Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mummification Museum - Popular Worship at Luxor Temple and the Rekhyt Rebus - Ken Griffin

This lecture was different to our normal ones as Ken presented a new theory. I have read his published paper on this so if you want to know more I do suggest you read this. You can also search Google using “Rekhyt rebus” as keywords. His argument was convincing and well presented. This link is a picture of the rebus which will help understanding the lecture.
The lecture was divided into three parts; who were the Rekhyt, the Rekhyt rebus and the people’s gate.
Who were the Rekhyt?
In 1868 Brugush was the first to define the word as people and many others have come after using definitions like volk, plebeians, mankind, and common folk, lowest level of people. There is also another word, ‘Pat’ people which means nobility.
Others have had more controversial ideas but these are not widely accepted, Nibbi thought they are Libyans and Hodge Indo-Europeans
They are symbolised by the lapwing bird with its wings pinned back and human arms raised worshiping. Birds are still seen in this position in markets in Egypt today.
The Rekhyt Rebus
The rebus itself consists of a bird – the people, a basket – all, and star – worship. Finally a cartouche (e.g. Ramesses). So it reads as “all the Rekhyt-people worship Ramesses”.
Why was it put on the temples?
Traditional view has been that this was a symbol to direct the common people to where they should stand as stated by Brand, Bell, Teeter, Wilkinson and others. You can see it at the 1st courtyard at Luxor Temple which is variously referred to in hieroglyphs as a Place of Supplication, Court of Appearances or Festival Court. It only appears on the columns on the south east area (the north east is under the mosque and has not been studied) and some believe that this meant that the common people were only allowed into this eastern side of the court. The corresponding columns on the west side have a cartouche flanked by the goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet. All the birds face towards the central aisle.
Ken also pointed out that the statues flanking the doorway to the colonnade of Amenhotep III were also identified for popular worship so common people must have had access to them. Also the triple shrine in the North West is a place for supplication with both the Mut ad Khonsu chapels mentioning the Rekhyt people as well as the false door in the Amun chapel. This had the mystical function, a bit like an ancient telephone booth with direct dial to Amun. There is also a statue (provenance unknown) of a noble called Panhesy which mentions the Rekhyt people presenting gifts to the statue in order to have Panhesy deliver the pleas to the god who la within.
People’s Gate
This is the entrance just by the mosque and the inscriptions says that the Rekhyt adore in order to be given life. The Pat people were on the other door jamb back in 1983 but have now vanished. It is possible that this gateway was used by the king coming and going from his east bank palace. As well as the Pat-people there are also examples of various other peoples including foreigners as seen at Abydos.
Now Ken started to put his case against the rebus being a positioning glyph for common people. So at Luxor temple we should consider when deciding where the common people were allowed.
- Name of the court
- Open courts could by default be described as being open for worship
- Triple Shrine
- Ka Statues
- Rekhyt Rebus positions
- People’s Gate
Ken had examined the occurrence of the Rekhyt-rebus in New Kingdom temples, in the courtyards, hypostyle halls and inner sanctuaries. If the Rekhyt rebus was a sign indicating ‘you may stand here’ then one would have expected it not to appear past the courtyards.
He has looked at a variety of temples and found occurrences along the axial ways in courtyards and hypostyle halls but also in inner sanctuaries like the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut, the way stations of Hatshepsut, Seti I temples at Gurna and Abydos, and Ramesses II temple at Abydos. So this is found throughout temples, even in their private most secret places.
Doorways in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts restricted access to the hereafter but in the New Kingdom they became physical doorways. They had symbols which were both greeting and worshiping.
The Rekhyt image can be a bird, a person with a birds head or a person with the little crest of the lapwing on the back of their head and there is an example from the Third Intermediate Period of a bird with a flail as opposed to wings. They appear to flank the processional route with the few exceptions explained by poor reconstruction or missing elements.
Ken believes that this was part of upholding Maat and that without these images continually worshiping and greeting the both the pharaoh and the gods then Egypt would be thrown into chaos. So a much more mystical purpose than the traditional view.

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