You are on page 1of 10

A New Fragment of an Old Palette Author(s): Bernard V.

Bothmer Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 8 (1969-1970), pp. 5-8 Published by: American Research Center in Egypt Stable URL: . Accessed: 23/02/2012 09:29
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

American Research Center in Egypt is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt.

A New Fragment of an Old Palette

Bernard V. Bothmer Walter Federn loved problems, puzzles and pixies, and no one who ever met him and engaged him in a discussion, will forget his puzzled, bright-eyed expression when he felt himself confronted with a problem which made him raise his bushy eyebrows. In a way he himselfwas a pixy, a problem,a puzzle to all of us. He could discourse on any complex question at a moment's notice, and this writer vividly retains the memory of Federn's learned discussions on subjects as disparate as the meaning of the biw iwnw or the origin of the back pillar in Old Kingdom statuary. of the old school, he read A Privatgelehrter line every published in the field of Egyptology and kept a running account of corrections, amendments and addenda to every major study unfortunately in a minute that appeared script; and the maze of his original notes was intelligible to no one but himself. His vast knowledge, which he disclosed in a hesitating, modest and yet most engaging manner, brought a host of forthalas, mostly in conversation new ideas which, unendingly, he proposed as working hypotheses. His critical comments, so freely dispensed, deserved to be acknowledged in print far more than has actually been done.1 Here, in his memory, a problem is presented which deserves the scrutiny he himself used to lavish on all questions, large and small, in the quarter of a century from 1939 to 1964 during which he enlivened the Wilbour Library of Egyptology at The Brooklyn Museum with his weekly visits.
1 BMFA 49 no. 278 (1951) 102.

In 1966 the Museum acquired a relief fragment2 which originally had been purchased by a traveler from one of those vendors of scarabs, shawabtis, and unrecognizablycorrodedRoman coins who set upon tourists visiting the temples of Abydos. It is therefore more than likely that the relief fragment originally was found at Abydos.3 The fragment is decorated on both sides. The obverse, in raised relief (PL I, Fig. 1), shows a bearded man, facing right, who either has closecropped hair neatly outlined above his forehead and around the ear, or wears a tight-fitting cap of the kind later used by the god Ptah. Ear, eye, and nose are prominent and well defined. His left arm, the elbow close to the chest, is stretched out nearly horizontally and holds a vessel with flaring side, and a patterned cloth ( ?) which hangs down from below the vessel nearly to his advanced left foot. The right arm is raised, and the hand palm down either places some amorphoussubstance into the vessel or steadies the latter by holding whatever is heaped up in or on it. The man is dressed in a belted loincloth with central flap, perhaps a kind of penis sheath.4
2 Brooklyn ace. nr. 66.175. CharlesEdwin Wilbour Fund. Dark gray-green metamorphic slate (schist). From Abydos. Height 8.3 cm.; height of the man 7.1 cm.; width 3.8 cm.; thickness 2.2 cm. 3 For other palette fragments from Abydos, see H. W. Miiller,in AZ 84 (1959) 68 and 70. 4 This is also Asselberghs'(Note 5, below) opinion. For a long time there had been only casual references Kunstto this curiousgarment;e.g. Bissing, Agyptische I (1934) X3note 9> Donadoni, Remarks.. . geschichte (AEB 64121) 186. But now there is a thoroughstudy

8 (1969-I970) JARCE

The advanced foot has a baseline, or is stepping on something from which the foot is separated by an incised line. The right foot is missing; the left arm and left hand are damaged, and part of the cloth (?), the vessel and the vessel's contents are broken off. The straight break over the man's head and right hand suggests that another register of representations appeared above. The ragged edge of the fragment behind the man's back gives no clue to what was once shown on this side of the relief. The reverse of the fragment (PL I, Fig. 2) shows in sunk relief, on a much larger scale, a raised forearm from a figure facing left. Sinews and muscles of the forearm and part of the upper arm are well executed; the carving is a fine example of highly skilled craftsmanship. It does not appear to have been done at the same time and in the same workshop as the relief on the obverse. The moment this, in itself not very attractive, bit of relief came to the Museum, it was, of course, recognized that not only did we have here another fragment of the small group of schist palettes which range from the end of the Predynastic Period to Dynasty I, but also that presumably this piece was once part of the fragmentary palette in Cairo which, decorated in raised relief on the obverse, bears a sunk relief representation on the reversea unique piece so far as is known.5
available, written by an anthropologistfamiliar with Egyptian archaelogy: Peter J. Ucko, "Penis Sheaths: A Comparative Study (The Curl Lecture 1969)", in of G.B. and Ireland 1969, esProc.R.Anthropol.Inst. pecially pp. 36, 47-48, 51, 54, 55, 57. 5 Cairo JE 46148. Dark gray metamorphic slate (schist). Bought at Luxor, but probablyfrom Abydos. Height 14.7 cm.; height of men in central register 7.3 cm.; width 11.4 cm.; thickness ca. 2 cm. Bissing, 6 (1930-31) 1-2 pl. I figs. in Archivfur Orientforschung 1-2; Baumgartel, The Culturesof Prehistoric Egypt II (i960) 101-102 pl. VIII fig. 1; Asselberghs, Chaosen (1961) 252-253 and 340-343 pl. CII fig. Beherrschung 181 (obverse), pl. CIII fig. 182 (reverse); H. G. Fischer, Ancient Egyptian Representations of Turtles (1968) 20 pl. 9 (2 illus.).

The best description of the obverse of the Cairo fragment (PL II, Fig. 3) is that given by Asselberghs,6although one is inclined to prefer Mrs. Baumgartel's explanation of the third register. But the interpretation is far from certain. As a matter of fact, in a way the Cairo fragment's subject matter is more enigmatic than that of almost any other palette fragment known today; and in the light of the newly acquired Brooklyn fragment, the Cairo piece deserves to be re-examined by more competent authority than this writer.7 That the Cairo and Brooklyn fragments once were part of the same palette cannot be doubted. Style and measurements of the obverse of the Brooklyn piece correspondclosely to the obverse of CairoJE 46148 (PI. Ill, Fig. 5, showing a cast of the Brooklyn fragment beside the original).8 Although they were not directly adjoining on the original palette, the Brooklyn man is of the same height as the three men in the middle register in the Cairopiece, and the peculiar form of his garment is closely paralleled by that of the third man (furthest to the left) in the Cairo piece. The reverse of the fragment in Cairo (PI. II, Fig. 4) bears, as all authors agree, first of all the cartouche of Queen Tiy, Chief Queen of Amenhotep III. It is followed by hm.t-nsw.t, and underneath one sees the two feathers of the Queen's headdress with the vulture head.9
6 Loc. cit. 7 It is greatly to be regretted that Wm. S. Smith apparentlywas unawareof Cairo JE 46148 when the great scholar wrote his last article in BMFA 65 no. 340 (1967) 70-84. The interpretationsofferedby him therein form a major contribution to the understanding of the Protodynastic Period. 8 Thanks are due to Dr. Dia> Abou-Ghazi at the Cairo Museum who, as curator in charge of this object, was kind enough to remove it from its case and permit it to be photographedwith the Brooklyn cast, as shown in Figs. 5-6. 9 Probably without sun disk; see the headdress worn by Tiy on the stela behind the Colossus of Memnon: Borchardt, Der Portrdtkopfder Konigin Teje (1911) 25 fig. 38 left; and in the scene with her son in the tomb of Kheruef: Aldred, Akhenaten(1968) 121 fig. 41.


Bissing's explanation of the circular traces as those made by a hollowcore drill appears to be correct; his assumption, however, that the drill was used to destroy the palette is not convincing. There are easier ways to destroy a relatively thin slate palette than to employ a drill. At an unknown period, perhaps even in modern times, it may have been used as a protective layer, an "Unterlage,"in connection with a working process which involved drilling. Bissing's photograph was none too clear, and thus he did not readily recognizethe shoulder of the person holding the flail, presumably the king, on a larger scale, preceding his queen, as is shown in a relief in the tomb of Kheruefwhere he wears the jubilee costume.10 The straight line at the break suggests that the king was wearing the Lower Egyptian crown. If this is indeed a heb-sed scene the arm on the Brooklyn fragmentfacing toward the royal couplemight be that of someone gesturing in their direction. Who could this have been ? Of course, there is no proof that the arm belongs to this scene. As arranged in PL III, Fig. 6, it would be much too high to be part of a figure on the king's level.11 To return to the obverse, all one can state is that the little Brooklyn man with bowl and "towel" is of approximately the same height as the three men on the Cairofragment. His eye is executed exactly like the eye of the third figure on the extreme left; and since the two other figures are eyeless, one can accept a theory that we see here various stages of completion of each figure in the same row. Thus if the Brooklyn man belongs to the middle row, the arm on the reverse would have been that of a figure much bigger
10ASAE 42 (1943) 492 par. 27, pl. XL. 11Since the angle formed by the arm is acute and not obtuse it is most unlikely that the arm belonged to the Mr.t-sm* who often in jubilee scenes faces the king (but hardly the royal couple) with outstretched arm. On an unpublished relief in The Metropolitan Museumof Art (ace. no. 09.180.18; to appear in Hans Goedicke's forthcoming study of the Old Kingdom reliefs from Lisht) the Mr.t-smc stands on a high pedestal, her arm raised well above all other figures in the scene.

than the king, or of a person elevated above the baseline of the royal couple. Could this have been another figure of the king running and, in his forward hand, holding one of the accoutrements used in the ritual ? To add one more problem to the puzzle discussed thus far, it may be asked why just this one palette was reused in Dynasty XVIII. It surely was no haphazard choice and the reason must be found in the representation on the obverse which, alas, is woefully fragmentary. Did it perhaps originally show a scene which was interpreted a millennium and a half later as concerning a jubilee? We shall never know unless more fragments of this palette come to light. Certainly there seems to be a hint at some kind of special ceremony not only in the strange equipment of the Brooklyn man but in the cloaks worn by the three men on the Cairofragment which Asselberghs connected with the heb-sed festival.12 That this jubilee was celebrated as early as Dynasty I is now generally and attendants in short cloaks acknowledged;13 scenes of are indeed found in the famous heb-sed Neuserre.14 Could the two fragments have belonged to a heb-sedpalette of Dynasty I ? If this was the case, an explanation for its reuse and secondary decoration under Amenhotep III is found in a statement in Aldred's Akhenaten,page 185, which is worth citing in full: 'There may have been more than a touch of antiquarianism in this return to an earlier and more exalted status for the Pharaoh. During the reign of AmenophisIII the recordshad been diligently studied, not only in an endeavour to find the tomb of Osiris reputed to be at Abydos, but also to reconstitute the correct primal rites for the King's First Jubilee/'
12Op. cit. 253 top. 13 Bonnet, Reallexikon der dgyptischen Religionsgeschichte (1952) 159 R; Wm. K. Simpson, in Orientalia 26 (1957) I39~I4214Bis sing and Kees, Das Re-Heiligtum II (1923) pl. 19 for instance.

JARCE 8 (1969-I970) 15Although much remains to be added to this brief account of the Brooklyn-Cairo palette fragments, the present note has benefited a good deal from discussions of the problems of interpretation with C. Aldred, I.E.S. Edwards, T.G.H. James, W. Kaiser, A.F. Shore and J. Vandier.

Walter Federn would have relished delving into this whole subject in light of the new t>Brooklyn fragment.15 The Brooklyn Museum


Fig. i Palette Fragment. Brooklyn 66.175; obverse; Edwin Wilbour actual size. [Charles Fund)

Fig. 2 Palette Fragment. Brooklyn 66.175; reverse; Edwin Wilbour actual size. (Charles Fund)


Fig. 3 Palette Fragment. Cairo JE 46148; obverse; actual size.


Fig. 4 Palette Fragment. Cairo JE 46148; reverse; actual size.


Fig. 5 CairoPalette Fragmentwith Cast of Brooklyn Fragment; obverse.


Fig. 6 CairoPalette Fragmentwith Cast of Brooklyn Fragment; reverse.