (Macquarie University, Sydney/The British Museum)
A vast amount of written material was discovered from the excavations of the 6th–8th century monastic complex at Wadi Sarga. A small percentage of this is on papyrus, some texts are in Greek, and a few literary texts are known, but the majority are Coptic documents on ostraca. In 1922, Walter Crum published 385 texts from the site, but the British Museum collection holds over 1,300 items that contain traces of writing. Almost 1,000 additional texts are therefore available to study. Of these, several hundred are ostraca, while the remaining items contain vessel notations, either written or incised. This corpus provides the opportunity to study life at the monastery, including its hierarchy, its economy, and many aspects of day-to-day life.
Pivotal to the production of this material, and therefore the organisation of the monastery, were scribes. Yet most scribes did not sign the documents that they wrote, and only a small number can certainly be identified. This anonymity has several repercussions, including for the delivery and administration of wine—the most important commodity mentioned in the surviving record. The largest single category of text is wine receipts, providing information on the amount of wine and the cameldriver responsible for its delivery. Crum noted that most of these are written in a single hand, but the question remains whether this ‘hand’ is from the monastery or elsewhere—i.e. were these receipts issued to the cameldriver when he collected the wine from the river, or at the monastery, upon delivery? If the former, these are not receipts but a form of ‘way-bill’; if the latter, they could only have been deposited at Wadi Sarga if the cameldrivers resided at the site, or disposed of them immediately.
In order to provide further insights into this issue, this paper will place focus on the dossier of receipts, incorporating those still unpublished. Through close analysis of their palaeography and orthography, I will discuss whether it is possible to determine how many scribes wrote these texts, and the problems inherent in this analysis. I will also address whether they can be attributed to scribes from the monastery, through comparison with the rest of the dataset.
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Texts Accompanying the Nine Dead Deities from the Temple of Edfu
Amr Gaber (Swansea University–Prifysgol Abertawe)
This study investigates a group of nine deities that frequently appear in the temples of Horus at Edfu and Hathor at Dendera. The texts accompanying these nine deities can be classified into individual and collective texts. By analysing these texts, not only is their connection with the temple of Edfu revealed but also two mythologies are shown. Last but not least, their case of how to form an ennead in ancient Egypt is presented.
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Orthography and Paleography in the Shabtis of Pedamenope
Meg Gundlach (Swansea University–Prifysgol Abertawe)
Due to their quantity, as well as similarities in size, form, and function, the shabti corpus of Pedamenope is the perfect medium for the study of artistic production in 25th Dynasty Thebes. The combined methodology of the study of the sculptural features, orthography, and paleography identified the presence of nine such groups. This talk will highlight the most prominent orthographic and paleographic trends, with particular reference to those variants that are indicative of individual hands.
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On Some Movements of the Royal Court in the New Kingdom
Fredrik Hagen (University of Copenhagen–Københavns Universitet)
The extent and frequency of domestic travelling by the king and the court in New Kingdom Egypt is difficult to pin down. One possible way to address the issue—of relevance both to models of governance and to concepts like ‘capital’—is to look at associated administrative documents. These are few and far between but a diachronic survey of scribal practice and the terminology employed in such documents shed some light on the movements of the king over time.
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Offering the jj.t-sword to Horus and Other Ritual Scenes from the Temple of Isis at Shanhur
Martina Minas-Nerpel (Swansea University–Prifysgol Abertawe)
The paper will present some further ritual scenes from the temple of Isis at Shanhur, which was built and decorated during the Roman period. The hieroglyphic texts, once of high quality, are quite damaged in parts, but they illuminate the cult topography of a temple located at the border between the Theban and the Coptite nomes. In one of the rituals discussed Claudius presents the jj.t-sword to Horus, which is a rarely attested scene in the Egyptian temples of the Graeco-Roman period.
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Corporeal Conceptualizations: Body Language in Valentinian Texts from Nag Hammadi
Rune Nyord (Christ’s College, Cambridge)
The role of the body in ‘gnostic’ worldviews is a notoriously ambiguous subject. On the one hand, body practices figure prominently in the Church Fathers’ descriptions of gnostic sects as fundamentally different, characterized either by exaggerated asceticism or, conversely, by a libertarian disregard for ordinary bodily norms—both consonant with the ‘gnostic’ reputation for radical dualism and hatred of the body. On the other hand, certain ‘gnostic’ mythological texts present a much more positive image of the human body as an earthly reflection of a higher spiritual form. To some extent, the recent focus on reading each text or group of texts on its own terms rather than primarily as a variant of particular ‘gnostic’ core values has helped to nuance this picture and dissolve some of its inherent paradoxes. One aspect which has not attracted much attention, however, is the use of the body domain to conceptualize things that do not from the outset have anything to do with the human body, in other words, body metaphors. A particular penchant for this mode of expression and thinking is shown by the group of texts usually connected to the school of the teacher Valentinus (c. 100–c. 175 CE). These texts often use body metaphors to conceptualize the divine reality and especially the nature and manifestations of the divine Father. This presentation provides an overview and preliminary analysis of such corporeal conceptualizations of the divine and discusses their implications for our understanding of the ontological status of the body in the texts.
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Formulating Relations: An Approach to the smyt-formula
Leire Olabarria (The Queen’s College, Oxford)
The language of inscriptions on Middle Kingdom stelae is often regarded as highly standardised and formulaic, thus their potential for assessing social practices is considered to be fairly limited. An analysis that integrates textual and contextual study may, however, facilitate a better understanding of some of their formulae and the role the stelae played in the construction of contemporary social models.
The rare smyt-formula is attested in fewer than a dozen objects of the late 12th or beginning of the 13th Dynasty. Most of these are stelae found at Abydos, hence saturated with the cultic importance of the site. Although the disparate stylistic features of these instances rule out their production in a single workshop, the use of the formula and its arrangement after a list of personal names is surprisingly consistent. The way these people are related to the individuals to whom the stelae are dedicated may provide a clue as to why this formula developed in the late Middle Kingdom, a time when kinship relations were consistently celebrated on stelae.
My presentation summarises my ongoing research on this topic, raising some questions about the social significance of the smyt-formula and its usefulness in reconstructing the ritual landscape of Abydos.
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Early Dynastic Writing Processes and the Artesan Scribe
Kathryn Piquette (Freie Universität Berlin)
The earliest preserved written attestation for the profession of scribe dates to the end of the 1st Dynasty. Yet even for many subsequent generations little is known about these early writers or the processes of professionalisation. From knowledge transmission via formal training or other methods, and participation in social institutions and collectives involved in the development, reproduction or renegotiation of writing traditions, to individual practices and concerns that were part of everyday lived experience—what it meant to be an early Egyptian scribe remains largely unexplored. Expanding on the paleographic case study I presented at our last meeting, this paper delves further into Early Dynastic writing processes in an attempt to understand something of early scribal practice and experience. As revealed through enhanced photographic images of artefact surfaces, early writing encompassed a range of transformative activities. Graphic and non-graphic marks bear witness to material factors that scribes negotiated as they pushed chisels across polished stone vessels or pulled ink-dipped pens across small ivory plaques. The Marie Curie COFUND research from which this paper derives is also attempting to augment analyses of graph morphology which places emphasis on shape in two dimensions. In physical reality writing is a 3D phenomenon, whether we consider the act or its outcome. As such, it is necessary to develop a method for documenting and characterising it, both in relation to the properties and space of the writing media itself, and its creators. A theory of writing that takes account of material and biomechanical concerns, and the ways in which spatial and temporal relations intermesh therein, affords fresh insight into writing and what it meant to be an early Egyptian scribe.
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