Sunday, August 30, 2015

Report from the ICE XI XVI

The last couple of days have been fairly busy and I have not kept up on reporting highlights of the International Congress of Egyptologists. Again, I am highlighting one or two specific points made in various presenters' talks. I am not trying to summarize their arguments. I am also highlighting what I think are good points or important points though I will not necessarily be describing them as the authors would have. These are things that I think are of good report or praiseworthy. I am also not reporting on every presentation I went to and certainly not private conversations. When I was chairing a session, I usually did not have time to make good notes.

On Friday Daniel M. Mendez Roderiguez argued that the Book of Caverns, which is typically described as a funerary text, was used by the living.

Yvonne Vosman discussed the rise of Neo-Egyptian objects in Europe. These she described as Egyptosophical objects with a spiritual function. She described the proliferation of these objects as a result of the invisibility of religion in European society for the last thirty years. Religion in Europe has been removed from the public sphere and into the privacy of one's own home. As a result religion has been transformed into a popular spirituality, and Egypt is seen as being the home of ancient, exotic, and mysterious wisdom, so there has been a large European market for vaguely Egyptian wares with alleged wondrous powers.

Brett McClain talked about how, if you consider a temple as a book, the Karnak temples of Ramses III provide an excellent model for seeing how redaction actually worked in the ancient Near East. He further noted that the only inscription in these temples that has been studied is the "tablet of gold".

Jan Moje talked about bilingual texts from Elephantine. He mentioned that there were a number of bilingual Aramaic and demotic texts but he concentrated on the bilingual Greek and Demotic ones. He noted that when there is a dominant language, it is usually put first.

Verena Lepper discussed the Elephantine papyri scattered throughout a number of Institutions. There are more than 350 boxes of these papyri in museums that have never been looked at and she discussed her efforts to make the material accessible. She mentioned that these papyri were in hieroglyphs, hierative, demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Coptic, Arabic, and even Phonecian and Punic.

On Saturday, Alexa Rickert discussed terms for New Years Day in the Temple of Dendara. She made a distinction between theological cardinal points and geographical cardinal points, which at Dendara are 90 degrees off of each other. (Thus "theological" north is "geographical" west.)

Felicitas Weber talked about a Book of the Dead papyrus in Dresden, most of whose texts and some of whose vignettes are unknown from other manuscripts of the Book of the Dead. At the end she made the statement that it was "worth looking at manuscripts closely because usually it is not just another Book of the Dead."

Mykola Tarasenko looked at the iconography of one scene in one vingette in the Book of the Dead and discussed the range of variations in that scene through the New Kingdom.

Silvia Einaudi discussed an noteworthy manuscript of the Book of the Dead in the Louvre. (I have seen it before and it is quite remarkable.) It is a Ptolemaic manuscript which is 19.44 meters long and has some 1700 columns of text. Sometimes the space for the name is left out, and after a certain point, there are spaces for vignettes but no illustrations have been drawn.

Suzanne Topfer discussed a number of unpublished papyri from Tebtunis. She remarked how strange it seemed to have texts of rituals for the protection of the Pharaoh long after there had ceased to be Pharaohs in Egypt.

Sandrine Vuilleumier discussed the phenomenon of adapting ritual texts for individuals in the late period. These were originally rituals for the king or the gods which were then reused as funerary texts.

Finally, Jacqueline Williamson talked about how her excavations at Tell el-Amarna have forced her to rethink some of the standard theories about religion during the Amarna period. (The archaeological and epigraphic evidence that she has unearthed certainly do not square with what I was taught in graduate school about the topic.)

The organizers of the congress did well on a number of things that I would like to highlight: The student helpers were competent, involved, and enthusiastic. They were easy to spot in their bright yellow polo shirts, unfailingly helpful, and managed to solve every problem within minutes. The sturdy name badges on the lanyards had good maps printed on the back showing the location of all the conference venues. There were large signs on site to help one locate the venues. Communication of changes were posted in a central location and sent via email. The wifi in the venue was good. The breaks were long enough to talk to people without being too rushed but not too long. The food provided was sufficient and there was a good variety of things other than coffee to drink (impressive considering that there were supposedly 800 people there). The papers were generally of good quality. I would like to thank them for these things (and others) which they did well.