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Royal versus Divine Authority: 7th Symposium on Egyptian Royal Ideology.

Royal versus Divine Authority: 7th Symposium on Egyptian Royal Ideology. Edited by FILIP COPPINS; JIRI JANAK; and HANA VYMAZALOVA. Konigtum, Staat und Gesellschaft fruher Hochkulturen, vol. 4,4. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2015. Pp. 358, illus. [euro]84 (paper).

This series of symposia approaches ancient Egyptian royal ideology from a broad range of perspectives--political, archaeological, iconographic, environmental, ritual, cosmic, and administrative. The specific focus of this volume, "royal versus divine authority," implying as it does a competition or contrast, is rarely addressed in these essays. Andrea Gnirs, in "Royal Power in Times of Disaster," looks at the challenge natural disasters placed on royal authority, as they were interpreted as expressions of divine displeasure and challenges to the king's legitimacy. He presents sound overviews of the effects of high and low Nile floods, famine, and plague, as well as less common events, summarized as "tempests, torrents and earthquakes." More than any other entry in this volume, here we see the potential for a breach between the royal and divine authority explored.

Filip Coppens and Jiff Janak interpret patterns in depictions of the Ogdoad at Dendera as an expression of Hathor's dominance over Re, and of the power of the gods over the foreign king. All of the other chapters explore relationships which show little sign of significant conflict.

This volume is heavily weighted towards Old Kingdom material. Mark Lehner identifies and describes four phases in the building of Khentkawes I's monument at Giza, namely the excavation of a pedestal at the center of a quarry from the reigns of Khufu to Menkaure; stone works, done in concert with stone parts of Menkaure's complex and completed during that king's reign; mud brick works, including Khentkawes' town and enclosure wall, done in concert with Shepseskaf's push to complete his predecessor's complex; and later restorations and additions, dating to the Fifth Dynasty. Lehner very cautiously suggests that if stone-built portions of Khentkawes I's monument featuring the title "mother of two kings" (mwt njswt bit njswt bity) were indeed completed during Menkaure's reign, questions of royal decent during this period should be re-examined.

Florence Friedman, in an update on her work on the Menkaure Triads (Dyn. 4), follows Seidlmayer in relating them to an earlier series of small step pyramids established for the cult of the living king under Huni (Dyn. 3). She emphasizes that Menkaure appears to have added a strong focus on Hathor and Re, whose roles subsequently expanded in the Fifth Dynasty with the introduction of sun temples. Her view of underlying continuity with gradual change stands in contrast to the theory of "punctuated equilibria" presented by Miroslav Barta and Veronika Dulfkova, who suggest that long periods of stasis were interrupted with bursts of change, citing in particular the reigns of Den (Dyn. 1), Netjerykhet (Dyn. 3), Sneferu (Dyn. 4), Sheseskaf/Userkaf (early Dyn. 5), and Nyuserra (later Dyn. 5).

Here Barta and Dulfkova focus on the reign of fifth-dynasty king Nyuserra, arguing that his reign was a turning point in the relationship between royal and divine authority. The changes they address may reflect fundamental ideological changes, but they may also be minor changes in decorum or style. For example, the earliest surviving appearances of Osiris' name may, as they contend, represent "[t]he introduction of his cult into the royal sphere precisely in the reign of Nyuserra" (p. 43). However, they could also represent a rather minor shift in decorum regarding the display of the god's name. Similarly, they see a turning point in the appearance of heb-sed reliefs in Nyuserra's complex, whereas in this same volume Friedman sees continuity of underlying concepts relating to the heb-sed expressed in differing forms with gradual change from the Third Dynasty down to the Fifth. (Note that neither Huni nor Menkaure, whose innovations she focuses on, are among those listed by Barta and Dulikova.) Barta and Dulikova also see transfer from centralized power with the royal family at the palace to greater power in the provinces as a feature of Nyuserra's reign (p. 43).

However, Anthony Spalinger's article in this volume suggests that this trend started with Userkaf and "continued apace during the Fifth Dynasty" (p. 303). Spalinger's larger focus is on gaining an understanding of land use and the administration of the estates which provided provisions for mortuary estates, primarily by looking at data from feast lists. His main focus is on the Old Kingdom, but he also presents a range of later material (New Kingdom and Ptolemaic) for comparison.

Mohamed Megahed and Hana Vymazaova suggest that a fragment of a circumcision scene from the mortuary complex of Djedkare (Dyn. 5) may have been part of a divine birth cycle. Circumcision has long been known to be an element in later divine birth cycles. However, such an identification would have been too conjectural prior to the recent discovery of Middle Kingdom fragments of a divine birth cycle from the pyramid complex of Senusret III (Dyn. 12) at Dahshur, which has a decorative program strongly rooted in Old Kingdom models. Formerly the earliest attested such cycle belonged to the Dyn. 18 reign of Hatshepsut. The earliest manifestation of a somewhat rare motif from ancient Egypt even today has the potential to be pushed back hundreds of years, perhaps even almost a thousand years, with a single discovery.

Massimiliano Nuzzolo analyses the broader topography of Memphis in the Old Kingdom, with suggestions about how the placement of royal monuments may have been meant to emphasize relationships between royal monuments and the temple of Re at Heliopolis, as proposed by Mark Lehner, Hans Goedicke, and David Jeffereys. Nuzzolo particularly focuses on the ways in which citadel rock and the east-bank Muqattam limestone formation obscure lines of sight between monuments, and what intermediate connections may have been intended.

Miroslav Verner's article on meret, a type of sanctuary mentioned in texts (primarily titles listed in private tombs) but still not identified archaeologically, underscores just how large the gaps in our knowledge of Old Kingdom institutions are. Although attempts have been made at various points to tie this term to parts of known mortuary complexes, none of these identifications has proved convincing in the long run.

Julia Budka examines the intersection of archaeology, politics, administration, and cult during the reconquest of Nubia in the New Kingdom based on the case study of Sai Island. She sees a likely shift from simple hwt-k[??] for royal statues, much like those associated with Middle Kingdom activity in Nubia, immediately following the reconquest, to stone temples for the god Amun in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (time of Thutmose III/Amenhotep II).

Jana Mynarova examines the perception of royal power abroad from the late sixteenth to the mid-twelfth centuries BCE through analysis of international correspondence in Akkadian, Hittite, Ugaritic, and Hurrian.

Guided by references in solar hymns, Katja Goebs reads the Henu-crown, which she describes as "a relatively complex composite crown of the New Kingdom," as an "iconographical sentence" which explains elements of the relationship between the king and the divine using five main elements: the Amun Crown Base, ram's horns, ostrich features, uraei, and a solar disc. Her discussion of the solar importance of ostriches, an often overlooked association, is particularly interesting. Her reading of some motifs from pre-Dynastic Naqada pottery as ostrich dances is conjectural, but worth considering as one of many possible interpretations of those enigmatic motifs.

Another animal with frequently overlooked solar associations is the crocodile. Horst Beinlich explores the cosmic geography of the Book of Fayum. He begins with a basic understanding of the solar cycle, with local flavor--starting in the east, where the sun is reborn each morning from the waters of Fayum, whence the great flood/heavenly cow raises him to the heavens. In the evening, the aging sun god transforms into a crocodile and re-enters the water, swimming from west to east during the night. Beinlich emphasizes three places--Shedet (Schedet), cult center of the crocodile-god Sobek; the House of Life of Ra-sehet (Das Lebenhaus von Ra-sehet), associated with the king's acceptance by the gods; and the Acacia-tree of Neith (Akazie der Neith), associated with the king's childhood. Beinlich then focuses on the latter two locations and the rites associated with them, closing with a discussion of the interrelationship between these three places and the solar cycle.

Claus Jurman's study of the influence of earlier models on Third Intermediate Period monuments pushes the prominence of archaism, so typical of the Late Period, to an earlier era. He is meticulous about seriously considering alternative interpretations for this material and recognizing the ways in which older models were reformed. For example, during the Libyan period, cartouches were formed according to earlier models, simpler than those employed in the more recent past. However, they include "the royal (and not divine!) filiation s3-p3-mjjw, as if it were the name of a commoner." This may be more in keeping with the role of the king and his relation with the divine in that time period.

In sum, this is a thought-provoking volume with much excellent scholarship.

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Author:Eaton, Katherine
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2018
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