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Cultural and Religious Context of the Two Ancient Egyptian Stelae An Opening Paragraph

2019-10-20YifeiDeng

大东方 2019年12期
关键词:文献

Yifei Deng

Two Contextual Questions:

1.What are the functions of these two stelae? How do the two stelae reflect the Ancient Egyptians religious and funerary beliefs through the patrons families? How do the beliefs related to their time periods?

2.The visual information through the two stelae provides a context for us to understand them.What do the artistic symbols appearing in the stalae mean? How do these symbols relate to the families and the funerary culture in Ancient Egypt?

Thesis:

The belief of afterlife is one of the most dominant cultures in Ancient Egypt.The offering scenes depicted in the two stelae shows Ancient Egyptians belief of immorality and the connection between the deceased with deities.In addition,the concern of the tomb decoration for the high officials in Ancient Egypt reveals the importance of eternal life as well as their power and wealth.Moreover,the artistic symbols appearing on the two stelae shows Ancient Egyptians religious belief and culture,such as the solar disk,wedjat eyes,and Osirian elements,etc.

Cultural and Religious Context of the Two Ancient Egyptian Stelae

The belief of afterlife and immortality is one of the most dominant cultures in Ancient Egypt.The stalae,which is one of the important rich decorations and key elements in the pyramids for kings and burial places for high officials,function as an entrance for us to understand the Ancient Egyptian religious and funerary beliefs.The two stalae Funerary Stele of Tembu and Funerary Stele of Meri-neith Wah-ib-Re in Walters Art Museum depicts offering scenes of high officials families that shows Ancient Egyptians belief of immorality and the connection between the deceased with deities in order to transit into a successful afterlife.Moreover,the artistic symbols appeared in the two stelae,such as the solar disk,wedjat eyes,and Osirian elements,promote viewers insights of Ancient Egyptians religious belief and burial culture.

The historical and cultural context of Ancient Egypt provides us with a better understanding of the importance of Ancient Egyptians religious and funerary beliefs and their huge investment on the funerary decorations:“The belief in a life after death was one of the most conspicuous features of the ancient Egyptian civilization.”1 Therefore,Ancient Egyptians invest a large amount of money and labor on the constructions of splendid burial places for kings and high officials “with the decoration and outfitting of these tombs.”2 These elaborate preparations of death function as “ the transition from the earthly existence to an eternal life in the hereafter.”3 The deceased people wish to join either the underworld of Osiris,who “have suffered death before being resurrected to become the ruler of the Underworld”4 or the celestial world of the sun-god Ra who “offered to mankind the promise of endless rebirths.”5 Historically,the “renewed prosperity”6 of The New Kingdom “brought new developments in burial practices”7 and promoted more investments in the constructions.Moreover,the “large and newly constructed sepulchers”8 for high officials mainly “in the Mephite area”9 in the 26th-Dynasty also lead to the stelae decorations in high officials tombs.

Both of these Ancient Egyptian stelae are from non-royal tombs.The tombs for high officials have many painted funerary scenes “depended on the personal tastes and choice of the tomb owner.”10 The scenes can be appreciated by the living and function as a place for rituals and “festivals performed for the deceased.”11 They “form the link for the dead between his world and that of the living.”12 Some of the funerary stelae were “placed in front of the entrance”13 of the nobles tombs.Men usually owned them,and they “showed the deceased,often accompanied by his wife or mother,seated before a table of offerings,with a family member standing to perform the offering ritual.”14 In the New Kingdom,the inscriptions “usually written out in lines of horizontal text”15 in “a version of the offering fomula”16 are placed under the offering scenes.The offering formula “assures the provision of food and drink for the deceased.”17 Funerary stelae depicts not only the offering scenes between the non-royal family members like Funerary stela of Tembu,but also the offering scenes of “the deceased adoring one or several funerary deities”18 like Funerary Stele of Meri-neith Wah-ib-Re.“Stelae registers decrease in importance from top to bottom”19 and shows “hierarchy of being,deities rank over humans.”20 The more important figure such as gods and tombs owners “was usually given the dominant right-facing orientation,while the lower-status human figure faced left.”21 The scenes for non-royal stelae always “topped by paired wedjat-eyes”22—“beneath this protective composition with cosmic quality.”23 The functions of the offering scenes of the funerary stelae imply Ancient Egyptians wish of honoring and favoring the deities in order to protect the well-being of the individual's ka and the owners transition into a prosperous afterlife.

Funerary Stele of Tembu depicts an offering scene under a pair of “wadjit eyes flanking a shen-ring and water ripples with a bowl.”24 On the upper register,“Tembu seated with his wife on a typical 18th-Dynasty double chair”25 in front of a table which “holds offerings of bread,beef,vegetables,lotus buds”26 One of the daughters are “presenting a bowl of wines to her parents.”27 The second register depicts “the rest of the family,”28 including Tembus four sons and two daughters.The inscription of this stele shows the viewer the family members identity and names,and also indicates it is “an offering which the king gives,to Osiris”29 and the god of underworld would “give invocation offerings of oxen,fowl,and every good and pure thing on which the god lives to the Ka of the superintendent.”30 The offering scene reveals hierarchy of the figures and objects.The dominant scale of the topped wadjit eyes shows their significance as a “great protective power”31 for the deceased to “enjoy life in the kingdom of Osiris.”32 The scale of Tembu and his wife,larger than their children,also shows the importance of the two figures.Also the chair that Tembu and his wife sit on is “a status symbol.”33 In addition,the emphasis on the “lavishly stocked offering table provides nourishment for the afterlife.”34 It reflects the wealth of the high officials family as well as their wish to please Osiris in order to join in a good and abundant afterlife.

Funerary Stele of Meri-neith Wah-ib-Re also depicts an offering scene of a high official in Ancient Egypt.Like Funerary Stele of Tembu,this stele includes two registers and inscriptions that “record a request for funerary offerings on behalf of”35 the family members of the non-royal family.“Beneath a winged sun disk,the official is shown worshipping the lord of the underworld,Osiris,and his wife,Isis.”36 There is a table of “food and floral offerings”37 between the two gods and the official.On the lower register,Meri-neith Wah-ib-Re “makes a floral offering to his father,Psamtik,and his mother,Amenirdis.”38 The arrangement and composition of the lower register is similar to the upper register.In addition,the gestures of the official parents mimic the pose of Osiris and Isis.The hierarchical scale is also applied in this stele:the scale of the gods is larger than Meri-neith Wah-ib-Res parents than the official himself.It shows the decline of importance from the divines to the individual.The sun disk on the top “represents the sun god Ra”39 and “traces the suns path.”40 It “visually reinforced the concept of the suns passage and the symbolic orientation of the tomb.”41 And also it reflects the divine protection of the sun god toward the officials family.The Osirian Element is frequently used in Ancient Egypt stelae.“Osiris was subject to perpetual renewal in the reappearance of growing things”42 and also the ruler of the underworld.The large icon of Osiris in the stele shows “the great proclivity toward association with the underworld god Osiris.”43 The Osirian motif is “designed specifically to protect and revive the head of the deceased.”44 Isis,Osiris wife,is always accompanying Osiris on the offering scenes to symbolize resurrection.The Ancient Egyptians offer to Osiris and Isis in order to please and honor the gods on behalf of the family to join the good afterlife.

In conclusion,both of the stelae show offering scenes of non-royal families that become a class of Ancient Egyptian funerary stelae.The offering scenes are always under the large-scale symbol such as the wedjat-eyes and the winged solar disk as divine protection of the family.Both of them include two registers of offering scenes and hieroglyphic texts that express an offering formula in order to gain Osiris benefits on the behalf of the family members successful afterlife.The deceased “could be supplemented by the offerings”45 on the offering tables in the stelae and show their respect to gods or their parents through the offerings.In that way,the gods can assure them a good and affluent hereafter.The religious belief and funerary culture of Ancient Egyptian is revealed in the offering scenes and symbols of funerary stelae.Ancient Egyptians belief of immorality and the connection between deceased with deities show their wish of transitting into a prosperous afterlife.

參考文献

[1] John Taylor, “ Before The Portraits: Burial Practices in Pharaonic Egypt”, (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000), page 9.

[2] Jan Assmann,Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt,Translated by David Lorton,Cornell University Press,2005,page 17.

[3] John Taylor,“ Before The Portraits:Burial Practices in Pharaonic Egypt”,(New York,The Metropolitan Museum of Art,2000),page 9.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid,page 11.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid,page 12.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Abeer el Shahawy,The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt:A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter,Egypt:Farid Atiya Press,2005,page18.

[11] Ibid,page 17.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid,page 15.

[14] Gay Robins,The Art of Ancient Egypt,Harvard University Press,Cambridge,Massachusetts,1997,page 143.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Regine Schulz and Seidel Matthias,Egyptian Art:The Walters Art Museum,London:GILES,2009,page 58.

[18] Gay Robins,The Art of Ancient Egypt,Harvard University Press,Cambridge,Massachusetts,1997,page 143.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid,page 144.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Regine Schulz and Seidel Matthias,Egyptian Art:The Walters Art Museum,London:GILES,2009,page 58.

[24] “Funerary Stele of Tembu,” The Walters Museum online,https://art.thewalters.org/detail/12046/funerary-stele-of-tembu/.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Abeer el Shahawy,The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt:A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter,Egypt:Farid Atiya Press,2005,page53.

[32] Ibid,page 49.

[33] Ibid,page 51

[34] Regine Schulz and Seidel Matthias,Egyptian Art:The Walters Art Museum,London:GILES,2009,page 58.

[35] “Funerary Stele of Meri-neith Wah-ib-Re,” The Walters Art Museum online,https://art.thewalters.org/detail/14107/funerary-stele-of-meri-neith-wah-ib-re/.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Richard H Wilkinson,Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art,Thames and Hudson Ltd,London,1994,page 69.

[40] Ibid,page 66.

[41] Ibid,page 69.

[42] Stevenson W Smith,The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt,Yale University Press,1998,page 5.

[43] Richard H Wilkinson,Symbol & Magic in Egyptian Art,Thames and Hudson Ltd,London,1994,page 70.

[44] Ibid,page 72.

[45] Stevenson W Smith,The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt,Yale University Press,1998,page 5.

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