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Die Feldzugdarstellungen des Neuen Reiches: Eine Bildanalyse. (Reviews of Books).

Die Feldzugdarstellungen des Neuen Reiches: Eine Bildanalyse. By SUSANNA CONSTANZ HEINZ. Vienna: VERLAG DER OSTERREICHISCHEN AKADEMIE DER WISSENSCHAFTEN, 2001. Pp. 327, illus. OS 2190 (paper).

This massive new book is an improvement on previous studies of pictorial narrative in ancient Egypt. As such, it succeeds the first-level works (e.g., W. Stevenson Smith, et al.) that have dominated Egyptology over the past century. Susanna Heinz has spent many years researching and preparing this crucial topic, mainly from the art-historical viewpoint, examining components of scenes, arrangements of registers, the use (and abuse) of the rigid canon of proportions, even the development of the theme of warfare. Her book provides handy charts, excellent diagrams, useful reproductions, and for the most part an impartial analysis of previous scholarship.

The initial situation of pictorial location (e.g., where is the scene located in a temple?) is presented in an easy-to-grasp overview, and this enables us to comprehend the gist of the book immediately. Similarly, I would like to commend the author's wide-ranging knowledge of the historical background to the war reliefs that are so effectively presented here. On some occasions she judiciously sidesteps the historical controversies: e.g., who was Mehy and why it was he rather than the future Ramesses II who looms so large on the exterior north wall of the hypostyle court at Karnak? Or, to take another conundrum from the same group of Seti I's war scenes: does the division into registers imply that all six extant narratives are separate? (I frankly cannot believe that the Shashu campaign is to be interpreted apart from Seti's more northern Palestinian foray.) Moreover, is it always the case that we are to read the lowest register before the next higher one? I have come to the position that this rule holds, at l east for the Ramesside Period; but it is incontrovertibly true everywhere?

Another serious point covered by Heinz but not, I feel, completely resolved, is the departure of the Kadesh reliefs from the presumed "norm" of battle scenes. Along with previous Egyptologists, she realizes that Ramesses II's commemorations of "victory" are at odds with the relatively staid ones of Seti I or Merenptah, or even with many of the Medinet Habu renderings of Ramesses III. (One must exclude, of course, the year 8 Sea Battle; and Heinz does not fail to evaluate that depiction.) I can think of only two obvious causes, the first being the cumulative gravity of the conflict and the king's singular success in it. The second would be dependent upon the strong personal nature of the monarch's religion, an aspect that Jan Assmann has written about upon with exceeding clarity. The unpredictability of the Battle of Kadesh--the desperate counterattack against the superior opponent--must have haunted the Pharaoh and his creative propagandists alike. Surely the Kadesh reliefs are not mere artistic codes for the presumed "triumph over chaos;' and I am glad to report that Heinz is not of this simplistic viewpoint either.

Nonetheless, she overlooks the individuality of the artists, let alone that of the king. This approach foils questions of artistic inspiration, the orientation (in this case the "imperial order") of the patron (Pharaoh), the uniqueness of artistic expression, and the like. Granted, this was not the purpose of Heinz's inquiry. Her study is less concerned with art and more with theme; i.e., this is a detailed survey of war as depicted in the New Kingdom.

Issues still to be discussed among Egyptologists are those of historical veracity of representation; the problems of the captions, although this reviewer has such a study in press; (1) and the question of the artistic and technical orientation of the sculptures--i.e., can we differentiate the various (but not many) equipes that Ramesses II employed for his Nubian temples? Such interrogations of the hard stone material could reveal, for example, whether all of those Nubian temples were carved by one group of men during the reign of Ramesses II. Did a cohort of sculptors commence at Belt el Wali and proceed to Abu Simbel and onwards, while a second group of state workers was employed at Abydos? Does this hypothesis explain the singular treatment of Kadesh by the Abydos artists in comparison to those at Karnak or Luxor?

It is fair to state that such art-historical directions are not germane to this work, despite its length. Quite to the contrary, the author is not an art historian but rather a superb technician of narrative analysis; and this orientation is where one ought to begin. I was surprised that the war reliefs of Amunhotep II are not included by Heinz. (2) Indeed, they must be analyzed, not only because of their mid-Dynasty XVIII date, but more significantly owing to their parallel with later work carved under Seti I and Merenptah. One can excuse the author for not knowing the remarkable find of Kamose's northern battle depictions; (3) but more serious, I believe, is that the results of the Magisterarbeit of Marcus Muller appear not to have been systematically absorbed. (4) His work, by the nature of his project, is abbreviated, although excellent charts and maps supplement his discussions. On the other hand, Muller managed to include a detailed historical analysis of the reliefs--how they relate to the actual confl icts--a crucial point that, for the most part, Heinz omits. To take one key example relating to the war records of Seti I: Muller. despite recognizing difficulties in the arrangement of the registers, offers telling criticisms of Murnane's historical reconstructions. Such an orientation could not be accommodated by Heinz.

There is nothing wrong with what either scholar has done: indeed, how else is the specialist to proceed? On the other hand, the ancillary developments in Neo-Assyrian art-historical analysis should have been at their fingertips and might have allowed a departure into more intellectually challenging areas of intent and design. (5) As a salutary example, let me cite the remarkable and not so "off the beaten track" essay of Bersani and Dutoit. (6) Both authors argue for countervailing themes that run opposed to the main narrative progressions, an aspect that, to be sure, Heinz treats, but not in a detailed fashion.

This carping aside, the reviewer highly recommends Heinz's work as an excellent approach to the problems of New Kingdom military art. The entire volume is technically superb, if occasionally formalistic (indeed, formulaic) and "middle of the road." One now awaits a further synthesis of the pictorial and the literary representations. Can Assmann's thesis of the battle of Kadesh be read as well off the wall? (7) From Heinz's work, though she may not have intended to declare herself, the answer is a resounding "no." We are fortunate that she has rescued us from over-intellectualizing warfare. (8)

(1.) "Epigraphs in the Battle of Kadesh," to appear in a Festschrift. This study is an attempt to analyze the historical veracity of the pictorial captions at Kadesh. The work presupposes the detailed work of Irene Winter, Julian Reade, et al., who have covered the artistic background of the Neo-Assyrian narrative reliefs.

(2.) A. Zayed, "Une representation inedite des campagnes d'Amenophis II," in Melanges Gamal Eddin Mokhtar, I (Cairo, 1985), 5-17. This is an important study, as it allows us to see the development of New Kingdom military reliefs in connection with the literature of warfare. The following note presents the ease for Kamose. Hence, we can link the rise of a full-scale pictorial narrative to a time-frame wherein the written format was likewise developed.

(3.) Janine Bourriau, "The Second Intermediate Period (c. 1650-1550 B.C.)," in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw (Oxford, 2000), 213. Note that these scenes, broken and fragmentary though they may be, are nonetheless identical to the later formalized structure of the mid-XVIIIth Dynasty and later. In other words, during the reign of Kamose lengthy hut still tentative patterns of literary and pictorial representation of wars were being tried out and experimented upon. Only later (e.g., Ahmose, son of Ebana; Asuan-Philae Inscription of Thutmose II; Megiddo campaign) is there a standard method of recounting of a war, "in print," so to speak. The same can now be maintained with respect to the depictions: early tentative approaches under Kamose and formalized completion by mid-Dynasty XVIII.

(4.) Marcus Muller, Die Thematik der Schlachtenreliefs (Tubingen, 1995). The author studied in the Egyptological arthistorical school of Munich, led by Dr. S. Schoske. The approaches of Muller and Heinz are remarkably similar, and although Muller's work is referred to in Heinz's bibliography, it does not seem to have been consulted often.

(5.) Lest I be misunderstood, I am not referring to the obvious questions of scenery, landscape, geographical location, date of accompanying inscription, siperhuman size of Pharaoh, reduced sizes of all the other participants in the battle, scenic climax, and the like. To take some straightforward cases: where is the anti-climax in the relief? Is it necessary to have one at all? If not, where is the artistic counter-action (which serves as a kind of anti-climax)?

(6.) Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, The Forms of Violence: Narrative in Assyrian Art and Modern Culture (New York, 1985).

(7.) Jan Assmann, "Krieg und Frieden im alten Agypten: Ramses II. und die Schlacht bei Kadesh," Mannheimer Forum (1983): 175-231. If not, then how valid is Assmann's analysis? The concept of piety as stressed by the Heidelberg professor becomes merely a literary reflection, one of words and not, as the reliefs indicate, one of deeds. The latter, a true virile experience, must be viewed as complementing the record of the "Poem," if not setting up another perspective.

(8.) I believe that this is the only interpretation that we can take, following Heinz. Most certainly, one finds no role (active or passive) for Amun in these depictions; neither is there any indication of the desertion of the king by his army. Therefore, a major criticism can be leveled against Assmann's stress on the king's piety. Present in the literary narrative of the "Poem," it is basically absent in the captions and the reliefs. Much more happened to the king at Kadesh than a transcendental religious experience. Blood, sweat, and tears must be included, lest we view human conflict and the ensuing destruction as mere philosophical-religious events.

These reliefs demonstrate the glorification of Pharaoh in military conflict; carnage is a word that can also be applied. Salutary in this respect are the words of the military historian John Keegan, who refers to the ignorance of museum curators who reflect their "civilian attitude" to military conflict: "I constantly recall the look of disgust that passed over the face of a highly distinguished curator of one of the greatest collections of arms and armour in the world when I casually remarked to him that a common type of debris removed from the flesh of wounded men by surgeons in the gunpowder age was broken bone and teeth from neighbors in the ranks" (A History of Warfare [New York, 1994], 90).
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Author:Spalinger, Anthony
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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