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TitleCeremonial Execution and Public Rewards
TagsAncient Egypt Rituals Religion And Belief
File Size631.5 KB
Total Pages5
Table of Contents
                            p. 152
	p. 153
	p. 154
	p. 155
		Front Matter [pp. i-i]
		The Collared Pithos at Megiddo: Ceramic Distribution and Ethnicity [pp. 81-103]
		"The God in His Temple": The Phoenician Text from Pyrgi as a Funerary Inscription [pp. 105-120]
		Lukka Revisited [pp. 121-130]
		A Trace of Barth's Preradical *i in Akkadian [pp. 131-133]
			Review: untitled [pp. 135-141]
			Review: untitled [pp. 141-143]
			Review: untitled [pp. 143-147]
			Review: untitled [pp. 148-149]
			Review: untitled [pp. 149-151]
			Review: untitled [pp. 151-152]
			Review: untitled [pp. 152-155]
			Review: untitled [pp. 155-157]
			Review: untitled [pp. 157-158]
			Review: untitled [pp. 158-159]
			Review: untitled [p. 160]
			Review: untitled [p. 160]
		Back Matter
Document Text Contents
Page 1

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of Near Eastern Studies.

Page 2


recording of the Eighteenth Dynasty "Book of
the Dead" copies, the historical aspect of the
promulgation of this tradition is not given the
attention one might like to see. Despite some
efforts, the question of what generated the form
of funerary writings commonly designated as
"Book of the Dead" in the end remains unan-
swered. It should be said that the book contains
vast amounts of detailed information for any-
one interested in diving into the complexity of
the written tradition of a corpus of religious

A word has to be added about editorial pol-
icy, which has nothing to do with the undis-
puted merits of the study itself. Egyptological
research is an ongoing process and whatever is
achieved, impressive and convincing as it
might appear, is lastly a stepping-stone to, one
hopes, an ever-increasing understanding of an-
cient Egypt and the ancient Egyptians. It is an
unending dispute over a specific human mani-
festation, and the awareness of the relativity of
the efforts in no way diminishes the accom-
plishment. The merits and viability of the intel-
lectual effort, however, ought to be in a
meaningful balance with the pecuniary aspect
of their presentation. The series, which is pro-
duced by off-set from author-supplied stencils,
is priced at a level of intentional rip-off. It
might be time to contemplate the aims of
Egyptological publishing.


The Johns Hopkins University

Ceremonial Execution and Public Rewards:
Some Historical Scenes on New Kingdom Pri-
vate Stelae. By ALAN R. SCHULMAN. Orbis
Biblicus et Orientalis 75. Freiburg, Switzer-
land: UniversitUtsverlag and Gottingen: Van-
denhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988. Pp. xxix + 223 +
35 figs. + 6 pls. 74 Swiss francs.
This work is the latest in a series of studies

by Schulman on various iconographic themes
found on New Kingdom Stelae. Among these
are his articles on the Opening of the Mouth

Ceremony,' the 3h ikr n Rc stelae,2 and several
essays on the Canaanite deity Reshep.3 All of
Schulman's research is thorough, and he has
done much to explain why given scenes or
themes appear repeatedly on funerary and other
stelae of the New Kingdom. The basic thrust of
his research is that many scenes are not stereo-
types but are records of real events in which
the owners of these stelae participated.

The present volume consists of two more
iconographic studies: scenes showing the king
giving rewards of gold to individuals, and the
traditional scene of the king about to crush the
head of a kneeling captive before him. Schul-
man defines these two scenes as follows
(pp. 140-41). The granting of gold collars to
favored officials was a private matter where the
emphasis is on the recipient of the gold and the
honor being conferred. This scene thus belongs
primarily to the repertoire of private tomb art.
The theme of the king slaying captives was a
public affair with the emphasis on the king
himself, performing an act of thanksgiving to
the gods for their support in battlefield victo-
ries. This theme is found in monumental art
only in a temple context which carries over to
private commemorative stelae.

The thesis of this book is that both the
awarding of gold collars and the king ritually
slaying enemies were real events that took
place before a public audience. One cannot ar-
gue otherwise concerning the awarding of gold.
Artistic and literary sources combine to show
that giving gold collars and other gifts to de-
serving officials was indeed a common way by
which a king rewarded service to the state.
Such an important event in an individual's life
was therefore a suitable moment to be por-
trayed in his tomb chapel reliefs or on a stelae.

' A. R. Schulman, "The Iconographic Theme:
'Opening of the Mouth' on Stelae," JARCE 21
(1984): 169-96.

2 Idem, "Some Observations on the 3h ikr n Rc-
Stelae," BiOr 43 (1986): 302-48.

3 Idem, "The Winged Reshep," JARCE 16 (1981):
69-84; "Reshep on Horseback," JSSEA 7 (1977):
13-17; "Reshep Times Two," in W. K. Simpson and
W. M. Davis, eds., Studies in Ancient Egypt, the
Aegean, and the Sudan: Essays in Honor of Dows
Dunham on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday,
June 1, 1980 (Boston, 1980), pp. 157-66.

Page 3


But I am not very comfortable with the idea
that representations on private stelae of the king
slaying captives reflect a reality. Schulman feels
that on stelae of the New Kingdom-his mate-
rial dates from the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty to
the beginning of the Twentieth-this smiting
scene reflects "a real event which took place at
a specific time, after a successful military opera-
tion, in a real temple" (p. 57). When this motif
appears on private stelae, it means that the
owner of the stela was himself present in the
courtyard of a temple and personally witnessed
the royal club smashing the head of a sacrificial
victim. The "triumphal sacrifice" of human vic-
tims was therefore a very real part of the victory
celebrations upon the completion of a success-
ful military campaign and was open to public
view. It was recorded on private stelae since in-
dividuals who had been present at such ritual
sacrifices looked upon that event as a significant
highlight of their lives.

I must admit that my reluctance to embrace
the idea of Egyptian kings practicing human
sacrifice to show gratitude to their gods after
winning a war stems partially from my own
view of the Egyptian character. They could be
as brutal in battle as any of their contemporar-
ies; no society in history has been immune
from the collective and individual barbarity
that makes brutes of otherwise ordinary people
when they go off to war. But it is quite a differ-
ent thing to postulate the planned, public exe-
cution of captured prisoners by grateful rulers
as a "thank you" to deities who have cast their
blessings of victory over the land. One expects
this of the Assyrians, not the Egyptians. This
just does not seem to me to be part of the
Egyptian national character, nor is there reason
to believe they thought their gods required hu-
man sacrifice in any context.

When it comes right down to it, Schulman's
argument is basically one of analogy. He notes
(pp. 4 and 195) that other scenes depicted on
private stelae-for example, a god delivering
an oracle, the performance of the Opening of
the Mouth Ceremony-do reflect real events in
which the owners of these stelae took part.
This indicates that many so-called conven-
tional scenes, such as the deceased making
offerings to a god, represent actual events and

are not just repetitious artistic devices to em-
phasize piety, or the like. This is all quite true,
but we have more than just artistic representa-
tions to prove it is true. We know from literary
sources that statues of deities delivered oracles
in public places, that the Opening of the Mouth
Ceremony was very much a part of Egyptian
funerals, and that people did make offerings to
the gods. To find such events portrayed on pri-
vate stelae presents no problem. We know that
ordinary Egyptians witnessed and took part in
such events. That an individual would record a
particular event of personal significance in his
own life is natural, and there is ample support-
ing written documentation.

The public, royal sacrifice of captives as en-
visioned by Schulman, however, has no docu-
mentation other than the rather rare portrayals
themselves on a mere score of stelae. He does
offer a long list of Egyptian barbarities as indi-
rect literary evidence in support of the sup-
posed royal sacrifice (nn. 121-23, pp. 89-91),
but these were acts committed during war or its
immediate aftermath. For the public human
sacrifice he postulates, only the small group of
twenty-one stelae collected in this study have a
direct bearing on the problem at hand. Several
of these stelae have no text, or the text is bro-
ken off, but in none of the extant inscriptions
on the rest is there any hint that the scene they
accompany was a real event. These inscriptions
consist of the usual praises of the king and the
names and titles of those who erected the ste-
lae. The only textual evidence brought to bear
on the question is the Amada Stela of Amenho-
tep II (p. 46), which notes that this king, hav-
ing killed seven enemy chieftains, brought
their corpses back to Egypt to be hung from
temple walls at Thebes and Napata. But this is
quite a different matter. The text clearly states
that these enemies were killed in Canaan, not
in a ritual human sacrifice in Egypt. Again, this
was an act of war. A major objection, then, to
Schulman's theory is that there is no supporting
literary evidence. No theory can be proved on
the basis of analogy alone.

This is not to say that this particular theory
should be rejected out of hand. Some of Schul-
man's arguments are valid. On several of these
stelae, for example, the smiting scene is shown

Page 4


within a temple and, in two cases, the entrance
pylon is likewise portrayed with the smiting
scene behind the entrance as if in the open,
outer temple court. He is surely correct in be-
lieving that the figures of the deities before
whom the smiting takes place are actual cult
statues brought out for the occasion. Given
these facts, it follows that a public ritual did
take place and that this ritual was considered by
some Egyptians of the New Kingdom to have
been sufficiently personally important to them to
be recorded on private commemorative stelae.

My main objection to the whole idea is the
assumption of an actual human sacrifice before
the cult statue of a god. Schulman repeatedly
emphasizes that what took place was the real
execution of real people. If so, then why
should the god Ptah be so prominent on these
stelae? Of the twenty-one stelae, most portray
the cult statue of the god before whom the king
slays his enemy: Amon-re is shown three
times, Seth and Horus one time each, Ptah ap-
pears on thirteen of these documents. Ptah was
not a god of war, nor is there anything in his
cult which suggests that the offering of human
sacrifices was appropriate to his worship. That
Ptah appears so frequently on these stelae is
best explained by the fact that Memphis was
the northern capital of Egypt and the primary
cult of that city was that of Ptah. The royal cer-
emony in question, whatever its nature, would
therefore be celebrated at Memphis more fre-
quently than anywhere else, and in the temple
of Ptah, the city's foremost deity.

In short, I can accept Schulman's theory that
a public ceremony did take place from time to
time in which the king "slew" an enemy in the
presence of a cult statue of a deity, but was this
an actual execution? I think not, since it would
be a unique example in Egyptian cultural his-
tory of human sacrifice which, if I understand
the Egyptians at all correctly, was a concept
foreign to their mentality. The solution lies in a
different direction.

Religious drama played a significant role in
Egyptian ritual whereby simulated events were
staged,4 and it seems to me that this is what is

involved here. The motif of the king clubbing
enemies kneeling before him is one of the more
common artistic themes from archaic times on.
It would appear that during the period when
Egypt controlled an empire-which about
equals the time-span of the stelae Schulman
has collected-this age-old royal motif came to
be included in victory celebrations as a stage
re-enactment of the eternal triumph of Egypt
over her enemies.5 It was not necessary to actu-
ally kill someone in this ritual, only to go
through the motions which would suffice to
serve the purpose of announcing yet another
successful war. Even without a real human sac-
rifice, the simulated act alone would leave a
deep impression on those who saw the drama,
enough to move some to record it on a com-
memorative stela of their own.

In general, this book takes us one more step
toward an understanding of the private stelae
of New Kingdom Egypt. Schulman's thesis that
significant events in the lives of individuals
were illustrated on their stelae, funerary or
otherwise, is a refreshing one, and he has
shown that this can be a fruitful avenue of re-
search. In the present case, he has collected
ample evidence on two such events-the pub-
lic awarding of gold to royal favorites and a
temple ritual concerned with royal victory
celebrations at the conclusion of successful

4Cf. K. Sethe, Dramatische Texte zu altaegyp-
tischen Mysterienspielen (Leipzig, 1928); B. van de

Walle, "Les Origines egyptiennes du theatre drama-
tique," CdE 9 (1930): 37-50; E. Drioton, "A la re-
cherche du theatre de l'ancienne Egypte," Arts Asia-
tiques 1 (1954): 96-108.

A reassessment of ancient Egyptian drama has re-
cently been undertaken by L. B. Mikhail, who offers
somewhat different interpretations. See his "The
Egyptological Approach to Drama in Ancient Egypt:
Is it Time for a Revision?," GM 75 (1984): 19-26;
77 (1984): 25-33; 78 (1984): 69-77; 79 (1984): 19-
29; and by the same author, "Dramatic Aspects of the
Osirian Khoiak Festival," GM 81 (1984): 29-54.

5 It is not inconceivable that victory celebrations
for any given military success, in the form of stage
productions, were performed at several main cult
centers throughout the land. The prime example of
this, of course, is the Ramesseum Dramatic Papyrus,
the script for a coronation play. To allow all of Egypt
to participate in this important event, the play was
taken "on the road" so that Egyptians everywhere
might witness this simulated crowning of their new

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