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Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford.

Egypt, Israel, and the Ancient Mediterranean World: Studies in Honor of Donald B. Redford. Edited by GARY N. KNOPPERS and ANTOINE HIRSCH. Probleme der Agyptologie, vol. 20. Leiden: BRILL, 2004. Pp. viii + 524, plates. $222.

As all readers know, it is extremely difficult to provide a useful review of any Festschrift. Reasons for this can be adumbrated, but two points are salient. The first is the most simple. Considering the costs of publication and the research interests of scholars, it is self-evident that such works will be consulted for specific chapters rather than purchased for one's working library. Moreover, by virtue of the heterogeneous nature of the material it is rarely the case that these works satisfy the dedicated scholar. Often, the outputs are of an uneven quality (and length) and the best that an impartial observer can do is list each chapter by title and author with a precis of the subject addressed.

Egyptology, as is the case with other fields of intellectual endeavor, appears to have gotten itself caught in a dilemma: namely, the continual production of Festschriften. Rather than succumb to the inevitable and realize that our science has outgrown its heroic stage, this scholarly field has remained on a plateau in which, year after year, yet another huge book is dedicated to a prominent scholar. The conception of devoting one issue of a journal to a well-known researcher seems to have been abandoned. As a result, we are now faced with many such books, all of which are difficult to reference owing to the complexity of the title of the work, the number of editors, and various bibliographical details, such as the pertinent chapter and author. Although some scholars have expressly forbidden any collection of essays dedicated to them, by and large it is fair to state that these injunctions are rare indeed.

I do not mean to belittle the efforts that scholars and editors have put into such works. Nonetheless, I find myself often first bemused and then amused over the release of large and larger Festschriften at a time when the natural sciences and mathematics avoid these costly and time-consuming tasks. If this criticism is considered to be overly harsh, let me then compare the practice of late medieval Europe, where any city aiming at grandeur spent its resources producing the continent's tallest spire for its cathedral. (Compare the comments of Norbert Elias, Reflections on a Life, tr. Edmund Jephcott [Cambridge, Mass., 1994], 97-98.) Other, less benign metaphors come immediately to mind, especially in this era of massive armament production. In all of these cases, Festschriften included, I do not question the honesty and validity of the undertaking, but rather deplore the ever-increasing spate of these volumes. Perhaps it is time to cease this hyper-baroque practice and return to an earlier state of innocence, in order that a different approach to collected essays might be taken. Reculer pour mieux sauter is a phrase that could very well apply here.

This philosophical introduction notwithstanding, I shall now acquit myself of the task of a reviewer by concentrating on the chapters that piqued my interest. Fortunately, modern bibliographical tools enable the reader of a review to check the table of contents for himself. The following comments are therefore addressed from an Egyptological perspective.

Zahi Hawass' contribution deals with the artisans who worked at Giza during the Old Kingdom (pp. 21-39). He explores a newly discovered tomb, that of Petety, and demonstrates that a more sophisticated approach to the working class is needed, especially because the earlier excavators at Giza (and elsewhere) naturally concentrated their efforts upon the highest strata of ancient Egyptian society.

With Sarah Parcak's study on "Egypt's Old Kingdom 'Empire' (?)" we enter into a realm beset with numerous difficulties (pp. 41-60). She focuses upon southern Sinai in order to prove her contention that "Old Kingdom Egypt had an empire" (p. 56). I am not persuaded by her arguments. Whereas I would agree with her that the various expeditions of the day were not mere "displays of power," I fail to see a developed system of administration (civil and military) placed over neighboring peoples at this time. One can, of course, withdraw to the concept of "economic imperialism" and argue that Egypt's strength in that area naturally affected peoples close to it. Nonetheless, the author needs to make a distinction between occupation over time--which, after all, is real imperialism--and dominance. Yugoslavia was dominated by Germany from 1939 until 1941 but was not part of a German imperium per se until the interventions of the Wehrmacht in that year. Hungary was a client state of Germany throughout most of the Second World War, yet remained independent. Such nuances are worth investigation even for the subsistence-based primitive state of ancient Egypt.

Larry Pavlish's study, the third in the book, is a detailed summary of his archaeometric work at Mendes (pp. 61-112). It is very long. The later archaeological contribution of Gregory Mumford on his work at Tell Tebilla is as exacting, but more cohesive (pp. 267-86).

The subsequent contribution of Edward Bleiberg covers the interesting concept of "east and west" as depicted on coffin decoration at Assyut (pp. 113-20). His conclusion, a reasonable one, is that "peculiarities in the development of Assyut tombs could stem from the tomb's geographical location" (p. 119).

Following James Hoffmeier, we embark on a summary of Egypt's foreign policy in Asia and Nubia during the XVIIIth Dynasty (pp. 121-41). If it suffers from lack of specificity, that is because the author intended an overview. I was once more surprised over the lack of understanding of the Egyptian terms inw and b[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]kw. Two key studies on those terms are missing: J. J. Janssen, SAK 20 (1993): 81-94, and my essay, SAK 23 (1996): 353-76 (with reference to the earlier work of Mario Liverani).

Steven Shubert's theme is the famous stela of Suty and Hor, now located in the British Museum (pp. 143-65). He attempts to go beyond the striking analyses of John Baines by arguing for a double-entendre, and I found much worthwhile in his material. Perhaps a closer look at Jan Assmann's voluminous work on sun hymns would have been helpful.

Ronald Leprohon switches the reader's attention to economic matters, focusing on the stolen goods of Wenamun (pp. 167-77). I, too, have had problems in identifying the 's-wood (pp. 171-72), but I think that Kenneth Kitchen's judicious comments scattered in his notes and comments to Ramesside Inscriptions are of use. Nonetheless, this is a well-written presentation and thankfully well-proportioned in length; that is to say, it is neither tiny nor prolix.

Jan Assmann then proceeds with another of his studies on Amarna and post-Amarna hymns (pp. 179-91). The reader who has difficulties in understanding his German will find this contribution accessible compared to his more exacting research.

I shall now skip a few chapters in order to conclude with two that I found both intriguing and somewhat provocative. Lyn Green's discussion about ritual banquets at Akhenaton's court (pp. 203-22) as well as others in the ancient Near East concerns a topic of prime importance, especially when archaeological data can be brought into the discussion. "Food in Culture" is a major theme in anthropological literature--witness the early yet still influential work of K. C. Chang, ed., Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives (New Haven, 1977)--and I hope that Green can provide us thirsty and hungry scholars with numerous written repasts.

Anne Killebrew's important work on Egyptian and Egyptian-type pottery in Canaan during the Ramesside Period (pp. 309-43) is very informative with respect to the Egyptian presence in Canaan at this time. Her conclusion is that the evidence allows us to regard the Egyptian administration as a permanent fixture intended to gather tribute and to control the area both internally and externally (p. 342). The latter argument is compelling. A contrast with Dynasty XVIII comes to mind.

Here the reviewer must stop, lest he overburden the reader with an inventory of all of the contributions. As noted above, I have chosen only those of special interest to an Egyptologist and, more particularly, to myself. If the reader feels that I have overlooked any whose work can be deemed to be significant to other specialties, then I must plead guilty. But if so, then the impossibility of reviewing Festschriften can be brought into court in order to support my contention that these productions are outmoded.


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Author:Spalinger, Anthony
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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