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Interview with Dr J. van Dijk - Human sacrifice, KV 57 etc
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anneke
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:06 am    Post subject: Interview with Dr J. van Dijk - Human sacrifice, KV 57 etc Reply with quote

[Remark: This is a translation of an interview conducted by Philippe Gossaert with Dr. van Dijk. This translation appears here at Egyptian Dreams with permission from both Dr van Dijk and Mr. Gossaert.]

By Philippe Gossaert

Interview with Dr Jacobus van Dijk, familiar to most of us thanks to his research on the New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara and the tomb of Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings. He is also known for his many articles and his contributions to ‘The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt’. In short, I am happy and honored to be able to have a chat with him.
http://***.nl/staff/jacobus.van.dijk/index

The motivation for this interview was a fascinating lecture at the University of Leuven on December 16, 2008 about KV57, and a lecture the following day about “Human Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt and Nubia”, which I (sadly) could not attend. That’s why – a completely selfish reason I know – I started by asking him questions about the latter topic.


Photograph by Mary McKercher, photographer for the Brooklyn Museum Expeditions in the temple of Mut, where Dr van Dijk has worked for many years, and where he is active today. (See www.brooklynmuseum.org , where a link to “Dig Diary 2009” takes you to the latest news).



Human sacrifice appeals to the imagination … horrible, but fascinating. One can ask, for instance, how it is that people from different cultures all practiced human sacrifice.
There are five possible reasons for human sacrifice:
1) Dedication of a building
2) Appeasing the gods at a time of disaster
3) A “periodic” religious ritual
4) Ritual killing associated with conducting a war or martial strategy
5) Killing subjects on the occasion of the death of a ruler
Does this match reality or are there more reasons?

Jacobus van Dijk:
Yes, those are the most important reasons I think. You can ask yourself, though, whether these situations should be seen as exclusively religious in nature. In a number of societies people are killed by their fellow men in a variety of situations and for different reasons. Because of the secular filter we use to look at an ancient culture such as Ancient Egypt, we often tend to interpret things as of a ritual or religious nature, but that is not necessarily correct.

In the USA, as we know, serious criminals are still executed in some states. In a religious country such as the United States, those condemned people who want it are permitted to have spiritual guidance from a priest or pastor. The execution itself, which apart from the spiritual representatives is attended by state representatives and often representatives of the family and friends of the victim as well, follows a strict protocol. Despite these religious and protocol-related elements, very few of us would consider this a religious ritual.

But in ancient Egypt, where some criminals were apparently executed on the occasion of a procession, and where the condemned were branded as enemies of the deity and of world order, we immediately tend to speak of a religious ritual.

‘Ritual killing’ is another ambiguous concept. One of the objections sometimes raised against the use of the term ‘Holocaust’ for the annihilation of the Jews by the Nazis is that this term has too many religious connotations, whereas it was essentially government-sanctioned mass murder by the Nazis of people whom they considered to be enemies of their new world order. But even this ideological element is not enough to brand the mass murder of Jews as ritual slaughter or, to use another frequently abused term, a ‘holy war’.

Ex-president Bush seems to have been convinced that God had commanded him to go to war with Iraq in order to begin to establish democracy. Yet we do not designate this war a ‘holy war’. But the war of the Egyptian pharaoh Merenptah against the Libyans, sanctioned by the gods and won with their help, is called in a recent book a “heiliger Krieg”. I may be exaggerating a bit, but I think it’s easy to abuse this type of term, and caution is needed when using terms like ‘religious’ and ‘ritual’.

Is it correct to say that in Egypt only reasons 3 (Aha and Djer labels), 4 (the slaying of the enemy) and 5 (retainer sacrifice) are represented?

Jacobus van Dijk:
All three reasons are still controversial. Possibly you can also add reason 1, the construction sacrifice, because indications for that have been found in Egypt and Nubia too, for example in Mirgissa, where human bones and a skull on a platter accompanied by a flint knife were found in the foundations of a fort. I have already commented on reason 4. The extent to which the Egyptians actually sacrificed humans to the gods, i.e. where people were sacrificed on an altar instead of animals, is still extremely difficult to ‘prove’.
There are hardly any depictions showing such sacrifices, apart from the labels of Aha and Djer (which are open to multiple interpretations), and the few texts we have available are ambivalent or come from outsiders, who often depended on the stories of others. In this respect it is worth noting that Herodotus, one of the few early classical authors who actually visited Egypt and conducted his own research, strongly denied that the Egyptian people practiced any human sacrifice. Egyptian ritual texts do speak of the killing of enemies before a god, and images do depict these sacrifices, but there are strong indications that in reality images of wax or another material were used. Of course, the accompanying spells still refer to killing a human enemy, but it is all too easy to take these texts and performances too literally. On a final note, a sacrifice, by definition, is a symbolic act - the foods sacrificed to the gods were not literally eaten by them either.

There is still a great deal of controversy around reason 5, the servant sacrifice (or, to use the official term, ‘retainer sacrifice’), controversy still rages on, as well. Here the problem is that there are no pictures or texts, but only archaeological material, and the interpretation of these this materials varies, as we saw became evident during the round of questions after the lecture in Leuven, whenre Dr Stan Hendrickx made a number of critical comments. There are traditionally two schools of thought on this point, and he clearly belongs to the skeptical one. The controversy was also raised at the Egyptology Congress in Rhodes in May last year. Researchers in Abydos like Günter Dreyer and Matt Adams are convinced that the construction of the tomb complexes of the kings of the 1st dynasty indicates that the retainer tombs around the royal tomb were built simultaneously with the tomb of the king and found that the people were buried simultaneously with the king, and thus must have been slain for this purpose. Others, sometimes even members of the same excavation teams, cast doubt on this interpretation and consider the building history of these grave sites too complicated for such conclusions. It is very difficult to form an informed opinion on this issue on the basis of the published excavation reports alone. Furthermore, the interpretation by the physical anthropologists of the proposed victims varies as well, and it is virtually impossible for an Egyptologist to come to an independent assessment. I myself tend to be less skeptical of the idea of retainer sacrifice during the 1st Dynasty due to parallels elsewhere, particularly in Nubia, and due to insights from Cultural Anthropology. But an unambiguous answer is unfortunately still not possible. Maybe it would be a good idea to ask Dr Hendrickx to shine some light on this issue in an interview for pr kmt?


Photo Mary McKercher: epigraphic work in the temple of Mut in Karnak.



The “slaying of the enemies” by the king also appears on some private stelae.
http://www.dotbb.be/phpbb21/viewtopic.php?t=177&mforum=prkmthetegyptef
What do you think of the possibility that these may represent actual events in space and time?

Jacobus van Dijk:
To be honest, I don’t believe that at all. This thesis comes from Alan Schulman, who thought that private citizens had stelae made to commemorate their presence at a real execution of enemies at the temple gate, and that they were preserving the memory for posterity.

These are not prestige-enhancing objects like the illustrations on the walls of someone’s funeral chapel. They are small votive stelae deposited near the pylon of a temple, which were left behind as a tangible prayer to the gods. The symbolic representation of the king who destroys the enemies of Egypt is fairly standard on these pylons, so the depiction of this performance on the stelae is an indication of the place where the owner dedicated his prayer to the gods and where he left his votive offering behind. These stelae have nothing to do with ceremonial executions.

Is it fair to say that we can draw some comparisons between the burials of donkeys and other animals in Abydos with the human sacrifices that have been found there?

Jacobus van Dijk:
I think so. Moreover, to come back to the controversy mentioned above, as far as I know nobody has ever suggested that these animals died a natural death and were later buried in the King’s tomb! Beasts of burden and riding animals such as donkeys and later horses, and much later camels, are found at different sites, as well as dogs and hunting dogs and, in Aha’s tomb, even a number of young (!) lions.

To explain reason 5, this theory is often proposed:
“The reason for this ritual is best explained as a search for an expression of the unlimited power of the Pharaoh. Once that power was consolidated and generally accepted, it became clear that this ritual was not only unnecessary, but also inhuman and not very practical, due to the fact that a lot of very useful people would disappear along with the Pharaoh at the time of his death.”

Jacobus van Dijk:
This last point is indeed the reason why I think the sacrifice of retainers first diminished and later disappeared altogether.

Could the later practice of the erection of the noblemen’s mastabas near the pharaoh’s pyramid have served a similar purpose as the earlier human sacrifices: accompanying the Pharaoh to the hereafter, but in their own time?

Jacobus van Dijk:
That is possible. But we know very little about the relationship between the court elite and the king in the afterlife, especially from this ancient period. As far as I know there are no Old Kingdom tomb inscriptions in which the deceased claims to be serving the king in the afterlife. That they erected their mastabas near the king’s pyramid may also be linked to participation in the sacrificial cult at the royal tomb. It is often said about the owner of such a mastaba that he is ‘imakhu (i.e. a deceased person benefiting from a sacrificial cult) with the great god’, and possibly the ‘great god’ refers to the divine king. But it may also refer not to the dead king but to his living successor, who guarantees the imakhu status of the tomb owner. But I am now moving into somewhat unfamiliar territory for me ... What is certain is that everything was related to status and prestige, and to have a tomb near the pyramid of the king would be a great status symbol of course!

Can ushabtis, to all intents and purposes, be the later replacement of these earlier human sacrifices?

Jacobus van Dijk:
That has been suggested, but it seems problematic to me to assume such a direct link. After all, ushabtis first appear during the Middle Kingdom, when retainer sacrifice was a dim and distant memory. Besides, the ushabtis represent the deceased himself, a sort of alter ego who could stand in for him, and that is a very different concept to that of a servant or retainer, a person who works for you. If you are looking for a replacement, perhaps about a better candidate would be the depictions of the servants on the tomb walls of the mastabas and the slightly later wooden models of various craftsmen and their activities.


Photo: Excavation in the shaft of the tomb of Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings, where the crucial, hieratic wine labels came from.



The content of the ‘13th Jan Quaegebeur Lecture’, on your research in the tomb of Horemheb on 16 Dec. 08 in Leuven, was summarized by me in a post:
http://www.dotbb.be/phpbb21/viewtopic.php?t=1609&mforum=prkmthetegyptef
[NB for readers of the English text: The discussion on the linked page is reasonably short. There are quotes from English language sources, which are worth reading. The comments in Dutch can be roughly summarized as follows: There are no dates higher than year 14 on any of the wine jars in the tomb of Horemheb. A reference to year 59 in a Ramesside text is probably wrong and possibly the result of a scribal error. Another text referring to year 27 may refer to the transport of a statue of Horemheb, and may not have anything to do with a putative year 27 of Horemheb. So that the end of his year 14 or the beginning of year 15 is probably when Horemheb died.]
Can you add anything to this? What happened to the human remains found in the sarcophagus? What are some of the possible research findings?


Jacobus van Dijk:

Roxie Walker, a well-known anthropologist, has examined the human bones found in the sarcophagus of Horemheb but we will have to wait a bit longer for the final report. What is clear is that there are several individuals, both male and female. The remains were probably found spread throughout the tomb (by Theodore Davis and his team?) and later deposited in the sarcophagus. It seems unlikely that any of these remains belong to Horemheb himself, and it is not even certain that the remains date to the time of Horemheb. Dating loose bone fragments is highly problematic, so this kind of question will probably remain unanswered. The bones are currently stored in an SCA magazine together with the other finds.
In the first two weeks of January 2009, Prof. Geoffrey Martin and I examined and photographed all the finds made by Theodore Davis now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The vast majority has never been published, and the survival of some of the objects mentioned in Davis’s books was even in doubt. Fortunately these doubts proved to be unfounded. Thanks to the tremendous help of the museum staff, we were able to track down everything, even some things that were located in the famous basement of the museum. It looks like it will be an interesting publication, but it will be some time before it appears.


Photo: Dr van Dijk working on the wine jars with the hieratic inscriptions from KV57.



A more thoroughly discussed topic on my forum was your article about ‘The Death of Meketaten’:
http://www.dotbb.be/phpbb21/viewtopic.php?t=710&mforum=prkmthetegyptef
What is your opinion of such commentaries on scientific articles?


Jacobus van Dijk: I have no problem at all with such discussions, quite the contrary; I think it is good that results of scientific research are known and commented on beyond the narrow circle of colleagues. I have to admit, however, that I am not keeping track of all the discussions on the internet; after all, pr kmt is not the only Egypt-forum out there. In the case of the Meketaten article, which will appear shortly in book form, the attention did not surprise me, because the Amarna period fascinates many people, both the general public and Egyptologists (although there are some who want nothing to do with it). Moreover, without going into further detail here on the discussion, I would like to emphasize that my interpretation of that scene is based on strictly epigraphical evidence: the earlier reconstructions of the inscription are simply not possible – the only name that fits is that of Meketaten herself and minute traces of the name confirm this reading. Once this has been established one can hardly come to any other conclusion than that the child in the arms of the nurse is the newborn Meketaten. A lot can be said about the symbolism of this scene, but time does not permit me to go into details here.
It is also a priori not very likely that a burial chamber would be the place to record a historic event such as the birth of an heir to the throne. And then there is the question of whether such a royal baby would survive long enough to really be declared the successor of his father - infant mortality did not stop at the palace gates. You would expect the scenes in a burial chamber to be primarily related to the continued existence of the occupant, in this case Meketaten, after death. I would like to clarify one point that came up in the discussion: I agree that the Meketaten-room scene interpretation also applies to the similar scene(s) in room alpha. For whom this room was originally intended, we do not know, but it seems likely that it was a daughter (or two daughters?) of Akhenaton and Nefertiti (perhaps the youngest?), because the side rooms of the royal tomb were meant for Nefertiti and the daughters. That the scene in room alpha represents the birth of Tutankh(u)aten seems extremely unlikely to me.


Dr van Dijk wrote to me: “… I am also sending you a PDF with the text of the human sacrifice lecture I gave in Leuven that you were apparently not able to attend – but without the illustrations. If you have room on your website, you may post the PDF for download if you like, so that those who are interested can download the lecture”.

Wonderful! I don’t have a link, but have posted the text of the lecture here:
http://www.dotbb.be/phpbb21/viewtopic.php?t=1725&mforum=prkmthetegyptef


I thank Dr Jacobus van Dijk most sincerely for this interview and I wish him – also on behalf of the readers and members of pr kmt – much success in his future endeavors.
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Last edited by anneke on Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:08 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My personal thanks to Philippe and Dr Jaap van Dijk for giving permission Smile


There is mention of a text from a lecture Dr van Dijk gave at Leuven. I also have permission to translate and post that text, but I will need to find the time to do the translation and I will need to check with Dr van Dijk and see if I managed to correctly translate the information. His wife was kind enough to lend her assistance as well.

So that may take a while before it comes available.

In the mean time I hope the readers will enjoy this interview.

There are some references to discussions at the Dutch language forum in the text, but I think the discussion should be clear. There was one occasion where I summarized the topic a bit to help readability.

Anneke
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was very interesting, thank you.

One kinda loosely related question re human sacrifice. I have read folks alluding to the sacrifice of the king himself on the 30th aniversary (sed) of his kingship to make way for the new king, and that this then gave way to a more ceremonial representation in later times, thereby not requiring his ultimate and actual demise. Where discussed this was referred to as being in antiquity even by ancient standards.

Is there any fact or truth to this?
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are sed festival depictions dating all the way back to the 1st dynasty. Pharaoh Den is depicted on an ivory label in a sed festival and the format of "running between the stones" and the typical depiction of the king in a cloak in a kiosk are already present. I don't see anything in the depiction that would indicate that the king would be sacrificed.

I have some memory of reading about the sacrifice of the king as well, but I cannot remember where I would have seen that.
The idea in itself doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. Killing the king seems like an odd thing to do as a ceremonial thing. (Regicide has of course been practiced throughout history, but not in such an organized manner.)
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm... I'm not sure about this bumping off the king thing either. I read it in more than one place, I know that much... but as for validity, well, I know there was a time when the kings' court or servants 'went to the grave' with him to kinda perform their previous roles and duties for him in the afterlife. I also realize that this practice was replaced with art and shabti(?) models. Much more acceptable I would have thought. Who the heck would wanna work for an old king with the prospect of, well...

The more I think about it though... the more civilized route might have actually been regicide. 30 years would seem long enough to make their mark, and if their belief and Faith in the hereafter was strong enough... what a mega powerful symbol of kinghsip!!! that would be for the masses. What would it really matter to the king? - after all he would rule again as his son, and his son's son, and so on, maybe He lost His Faith and ceased the practice Smile

Anyway... no evidence as you say, appeals to my fanciful imagination though, thanx for the reply
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fascinating interview, anneke. Thanks for sharing it with us! Smile Thanks also for emailing to me. I had forgotten about that. I'm going to have to go back and read it again, digest it a bit more.

Regarding freeTinker's question, I cannot think of a single instance where we can point to a king and say he was sacrificed after a set number of years. As we all know, the heb-sed was a means by which the king "rejuvenated" himself and demonstrated his worthiness to go on ruling. It was a very ancient affair, as anneke mentioned, and as we all know, some kings didn't wait a full 30 years before holding their own first heb-sed.

LOL One can imagine how many of these festivals someone like Pepi II or Ramesses II enjoyed. Toward the end, there were probably burly retainers helping the king to make his royal circuit.

There is always conjecture, however. To this day no one is certain exactly what the Egyptians meant by the "divine booth"--that elaborate chest atop which Anubis is often depicted in reclined posture ("He who is upon the divine booth" is one of the titles of Anubis, of course). But where the hell did this "divine booth" come from?

During one of the hieroglyph courses I was taking, the instructor, a retired Egyptologist by the name of Tom Mudloff, shared something he had learned from a study conducted by ethnoarchaeologists. The practice of regicide was a known fact for certain tribes of the Sudan, up into the modern era. As freeTinker mentioned, it was a "civilized" means by which to replace an old and feeble chieftain with a younger and virile leader.

These ethnoarchaeologists proposed the idea that at some point in prehistory, the Egyptians may have on occasion done the same thing with their aged chieftains--the proto-kings of their culture. It was argued that the divine booth was the tool used for removing the old ruler. One simply could not outright kill the ruler of the people, so he was placed inside the booth, sealed within, and allowed to expire by natural causes.

This lecture was many years ago now and I can recall only the most basic of details, so I'm not sure how the ethnoarchaeologists arrived at these conclusions. If it did indeed happen, it was probably very infrequent and the practice probably disappeared by late prehistory. There is certainly no evidence to suggest it continued after the period of state formation.

Several kings of Dynasty 1 did in fact have retainers and possible family members buried with them, in little subsidiary graves around the royal tomb. One king was buried with over 300 people. This practice ended before the close of Dynasty 1, however. As freeTinker said, it was replaced by small models of servants and later on the ubiquitous ushabti figurines.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
Several kings of Dynasty 1 did in fact have retainers and possible family members buried with them, in little subsidiary graves around the royal tomb. One king was buried with over 300 people. This practice ended before the close of Dynasty 1, however. As freeTinker said, it was replaced by small models of servants and later on the ubiquitous ushabti figurines.


Dr van Dijk actually specifically addresses this idea in the interview Smile

"Can ushabtis, to all intents and purposes, be the later replacement of these earlier human sacrifices?

Jacobus van Dijk:
That has been suggested, but it seems problematic to me to assume such a direct link. After all, ushabtis first appear during the Middle Kingdom, when retainer sacrifice was a dim and distant memory. Besides, the ushabtis represent the deceased himself, a sort of alter ego who could stand in for him, and that is a very different concept to that of a servant or retainer, a person who works for you. If you are looking for a replacement, perhaps about a better candidate would be the depictions of the servants on the tomb walls of the mastabas and the slightly later wooden models of various craftsmen and their activities. "
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is great stuff, Anneke. Thanks a lot.

It bears reading and re-reading several times.

I wasn't very careful, so I learned a lot.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kmt_sesh wrote:
... To this day no one is certain exactly what the Egyptians meant by the "divine booth"--that elaborate chest atop which Anubis is often depicted in reclined posture ("He who is upon the divine booth" is one of the titles of Anubis, of course). But where the hell did this "divine booth" come from?

... One simply could not outright kill the ruler of the people, so he was placed inside the booth, sealed within, and allowed to expire by natural causes.


This sounds kinda Osirian don't you think? - as in the tale of Set and Osiris when Set and his co-conspirators 'tricked' Osiris into the 'coffer', sealed it, and left him his to his demise, etc., etc.

Perhaps one has it's roots in the other?
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

freeTinker wrote:
This sounds kinda Osirian don't you think? - as in the tale of Set and Osiris when Set and his co-conspirators 'tricked' Osiris into the 'coffer', sealed it, and left him his to his demise, etc., etc.

Perhaps one has it's roots in the other?


This would be considerably pre-Osirian, if I may use that term. There is no direct evidence for the worship or existence of the god Osiris till late in Dynasty 5, during the reign of Djedkare Isesi. That's not to say it's impossible Osiris didn't exist in the culture prior to that, but we have no evidence for it.

Anubis is a far older god and probably the original lord of the dead to the Egyptians. His affiliation with the divine booth appears at the period of state formation. Interestingly Set also appears long before Osiris and was worshiped from the start at Naqada.

But I hear you. It does sound oddly similar. We see the animosity between Osiris and Set starting to develop as early as the Pyramid Texts, so maybe in dim and distant memory there was some connection with the divine booth. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kmt Sesh:
Quote:
The practice of regicide was a known fact for certain tribes of the Sudan, up into the modern era. As freeTinker mentioned, it was a "civilized" means by which to replace an old and feeble chieftain with a younger and virile leader.

These ethnoarchaeologists proposed the idea that at some point in prehistory, the Egyptians may have on occasion done the same thing with their aged chieftains--the proto-kings of their culture.


Maybe it’s possible that in early predynastic times each village was autonomous and they all had a different chief whose leadership and reputation depended on his powers to control the Nile flood. (Magically ... or by means of - well organised -irrigation.)

Elsewhere in Africa, chief-rainmakers in tribes like the Dinka, Jukun and Ngonde were put to death when their magical powers no longer seemed to work.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngonde
( … their chiefs (Princes), being strangled by their councillors in old age or illness in order to maintain rain, fertility, and the health of the village … )

On that matter, Charles Seligman compared in his book ‘Egypt and Negro Africa: A Study of Divine Kingship’ (1934) the Shilluk of Sudan with possible ideas about leadership in predynastic Egypt. The Shilluk also killed their chiefs when they were no longer strong enough to fulfill their duties and became in that way a danger to the tribe. Furthermore, like the Shilluk were pastoralists, their ritual symbolism resembled a bit the bull symbolism of kingship in ancient Egypt.

From there, it was a small step to the sed festival were the kings seemed in the possibility to avoid that fate by rejuvenation.

But like Kmt Sesh wrote: I also think that there is absolutely no evidence for this theory.

Also:
'Ancient Egypt: A Social History (1983)', The Rise of Egyptian Civilization, B.G. Trigger, p. 48
‘Egypt before the Pharaohs’ (1991), Michael A. Hoffman p. 258
‘The Archaeology of Early Egypt’ (2006), David Wengrow p. 263

Great job with the interview, Anneke !
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Philip Arrhidaeus, thanks for providing documentation where I failed to. It's not a topic with which I'm well versed, but provides an interesting twist: age didn't necessarily determine the end of a chieftain's reign. Should his "powers" fail him even at an early age, he may have faced the same demise.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

freeTinker wrote:
That was very interesting, thank you.

One kinda loosely related question re human sacrifice. I have read folks alluding to the sacrifice of the king himself on the 30th aniversary (sed) of his kingship to make way for the new king, and that this then gave way to a more ceremonial representation in later times, thereby not requiring his ultimate and actual demise. Where discussed this was referred to as being in antiquity even by ancient standards.

Is there any fact or truth to this?


A literal reading of the Pyramid Texts seems to suggest there is. At the very least the king had an uncanny ability to be dead at just the right time each year. If they were dispatched to heaven at the first sign of ill health or advancing age it might be typical to not have dead kings at inopportune times for many generations.

There's this curious line as well;

304a. To say: There is a clamour in heaven.
304b. "We see a new thing," say the primordial gods.
304c. O Ennead, a Horus is in the rays of the sun.
304d. The lords of form serve him,
304e. the Two Enneads entire serve him,

It's apparent that this is in reference to the dead king. One is left to suspect that the sun doesn't normally shine on the mummy at this place and time and that this could be caused by an untimely death.
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freeTinker
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All very interesting stuff (re the possibility of regicide etc.). In summary then, for my simple mind, it seems that the sed originating from ceremonies built around knocking-off the king at year-thirty are based on conjecture (possibly with an afric. precedent), but no actual evidence of such a practice exists for ancient egypt. Thx for all the input

Makes ya think though... and yes, it would be one small step to the rejuvination alternative. In fact it would be same thing to the believer
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Philip Arrhidaeus
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kmt Sesh wrote: “age didn't necessarily determine the end of a chieftain's reign. Should his "powers" fail him even at an early age, he may have faced the same demise.”
That’s right.
Maybe that perception elsewhere in Africa and especially in the Sudan of the necessity of specific powers for leadership, is a possible way for us to try to comprehend the rituals of early Egyptian kingship, but the likeliness of this specific theory depends on how great you consider to be the influence of Nubia on predynastic Egypt.

But there is absolutely no direct evidence … It’s like freeTinker wrote: “no actual evidence of such a practice exists for ancient egypt. … Makes ya think though...”

Same thing with what Cladking said: “A literal reading of the Pyramid Texts seems to suggest there is.” I think a suggestion, as strong as it may be, is no absolute proof.
It’s like with the Cannibal Hymn (Pyramid Texts, 273, 274): maybe it hints at something, maybe it doesn’t.

On the other hand, there were ritualistic killings: see the interview and the lecture of Dr. van Dijk.

And also:
J. Van Dijk,’ Retainer Sacrifice in Egypt and in Nubia’,and
H. Te Velde,’ Human Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt’,
in: Jan N. Bremmer (ed.), The Strange World of Human Sacrifice. Studies in the History and Anthropology of Religion, 1 (Leuven, Peeters, 2007) ISBN 978-90-429-1843-6.
http://www.peeters-leuven.be/boekoverz.asp?nr=8188

More about human sacrifice in Europe:
Miranda Aldhouse Green, ‘Dying for the Gods, Human Sacrifice in Iron Age and Roman Europe’ (2002)
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