Friday, December 18, 2009

The Names of Hatshepsut as King

The story of Hatshepsut is a fascinating one. Not only did she rule Egypt as a woman, but she did so under the guise of a man. Because of this, according to Gay Robins, she has some of the most interesting names in Egyptian history. There are several names that a King must take upon ascension to the throne; a Horus name, a Nebty name, a Golden Horus name, a first cartouche name, and epithets added to their birth name. Hatshepsut’s names clearly play up the fact that she is a woman but also plays the role of Pharaoh.
Her Horus name is “powerful of the kas” which is a variation on a typical pharaoh name, meaning bull. In this case, it stands for a generic royal name but also signifies nourishment, in that the pharaoh must nourish the people. Her Nebty name is “flourishing of years”, which although not relatively common, has been used in past ruler’s names. Her Golden Horus name is “divine of appearances/manifestations/crowns” which has been used in several names, including Pepy II who has the mascunalized version of Hatshepsut’s name. Her cartouche name is “true one of the ka of Ra” which is a relatively normal name, but has the added aspect of tying Hatshepsut with the goddess Maat, giving Hatshepsut a more divine presence. Lastly, her birth name, Hatshepsut, means “foremost of noble women”. One unique characteristic of this name is that it contains no mention of a deity, which is atypical of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Various parts of Hatshepsut’s names do refer to goddesses in a deliberate attempt to establish her right to rule and be accepted as both a woman and pharaoh.

Another interesting aspect of Hatshepsut’s legacy is that she claimed to be pharaoh by divine right and through an oracle of god. While all pharaohs claim to be divine, most gain their power also through lineage and birthright. Because she was a woman, it was especially important for Hatshepsut to legitimize her rule. There is also an interesting dichotomy when you look at her names in contrast with the images depicting her as a male, with a false beard and traditional male dress. This is important to note, due to the fact that a large portion of the population was illiterate and therefore would only understand visual displays of power. High ranking government officials or educated persons would have most likely been aware already of her sex, therefore her name emphasizes this fact.
This was a particularly hard article to finish reading, mostly because so much of it was about the language of her names and the various meanings and histories behind their inclusion. It was also interesting for this reason, simply because I have never read an article this focused on one particular topic. Just choosing to write on her various names creates a succinct and to the point article, but if you are unfamiliar with the various terms it can be difficult to understand. I understand the scholarly validity of this but as a student, and especially one unfamiliar with the genealogy of Egyptian Pharaoh’s names, I think this article could have been greatly simplified.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tablet Project

For my clay tablet, I tried to re-create this picture, which shows the evolution of various cunieform symbols over time and in different languages

This is a photo of my tablet, sorry for the quality but I had to use my web cam to take it

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Excavation Project Update

                 In researching my topic for our Excavation Project, I had to do a lot of background research on Nefertiti before I could begin to look more in depth into her life and the search for artifacts surrounding her. While there are many sources online and in print about her life and the famous bust, I had to narrow those down to what would actually be useful to my study.
                  One good source I found is a website that spans much of the history of her actual life and the archaeological record that pertains to her. Nefertiti was the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) and was known around the ancient world as a beautiful woman. She also seemingly had more influence over the kingdom than previous queens as she is depicted in artwork as having almost as much influence as her husband.  Together they shared a special bond and she was the Chief Royal wife. In one eulogy, she is proclaimed as
And the Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair of Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, May she live for Ever and Always
There is also a great deal of mystery surrounding Nefertiti, including her apparent disappearance from historical records towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign. There has also been many quests to find her mummy, most of which have yielded little to no concrete evidence. That coupled with the everlasting fascination surrounding her famous bust will guarantee that Nefertiti will be a topic of interest for many years to come. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Digging up Deborah

Digging up Deborah presents an interesting view on Old Testament’s women and the role they might have played in everyday life. It can be difficult to place women into a real context when reading the Old Testament. Many scholars have tried to analyze how the Bible relates to real women in ancient Israel. Two authors, Bird and Trible give us two ways of looking at scholarship. Trible focus’s on how stories in the Bible reflect women’s roles and lives, as opposed to Bird who asks what we can learn from the texts about women’s actual lives.
The are three methods for understanding Tible’s work. The first is to be concerned with the received text of the Hebrew Bible, especially Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The second is to focus on women as characters an sometimes focus on women as readers and on the gender bias presented in the Bible. The third is to attempt to interoperate the women characters of the text as we have received it through the analysis of literary structure, grammar, syntax, vocabulary and other writing conventions.
The main problem presented in scholarship of women during this time is that there are very few sources that actually contain information directly about women. Many written sources found focus mainly on military records, politics, or commerce, which would likely include little to none information about women. Archaeology in the Iron II period has also yielded little information about women, as it commonly is focused on urban areas and monumental structures such as temples and palaces. These again are areas that wouldn’t contain much information particularly about women. Iron I has been more village centered historically, but never conducted on the basis of gender or women.
One prominent archaeologist, Carol Meyers, has focused on finding evidence for women in the Bible to put them into context. She states that Israelite women had a relatively high status in the culture and had a potential to gain power. The most female characters appear in the book of Judges, followed by Genesis, such as Achsan, Jael, and Deborah among others. Their roles do coincide with evidence that women participated in religious capacities, helping out with military operations and celebrations afterwards. They were also in charge of household matters and daily finances.
Taking the example of Deborah in Judges 4 and 5 we see her portrayed as a prophet and potentially a military commander. In Judges 4, she delivers the message to Barak who then takes the lead in the battle against Sisera. Judges 5, on the other had, has Deborah actually leading troops on the battlefield. But how can we know which is more accurate? Judges 5 was written approximately around 1100 B.C.E., which was roughly around the same time as the battle actually occurred. Two more examples of women’s importance during Iron II include the Queen of Heaven Cult, in which women baked “cakes” or bread as offerings to the goddess. Also women were the primary weavers of cloth, something important for both commerce and everyday life.

This article was very interesting to me because gender as well as history and archaeology is something that I really enjoy studying. I am by no means an expert in that area, but have found myself in the past being drawn to that area of study in many of my classes. Anytime I get to read about this topic I am always interested to learn that much of the time, not much study has actually been completed. The fact that there has never been an archaeological dig done specifically on women surprises me, but also makes sense considering that you can never tell what you might find. It does seem odd that there isn’t more done after evidence is found at a site that relates to gender that it is not investigated further.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Boats and Sea Peoples

Artzy’s article On Boats and Sea Peoples outlines the studies of the mysterious “Sea People’s” that are mentioned in various sources across the Ancient Near East. In the 14th through the 12th century there are references to a group of people that ravaged the area repeatedly, but there is little evidence as to who these people are or where they came from.  Some of the possible groups include the Sharadan, the Shekelesh, the Danuna, the Teresh, the Plesheset, the Tejeker, and the Weshesh. The most evidence we have about these peoples are the drawings of boats left behind.  One example is an altar found at Tel Akko from around 1200 B.C. that portrays several marks representing ships. There is a possibility that it was a ship’s altar that could have been moved onshore when the ship was docked.
There are four boats depicted on the altar ranging in size and overlapping one another. The ships vary in detail and complexity, especially a “fan” shaped stem that is very peculiar. There are no other examples of this type of “fan” on any other ship during that time period. There are many reasons that the ship might possess this shape, including that it could be of ritual or spiritual importance. It could also be exaggerated from any actual ship’s dimensions. There are some examples of similar types of ships and there are writings about other types of prows shaped like flowers and examples of ships similar made of clay. 
While there is no certainty about where these ships came from of who was actually responsible for them, there are some conjectures that they originated in Cyprus or another group that is unknown. There really aren’t any hard and fast answers about these ships, and there is a likelihood that there never will be. Unless there is evidence found about these cultures or more depictions of these ships found, how can we know for certain?

This was one of the most frustrating articles that I have read so far for this class, mainly because there are no answers about the ships and there is really no conclusion about the article. It mostly goes back and forth suggesting possible solutions and then stating that they don’t have enough evidence to support them or that there is another possibility that could be it instead. This is extremely frustrating to me, because when trying to understand what there is to get out of the article, the less answers there are, the harder it becomes to make any sense of it without being an expert. There are a few other sources mentioned in the article that could have helped to make this more accessible, but unfortunately, I don’t have access to them.
Even regardless of learning more about this topic, I still don’t think that this article offers much for either scholars or students. Without any real information in the article, I can’t imagine what there is to understand about these boats or sea peoples. I understand that it is important to learn more about different groups of people in the ancient world and would love to actually get some answers about these artifacts but that is something that I can’t see happening in the near future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archaeology and Texts in the Ancient Near East

This reading spoke more about tablets and writings, like we had talked about in past classes but also focused on the important aspect that the Ancient Near East has a great written record, unlike that of many countries, that has survived until present day. This is largely due to the fact that tablets were made out of clay and that the environment in which they were created was very hospitable to their survival. This fact brings out a very interesting point. Not only are tablets that contain texts valuable for the simple reason that they provide us with texts from that time, but also that they are artifacts in and of themselves.
This leads us to the differences between scholars interested in archaeology and scholars interested in languages and ancient writing. Archaeologists are more concerned with the context in which the item was found and what we can learn about the culture as a whole. Because many tablets are found in areas varying from trash heaps to libraries and archives, what an archaeologist can learn from these tablets also varies. This is in contrast to Philologists, who view the inscriptions as the key importance for the tablets. There are a large number of tablets that are put on to the black market, which can lead to problems between these two groups. Philologists often are willing to purchase these tablets, even at the expense of encouraging black market trade, in order to retain the information on the tablets and to keep them safe.

The main issue of this discrepancy is that both communities can be singularly focused on their disciplines and tend to not share information or collaborate in their studies. It astounds me that this hasn’t come to pass at this point, just simply because so much could be learned if the two groups would work together to create new hypothesizes and learn more about the artifacts than either group could do alone. What is the reason that they can't seem to come together? I have no idea but I think that there is no reason not to work together when a greater result can be achieved together. 
This article was interesting, but repeated some of the same information that I had read in the past about cuneiform and writings in the Ancient Near East. While I do enjoy continuing to learn about this subject, the most interesting idea that the article proposed was about the differences in academic study. I can't seem to understand why it would be so hard to work together in an academic study. I understand that everyone wants to focus on their own ideas and perspectives but when an area would greatly benefit from both working together, it doesn't make good sense for the advancement of academics that they would keep working in their separate fields. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Growth of Bureaucracy

The evolution of writing is something that has been debated for years, and while everyone can accept that its creation took place in Mesopotamia at the end of the fourth millennium B.C. there are conflicting ideas about how it began. The two theories are that writing evolved slowly over time or that it was invented quickly by a small number of individuals. Writing was originally intended for accounting purposes, and when looking at how accounts were tallied it becomes clear how writing could have evolved out of counting.

Writing was primarily used for bureaucratic functions at first, then gradually evolving into something that could be used to religious and historical writings. The first kind of record-keeping technology that was developed is a system of tokens. Tokens represented a quantity of goods that were hand molded out of clay or carved out of stone. They can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic period (around 8000 B.C.) and continue in use until around 3000 B.C. and were a part of a concrete numerical system.

The tokens were placed in clay envelopes called bullae that were approximately 5-7 centimeters in diameter and hollow in the center. One of the uses for bullae was that a certain amount of tokens could be placed inside and the bullae sealed. When sent along with an order of cloth or grain, the amount could be verified by breaking the bullae open and checking against the number of tokens. This gradually evolved into making impressions of tokens on the bullae’s surface, and then onto small tablets, thereby rendering the use of tokens unnecessary. This technology also brought about the use of seals in order to authenticate a tablet.

Stamp seals were the first form of seals developed and could identify the person, office or institution that the seal belonged to. They were typically carved out of stone or shell and were of one of two categories: naturalistic (hand-carved) or schematic (worked with drills). Interestingly enough, most seal impressions that have been found were of naturalistic type seals, while most of the seals themselves that have been found are of the schematic type. Also, the type of image on the seal can tell us something about who may have used the seal. Contest motifs are often associated with men, while images of two figures sitting and eating or drinking together are associated with women.

Protocuneiform writing is the precursor to cuneiform and is a mnemonic device, as opposed to a way of communicating speech. At its earliest stages, writing was only distantly similar to spoken language. The earliest examples of writing are from the final centuries of the fourth and beginning of the third millennium, and while the script clearly resembles later cuneiform, it is an earlier form. Most were found in rubbish piles, so there is no context for their usage, however, they are still very important in the study of cuneiform’s evolution. It is an ideographic script, where individual signs can stand for an idea, or combined for additional meanings. Using over 1,200 different signs, but rarely any syntax, many offer no clue as to the language involved.

To think that writing is something we use every day without even thinking, and being able to make others understand what we mean and convey our thoughts into a tangible form, it is crazy to think that someone had to invent it. Of course it makes sense that everything we use today was at some point nonexistent and that someone one day had to have the idea to put symbols to clay to represent the world around them, but learning about it places it into a different context. In the end, does it really matter that we don’t know if writing was a gradual invention, or a product of a small group of dedicated individuals in a short burst of creativity? All that is important is that we, as humans, have the ability to create and bring about new forms of technology and skills, and that we can never take that for granted.