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A Silver Libation Bowl from Egypt

Author(s): A. F. Shore
Source: The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1/2 (Winter, 1964-1965), pp. 21-25
Published by: British Museum
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conventions normallyobserved by an Egyptian craftsman(P1. ix bottom). The

centre point of the decorationis a carved female head of the goddess Hathor,
with cow's ears and elaboratewig with curled lappets. It is placed between two
lotiform columns and doubtless representsa temple or shrine. From the left
approachesa processionof animalsand musicians.At the head is the figure of
a gazelle, its gracefulshape awkwardlyand lifelessly depicted. It is followed by
a bull whose forelegs are bent in the act of crouching down. Behind come four
figures, each adornedwith a lotus flowerin the hair, in keeping with the festive
natureof the scene. The leaderis male, wearinga long tunic with fringed border
which seems to have come into fashionduringthe Persianperiod.He playsupon
a tambourine.The second figure, similarly dressed in a slightly shorter tunic,
strikesa four-stringedlyre. Behindhim a womanin a long fringedtunic is shaking crotales,two cymbals fixed on the end of a V-shapedwooden handle. The
carving of the figure suggests a kind of quick rhythmic shuffle. The fourth
figure, clad apparentlyonly in a fringed cape, may be a dancing girl ratherthan
a musician; she leans forwardfrom the hips and holds in her left hand an unidentifiedrectangularobject. The rearof the processionis broughtup by a male
figure, dressed in the conventionalkilt of the Egyptian, who is playing on the
double pipes. The remainingspace of the bowl is occupied by a second gazelle,
facing the temple faqade.Round the base of the bowl is a patternof tips of the
lotus leaves: a large rosette adornsthe under surface.
No. 47992, h. 3 in. dia. 6 in.
The form of the definite articlepi, and of the
god's name
(in Petearpocrates)are particularly
3 W. Erichsen, Demotisches Glossar (Copenhagen, 1954), p. 671; W. Spiegelberg, Koptisches
Handwirterbuch(Heidelberg, 1921), p. 278. I am
indebted to Professor Malinine who first sugI

gested the reading to me.

4 Vol. v, p. 402, sub t.s.w.
s Mustafa el-Amir, A Family Archive from
TAebes(Cairo, 1959).
6 Ibid., pp. 4-5.
SWibrterbuchder AegyptischenSprache,vol. v,
iv 'der Minnlichste der G6tter',
p. 344 sub
used of Amun,
t.y Min, Osiris, and



CCORDING to figuresgiven in the GreatHarrisPapyrus,morethan

5,ooo vessels of gold and silver were presentedto Egyptian temples by

the pharaoh Ramesses III (c. I 198-I 166 B.c.) for use in the gods' service.

That little has survivedamong the materialremainsof Egypt in illustrationof

these colossal royal benefactionsis scarcelya matterof surprise;only in exceptional circumstanceswould temple treasurehave escaped being melted down.
By some curious chance most surviving examples have been recovered,so far
as it is possible to affirmtheir provenance,from the komsof the Delta, either as
hoardsburiedfor safety in the ground, presumablyat some momentof imminent

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threat to security, or as unrecovereddeposits concealed beneath the rubble of

brick-builtchamberswhich had collapsed as a result of some natural disaster
or hostile action.
Earliestin date of the finds of this natureis the considerablecollectionof gold
and silver vessels discoveredby chance in I906 at Tell Basta(Bubastis,modern
Zagazig) during the removalof earth by workmen employed by the Egyptian
State Railwayson a new cutting.' Included in the find were pieces bearingthe
cartouche of Queen Tawosret, the last representativeof the XIXth Dynasty
(c. 1200 B.C.). Some of the objectshadalreadybeen dispersedbefore actionby
the Egyptian Antiquities Service recoveredthe major part of the treasureand
investigationof the areaof the find, about 160 metreswest of the greattemple of
the goddess Bastet, resulted in the discoveryin I907 of a second hoard, which
includeda pairof gold braceletsinscribedwith the nameof RamessesII (c. 1304I237 B.c.). The ground in which the objects lay was a waste area,clean of other
antiquities,without tracesof buildings,lying apparentlyoutsidethe main temple
precinct. Contraryto earlier accounts, the two hoards seem to form a homogeneous group datingto the end of the XIXth Dynasty (c. 1200 B.c.).z
Other finds in the Delta belong to a later period. If persistentreportis to be
credited, one group, brought to light as recently as 1947 and said to originate
from Tell el-Maskhuta (Pithom) in the eastern Delta, had associatedwith it
gold-mountedagates, silver Atheniantetradrachms,of a type currentlyassigned
to the fifth century B.c., and barbarousimitationsdating perhapsto the end of
the fifth centuryor to the beginning of the fourth.3Eight completevessels and
fragmentsof at least eight othersare now in the BrooklynMuseum, New York.4
Four bear short dedicatorytexts in Aramaic,dated on palaeographicalgrounds
to the fifth century B.c.s Connected with the varied material from Tell elMaskhutais a silver head-vaseof exceptionalinterest,now in the Departmentof
Greekand RomanAntiquities,acquiredtogetherwith a small fragmentof silver
belonging to a phiale of the type now in BrooklynMuseum.6Possibly also connected with the same hoard is a silverphiale with Aramaicinscription,though
stylistic arguments have been advancedwhich might seem to place it later in
Silver coins of the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (304-282 B.C.)and of Ptolemy
II Philadelphus(285-246 B.c.) were found with another hoard, discoveredby
the Egyptian Antiquities Service at Tukh el-Qaramous,about twelve miles
north-eastof Bubastis.8The deposit of plate andjewellerylay in two brick-lined
chambersin a block of brickconstructionsat the rearof the temple. In some such
similar conditions, in the rubble of collapsed buildings, five silver vessels were
found by Emile Brugsch in 1871 at Tell Timai (Thmuis).9 There were no
externalindicationsof the date of this deposit but close stylistic analogiesexist
between it and some of the materialfrom Tukh el-Qaramous.Clearlyalso to the

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same period belongs anothergroup of five silver bowls, acquiredby the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts in 1917.o10

Hitherto the Department of Egyptian Antiquities has had no example of

silver plate from these or other isolated discoveries in the Delta. The recent
purchasethereforeby the Trusteesof a silverphialeor libationbowl, of unknown
provenancebut manifestly belonging to this category of Delta finds, is a welcome addition to the Egyptian collections." The bowl (no. 66639, P1. x) is
15-2 cm. (6 in.) in diameter,measuredfrom the outside of the rim and 3'3 cm.
in.) in height. When it was discoveredit was in poor condition, bent and
(Idamaged,but it has at some time been skilfullystraightenedto its originalshape
and modernlyrestored.The outside presentsthe appearanceof a blue lotus in
open flower as seen from above. At the centre, the flower itself and the radial
pattern of its stamens are representedby a rosette in relief, originally gilded.
Radiatingfrom the centre are twelve complete petals, with sharp pointed tips,
roundedbasesand raisedmid-ribs,alternatingwith twelve other petals,of which
only the upper part is shown. Around the outer edge twenty-fouroval-shaped
bosses, originally gilded, are symmetricallyarrangedbetween the twenty-four
pointed tips. The bosses may have been intendedas lotus-buds:they served the
practicalpurposeof allowing the user a better purchasewith his fingers on the
bowl. Above the decoratedbase is a horizontalgroove and straight plain band.
The interiorof the bowl is undecoratedexcept for a small rosette with tracesof
the original gilding, similarto that on the exterior.The cup is heavy and solid,
the walls too thick for repouss6work; it may have been spun on a lathe. As in
the case of other bowls from the Delta, it shows a marked indentationon both
sides on the centre of the rosette.
In shape and decorationthe cup has clear affinitieswith two of the bowls
from Thmuis now in Cairo. One of the latter (CG 53275) is of almost identical
size and differs in design only in the greater number of petals, thirty all complete.'2 The other (CG 53277) is of the same height but is largerin diameter;'3
the petals, twenty-eightin number,are executed in the same way as the British
Museum bowl. Closerstill in generalappearanceis one of the bowls acquiredby
the MetropolitanMuseum, in 1917 ;14 it is slightly larger, measuring 4-4 cm.
in height and I7-6 cm. in diameter,and has fourteensegmentsaroundthe rosette
comparedwith twelve aroundthe British Museum example. Similarin style are
two cups,one fromthe Tukh el-Qaramousfind'sandone fromTell el-Maskhuta,'6
though in both cases the bosses are absent.
It is in the natureof such hoardsor depositsof temple platethat the individual
pieces may be earlierthan the actual date of their concealment.Coins such as
those associated with the finds of Tukh el-Qaramousand, apparently, Tell
el-Maskhuta, indicateonly a date before which the hoard could not have been
concealed and furnish a date before which the individual pieces of plate and

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jewellery are likely to have been manufactured.The circumstantialevidence of

the inscriptionsand of the coins, as well as the strong Achaemenidconnexions
of some of the designs, suggests that the date of the vessels from Tell el-Maskhuta is in the second half of the fifth century B.C.
The vessels from the other finds noted above, together with the Museum's
acquisition,can scarcelybe much later than the Tell el-Maskhutamaterial.The
points of similarityin shape and in design are too great to allow the presenceof
coins of the Early Ptolemies at Tukh el-Qaramousin themselves to justify the
postulation of a post-Alexanderdate for vessels of this kind. They must be
brought within the same ambit as the Tell el-Maskhutafinds.
From the historicalpoint of view it is likely that these examples of temple
plate which have now been found in some quantityrepresentgifts made to the
temples of the Delta during the period of the First Persian Rule, lasting over
I20o years, when Egypt, though reduced to a satrapy, enjoyed a measure of
security and peace which allowed the full exploitationof her naturalresources.
What little that is known of the Dynasty from contemporarysources scarcely
bears out the hint of oppressionand misery depicted in later literary sources,
and it may yet be provedby fresh discoveriesthat the First PersianPeriod made
a more significant contributionthan has been hitherto suspected to Egyptian
culture. A recently edited demotic papyrusof the Roman Period can be shown
to have been directlyinspiredby Babylonianastrologyintroducedinto Egypt at
the time of Darius.'7 The disturbed conditions in Egypt from 404 B.c. until

the advent of Alexanderthe Greatin 333, when the Delta was the battleground
of native princes,Greek mercenaryleaders and Persian satraps,would explain
the not infrequentoccurrenceof these hoards.
Whether or not the lotus design on the phiale was of foreign inspirationis
uncertain. There are no features which would necessarily exclude a possible
Egyptian origin. The rich resourcesof the Nile Valley in floraand fauna were
one of the chief sourcesof inspirationfor decorativeart. These bowlsfrom Egypt
are, however, only part of the surviving materialin this style which is found
elsewhere in the Persian empire.'8 Chronologicalconsiderationsallow no conclusions to be drawn regardingpriority.In view, however, of the time and the
placeof the appearancein Egypt of these designs, not foreshadowedin the earlier
Tell Basta find or in the metal-workfrom the royal cemeteriesof Tanis,'9 it is
probable that their employment represents a definite Persian contributionto
Egyptian art, at least to that of the still largely unexploredDelta region.
C. C. Edgar in Le Musle ?gyptien, ii (Cairo,
The site of the discovery is
1907), PP- 93-IO8.
markedon the map in Labib Habachi, 'Tell Basta'
aux Annales du Servicedes Antifuitds
de l'Pgypte, Cahier 22, Cairo 1957).

2 For the latest discussion of the hoard see

W. Kelly Simpson in the American 7ournal of
Archaeology, lxiii (1959), pp. 29-45 and in
Bulletin, The MetropolitanMuseum of Art, viii
(x949), pp. 61-65.


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3 E. S. G. Robinson 'The Tell el-Maskhuta

hoard of Athenian Tetradrachms', Numismatic
Chronicle, 1947, pp. 115-21.
4 Brooklyn Museum, Five Tearsof Collecting
EgyptianArt r95r-6: Catalogueof an Exhibition
held at the Brooklyn Museum xi Dec.
March 1957, PP. 43-44, pl. 68-74.
s Isaac Rabinowitz, 'Aramaic Inscriptions of
the Fifth Century B.c. from a North Arab Shrine
in Egypt', Journal of Near Eastern Studies, xv
(1956), pp-. -9: 'Another Aramaic Record of the
North-Arabian Goddess Han-'Ilat', ibid. xviii
(1959), pp. 154-56 B.M.Q. xxviii (1964), pp. 95-101.
7 A. D. H. Bivar 'A Rosette Phiale Inscribed
in Aramaic',Bulletin of the Schoolof Orientaland
African Studies, xxiv (1961), pp. 189-99. Sotheby's Sale Catalogue, i i December 1961, lot 22.
8 C. C. Edgar, 'Report on an Excavation at
Toukh el-Qaramous', Annales du Service des
antiquits de l'lgypte, vii (1906), pp. 205-12:
Le Musie Pgyptien, ii (Cairo, 1907), pp. 57-62.
9 E. Vernier, 'Bijoux et orf~vreries'(Catalogue
ginlral des antiquitis igyptiennes du Musie du
Caire, Cairo, 1927), nos. 53267, 53274-7. Fr.
W. von Bissing,
des antiquitis igyptiennes
nos. 3581-5.
10 A. Lansing in Bulletin, The
Museumof Art, xxxiii (1938), pp. 199-200.
Sotheby Sale Catalogue, 24 February 1964,
lot 124.
12 Vernier,
op. cit., pl. cx = von Bissing, op.
cit., Tafel iii, no. 3583.


13 Vernier, op. cit., pl. cxii = von Bissing, op.

cit., Tafel iii, no. 3582.
14 No. I8.2.I7, illustratedBulletin, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, xxxiii (1938), p. 199,
bottom left. I am grateful to Miss Nora Scott of
the Metropolitan Museum for kindly providing
me with details and for informing me that a number of pieces of jewellery, acquired at the same
time, were said to have formed a group with the
silver vessels: some of these pieces are illustrated
in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Egyptian
Jewelry. A Picture Book (New York, 194o), fig.
16 (bottom left) gold bead with granulardecoration, (top) pair of ear rings; fig. 18 (bottom) gold
is Le Muslte gyptien, ii (1907), pl. xxvii.
16 Brooklyn Museum, Five rears of Collecting
EgyptianArt etc., pl. 70.
17 Richard A. Parker, A Fienna Demotic
Papyrus on Eclipse- and Lunar-Omina (Brown
University, 1959), pp. 28-34s8 Similar types of vessels are found, for instance,in the Oxus Treasure(fifth-fourth centuries
B.c.), Dalton, The Treasure of the Oxus (British
Museum, 1926), pl. v, no. 19; near Erzingan,
Armenia,ibid., pl. xxiii, no. I 80; in an Achaemenid
burial at Susa, 'Delegation en Perse', Mimoires,

viii(1905), pl. ii-iii.

19 See note
(2) above. For metal-workfrom the
royal tombs at Tanis (XXIst-XXIInd Dynasties)
see P. Montet, La Nicropoleroyalede Tanis, i-iii
(Paris, 1948-60).


HE Romanreliefof the earlyfirst centuryA.D. from the Villa Muti at

Frascatiwhich was acquired in I954 by the Department of Greek and

Roman Antiquities' has achieved some fame as one of the very rare
illustrationsof a moneyer's tools.2 It is almost certain, however, that this is a
mistakenidentification,and that the tools in questionare those of a blacksmith.
The relief consists of a central recess containing the busts of the freedmen
Philonicus and Demetrius, with the fasces of a lictor on the left of the busts and
groups of tools on the right and in the pediment; the dedicatoryinscriptionis
below. Nothing can usefully be added to ProfessorAshmole's discussionof the
busts themselvesbut the other elements can be profitablyre-examined.

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