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New Kingdom Treasures

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Extreme prosperity and renaissance in art and building projects mark the beginning of the New Kingdom period. Towards the end of the 19th Dynasty the increasing power of the priesthood corrupts the central government. During the 20th Dynasty tomb robbing is done by officials. The priesthood becomes hereditary and begins to assume secular power. The government breaks down.

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Head of a statue of HatshepsutThis head of a colossal statue of Hatshepsut would once have crowned one of the Osirian pillars that decorated the portico of the third terrace of her temple at Deir el-Bahri.  Some of the characteristic stylistic features of the statuary of Hatshepsut are present in this head.  The face is triangular and the features are very delicate.  The striking almond-shaped eyes, decorated with a line of kohl extending to the temples, have large dilated pupils, imparting a sense of innocence and purity.  The slightly arched nose is long and slim.  The small mouth is set in a faint smile.  The same face is found not only on many other statues of Hatshepsut, but also on those representing private individuals of the same period.   One unusual element is the dark red color of the skin, usually a feature of male images.  It is justified in this case by the fact that Hatshepsut is represented here as a pharaoh in Osirian form.  From what remains of Hatshepsut's headdress, it can be deduced that she wore the double crown symbolizing the union between Upper and Lower Egypt.  18th Dynasty
Hatshepsut as PharaohHatshepsut (1473-1458 B.C.) was the daughter of Tuthmosis I, and carried the blood of Ahmose who, two generations earlier had finally freed Egypt from Hyksos rule.  She married her father's son and heir, Tuthmosis II, who died before she could bear him an heir.  A secondary wife gave birth to the heir apparent, Tuthmosis III.  At the death of the pharaoh, however, Hatshepsut did not step down, but reigned as the pharaoh's widow.  After a number of years she then took the unprecedented step of declaring herself pharaoh.  In principle it was a co-regency, but it appears that for about 20 years Hatshepsut wielded power alone while Tuthmosis acquired his reputation as the Napoleon of Egypt, expanding and solidifying the Egyptian empire.  Twice before in Egypt, queens had reigned for brief periods, but never had they taken the title of pharaoh.  In keeping with the unalterable masculinity of kingship, Hatshepsut in many instances had herself portrayed as a man, wearing the royal false beard; in other reliefs and sculptures (such as is the case with this one) she is shown as a woman.  Here she wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt adorned with a Uraeus. 18th Dynasty
Ramesses II as a boyThis colossal granite statue was found in the ruins of a mud-brick building at Tanis.  The falcon's beak, carved from a separate piece of limestone, was discovered in an adjacent room.  The statue represents Ramesses II with the features of a young boy.  He is naked and seated.  He holds one finger of his right hand up to his mouth and a large side lock of hair descends to the shoulder.  Both of these features are characteristic of representations of adolescents in ancient Egypt.  The pharaoh wears a cap decorated on the forehead with a cobra, the symbol of kingship.   On his head is a solar disc and in his left hand he holds a reed.  This last detail is not found in the typical images of the pharaoh.  It indicates that, as in many of other representations of Ramesses II, the image is to be read as a graphic puzzle in the form of a rebus.  In hieroglyphic writing, the solar disc on the head signifies re, the child mes and the plant su.  Reading the three symbols from top to bottom yields the word Ramessu, the name of the pharaoh.  Behind Ramesses II looms the figure of the god Horun in the form of a falcon.  As in earlier statues, the falcon is symbolically protecting the pharaoh.   The bird is shown in a highly stylized manner, with details of plumage and the talons shown by incised lines that produce a geometric decorative effect, rather than a faithful representation of reality.  19th Dynasty

Limestone bust of MeritamunEven though only the titles and not the name of the queen are preserved on the rear pilaster, this piece has been identified as a statue of Meritamun, also known as the White Queen, a daughter of Ramesses II.  On the death of Nefertari (some time after the twenty-first year of the pharaoh's reign) she took on the role of the Great Royal Wife.   This identification was made possible by the discovery at Akhmim in recent years of an identical colossal statue of Meritamun found in the ruins of the Ramesseum.  The painted decoration of the statue is still well preserved.  The yellow of some of the facial features and decorative elements combines well with the blue of the wig, both of which are enhanced by the extremely fine limestone used for the sculpture.  On the top of her head, the queen wears a circular diadem, its base decorated all the way round with a frieze of uraei with solar disks.  From this base would have once risen a double plum with a solar disc at the center, a prerogative of the Great Royal Brides.  19th Dynasty

Colossal statue of AkhenatenPrior to founding his new capital at Tell el-Amarna, Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten between the fifth and sixth year of his reign, inaugurated a vast building program at Thebes, close to the temple of Karnak.  The young pharaoh's intention was to provide an alternative to the cult of Amun by the construction of four sacred buildings dedicated to Aten in the proximity of the stronghold of the Theban clergy who openly opposed the religious reforms.  To the east of the temple of Karnak, rose the Gempaaten, which translates as 'The solar disc has been found'.  This was the first shrine constructed by Amenhotep IV and consisted of a large porticoed courtyard oriented on an east-west axis.  Placed against each of the pillars in the courtyard was a colossal statue of Amenhotep IV, over five meters high and painted in bright colors.  Pictured here is one of the several colossal sandstone statues of Akhenaten found in the peristyle court.  His arms are folded and his hands hold the insignia of pharaonic power, the heqa scepter and the flail.  Around his wrists and on his arms, as if they were incised on bracelets, are cartouches with the complicated name given to the deified solar disc, 'Re-Horakhty who rejoices to the horizon in his name that is "Shu [or "The Light] that resides in the solar disc."'  Akhenaten's curious physiognomy has been the source of much speculation.  The statue has a height of 3.96 meters. 18th Dynasty, c. 1350 BCE.

Statuette of AkhenatenThis exquisite small painted limestone statuette of Akhenaten comes from the luxurious home of one of the nobles who adopted the religious reforms of Akhenaten and decided to follow the pharaoh to the city of Akhenaten, the capital founded in Middle Egypt.  The small statue would have been located on the alter that was usually found in gardens and where the daily rituals in honor of the Aten were performed.  The Aten was the the deified solar disc at the center of the religious upheaval in Egypt during this period.  The presence of an effigy of the pharaoh guaranteed the validity of the ceremony, given that only Akhenaten had the prerogative of making offerings to the god.  Akhenaten is shown in the act of making an offering.  His hands are holding a slab on which a number of foods and lotus flowers are depicted.  Although this type of statuary is known from as early as the Middle Kingdom, the pose in which Akhenaten stands portrayed is very unusual.  The fact that his legs are together contrasts with the most elementary rules of Egyptian sculpture, which always features male figures in striding poses with the left leg advanced.  And in the art of the Amarna period where light and movement played essential roles in figurative depictions, the immobility of the composition is all the more surprising and suggests that it was the result of a deliberate decision.  On his head, the pharaoh wears the Blue Crown (carved separately) which by Amenhotep III's reign had evolved from a headdress used mainly in military images to become part of the classic iconography associated with the monarch.  Akhenaten's body is also reproduced with the fullness of form typical of the portraits of this ruler, although perhaps not to the same degree as in other portraits.  The solemnity of the moment is underlined by the fact that the pharaoh is wearing sandals on his feet.   The Egyptians only wore this kind of footwear on special occasions or for religious ceremonies. 18th Dynasty
Canopic JarsVarious Canopic Jars used for the burial of the viscera removed during mummification. The specific organs stored in the jars were the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. In the late 18th-Dynasty the stoppers were human headed, as is the case for Tutankhamun's, but from the latter 18th Dynasty onwards it became more common for the stoppers to take the form of the characteristic heads of the four sons of Horus who were responsible for the protection of the organs. By the 19th-Dynasty these had completely replaced the human-headed type.
Four vases inscribed to YuyaThese four vases were discovered in the northeast corner of the burial chamber at the foot of the great sarcophagus of Yuya.   They were all found attached to a single base of painted wood and their interiors are hollow only to a depth of four centimeters.  Three have twin loop handles while the fourth has a false spout in the form of an ibex head.  The lids are carved in the shape of animals.  The first on the left reproduces the head of a calf with black markings, the second repeats the ibex motif found on the spout but this time the animal is shown reclining, the third has a frog and the fourth again features the head of a calf, this time with read markings.  Each vase has inscriptions addressed to Yuya painted on the body in two columns of cursive hieroglyphs.  These four vases, like many in the tomb of Yuya and Tuyu, were imitations of vessels made from more precious materials.   That they were not actually intended to be used is demonstrated by the internal cavities which are too shallow to be able to contain anything.  Their white coloring is undoubtedly a reference to alabaster.  Yuya's vases should therefore be seen as imitations of vessels that contained unguents and perfumed oils.  The fact that they were false did not prevent them from being considered as effective equivalents of the models that inspired them.  Their presence was sufficient to ensure that the contents of the vessels reproduced were symbolically part of the funerary equipment.  18th Dynasty
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All pictures are Copyright 1998 - 2001 Grisel Gonzalez

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