It is another fascinating Stele of the history of Egypt, of all human history. and I promise that it’s the last one… this year! 😉 With as always great thanks to Marie Grilott for her brilliant description. Happy holidays and a much better new year.🙏💖
This stele, in painted and gilded limestone, is 72 cm high, 50 cm wide and 14 cm thick. Dated from the Ptolemaic period, it is arched in shape. As Auguste Mariette specified: “Until the XIth Dynasty, the stelae were quadrangular … But from the XIth Dynasty, the stele took the form that it only abandoned on rare occasions. It was rounded off by above as if it were intended to recall the curvature of the sky or that of the lids of sarcophagi “. It also explained its symbolic design: “The top of the stele is supposed to lose itself in the sky. As we descend downwards, we approach the earth. In other words, the stele is divided into three areas. “.
This “Stele dedicated by Ptolemy V to the Boukhis bull” reveals a particularly rich and harmonious chromatic palette combined with very interesting iconography. Its registers are declined differently, but the central part having, it seems, received the greatest attention.
The hanger is dominated by a winged sun disk which completely conforms to its shape. Just below is reproduced a composition rich in “symbolism” and symmetry. “In the center of the scene is a scarab supported by a djed pillar flanked by two snakes facing each other and capped with the solar disk; these uraei are surrounded by vertical inscriptions evoking the ‘Great god of Behedet, with multicolored feathers'” analysis Rosanna Pirelli in “The treasures of the Egyptian Museum”. On either side is a seated Anubis, treated hastily; preceded by an emblem and vertical lines of hieroglyphics, he carries a flagellum.
The central part is divided into two “sections”, the most important is linked to the divinity to which the stele is dedicated: the Boukhis bull. He is represented with great precision with precise respect for his anatomy, perfectly reproducing his muscles and his power. Between its horns is placed “its” crown composed of a solar disk with two uraei surmounted by two high feathers: “The bull identified with Ré, bears the epithets ‘living soul’ and ‘herald of Ré'” specify Mohamed Saleh and Hourig Sourouzian (Official Catalog Egyptian Museum in Cairo).
His dress, which we imagine soft and lustrous, is painted in gold and the whole stands out against an incredibly bright blue background, offering a striking contrast between the two colors.
“Behind the bull, Montu appears in his usual falcon form, as he was worshipped in Thebes. Opening its wings, the falcon grips a fan and the ring of duration. Associated with Rè-Harakhty, Montou is qualified of ‘great god, Lord of the On of the South’, that is to say, Thebes “(Mohamed Saleh and Hourig Sourouzian). Facing the bull is Pharaoh, in the attitude of walking, left leg forward. Richly dressed and adorned, his body is treated in ocher-red colour. “In front of the altar, King Ptolemy V, standing, offers the sign of the field (Sekbet) to the Boukhis bull. Wearing the blue crown, he wears a ceremonial loincloth with a rigid lap and a bustier; bracelets and a golden necklace adorn his arms, wrists and neck. The seven columns of hieroglyphics carved above the pharaoh mention the names of the god Bukhis, king Ptolemy, his wife Cleopatra and again quote the sun god, Lord of Behedet. A formula of protection and formula of the offering are inscribed, respectively, behind and in front of the pharaoh, “explains Rosanna Pirelli.
The lower part of the stele is mostly inscribed. “At the bottom of the stele, a text of five lines, which gives very precise dates, tells us that the Boukhis, who died in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Ptolemy V and of Cleopatra I, was born in the year 11, and that the duration of his life had been fourteen years ten months and twenty-four days. In fact, this last statement is false: it is easy to redo the calculation oneself and to find that the bull in question did not live only thirteen years ten months and twenty-eight days “analyzes with relevance Jean-Pierre Corteggiani.
The image of the bull, a robust, belligerent, invincible animal endowed with great sexual vigour, was “endorsed” by the pharaohs who did not hesitate to call themselves a “powerful bull”. Thus, as Isabelle Franco specifies: “particular bulls were chosen to become the terrestrial receptacle of certain gods”.
In Memphis, people worshipped Apis, the sacred animal of Ptah; Mnevis, him, was the solar bull of Heliopolis, while the Theban region honoured the Boukhis bull. The sacred animal of the “palladium of Thebes”, it was venerated in the sanctuaries of Tod, Medamoud and Ermant (Hermonthis), as a manifestation of the god Montu.
The selection of the bull by the priests responded to very precise characteristics: it must have a black head and the rest of the coat white. Thus, indicates Dominique Valbelle: “Macrobe (Saturnalia, I, 21) describes it thus: ‘In the town of Hermonthis (Armant), in a magnificent temple of Apollo, they worship a bull, named Bacis, consecrated to the sun and remarkable for the wonderful properties inherent in the nature of the sun. For it is said that its colours change every hour and it is said that its coat is the opposite of that of other animals. That is why it is considered in a way like an image of the sun shining away from the sky.
This bull, the object of true worship, lived in a “sacred stable” and was especially honoured during the processions of the Valley Festival. At his death, he was mummified and his funeral followed a very precise ritual. To the Seraphim of Memphis corresponded, to Ermant, the Bucheum which was active in the XXXth dynasty in Roman times. These large basements housed the burials of bulls, surrounded in particular by commemorative stelae…
The excavations carried out at Erment in 1926 by the Egypt Exploration Society benefited from the financial support of the patron Robert Ludwig Mond. They allowed the discovery of the Bucheum in 1929-1930 and, it is in its ruins that this stele dated to the year 25 of Ptolemy V was found. It has been recorded at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo under the reference: JE 54313.
Visitor’s guide to the Boulaq museum, Gaston Maspero, 1883 http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k141741b.r=gaston+maspero.langFR
Official catalogue 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
The Egypt of the Pharaohs at the Cairo Museum, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani
Ancient Egypt and its gods, Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, 2007
Dictionary of Egyptian Mythology, Isabelle Franco, 2013
The Bucheum. Flight. I: The history and archaeology of the site. Flight. II: The inscriptions. Flight. III: The plates (complete set). With chapters by TJC Baly, DB Harden, JW Jackson, G. Mattha, and Alan E. Shorter and the hieroglyphic inscriptions edited by HW Fairman
MOND Robert – MYERS Oliver H. https://www.meretsegerbooks.com/pages/books/M1128d/mond-robert-myers-oliver-h/the-bucheum-vol-i-the-history-and-archaeology-of-the-site-vol-ii-the-inscriptions-vol-iii-the-plates Armant: the sacred bull catacombs https://www.ees.ac.uk/armant-the-sacred-bull-catacombs
Cows, oxen and bulls – Site osirisnet.net
Valbelle Dominique. The metamorphoses of a divine hypostasis in Egypt. In: Review of the history of religions, tome 209, n ° 1, 1992. pp. 3-21; https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhr_0035-1423_1992_num_209_1_1625
Ancient polytheisms – Religion of ancient Egypt – Conferences of the year 2012-2013 – EPHE – Conference by Christiane Zivie-Coche https://journals.openedition.org/asr/1223?fbclid=IwAR0jwlZpPFVbQGpZCQONlBij2PJ_qIhe9QaGffXDnJyaYwJ6qyh8KIWPiNg#tocto2n2