Mini-me to Menagerie - Ancient Egyptian magical objects in context
Study Day: May 18th 2019: Lecturers: Paul Whelan and Professor Gianluca Miniaci
'The quality of teaching was excellent. Paul's exciting and original approach, expanding possibilities around the use and meaning of objects we assume we know so well provided much food for thought. Gianluca's well presented talk on faience figurines was also fascinating. Well done to Paul, Gianluca and the organisers for such outstanding lectures and a stimulating and memorable day.' AW
'Thoroughly enjoyable day school – well worth the long trip!'
1. Servants or doubles? The early development of the shabti. (Paul Whelan)
Shabtis are often considered to be magical servants intended to work for the deceased in the Afterlife, especially since many are shown with agricultural implements to aid them in their tasks. By looking at the earliest developmental stages of the shabti in the Middle Kingdom we can see that this was but one role they played. Fascinating look at some of the ealiest examples including those made of wax and those with their own miniature coffins.
2. Between Different Worlds: Faience Figurines in Middle Bronze Age Egypt (1800 BC - 1650 BC) (Prof. Gianluca Miniaci)
The imaginary world of ancient societies was populated by many images, which were often represented by small models and statuettes. This lecture focussed on a category of Middle Kingdom figurines made of faience which portray a broad range of animals taken both from the wild fauna and from the domestic environment, including also a limited range of human and inanimate figures. Faience figurines have often been interpreted as tools for the protection of mother and child during pregnancy and childbirth. However, analyses of their iconography and their social contexts allow us to delve deeper into the reasons behind the inclusion and exclusion of particular motifs; faience figurines represent an open window on interconnected worlds, spanning the upper and the lower segments of society, between the world of chaos and that of daily life, between the centres of production and the wider Egyptian world.
- a copy of Prof. Miniaci's article on this is available to all course attendees.
3. A chip off the old block: The unusual role of “stick” shabtis at Thebes (Paul Whelan)
A crudely carved type of wooden shabti appeared at Thebes in the late 17th and early 18th Dynasty. Recent research and exciting new discoveries in the necropolis at Dra Abu el-Naga have confirmed that these otherwise unimpressive figures played an important role in cultic veneration at that time.
Small Yet Perfectly Formed - Some Observations on Theban Stick Shabti Coffins of the 17th and Early 18th Dynasty, Egitto e vicino Oriente 34 (2011) DOWNLOAD PDF
4. Re-awakening ancient ritual practices in the time of Ramesses II (Paul Whelan)
The reign of Ramesses II saw considerable building activity at Abydos, not least with the completion of his father’s magnificent memorial temple as well as the construction of his own. Less well documented is the apparent re-awakening by high officials and by the king himself of earlier rituals and concepts once practiced at Abydos over half a millennia earlier.
Paul and Gianluca (Pisa 2018)
Gianluca Miniaci is Associate Professor in Egyptology at the University of Pisa and co-director of the archaeological mission at Zawyet Sultan (Menya, Egypt). He is the editor-in-chief of the series Middle Kingdom Studies (GHP, London) and Ancient Egypt in Context (Cambridge University Press). His main research interest focuses on the social history and the dynamics of material culture in Middle Bronze Age Egypt (2000–1550 BC) and its interconnections between the Levant, Aegean, and Nubia.