Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.02.47

Benjamin Kelly, Petitions, Litigation, and Social Control in Roman Egypt. Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents.   Oxford; New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011.  Pp. xix, 427.  ISBN 9780199599615.  $150.00.  

Reviewed by Georgy Kantor, New College, University of Oxford

Interest in the social history of provincial Roman law and in the reasons for which the provincials decided to resolve their disputes through Roman courts has been steadily growing in the last decade. Kelly’s monograph on the social history of litigation and dispute resolution in early imperial Egypt brings the debate back to its origins in juristic papyrology and is a major contribution to the subject. His main achievement, hard to overestimate, has been to produce, for the first time, a study based not on a small and relatively random sample of legal petitions and court minutes, but on the whole body of the published material: 568 petitions, catalogued in Appendix I, and 227 reports of proceedings, catalogued in Appendix III (Appendix II provides a checklist of petitions which did not involve dispute resolution). For all his prudent admission (p. 332) that the ‘aim of the social historian of ancient law should be typological, not cliometric’ Kelly comes incomparably closer to producing genuine (if rough) statistics than any of his predecessors. Kelly’s approach is informed by wide reading in social theory and anthropology, but he is never in thrall of theoretical approaches from outside the discipline and engages with models based on other pre-modern societies independently and fruitfully.

The first two chapters are introductory, presenting the argument of the book, a very brief sketch of Roman Egypt and a useful discussion of difficulties in using petitions for writing social history, aimed largely at an audience unfamiliar with papyrology. Chapter 3 deals with the organisation of the legal system and its efficiency in achieving its aims. Kelly's statement (qualified by a reference to SB XII 10929) that ‘there was no question of some officials having criminal and others civil jurisdiction’ (p. 82) does not fully convince. For Roman law the key distinction was between capital and non-capital (rather than criminal and civil) cases, and there is nothing to show that jurisdiction in capital cases was not restricted. Furthermore, we need to distinguish more clearly between jurisdiction and adjudication. The prefect still had the former in the cases he habitually delegated. None of this, however, vitiates the vivid picture of a chaotic way in which judicial hierarchy worked (pp. 79–86), which is what mattered for a common litigant. All-inclusive prefectural jurisdiction may have even exacerbated that. In other respects, however, the system is shown as more efficient than one could expect. In particular, Kelly demonstrates (pp. 92–4) that initial processing of petitions was normally very rapid, sometimes even within the same day. His opinion of the ‘quality of final decisions’ (p. 112) is high and he makes an interesting assessment of administrative culture behind them. Although Kelly concludes that the manpower of the Roman administration was insufficient and there should have been a high attrition rate of cases going through the system, this is mostly based on general considerations. One wonders, on the basis of his own data, whether Roman justice was not more efficient than he allows within its own terms of reference. Kelly’s definition of its aims, ‘to bring an end to disputes or to punish wrongs through an adjudicative act’, in common with ‘most legal systems’ (p. 75), takes too much for granted.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 25th Dynasty

by Timothy Kendall

The Nubian Conquest of Egypt: 1080-650 BC

Egyptian control over Nubia lapsed after the death of Ramesses II (ca. 1224 BC), just as the pharaoh's control over Egypt itself began to wane. In the early eleventh century BC Egypt split into two semi-autonomous domains: Lower Egypt was governed by the pharaoh, and the much larger tract of Upper Egypt was governed in the name of the god Amun by his high priest at Thebes. Nubia's last imperial viceroy, Panehesy ("The Nubian") became a renegade by waging war against the Theban high priests who were themselves military commanders seeking to extend their authority southward. By early Dynasty 21, most of Lower Nubia had become a no-man's land. Upper Nubia (the northern Sudan) became independent under authorities unknown.

From the meager data available, it would appear that those who ultimately gained control in Upper Nubia were people who had been little influenced by Egyptian culture. The old centers of the New Kingdom show poor continuity of occupation, and their temples became derelict.

Not until Dynasty 22 are African products again listed among gifts dedicated to Amun of Karnak by an Egyptian king. The donor, Sheshonq I (ca. 945-924 BC), and his successor Osorkon I (ca. 924-889 BC) are also said in the Bible to have employed Kushite mercenaries and officers in their campaigns against Judah. Assyrian texts of the later ninth century further note that the pharaohs were sending African products to the Assyrian kings. Such evidence suggests that the Egyptians during this period had re-established trade relations with the far south, but they never reveal with whom they were dealing. One can only assume that from the tenth century on one or more dominant chiefdoms had emerged in Nubia - again, as in the case of Kerma centuries before, beginning a process of material, cultural, and political enrichment through commerce with Egypt.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fall of the Egyptian Old Kingdom

By Professor Fekri Hassan

End of a dynasty

Nothing prepared Egypt for the eclipse of royal power and poverty that came after Pepy II (Neferkare). He had ruled for more than 90 years (2246 - 2152 BC) as the fourth king of the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Within the span of 20 years, fragmentary records indicate that no less than 18 kings and possibly one queen ascended the throne with nominal control over the country. This was the entire length of the 7th and 8th Dynasties (2150 - 2134 BC). In the last few years of the 6th Dynasty, the erosion of power of the centralized state was offset by that of provincial governors and officials who became hereditary holders of their posts and treated their regions as their own property.

Egypt, to be sure, survived the disastrous collapse of the monarchy. Within a century, Egyptians had re-invented centralized government. They refurbished the image of kings so that they were not merely rulers by virtue of their divine descent but more importantly had to uphold order and justice, care for the dispossessed and show mercy and compassion. The crisis that shook Egyptian society thus heralded the most dramatic transformation in the royal institution, which was destined never to be separated from this social function.

The crisis not only reformed the monarchy but also instilled the spirit of social justice and laid the foundation for mercy and compassion as fundamental virtues. It was these concepts that were later to infuse Christianity and Islam. It was these same concepts that eventually led to the overthrowing of monarchs who repeatedly usurped their powers and denied people their religious rights.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stunning face hidden for thousands of years: Wooden sarcophagus is unearthed at Egyptian necropolis

Encased in soil, this extraordinarily delicate face emerges into the sun for the first time in thousands of years.
(Photo courtesy of Jaen's University)

The wooden sarcophagus was unearthed by archaeologists at the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa in Aswan, Egypt. Believed to contain the body of a person of some rank, it boasts extraordinarily delicate features, well-preserved by the sands of time.

The piece was found by a team from the University of Jaen, in Spain, who have been carrying out digs at the site since 2008. Since starting a fresh excavation in January, they have also discovered 20 mummies and uncovered a tomb dating from around 1830BC. The dig is being led by Professor Alejandro Jiménez Serrano, who is working alongside 16 staff from Jaen, as well as universities in Granada and London. He said that his team came from a number of different disciplines which allowed a broad focus.
It had also allowed them 'to develop new techniques such as RTI or scanning in 3D which helps read hieroglyphic texts with greater accuracy,' he added. The team had already found two smaller tombs in earlier digs.

Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis was in use from 2250BC and provided a last resting place for some of the country's most important officials.

A string of 40 tombs cut into a rocky cliff face, the burial ground also forms one of the best vantage points of the city of Aswan.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2102035/Wooden-sarcophagus-dug-Aswan-tombs-Qubbet-el-Hawa.html#ixzz1mf5dC9OC

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mummies divulge Scotch secrets

By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH: Modern technology reveals the secrets kept for thousands of years by Egyptian mummies in a major exhibition at Scotland’s National Museum.

Scientists used advanced scanning techniques on the mummified corpses of a young woman and a girl child laid over her feet to reveal jewelery in the binding and also plan to tap their DNA to discover whether they are related.

The show, including the mummies and objects dating back 6,000 years from the collections at the Scottish museum and the National Museum of antiquities at Leiden, The Netherlands, opened at the weekend and runs through to May 27 when it will go on to Spain.

The exhibition is being staged in a new purpose-built space created during a $73.64 million renovation of the Edinburgh museum completed last July.

The vastly expanded space has allowed the museum to display objects not seen by the public for generations. Officials said 3 million people have visited the museum since July.

Jim Tate, head of conservation at the museum, said scientists at Liverpool University who scanned the mummies had identified a gold amulet in the young woman’s binding and created an exact copy as a gold-gilded titanium artefact.

Scientists now plan to use nuclear DNA tests to determine if the woman and child are related, Tate said.
The area holding the mummies and a series of coffins has been designed to resemble a tunnel into pyramids and tombs, providing an evocative and somewhat eerie atmosphere.

Museum director Gordon Rintoul said Edinburgh had a major Egyptology collection, with Alexander Henry Rhind, a Scottish traveller in the mid-19th century, one of the first collectors to scientifically record his discoveries.

Hanneke Kik of the Leiden museum said the institution had cooperated with an exhibition on Egyptology with the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City, Canada, three years ago. The current joint exhibition in Edinburgh had been two years in the making, and will go from the Scottish capital to six locations in Spain later this year.

Source: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Art/2012/Feb-17/163559-mummies-divulge-scotch-secrets.ashx#axzz1mf1JVwqz

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2nd phase of Khufu solar boat project to begin Monday

After being buried in the sand for 4,500 years, King Khufu’s second solar boat will soon be displayed next to its twin on Egypt's famous Giza Plateau

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 16 Feb 2012

At an international press conference held on Egypt's Giza Plateau next Monday, Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim is expected to announce the launch of the second phase of the Khufu solar boat restoration project, which is being carried out in collaboration with a Japanese archaeological team from Wasida University.

Ibrahim told Ahram Online that the team would collect samples of the boat’s wooden beams for analysis on Monday in order to draw up accurate plans for the boat's restoration in a special museum located on the plateau.

The first phase of the project, carried out two years ago, assessed the area surrounding the second boat pit with the use of topographical radar surveys. A large hangar has since been built over the second pit, with a smaller hangar erected inside to cover the top of the boat itself. The hangars were especially designed to protect the wooden remains during the project's analysis and treatment phases.

A laser scanning survey has also documented the area, particularly the wall between the Great Pyramid and the boat pit. Ibrahim pointed out that the first phase had also included the raising of 41 stone blocks that had covered the pit containing Khufu's second solar boat for the last 4,500 years.

The second boat, found along with the first one in 1954 by late Egyptian archaeologist Kamal El-Malak, is currently on display at a special museum on the northern side of Khufu’s Great Pyramid. The first boat was removed piece by piece and reconstructed by late Egyptian engineer Ahmed Youssef over the course of a 20-year period.

The second boat remained largely buried in sand until 1992, when a Japanese archaeological team from Waseda University offered a $10 million grant to unearth, restore and display it to the public.
Abdel Hamid Maarouf, head of the ministry's ancient Egypt department, said the team had cleared the pit of insects and found a hieroglyphic cartouche bearing the names of Fourth Dynasty King Khufu and Crown Prince Djedefre.

Ali El-Asfar, head of operations at the Giza Plateau, said that the Japanese team had also found that water had leaked from the nearby museum housing the first solar boat. The leak, they noted, had adversely affected some of the boat's wood, making it necessary to quickly wrap up the analysis phase and restore the water-damaged wood.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Animal Mummies Discovered at Ancient Egyptian Site

Date: 14 February 2012

A wealth of new discoveries, from animal mummies linked to the jackal god and human remains to an enigmatic statue, are revealing the secrets of an ancient holy place in Egypt once known as the "Terrace of the Great God."
The mysterious wooden statue may be a representation of Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh who ruled the land 3,500 years ago, the researchers say. She was typically portrayed as a man in statues, but this one, giving a nod to femininity, had a petite waist.

The discoveries were made during one field season this past summer by a team led by Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner, director of the excavation and a professor at the University of Toronto. The findings offer insight into Abydos, a site that was considered a holy place, Pouls Wegner said at a recent meeting of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities in Toronto, Canada.

Burial of a god

In fact, the earliest kings of Egypt, those who ruled nearly 5,000 years ago, chose to be buried at Abydos. Ancient Egyptians believed that the god of the underworld, Osiris, was buried there as well and there was a tomb at the site that they deemed to be his. According to legend, the god's brother, Set, killed Osiris and his wife Isis, then gathered his remains and brought him back to life. Their son, Horus, is said to have fought Set in battle.

A temple dedicated to Osiris was also constructed at Abydos and every year, in a great procession, the Egyptians would carry an image of Osiris from the temple to his tomb, where it was kept overnight with rituals being performed.

The procession ended with the image of Osiris returning to the temple to great fanfare. "There's a really neat reference on some of the Middle Kingdom (4,000 to 3,600 years ago) material to hearing the sound of jubilation," Pouls Wegner told LiveScience in an interview.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amasis: The Pharaoh With No Illusions

John Ray on a ruler who mixed laddishness with mysticism in the last days of independent Egypt.

There is no denying that ancient Egypt arouses great popular interest, but most of the interest concentrates on periods which have visual impact especially the Old Kingdom, the age of the great pyramids, and the New Kingdom, the time of Tutankhamun, Akhenaten, and the splendours of the Egyptian empire. But there are lesser known delights, and one of these is the so-called Late Period, although it passes for early by most people's standards (664 – 330 BC). This period is the subject of increasing interest to scholars, but otherwise it tends to be neglected, partly because of the lack of surviving monuments, partly because of a feeling that Egypt, by this time, had passed its prime and lost its identity along with some of its independence. (The French name for this period, la basse époque, captures this feeling well.) But this is misleading, as becomes clear if we consider the case of Amasis, the last great ruler of the twenty-sixth dynasty, whose reign lasted forty-four years, from 570 to 526 BC.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Priests In Ancient Egypt

By Marie Parsons

Priests in ancient Egypt had a role different to the role of a priest in modern society. Though the Egyptians had close associations with their gods ,they did not practice any form of organized religion, as modern times would define it.

The priests did not preach, proselytize, or care for a congregation. They were not messengers of any "divinely revealed truth." There was no single Holy Book on which the religious system of Egypt was based. In fact, the various cosmogonies developed at Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis are each different and even contradictory. The various myths and legends surrounding the gods were totally incompatible with the development of one coherent system of belief. One version of how the sun traveled across the sky described how Ra was ferried in his sacred boat, the Solar barque, whose divine crew the deceased King hoped to join upon his resurrection. According to another myth, the sun was born each morning on the eastern horizon to the sky-goddess Nut and traveled across the vault of heaven, which was her body, to be swallowed by her at sunset on the western horizon. A third explanation was that a giant scarab beetle, the god Khepri, pushed the fiery ball up through the horizon at dawn and rolled it across the sky.

No preaching was required because every Egyptian accepted the validity of the traditional religious theology, i.e. the world was created, ordered and governed by the gods, through the intermediary the king, the only actual priest in Egypt. It was accepted that people tried to live good lives in the hope of earning merit for the life to come; they didn’t need to be "converted" to a way that was already considered to be theirs. The authors of religious works had no responsibility for instructing the people as a whole in the ways of the gods. The same was true for the ritual priests.

Egyptian priests did have a vital role in the religious ritual of daily and festival life. Whereas today a god may be worshipped who is believed to bestow his grace upon his followers, the Egyptian priest offered and performed material and ritually magic services to the god of his temple, to ensure that god’s presence would continue on earth, and thus maintain the harmony and order of the world as it had been created. That was why the priests were called "servants of the god," or hem-netjer, the traditional title for a priest.