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 Post subject: foreigners in ancient egypt
PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 7:32 pm 
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Foreigners in Ancient Egypt actually addresses a somewhat more limited topic, as evinced by the subtitle: “Theban Tomb Paintings from the Early Eighteenth Dynasty”. Author Flora Brooke Anthony, an Assistant Professor of Egyptology and Art History at Kennesaw State, does pay some lip service to earlier Egyptian depiction of foreigners but focuses mostly on the time and location mentioned in the subtitle.

Theban tombs of this period had an aboveground area accessible to the family and casual visitors, and an underground burial chamber. The paintings discussed are in the aboveground area; there are therefore not necessarily an accurate depiction of events but rather intended to impress visitors with the virtues and accomplishments of the occupant(s). In that regard many of the paintings depicting foreigners show them offering “tribute” to the tomb owner; it’s supposed this was intended to show that the tomb owner had sufficient rank to be a royal delegate for accepting tribute, even if no such event ever occurred. Anthony also notes the Egyptian word traditionally translated as “tribute” may be more correctly rendered as “gift”.

The most common tribute-bearers are from Nubia, the Levant, and the Aegean; rarely people from Punt, the Sahara oases, and the land of Wat-hor (somewhere in what’s now eastern Syria) are shown. Anthony cautions that the dress and physical features of the tribute bearers in the tomb paintings may not necessary reflect the actual dress and physical features of the people involved; in this connection Levantine – with pale skin, beards, hair fillets, and robes – became the “generic” foreigner and a Levantine figure may be shown in a painting even if accompanying text says the tribute is coming from Nubia. (I might add older Egyptological works, from the 19th and early 20th centuries, typically call anybody from the east of Egypt “Asiatics”; while technically correct we now wouldn’t usually describe somebody from (for example) Lebanon as “Asiatic”, and I approve of Ms. Anthony’s use of “Levant” for the area).

People from Nubia normally bring raw materials – animal skins, metals – as tribute; people from the Levant bring manufactured goods – pottery and cloth. The tribute bearers are usually shown in abject submission – prostrate or kneeling with hands raised in adoration. The tribute procession usually includes women and children in the rear; Anthony interprets these as tribute as well, without going into the fairly complicated question of “slavery” in ancient Egypt. Anthony does discuss the role of foreign countries in Egyptian world-view; suggesting they were symbolic of the outer “chaos” and their subdued offering of tribute represents the triumph of order over chaos.

This is a rather short book for the price, especially since about a third is references and bibliography. Adequately illustrated, although some of the photographs are washed out and should have been replaced by line drawings. Probably too specialized for the armchair Egyptologist.


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