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Siut-Theben: Zur Wertschatzung von Traditionen im alten Agypten. (Reviews of Books).

Siut-Theben: Zur Wertschatzung von Traditionen im alten Agypten. By JOCHEM KAHL. Probleme der Agyptologie, vol. 13. Leiden: BRILL, 1999. Pp. xi + 401. HF1 209, $123.

This book reconstructs the transmission history of a group of ancient Egyptian funerary texts, autobiographical inscriptions, titles, and epithets first attested in the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom tomb chapels of the nomarchs of Siut. These texts were later frequently copied or paraphrased in New Kingdom and Saite Period tomb chapels, sarcophagi, statues, and stelae in Thebes, presumably as a conscious display of archaism. The book also provides a fine introduction to text criticism, a tool with considerable potential for Egyptology, particularly for the study of Pyramid and Coffin Texts, Books of the Dead, and other canonical funerary texts.

The first chapter (pp. 1-11) establishes that there is no consensus regarding the means by which these texts were transmitted from Siut to Thebes. New Kingdom and Saite Period scribes and architects could have copied these texts directly from the monuments in Siut, or indirectly from textbooks preserved in libraries and pattern books containing indications of scenes as well as texts, or both. Furthermore, these hypothetical textbooks and pattern books could have in turn been copied directly from monuments in Siut, or produced from still earlier textbooks and pattern books which served as models for the monuments in Siut.

The second chapter (pp. 12-27) gives a history of Siut and its surviving monuments, concentrating on the First Intermediate Period tombs of the nomarebs Khety I (Siut V), Itibi (Siut III), and Khety II (Siut IV), and the Middle Kingdom tombs of the nomarchs Djefahapi I (Siut I), II (Siut II), and III (Siut VII). The focus here on Siut seems odd, given that this hook deals with the transmission of texts from Siut to Thebes, but the author prefers to discuss the monuments in Thebes in the fourth chapter, which examines the relationship between the texts from Siut and those from Thebes.

The third chapter (pp. 28-52) outlines the techniques of text criticism that the author uses to reconstruct the transmission history of these texts. These techniques were originally developed in Classical and New Testament studies to help reconstruct lost original texts from surviving copies. The surviving copies are compared and divided into common text (readings which are the same in all the surviving copies) and variant readings (which differ from copy to copy). Copies with high proportions of common text to variant readings are assumed to be closely related to the lost originals, since variant readings arise each time a text is copied due to accidental mistakes or intentional revisions. Copies that share many variant readings, on the other hand, are assumed to be closely related to each other, deriving from the same copy of the lost original. A "family tree" showing the relationships of the surviving copies can thus be constructed, and the transmission history of the lost original text determined.

The fourth chapter (pp. 53-282) applies these techniques of text criticism to the texts known from monuments in Siut and Thebes. The author provides translations of most of the texts and important variant readings, but a reading knowledge of ancient Egyptian is nonetheless necessary to fully follow the analysis. The largest part of this chapter is devoted to the transformation liturgy from the Twelfth Dynasty tomb chapel of Djefabapi I (Siut I) and the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb chapel of Senenmut (TT 353), which contains passages derived from older Pyramid and Coffin Texts attested in several pyramids from the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties and numerous coffins from the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties. The passages in TT 353 appear to derive from those in Siut I, which appear to derive in turn from those in Twelfth Dynasty tomb chambers at Lisht and Saqqara. The chapter then reviews several previous text critical studies of Pyramid and Coffin Texts and lists of hours of the night. The relationship between the differe nt versions of the Pyramid and Coffin Texts is complicated and unclear, but the lists of hours of the night from Thebes appears to derive from those from Siut. Curiously, only a small part of this chapter is actually devoted to the autobiographical texts, titles, and epithets known from First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom tombs at Siut and from New Kingdom and Saite Period tombs, sarcophagi, statues, and stelae at Thebes. Not surprisingly, the Theban texts are shown to derive from those in Siut; more interestingly, two of the Theban texts also appear to be very closely related to each other, but unfortunately other Theban texts are not compared to one another. There is a disappointingly brief reference to two unpublished hieratic papyri from the Roman Period temple library of Tebtunis, which contain copies of texts from Siut Tombs I, III, IV, V and one unknown and probably now destroyed tomb in Siut. According to the author, these copies display considerable variation from the original Siut texts, an d could be textbooks transmitted through a series of copies in libraries. The chapter concludes by speculating that certain art and architectural motifs may also have been transmitted from Siut to Thebes through drawings or written descriptions, but provides no quantitative supporting evidence, presumably because textual criticism is inapplicable to art and architectural motifs.

The fifth chapter (pp. 283-355) argues that the majority of the Theban copies of Siut texts show sufficient variation from the originals to suggest that they were transmitted through a series of copies in libraries, rather than by direct copies from monument to monument. The fact that Saite tombs in Thebes sometimes copy texts from Deir el-Gabrawi as well as Siut suggests that the copying tradition may have originated in a regional library serving both Siut and Deir el-Gabrawi, which are only twenty kilometers apart. The variety of texts copied suggests that the library contained textbooks recording the complete texts of Siut tombs, though not necessarily pattern books. Variant spellings in the copies suggest that those textbooks were written in hieratic on papyri or leather, much like the copies of the Siut tomb inscriptions preserved in the Roman temple library of Tebtunis. Such textbooks may have been transmitted from Siut to Thebes on several occasions. The lists of hours of the night appear to have been transmitted shortly after the reunification of Egypt by the Theban Eleventh Dynasty, while the copies of Siut tombs appear to have been transmitted sometime after the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, and perhaps as late as the reign of Hatshepsut.

This book is thus a valuable contribution to Egyptology, because it provides evidence that the ancient Egyptians preserved, consulted, and copied canonical texts in regional libraries from at least the New Kingdom onwards. It is also valuable because it suggests that text criticism can be used to reconstruct the transmission histories of such canonical texts. Hopefully, other Egyptologists will be encouraged by this book to test whether text criticism can be profitably applied to other canonical texts, and whether these texts also provide evidence of transmission through a tradition of copies in libraries.
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Author:Muhs, B.P.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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