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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cambridge University – Fitzwilliam Museum Colloquium: Reuse, Appropriation and Ownership in Ancient Egypt – Framing Our Understanding ‹ Egypt and Eternity ‹ Reader —

Cambridge University – Fitzwilliam Museum Colloquium: Reuse, Appropriation and Ownership in Ancient Egypt – Framing Our Understanding

The University of Cambridge and Fitzwilliam Museum held a two day Egyptology colloquium at the McDonald Institute for Archaeology on February 7-8, 2019, organised by Helen Strudwick and Melanie Pitkin.  In attendance at this conference were postgraduate researchers from Birmingham, Los Angeles, Liverpool and Cambridge, further attended by UK and international researchers, scholars and conservationists. What follows below is a

summary of attendance by Kelee M. Siat.   915B5B93-0842-4668-873A-5283A65CA2A1

Day 1

Helen Strudwick introduced the colloquium and welcomed attendees to query the terms and definitions of reuse and ownership, nbt3wy.  Helen's talk on 'Practicalities and Introduction: What is reuse? What is ownership?' demonstrated the surfacing questions about ancient reuse and the concept of ownership as it relates to material objects including burial goods.  Examples of coffins and tombs were used to demonstrate instances where names had been chiselled away, which opens questions about intent and reasoning for such activity.  By examining the additions made to coffins and tombs, through the alteration of some kind, questions remain as to how we can read into this; and whether terms like 'usurpation' or the revering of someone who was once the 'owner' of these tombs/objects can be strongly defined.

Julie Dawson's talk 'Inside Story: How CT-scanning can identify coffin reuse' explored how computerised tomography and micro CT are revealing more intimate details about the construction of coffins.  Ancient carpentry skills are being examined, where mortise and tenon joints, dowels and dovetail joints are scanned.  CT scan slices are revealing the use, reuse and repair work in many coffins that Julie has examined.  Julie's work has led to the identification of the cutting back of coffin exterior walls, and how on occasion the interior wall of a coffin is cut back and filled with paste.  In examining coffins, the use of plaster fillers are greater indicators for reuse. CT scans have enabled the identification of reuse and its signatory signs.  The appearance of redundant mortise and tenon joints is an immediate signifier of repair work or restructuring for reuse or repurposing.

Nour Badr addressed the case of royal coffin reuse in his talk on 'Reassigned, reused or borrowed?  The wooden coffin of Ramesses IV'.  Nour's work at the Grand Egyptian Museum has led to his intense exploration into how and why ancient Egyptians reused coffins.  His compelling talk revealed the use of several enhancement techniques to better examine coffins for reuse.  Nour explored ways that visibility can be improved through DStretch (an enhancement of the surface area which can expose previously invisible filler and reveal lacunae), USB microscope (assists in identifying layers with clear intensity), RTI images (hyper imaging identifying brushes used on painted layers), IR and UV images, IRL images (black and white imaging which can enhance some hieroglyphs), and IRF images (black and white chalky read, picks up old pigment – only on current surface layer).  The many techniques used by Nour has given way to revealing greater detail about the royal coffin reuse of Ramesses IV.  Technology is giving Egyptologists and conservationists the ability to access greater detail than previously able.

Kathlyn (Kara) Cooney altered her initial proposed talk on 'Evidence for coffin reuse in the 21st Dynasty coffins from the Royal Cache Deir el Bahri 320 / KV 35' to address the conference's proceedings thus far.  Kara spoke about 'Ritual Materialism in the context of Scarcity' looking at coffin examples, including the British Museum (BM) coffin of Muthotep.  The reuse of coffins based on her current data suggests that it was at its peak during the 21st Dynasty.  Defensive burials were proposed, adopted by the elite, reuse of funerary assemblage could be due to scarcity where there was a collapse of the society's prosperity.  Reuse was further discussed as a possible source of profit in material culture due to decreased commodity which could be a result of theft and robbery of burials in antiquity.

Karen (Maggie) Bryson was the concluding speaker with her talk 'Making it anew: The reuse of sculpture and temple decoration in the post-Amarna Period'.  She highlighted that the post-Amarna period experienced disenchantment regarding markers of ownership.  Maggie emphasised how statues were not simply used for aesthetic intent, but that they were part of material culture.  She explained that statues exist with a location, use and purpose.  She emphasised how the landscape and environment are important factors to consider in the behavioural (re)use of statues.

The end of Day 1 concluded with a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum Store to examine Middle Kingdom coffin panels and a First Intermediate Period stele for signs of possible reuse and further discussion.  The disscussion and viewing sessions were led by Fitzwilliam Museum – Cambridge University's Helen Strudwick and Melanie Pitkin.


Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University – Photo: K. Siat


Day 2

Adel Mohamed and Nesrin el-Hadidi presented 'Evidence of forgery of wooden coffins'.  They exposed techniques and methods of forgery currently being used in the manufacturing of fake antiquities.  The processes of modern forgery are examples of modern reuse/recycling where the need for money in a time of scarcity has led to the intensive skills of chemical reconstitution.  Adel and Nesrin addressed museums 'retouching' objects to recolour or cover imperfections as a form of accepted forgery.  They addressed three common forgery techniques: accelerated aging, burial and the addition of materials to alter a piece.  Alteration processes can be highly scientific and include the use of gamma rays, the burial of materials in excrement and in salt.  In order to tell the difference between the forgery processes and actual antiquities, USB Digital Microscope investigations add to the differentiation between the aging process techniques.  In their research, Adel and Nesrin could differentiate different woods and wax of modern forgery and antiquity by UV light comparison.  The techniques used by forgers are increasingly complex and scientific and it is important to be able to identify forgery amongst reuse.

Carina van den Hoven presented her talk 'Recycling the past: tomb reuse, ownership and appropriation in ancient Egypt'.  Carina looked into tomb reuse with reference to her two seasons in Luxor where there were altered tomb paintings.  In TT45 and TT54 there are altered decorations, however they are sympathetic in the original style when this redecoration (reuse) occurred.  Carina indicated that the probability of tomb reuse was during both times of stability and instability, where systemic and non-systemic reuse took place.  Systemic reuse would be defined as a cultural reuse (up to the Roman Period), where there the use of family plots in tombs were reused creating a generational tomb use system.  Non-systemic reuse is the use of the tomb for another purpose by a later culture.  Carina suggests the possibilities that the motivation for reuse includes family connections or commemoration; the duration of the an existing offering cult (where provisions would continue to be given to the same tomb via agreement from prior ownership); landscape phenomenology, where accessibility, vocation or prestige of location marks a site of importance; personal preference; or redistribution of tombs by a city administrator.  For documents discussed concerning tomb ownership disputes and the transfer of mortuary property see examples OBM EA 5624, O Florence 2621, P Berlin 10496, and Pap. Belaq X verso.

Koen Donker van Heel examined the choachytes, lay priests, and their roles in 'Get out of my tomb, please! Some random thoughts on choachytes, possession & ownership'.  The choachytes were lay priests who brought libations to a managed necropolis.  However, he examined the use of nb and the translation of its use as the 'owner' of or the 'manager' of a defined tomb or necropolis.  In the case of the choachytes, it would be a question of their ownership, whether they owned a field or they managed land or property.  Koen suggests that the term of ownership pertaining to land could be a concept that indicates an eternal or perpetual use by a general body such as temple management.  The real ownership could have been held by temples such as the Temple of Amun or Mut.  Under temple management, the choachytes would possibly have been assigned to look after the land's libations to a necropolis.  This type of 'ownership' would add to the economical sufficiency of the temple, increasing the amount of land that is managed, plus ten percent of the harvest (via taxation) would go to the temple, whereby funerary offerings could be sustained through this system of perpetual management.  Ownership much be examined on a broader basis and be assessed in possible cultural context and not be constrained by literal and modern definition and understandings.

Helen Strudwick led a discussion where attendees joined in to review the terminology of 'reuse' and 'ownership'.  Caution was suggested when using the term 'usurpation' as it can imply harsher associations.  'Usurpation' has strong connotations with thoughts of  'removal' or 'takeover', whether it is of an object to be renamed or redefined, or to be claimed as one's own.  It was further addressed that the 'legistimisation' of objects, tombs and coffins had largely not been discussed up to this point during the conference.

The continued general discussion suggested three types of reuse:  Destructive Reuse, Non-destructive Reuse, and Practical or designed Reuse.  An online system was suggested as one way to organise an open discussion and  allow academics and other fields to enter into conversation about how terms of reuse and ownership could be defined.  These definitions should include culturally diverse translations which would hold comparable international meaning.  The ontology of the words and terminology used is important for academic understanding.

The future possibility of a reuse database was exemplified by similar work that has currently gone into

Following on, Nicolas Reeves laid out compelling evidence in his talk on 'Tutankhamun: the decorated north wall'.  He outlined existing clues about touch ups and confusion surrounding the paintings and layout of Tutankhamun's north tomb wall.  Nicolas identified three phases of art on the north wall.  The figure representing Tutankhamun bears features that are reminiscent of feminine forms in ancient Egyptian art including the lips, chin and jaw.  Nicolas stated that there is a possibility that a prior existing figure in the painted register was a female form, a figure that could have been Nefertiti.  To get to this possible conclusion he used comparative analysis of Nefertiti's features in art  with particular reference to her bust.  Attention was drawn to the figure of Tutankhamun where his kilt has flowing ribbons, an usual artistic feature.  However, when his figure is overlayed with a female form in their dress garment, the ribbons match well to their position in traditional artistic rendering.  Nicolas reported that from the tests conducted by radar, 77% of the tests provide supportive data of another room behind Tutankhamun's tomb wall.  The art within the tomb of Tutankhamun continues to raise suspicion regarding more modern paint touch-ups (by Howard Carter in the past) and the inconsistencies brought to attention through radar and the potential of further rooms.

Miroslav Bàrta introduced his field work on 'Shafts and burials in the Old Kingdom' in the Abusir vicinity.  He examined tomb decoration from outside to inside, acknowledging the tendancy for an actual door to be used rather than a false door being artistically represented.  Miroslav highlighted the tomb chapel of Hetepi as an example of his investigation demonstrating an unusual location of the false door, where there also existed a 'porch' gap in the tomb layout.  He acknowledged a new kind of burial, the 'tomb as a model of the community'.  Attached to these sites, family tombs demonstrate a sense of belonging, the attachment of wealth and social connections.  However, the mystery continues at this Abusir location where many of the shaft burials were empty without recognisable use or intended reuse.  Old Kingdom tomb usage and 'robberies' could actually indicate a regular aspect of ancient Egyptian societal practices.

Nigel Strudwick closed the Day 2 session discussing 'Tomb and temple robbery in Late New Kingdom Thebes: its contribution to the reuse debate'.  Nigel adds to the debate where he discusses the possible definitions of tomb robbery and what it means.  He questioned the permanence of burials and suggested that the reusage of a burial tomb could be equated to conventional recycling.  Nigel referenced a papyri concerning the robbing of tombs and temples (Papyri Leopold Amherst 2:17-18) and echoed Miroslav by reassessing the term 'robbery' within an ancient Egyptian context.  When robbery is examined, Nigel calls for a deeper investigation into the ancient Egyptian concept of  'permanence' for burial, funerary space and goods and their reuse.

The end of Day 2 was concluded by the advanced invitation to attend the annual Cambridge University Glanville Lecture given by Koen Donker Van Heel 'Papyrus BM EA 87512: Always Look on the Bright Side of Wife?'.

In summary, the terms of reuse, ownership, usurpation, robbery and concepts of permanence must be carefully assessed.  The definition of these concepts are in the hands of the researcher to identify and explain their terminology.  Where definitions can only be equated to modern terminology, it is important that an international audience of academics can maintain an open forum to discuss reuse and ownership.  Broader definitions might be the way forward and more articulated definitions are left to be defined based on the uniqueness of one's research.  It is agreed amongst academics that this conversation is a necessary one, the conference has clarified that the investigation of reuse and ownership continues to deepen.

--   Sent from my Linux system.

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