Tag Archives: hair

Hair was essential in Aztec Mourning like in Ancient Egypt.


Mourning is a extended practice in funerals of many cultures all over the world. Not just in Ancient Egypt, but also in some other African cultures, in the ancient Assyria or in Archaic Greece.

Recently I wrote a short text about mourning in Ancient Egypt for www.mexicolore.co.uk, an on-line platform for the diffusion of Aztec culture. My contribution was just a small text included in an article about the mourning among the Aztecs.

Aztec ritual weeping; Florentine Codex, Book 1.

 Aztec ritual weeping; Florentine Codex, Book 1. Photo: http://www.mexicolore.co.uk

 

American cultures prove, not only that crying for the dead in funerals is a practice inherent to human being, but also that hair is an essential element during the “ritual weeping”.

According to Katherine Ashenburg, Aztecs (central Mexico) had also, as in Ancient Egypt, professional mourners for crying for to dead kings and noblemen and for those who died in war.  Those Aztecs professional mourners did, together with the widows and the children of the deceased ones, a public lament, in which they cried and showed their long and disheveled hair as a proof of their sadness. In addition, during 80 days the widow (s) entered in a period of real dirty, since they could not wash themselves, nor their bodies, nor their hair…After that a ritual washing happened for concluding the mourning.

Native woman from Michoacan

Native woman from Michoacan plaiting her hair.

On the other hand, it is said that native women from Michoacan (in the south of Mexico) plaited her hair for catching in it pain and sadness.

Summing up, also in American cultures women’s hair was a very important element related to the mourning practices, as it was in the ancient Egyptian culture.

 

“Reading” the Ancient Egypt Funeral in the Tomb of Qar.


In Ancient Egypt art  not always all scenes of a decoration were connected. But when it happens, it is important to guess the correct order of them and “read” the story.

On January 13th we saw how a small scene from tomb of Qar could be a summarized or codified representation of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. But this is not the only surprise of this Egyptian tomb.

According to Simpson the normal order of the funerary scenes in the north wall was, following a more occidental logic, from the top downwards; so from left to right in the upper register and from right to left in the lower one.  The sequence would start with the three figures of the Drt mourner, the wt (embalmer) and would end with the arrival to the building on the left, which was considered as the embalming place[1]. However, the Egyptian logic in art was different from ours.

Scene of an Ancient Egypt funerary procession. Tthe tomb of Qar. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image from W. K. Sympson.

Scene of the funerary procession in the tomb of Qar. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image from W. K. Simpson.

The word identifying the building on the left is uabet , which means a “pure and clean place”[2], but not necessarily just for “embalming”. We also know that uabet from the Middle Kingdom also meant “tomb”[3]. Maybe the building in the scene was the Qar’s tomb. If we think like that, the decoration then maybe should be read in a different direction; in fact sometimes Egyptian artists designed a decoration from down to top.

The sequence would start at the right of the lower register. The cortège moves the coffin on the boat until the uabet building, the tomb (this would be a reproduction of the Egyptian mythical voyage to Abydos), the burial place and also the embalming place. We notice that the corpse is being accompanied by the two Drty mourners with short hair, the wt (embalmer) and the lector priest.

Ancient Egypt funeral. The coffin on a boat is being moved to the tomb. The mourners Drty are at both extremes of the coffin, in the prow sit the lector priest and the embalmer. Tomb of Qar. Giza

The coffin on a boat is being moved to the tomb. The mourners Drty are at both extremes of the coffin, In the prow sit the lector priest and the embalmer. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Photo: http://www.archaeology-archive.com

In the upper register the artists represented what it was happening inside the uabet building. There are always three main figures: the lector priest, the wt (embalmer) and the Drt mourner. And their presence allows us to divide the upper register in three scenes:

1)      They three and the coffin transport. That would be the staff and the mummy getting into the tomb.

The Drt mourner, the embalmer and the lector priest in front of the w3t. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Photo: www.allposters.com

The Drt mourner, the embalmer and the lector priest in front of the w3t. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Photo: http://www.allposters.com

2)      They three inside the w3t. This Egyptian word meant “way” or just “a part of a place[4]. Inside the w3t there is:

  • The tools of the Hmt (artisans),
  • The tools of the lector priest.
  • All necessary for the purification of the feeding[5]. It should refer to the final food offerings.
  • The icon shows that in this w3t there is water.

All these four points refers to what the staff needed for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, as we can see in some tombs of the New Kingdom.

Funerary practice in the mastaba of Qar with lector priest, embalmer and mourner Drt; the scene is closed by two images of an ox. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Ancient Egypt. Image: W.K. Sympson.

Funerary practice in the mastaba of Qar with lector priest, the embalmer and the mourner Drt; the scene is closed by two images of an ox. V-VI Dynasty. Giza. Image: W.K. Simpson.

3)     They three during the D3t r3 and the slaughter of the ox. We have already seen that this image could be a way of representing the Opening of the Mouth ceremony.

Summing up, the decoration of the north wall in the tomb of Qar could be read from down to top. The artist would have “narrated” the arrival of the funerary procession to the tomb, the resurrection rites practiced on the mummy and for that reason finally at the final top of the wall Qar sits alive in front of his funerary offerings.

Qar sits in front of his funerary offerings. Scene at the top of the north wall. Funerary ceremony below. Ancient egyptian funerals. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Photo: W. K. Simpson.

Qar sits in front of his funerary offerings. Scene at the top of the north wall. The funerary ceremony is below. Tomb of Qar in Giza. V-VI Dynasty. Photo: W. K. Simpson.

 


[1] Simpson, William K., The Mastabas of Qar and Idu. G 7101 and G 7102.  Vol. 2. Boston. 1976, p. 5

[2] Wb I, 284

[3] Wb I, 284, IV

[4] Wb I, 248, II

[5] This inscription deserves special attention, because it is not too clear. It seems to refer to purification (abu) of the “feeding” (D3t r3).

Aside

Looking at the walls of Egyptian tombs belonging to the Old Kingdom we are aware that artists at that period of the Egyptian history represented funerary ceremony not in such an explicit way as they did later on. The mastaba … Continue reading

Aside

Shaving the Mourners in Ancient Egypt during the Old Kingdom. We have already seen that there are proves of a practice in Ancient Egyptian funerals of cutting and then offering the hair of the two Drty (”kites”), who made a … Continue reading

Nut with disheveled hair in the Coffin of Nefer-Renepet


Recently Branislav Andelkovic and Jonathan P. Elias published an article about the wooden coffin of Nefer-renepet from Akhmin  donated by E. Brummer to the Museum of Belgrade (Ernest Brummer and the Coffin of Nefer-Renepet from Akhmin, Issues in Ethnology and Anthropoly, n.s., Vol. 8, Is. 2, 2013, pp 565-584) http://www.anthroserbia.org/Content/PDF/Articles/60b0534bab3c41509c430f29feea8df3.pdf

Coffin of Nefer-Renepet. XXX Dynasty. Museum of Belgrade. Photo: www.anthroserbia.org

Coffin of Nefer-Renepet. XXX Dynasty. Museum of Belgrade. Photo: http://www.anthroserbia.org

This Egyptian coffin had been dated somewhere between the XXII and the XXV Dynasties. The authors show thanks to the decoration and the writings that the coffin of Nefer-Renepet might belong to the XXX Dynasty. Interesting for us is the image of Nut into the cover, with her rising arms and her standing up hair. This image was one of basis for dating the coffin so late in the history of Ancient Egypt, so the authors related it to many other image of Nut in that way at that period.

He point for us is that the authors reefer to  Brunner and Pitsch (1984), who linked this late image of Nut to the spells 638 and 1607 of the Pyramid Texts: ”Thy mother Nut has spread herself over thee, in her name of “She of Št-p.t“. According to them, this image of Nut has a protective meaning, the goddess would protect the deceased during the hours of the night and the day.

We do not deny that this was a part of the function of Nut forwards the dead. However, as long as we have seen in our research, the image of Nut with disheveled hair inside the cover of the coffin was directly related to spell 2171 of Pyramid Texts, which in a very precise way describes this image of Nut:” Nut has given her arms to thee, N., she of the long hair, she of the hanging breasts”. In fact, the spell describes perfectly the image of Nut in the coffin of Hornedjitef from the Ptolemaic Period (under the reign of Ptolemy III).

Coffin of Hornedjitef from Ptolemaic Period.

Coffin of Hornedjitef. Ptolemaic Period. British Museum. Photo: http://www.britishmuseum.org

This iconography of Nut bended forwards and with her hair falling down and appeared also lately in the history of Ancient Egypt in the outer part of some coffins or even in some stelae.

Funerary stele of Lady Taperet with an image of Nut in nwn gesture. XXII Dynasty. Musée du Louvre. Photo: www.nybooks.com

Funerary stele of Lady Taperet with an image of Nut in nwn gesture. XXII Dynasty. Musée du Louvre. Photo: http://www.nybooks.com

The Egyptian goddess had the two roles, on one hand she was the protective sky over the dead, but on the other hand Nut was the mother, who bends her body, whose hair falls down and who gives her breast to the deceased. Inside the coffin this image was the symbol of maternity and the coffin became the womb, so it granted the rebirth of the corpse.

It is also interesting to notice the orientation of the image of Nut inside the cover of these coffins; her face would coincide with the mummy’s face, while we can see the cavity for the feet. His position would recreate the birth, the first part of the body going out from the womb is the head, so the deceased is not facing the goddess, but Nut is receiving her new born baby.

Hair and Death in Ancient Egypt: Bibliography.


Dear fellows,

following the requirement from some of you I send you here enclosed the biliography.

Scribe. XVIII Dynasty. Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: www.dia.org

Scribe. XVIII Dynasty. Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: http://www.dia.org

I hope this can help to some of you, specially students making their research.

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Classical Authors

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

ÄA, Ägyptologische Abhandlungen, Wiesbaden.
AcOr(K), Acta orientalia, Kopenhagen.
AEB, Annual Egyptological Bibliography, Leiden.
AH, Aegyptiaca Helvetica, Basel-Genf.
APAW, Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin.
ASAE, Annales du service des antiquités de l‟Égypte, Cairo.
BdE, Bibliothèque d‟étude, Institut français d‟archéologie orientale, Cairo.
BibliÉg., Bibliothèque égyptologique comprenant les oeuvres des égyptologues français dispersées dans divers recueils et qui nónt pas encore été réunies jusqu‟à ce jour, publiée sous la direction de G. Maspero, Paris.
BCLEVL, Bulletin du Cercle Lyonnais d‟Égyptologie Victor Loret. Lyon.
BIFAO, Bulletin de l‟institut français d‟archéologie orientale, Cairo.
BiOr, Bibliotheca Orientalis, Leiden.
BSEG, Bulletin de la Société d‟égyptologie de Genève, Genf.
CdE, Chronique d‟Égypte, Bruselas.
CGC, Cataloge général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du caire, Cairo.
CSEG, Cahiers de la Société d‟égyptologie de Genève.
CT, A. De Buck, The Egyptian Coffin Texts, Vols. 1-7, Chicago, 1935-1961.
DAIK, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. Wiesbaden bzw. Mainz.
DFIFAO, Documents de fouilles de l‟institut français d‟archéologie oriental du Caire, Cairo.
EEF, Egypt Exploration Fund, memoirs, Londres.
EES, Egypt Exploration Society, memoirs, Londres.
ERT, Egyptian Religious Texts and Representations, Nueva York.
IFAO, Institut français d‟archéologie oriental du Caire, Cairo.
JEA, Journal of Egytian Archaeology, Londres.
JNES, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Chicago.
KRI, Kitchen, K. A., Rameside inscriptions. Historical and Biographical. VI, Oxford, 1969.
LÄ, Lexicon der Ägyptologie, Wiesbaden.
LAPO, Littératures anciennes du Proche-Orient. Textes égyptiens, Paris.
LdM, Barguet, P., Le Livre des Morts des Anciens Égyptiens, LAPO 1, París, 1967.
MÄS, Münchener ägyptologische Studien, Berlín- Munich.
MDAIK, Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abt. Kairo, Wiesbaden bzw. Mainz.
Mélanges Gutbub, Mélanges Adolphe Gutbub, Montpellier, 1984.
MIFAO, Mémoires publiés par les membres de l‟institut français d‟archéologie orientale du Caire, Cairo.
MIO, Mitteilungen des Instituts für Orientforschung, Berlín.
MMAF, Mémoires publiés par les membres de la mission archéologique française au Caire, París.
OBO, Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Fribourg/ Göttingen.
OLA, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Löwen.
OMRO, Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden, Leiden.
Pyr., K. Sethe, Die altägyptischen Pyramidentexte, Vols. 1-4, Leipzig, 1908-1922.
RÄRG, H. Bonnet, Reallexikon der ágyptischen Religionsgeschichte, Berlín.
RdE, Revue d‟égyptologie, Cairo bzw. París.
SAK, Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Hamburgo.
SourOr., Sources Orientales, París.
UGAÄ, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte und Altertumskunde Ägyptens, Leipzig-Berlín bzw. Hildesheim.
Urk., G. Steindorf, Urkunden des Ägyptischen Altertums, Leipzig bzw. Berlín.
Wb, A. Ermman; H. Grapow, Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache, Berlín.
ZÄS, Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, Leipzig bzw. Berlín.

 

Book: “Hair and Death in Ancient Egypt”.


Dear followers,

We have already posted the core content of the research about hair and death in Ancient Egypt. But, we do not stop!

Scribes from the mastaba of Ty in Saqqara. VI Dynasty.

Scribe from the mastaba of Ty in Saqqara. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Following the request from some of you, the next step will be to publish the book about it. Obviously it will not have the same strucure as it has had in the blog, and we are still considering if making just a digital version or borth (digital and paper). Your opinion in that point is crucial. Anyway, we hope that it will be ready for next 2014.

The blog still goes on. There are too many aspects of the hair into the funerary belief of Ancient Egyptthat worth it.

We will keep on posting about it, although with less frequency.

We hope you will stay with us.

Thank you for being there!!!!