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We have many types of evidence from ancient Egypt- statues, temples, written documents.

All were made by MEN, since men made up the ruling and literate elite of Egypt who produced these things. Therefore, women are mentioned or depicted far less often than men, and when they are, we have to be aware that we are seeing the women of ancient Egypt not through their own eyes but through the eyes of men. And as any woman whos had her driving skills criticized by a man, or man whos had his domestic prowess questioned by a woman, knows, the other sex does not necessarily offer an accurate picture of how things really are! Of course women in ancient Egypt were not a homogeneous group, and our tour today is going to reflect that. Well be looking at several different groups of females in Egyptian society, including royal women, elite women, women of a less exalted status, and goddesses. Well see that each group, while fitting into an overarching structure of how women are viewed, also have differences in how they experienced life, just like Egyptian men of differing status would have done. As well as learning about women, I hope we can also think about the ways in which we reconstruct the past from archaeological evidence, and the risks that this entails, and this is something that is relevant to all types of Egyptian art, no matter what their subject. Women are an excellent subject to do this with, since the subject has been greatly affected over the years by the biases and assumptions of archaeologists, as well as by the type of evidence- we have no documents written by women telling us about their lives, so for the most part we are forced to create our own narrative from objects whose function still remains obscure. DEMEDJI AND HENUTSEN Statue of a married couple. Elite- hes an overseer of the desert and the kings hunters, shes a priestess. Would have been placed in their tomb, to act as an ideal image of the pair of them to receive offerings and provide a resting place for their soul for eternity. Dedicated by their son. Exquisite quality- Demedjis kilt, Henutsens wig and toenails. Negative space. Philtrum. Important to realize that people spent vast amounts of money and most of their adult life planning for their funeral, and got the best they could afford. Important to understand that Egyptian art works differently to our modern Western depictions. It doesnt necessarily show things as they were in real life. This was not because they were unkilled or unable, rather they are communicating an extra layer of information that our art does not usually do. Comparing the figures of Demedji and Hennutsen, whats the big difference between them? [size, posture] Can anyone think what message this might be portraying about their relationship?

In Egy art, the importance of the figure portrayed is generally communicated by the size of that figure. Rather neat since it tells you something about he person that a photo-realist picture couldnt. The husband is definitely the most important person here. The tomb would have housed both husband and wife, but the husband would have been the one shown in any relief. We often have biographies of the tomb owner in tombs at this timethese are all of men, there are none of women. Since tombs were designed to ensure the owner could have an eternal afterlife, its difficult to say what the implications of this were for the wife- she must have been important to the man since she is shown here, but shes obviously less important. Does that mean she has a less inviting afterlife? Are offerings left for the husband envisaged as being automatically shared with her? Lets look at the way she is dressed. Tight sheath dress- very impractical, cant move! Nudity is very rare in Egyptian art outside of specialized contexts, but here she might as well be naked- you can see every detail of her body. Her sexual characteristics are definitely being stressed here and thus her wifely role of mother to Demedjis children. Obviously she was successful in this regard since their son dedicated the statue! Important in the Egyptian view of the afterlife was also the idea of rebirth, and this meant that women or female fertility figures were an important part of burial. This could be one reason why shes shown, and why shes shown dressed like this. The other important thing to realize is that everyone had the best tomb they could afford. This is why the king has the biggest tomb of them all, the pyramid, because hes the richest! We dont have tombs of non-royal women from this time, and this is likely to be because they had no independent means of their own. Women in AE, as throughout much of history, must have been dependent on their husbands for economic support. MAGIC WAND Hennutsen was a lady of the high elite, and were going to continue looking at non-royal women now, but through an object that would have been familiar to women of the lower ranks of society too. Well also begin to see the difficulties in interpreting some objects associated with women. This object is made from the tusk of a hippopotamus, which is why its curved. It has been more or less flattened out, and it has magical demons and figures carved into it. One end is shaped like a dog or jackal head. This is one of about 150 of this type of object that survives from AE, but this is one of the nicest examples. From what Ive just described, can anyone guess what it might have been used for? No? Exactly! You see the problem faced by archaeologists, and these objects can be called magic wands or magical knives, showing the difficulties. But there are a couple of clues. First of all, the figures depicted are mostly connected to the gods of the household. We have a hippo, who is probably the goddess of women and childbirth, Taweret. There is a bandy-legged demon figure, who looks like another god associated with women and

children, Bes. Theres a figure of a vulture, which is the Egyptian hieroglyph for mother. So, it seems likely this object is associated with women and children. There is also a little inscription on this example- protection during the night, protection during the day. So it has some sort of protective purpose. Its lucky we have quite a few, since there are longer inscriptions on other examples- let me read one out now. So the idea is to protect newborn babies and their mothers. This would have been very important in AE since childbirth was extremely dangerous for the mother and the baby. There were therefore many rituals and superstitious practices surrounding birth to make sure there was a favourable outcome. But exactly what part did this object play? Its very difficult to tell, especially since we only know where a few of these objects came from, and they were found in tombs. It has been suggested by some that the wand could be waved over a pregnant womans belly. Maybe. But there exists some examples where the tip of the wand has been worn down, which shows it has been used in some way. Therefore there is another interpretation that the wand would have been used to inscribe a sort of magic circle around the newborn baby to ward off evil spirits, and this is why we see some of them with worn down tips. What about the location in the tomb? Well, a lot of objects of daily life went into the tomb with the deceased person. But perhaps the reason this type of object was especially prized was again because of the connection of death with rebirth in the afterlife. Thus women, whatever their status in this life, were recognized in Egyptian thought as having a vital role in the cycle of life and death through their role as mothers.

COSMETIC SPOON Alabaster spoon. Handle in shape of a girl, bowl in shape of a gazelle. Although its small, v. fine carving. From the height of Egyptian civilization- time of peace, trad. Seen as encouraging rather dissolute behaviour, and this plays into how this object has been interpreted. Who do you think would have used this, based on the shape? What for? quote from 1941 article -generally called a cosmetic spoon, but only one found with ointment Again we see the problems of interpreting an object- no provenance and no written description to help us. -Whats the girl wearing? nothing! Nakedness v rare- must have some sort of special significance. -Nut- usually with goose, her husband Geb. Explains nakedness and swimming. Start to see the great significance of the iconography of this object. -Gazelle = Osiris, also cosmic significance Orion

-So how was it used? Probably NOT cosmetics. Possibly temple as an offering? Other types of spoons seen in relief. In which case only used by men! Or tomb? As we have seen again and again, death = rebirth and both Nut and Osiris have powerful regenerative imagery associated with them. So as you can see, this object has been interpreted as an object for use by a woman, because of a modern perception that delicate pretty things must be for use by a female! In actual fact this small object has a great cosmic significance and possibly was used by men. It does however show the importance of goddesses in Egyptian thought, and well return to this at the end. CANOPIC JAR Now were going to look at a royal woman. This object is again made of alabaster, which is an extremely hard stone- a jar this big would take days to hollow out with a drill. Carving extremely fine and inlaid with glass and stone, giving vital appearance to eyes. Alabaster slightly see-through- gives skin a translucent life-like quality. Dates from Amarna period, just a generation after the spoon. This period is very famous because of its religious reforms- the multitude of Egyptian gods are essentially denied by the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, who permits the worship of only one god, the sun disc who represents light itself. He is often described as the first monotheist in history. The art is notable for its sensuous lines and unusual appearance- can be seen here. -Canopic jar- for use in the mummification process. Four jars for the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver. Normally had gods heads as the lids. During Amarna period, this is a problem- no other gods permitted, and light cant be shown. So, the head of the deceased becomes the decoration. -Amarna women become very important- famous wife Nefertiti is portrayed with kingly regalia in kingly poses- some believe she ruled with Akh as coregent. Women, like light, have power to give life and so are very important. You can see the evidence of this here. -But who is portrayed? Bit of a mystery. Come round the back and look at how the name has been erased. Found in a tomb that contained items from Tiye, Akhenatens mother, Akhenaten himself, and a minor wife of his Kiya whose name has been erased from all her monuments and whose existence is only now coming to light. His daughters were also prominent and this used to be identified as a daughter. Inscription must be of Kiya. BUT look, lid doesnt fit body. Face looks rather like other depictions of Tiye. Whats happened here? Will we ever know? And why was Kiya wiped from memory? FUNERARY PAPYRUS OF NANY Book of the Dead. Beautiful colours, very rare. 5m long, found rolled up inside a statue of Osiris. Purpose of Book of the Dead is to provide your soul with safe passage through

the underworld after death- comes across many dangers along the way, needs the spells to help it through. Climax of journey shown here- the judgment ceremony. AE not in general a particularly moral society, but you must prove to Osiris, god of the underworld that you lived a good life, in order to progress to eternal afterlife. This takes the form of a negative confession: e.g. I have not caused pain I have not killed I have not taken milk from the mouths of children I have not robbed the poor Your heart weighed against the feather of truth- sins make it heavy. If its light, your soul is reunited with the other parts of your identity including your shadow, and if its heavy, its eaten by Ammit, the devourer. No hell- the greatest fear to an Ancient Egyptian was complete nothingness. You cease to exist. These scenes are exactly the same as they would be for a man. So whats all this got to do with women? Well, papyrus very expensive and pictures too- this is INCREDIBLY VALUABLE. And wheres the husband?? Compare with pair statue we saw first. So women now have some economic power- she is a priestess of Amun. Later in Egyptian history, women are able to gain independence, wealth and influence through their positions in the priesthood of the state god Amun. Nany is not even on the highest rungnot a Gods Wife. You can see that the role of women has evolved over time- women are still for the most part mothers and home makers, but for women of high birth like Nany, more freedoms were now available to them. SEKHMET Were going to finish with a goddess. Weve already seen with the spoon representing the sky goddess Nut that even if women were somewhat secondary to men in human society, goddesses were absolutely central to the Egyptian view of the world. Of course important as creators, but the Egyptians were well aware of the sentiment behind the phrase hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Womens creative power was a gift but a dangerous one- as in many other cultures women were forced to be faithful to their husbands, though not the other way around, because men were afraid that any children born to their wife might not be theirs. So, although the naked girl represented the goddess Nut whose sexuality was necessary for the sun to be born each morning, this sexuality was a dangerous thing. This is best illustrated by the goddess Hathor, a form of whom you see here. Hathor was a goddess of sexuality and usually shown as a cow, but here she is in her form of Sekhmet, a lioness. Name Sekhmet means the powerful one, and look how powerful she looks- a mane around her head, sun disc on her head, each whisker individually carved. Shes 7ft tall and weighs around 2 tons. Think back to Henutsen and how much smaller she was than her husband- if size = importance Sekhmet is very important! We have 2 here- there are another 5 exactly the same in the collection. Very impressive, no? Now imagine 730 all massed in rows. Thats how many AIII made. What a sight!

No doubt intimidating- as they should be. I said she was dangerous. Re king of the gods was angry at humans who were plotting against them. He decided to take revenge and sent Hathor. She ravaged humanity, killing them and reveling in the bloodlust, turning into Sekhmet the lioness in the process. Re decided humanity had learnt its lesson. But Sekhmet was so enraged, she could not stop. Re did not want humanity to die out completely, and so he devised a plan- he took vast quantities of beer and dyed it red. He then sent it into the rivers so that it looked like humanitys blood was flowing in them. Sekhmet was distracted by the sight of blood and in her bloodlust drank deeply. She became drunk and fell asleep, and in this way humanity was saved. Gentlemen, take whatever lessons from that story you will. So why did AIII need so many? Sekhmet, being a powerful and dangerous goddess, was also associated with sickness, and we know from historical sources that at this time there were many plagues in the NE at this time. To deliver Egypt? Or thanks for AIII recovering from an illness? We cant know. But it shows that femininity in AE could also be viewed as a source of strength and anger and was not, as some 20th C scholars have thought, just concerned with frivolous accessories for the dressing table.

Hope youve learnt a little bit about women and femininity in AE, and the difficulties they faced as well as the respect in which they were held. I hope Ive also conveyed how archaeologists construct Egyptian history from objects, and that Ive also showed that since interpretation is based on the biases of the interpreter, its best to have a healthy skepticism about some of that history!