Disrecognized Space

agressi sunt mare tenebrarum, quid in eo esset exploraturi

Religions of the Ancient World – Assignment 2

The tombs found in the Valley of the Kings changed over time in their layout, but a broadly typical schematic involved a number of passages which symbolised the journey of the sun and the world of the gods (Theban Mapping Project 2002). After the initial passages, a niche was provided for the gods and two doorkeepers’ rooms. After these a number of halls descended to the burial chamber (the ‘House of Gold Wherein One Rests’) and a final ‘Treasury’ or store room. An interesting example is KV10, the tomb of Amenmeses (Theban Mapping Project 2006). The plan of the tomb (http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/pdfs/kv10.pdf) follows the general layout of a series of separate passages, with niches, descending via a final ramp to the burial chamber and terminal storeroom. Interestingly, the tomb was reused though it was never actually finished.
Tombs in the Valley of the Kings differed from the pyramids most obviously since they were cut into the rock rather than built. This meant that they could be built more quickly as well and, while not as obviously imposing as the largest pyramids, their decorations were superior (Kjeilen n.d.). They were also, at least initially, less obvious to tomb robbers (Der Manuelian 1997, p. 194).
The first sight as we approach the temple are the massive pylons either side of the entrance, and the flanking statues of the Pharaoh standing by the stone walls, and the fact that the building is aligned along the solar axis, east-west. The walls display brightly coloured portrayals of the king defeating his enemies. Through the entrance we find a large courtyard, a place indicating busy everyday activity took place here, and where the general populace could come: there are various rooms, tables, workshops and even a pool. Passing through a sloped entrance, we enter the inner courtyard, where the priests and Pharaoh were allowed. At last we enter the final hall, columned to represent reeds. Here is it dimmer and, at the back, I can see a room for offerings and one for the divine barque. Here we find the final part of the temple, the sanctuary of the god, darker and smaller than the other rooms (Shafer 1997, pp. 5-6). Raised above the level of the rest of the temple, it symbolises the primeval mound of creation (Der Manuelian 1997, p. 203). And within this sanctuary there stands the statue of the temple’s god: brightly painted, shining with gold and decorated with precious stones, it is the incarnation of the god rather than just a simple representation (Sauneron 2000, p. 36), and it is here, in the innermost reach of the image of this microcosmic model of the universe (Sauneron 2000, p. 48) that we complete our pilgrimage.
My work is important, since it is vital to constantly thwart the chaos that threatens the stability of our lives (Quirke 1992, p. 131; Teeter 2007, p. 310). As a senior priest of the temple, I am the king’s representative (Sauneron 2000, p. 32). As every day, there was the thrice daily offering and especially the most important morning offering (Teeter 2007, p. 315). This involved unveiling the god, cleansing and adoring him, reciting prayers, anointing him, and providing offerings for him to consume (Shafer 1997, pp. 22-23). The somewhat less elaborate noon and evening rituals were undertaken as well (Teeter 2007, p. 316).
After this, there was the new rota of part-time priests to organise and train in their duties (Shafer 1997, p. 10), the administration to take care of, and ensuring my wife organised the musicians (Robins 1993, p. 148).
As well as the offerings for the deceased kings (Teeter 2007, p. 318) there was also a festival to celebrate, in order to maintain the balance of the world and to mark the cycle of the year (Quirke 1992, p. 105). The barque of the god was carried from the temple and paraded through the streets so that the people could see it and adore it (Teeter 2007, p. 319). The people sought oracular advice from the god (Quirke 1992, p. 138) and help to deal with the chaotic forces that threatened the daily continuation of ma’at in their lives (Borghouts 1994, p. 121), from disease, dangerous animals and the dead. During the day I also received statues from the commoners to provide offerings for, and there were the usual offerings of bread, beer, gold, incense and so on to give to the god and then redistribute (Teeter 2007, p. 320). During the festival and the daily rituals, I also read and recited the sacred recitations, and determined the sacred days – which would be lucky and which unlucky (Shafer 1997, p. 15).
Throughout the day it was also important that I maintain my purity, requiring me to shave all my hair, ritual cleansing, and refraining from sex or unclean foods (Shafer 1997, p. 10).
Ancient Egyptian morality was concerned primarily with the concept of maintaining ma’at, and especially in opposition to its absence which results in isfet: chaos and disorder (Ockinga 2001, p. 485). The Eqyptians lived in a world of polarities, and this extended to the strict binary of good and evil (Lichtheim 1997, p. 19). Ma’at, according to Asante (2011) involved “truth, righteousness, justice, order, balance, harmony and reciprocity” (my emphasis). Thus Egyptian morality involved living a life that, in a large part we would recognise: telling the truth was important (Lichtheim 1997, p. 20) as was being benevolent and of good character (Lichtheim 1997, p. 23). Justice and loyalty were important, while the opposites – such as greed and quarrelling – were disapproved of and, in the case of civil war, were seen as overthrowing the correct social order (Lichtheim 1997, pp. 26-27). In contrast to modern morality, though, to the Egyptians it also meant subservience to the king (and later the gods) who determined morality (Ockinga 2001, p. 484).
Elements of this morality are evident in the ‘Judgement of the Dead’ where the list of negative ‘sins’ detail how the speaker has maintained the correct civil attitude to himself and others, been honest and truthful, and has not mistreated or been unkind to others or animals. This extends, however, to seamlessly include the gods and temples (“I have not damaged the offerings in the temples […] I have not stopped a god in his procession” for example (Lichtheim 1976, p. 125)) and maintaining the correct place in the social order that descends from the king (“I have not wanted more than I had” (Lichtheim 1976, p. 127)).References
Asante, M K 2011, Maat and human communication: Supporting identity, culture, and history without global domination, viewed 3 April 2012, .
Borghouts, JF 1994, ‘Magical practices among the villagers’, in LH Lesko (ed.) Pharaoh’s workers: the villagers of Deir el Medina, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 119-130.
Kjeilen, T n.d., Luxor: Valley of the Kings, viewed 24 March 2012, .
Lichtheim, M 1997, ‘Knowing good and evil’, Moral values in ancient Egypt, University Press, Fribourg, Switzerland, pp. 19-28.
——- 1976, ‘Ch. 125: The judgement of the dead’, Ancient Egyptian literature: The New Kingdom, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 124–127.
Ockinga, B 2001, ‘Ethics and morality’, in DB Redford (ed.) The encyclopedia of ancient Egypt, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 484-487.
Shafer, BE 1997, ‘Temples, priests, and ritual: an overview’, in BE Shafer (ed.) Temples of ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp.1-30.
Der Manuelian, P 1997, ‘Tombs and temples’, in DP Silverman (ed.) Ancient Egypt, Duncan Baird Publishers, London, pp. 192-211.
Quirke, S 1992, ‘Surviving life: protection of the body’, Ancient Egyptian religion, British Museum Press, London, pp. 105-139.
Robins, G 1993, ‘Women and temple ritual’, Women in ancient Egypt, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 142-156.
Sauneron, S 2000 [1988], ‘The priestly office’, The priests of ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 28-50.
Teeter, E 2007, ‘Temple cults’, in T Wilkinson (ed.) The Egyptian world, Routledge, London, pp. 310-324.
Theban Mapping Project 2002, Anatomy of a tomb: Ancient designations, viewed 25 March 2012, .
——- 2006, KV 10 (Amenmeses), viewed 25 March 2012, .


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