Stele again? Yes! They all always fascinating me, the messages from our past in a beautiful shape. Here is another one. It says about an offer of the ear to be heard by God Amon-Re.
Let’s read this brilliant description by my adorable friend, Marie Grillot , to know more.
This small painted limestone stele – barely 25 cm high and 14 wide – is dated to the Ramesside period. Arched in shape, it is made up of three “registers”.
The upper part occupies the entire hanger. There is, in the centre, a small table of offerings on which is placed an ewer, the most appropriate word would perhaps be “aquamanile” because the water is intended for a liturgical ritual. In perfect symmetry, on either side, two rams in all identical points face each other. They are a representation of the Theban god “Amon-Re, the good ram”. Standing, majestic, in the attitude of walking, they are “capped” with two high feathers at the base of which is the solar disk and the uraeus usual in Amon. They are treated in a fairly neutral colour of beige, which is highlighted by the red-brown lines defining the contours of their silhouette and animated by the green of the “plastron”, the horns and the hooves.
The scene takes place on a mat which delimits the “vignette”.
The lower register is split vertically into two equal parts.
On the left is the dedicatee of the stele: “Bay is represented, the devoted, whose title ‘servant at the seat of Truth’, identifies him with one of the workers who, during the New Kingdom, were responsible for the realization of the royal tombs. The hieroglyphic text above his head indicates his name as well as his function and describes the gesture of Bay, kneeling and the raised hands, which is that of ‘showing his adoration to Amon-Re’ “.
Her face is lit by a large almond-shaped eye surrounded by kohol. Her hair is black and curly, and her slim body is painted in red ocher. He is dressed in a simple pleated white linen loincloth and wears, as only “ornament”, a large dark-coloured collar.
He is praying in front of what makes up the third “section” of the stele: three pairs of ears, each of a different colour. In “The treasures of the Cairo Museum”, Francesco Tiradritti gives this very interesting interpretation: “The different colours of the ears probably refer to three aspects of Amon-Re, a God, thus linked to air and humidity (blue ), sun (yellow), vegetation, and, therefore, earth and water (green) “.
These “votive ear steles” appeared in the 18th Dynasty: they allowed the “common people” to communicate with the gods directly, to make them hear their grievances, their pleas. In “The artists of pharaoh” Matilde Borla specifies that: “The practice of offering to the deity a stele decorated with one or more ears – or models of ears – is quite common in the New Kingdom, from Memphis to Thebes, but also in Sérabit el-Khadim, in Sinai. The availability of the god to listen to the prayer of the man, directly, without an intermediary “.
Thus, under the XIXth dynasty, Bay which was, as indicated by the hieroglyphic inscription servant the “Place of Truth in the West of Thebes” – the Set Maât her imenty Ouaset of antiquity, the “Deir el-Medineh of today – wanted to “have the ear” of the god he worshipped. To come to his aid, he shaped, or had this stele shaped, to “materialize”, make concrete, his “prayer”.
Founded at the beginning of the 18th dynasty during the reign of Thutmose I, the artisan community lived in this village nestled in the hollow of a valley in the Theban mountains. Extended and enlarged several times, notably during the reigns of Thutmose III and the early Ramessids, it was surrounded by high walls. For nearly 500 years, “between 40 and 120 homes” lived there in stone houses covered with a palm-leaf roof, which also had a necropolis and places of worship. If there were shrines dedicated to other deities, including Ptah and Meretseger, the temple that was erected, from the Thutmose period in the northern part, was dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
It was in 1912, during the clearing of this monument, commissioned by Auguste Mariette, and led by one of the directors of the work of the Antiquities Department, Emile Baraize, that the stele was discovered.
In his “Report of the work carried out at Deir-el-Medineh”, published in volume 13 of the “Annals of the Service of Antiquities”, he describes with precision the catastrophic state in which the temple was located. “The dilapidated state of the temple did not fail to inspire some apprehension. It was the same in the temple for the slabs forming the ceiling which, already split, rested on broken architraves” …
After drawing up this inventory and defining the safeguard and restoration plan, consolidation work began on November 15, 1912. Emile Baraize explains in detail the problems he encountered and the techniques used to solve them. On page 21, he begins the “List of main objects found during clearing”. This stele appears there in n ° 3, under its registration reference at the Cairo Museum (JE) 43566 with the following description: “Small painted stele: 1 horizontal register, 2 vertical; horizontal register, two rams. 1 vertical register, the deceased kneeling; 2nd vertical register, six ears. Colors are well preserved “.
Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Deir el-Medina Stelae and Other Inscribed Objects. Catalog General Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Jose M. Galan, Gema Menendez, 2018
Official catalog Egyptian Museum of Cairo, Mohamed Saleh, Hourig Sourouzian, Verlag Philippe von Zabern, 1997
Treasures of Egypt – The Wonders of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Francesco Tiradritti
Ancient Egypt and its gods, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, 2007
Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, 2013
Pharaoh’s Artists, Louvre, RMN, 2002
Report of the work carried out in Deir-el-Medineh by Mr. Emile Baraize, volume 13 “Annales du Service des antiquités”, IFAO, Cairo, 1914