Probably only one percent of the ancient Egyptians were literate, and those literate few were royalty, nobility, upper-crust managers and administrators, at least some of the top military people, full-time priests and scribes. But many people could “read” what they were seeing, and understand it without knowing how to read hieroglyphs. The ideas and symbolic iconography were grounded in their culture; the art spoke to them even if their knowledge of the written text was, for the vast majority of the public, rudimentary at best — no doubt limited to a few basic glyphs.
By Brian Alm
In March 2014, Dr Garry Shaw’s new book was published in hardback. The Egyptian Myths: A Guide to Ancient Gods and Legends is Dr Shaw’s third sole-authored book, and his second aimed at the general public. An introductory guide to ancient Egypt’s myths, it does not duplicate existing books, offering instead a different way of approaching the central beliefs that made up Egypt’s formal religion. In this interview Dr Shaw discusses both his book and future projects. The questions were contributed by a number of readers, both from Egyptological and from Egyptological’s Facebook page, for which many thanks.
In the Western world the cobra rarely inspires sentiments of benevolence, warmth or good intentions. It is not a cuddly beast. Matters were more ambivalent in ancient Egypt where a range of wild animals were identified with deities imbued with admired values of physical strength, protection and courage, as well as less obviously admirable qualities like aggression, retribution, vengeance and retaliation. Like Sobek, the crocodile deity, and Sekhmet the lioness, the cobra deities comprised a mixture of attributes that centred on their fierce ability to defend themselves and to strike, hissing and spitting poison, to annihilate their aggressors.
By Andrea Byrnes. Published in Egyptological, Magazine Reviews. 16th June 2014 Ancient Lives. New Discoveries British Museum Exhibition dates: 22nd May – 30th November 2014 Sponsored by Julius Baer; Technology Partner – Samsung When I arrived home after visiting and enjoying Ancient Lives, I found that a friend who has also visited the […]
Is it a futile activity to ask, as I do in this series of articles, “What is The Significance of the Crossed-Arm Pose?” It might be argued, for instance, that variations in the pose at death exhibited by royal mummies simply reflect what embalmers decided to do on the day, or at least the customary practice of a particular undertaker. Similarly, it might be argued that each individual anthropoid coffin might be expected to reveal some unique design characteristic, and that no significance should be attached to the specific hand/arm pose depicted on the lid.
Edition - April, 2013
The goddess Neith was one of Egypt’s oldest deities, very well documented from the Early Dynastic period, when Egypt was first brought together as a unified country. She is very familiar from later periods, particularly in the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate periods (figure 1). Over the millennia she was endowed with numerous attributes: a creation goddess, a sky goddess, a protector of the king (with Isis, Nephthy and Serket), protector of one of the Four Sons of Horus, the mother of Sobek, and the consort of Seth, occasionally associated with snake, cow and pig. So where did this great deity come from? The earliest evidence to allow the formation of a coherent picture is Early Dynastic.
We have been watching the force and flow of three concepts in the stream of Egyptian culture and religion through the course of this series — order, duality, and divine magic — which informed Egyptian thought and practice for more than 3,000 years. The business of this article is to go back into the deep past and look at the roots of Egypt’s religious and socioeconomic culture, and then to test the durability of those formative ideas by examining the only major departure — the 18th Dynasty heresy of Akhenaten — which, by threatening the ancient heritage, actually reconfirmed it.
By Brian Alm
By Barbara O’Neill. Published on Egyptological, In Brief, August 14th 2012 Introduction: An Overview of the Mortuary Temple In the Old and Middle Kingdoms, pyramid complexes incorporated a mortuary chapel where cult to sustain the deceased king could be maintained. By the Eighteenth Dynasty however, the royal-mortuary temple had evolved from an integrated part of the […]
Edition - July, 2012
By Andrea Byrnes. Published on Egyptological, In Brief, 26th July 2012 Ferocious and alarming, baboons are amongst nature’s aggressive species. With vast teeth, which they are all too willing to display, brightly coloured rear quarters and loud, screeching voices, they make an impression. They are also sociable animals, at least amongst themselves, forming tight […]
Part 1 of this series set forth the foundation principles of Egyptian religion as cosmic order (maat), duality, and divine magic (heka), which we saw expressed in tomb architecture in Part 5. Now in Part 6 we will continue our exploration of the tomb, looking for evidence of those concepts as they are expressed in art.
By Brian Alm