Saturday, 5 June 2010

Sex, drugs and rock & roll in Ancient Egypt

For some reason there is a lot of publicity just recent about Betsy Bryan's thoughts on this subject. She actually gave a lecture at the Mummification Musuem back in 2006 and here are my old notes.

2006 John Hopkins Season at the Mut temple/Enlarging the view of Mut

Dr Betsy Bryan

2nd Feb

Dr Bryan gave a summary of the work of previous season in order to set the scene of the work they are doing in 2006. The earliest stone temple at the site was Thutmosis III and Hatshepsut.

They have been working on the area behind the sacred lake which is a horseshoe shape. They have found many granaries which would have been beehive shape very like the paintings at the tomb of Khety at Beni Hassan. Together with qurns, bread moulds and pots it suggests that this was a big beer and bread making operation in this area of the temple.

In The far south area near the enclosure wall they were hoping to find remains of Ancient Thebes but so far the remains are 25th dynasty. Once these have been recorded it is hope they can excavate underneath and night find what they were originally hoping.

Inside the temple they are looking at 2 courtyards and the platform area. They have found remains of Hathor headed pillars. The temple was variously built by Thutmosis II, Ramases II, Seti II and Ramses IV. The platform area was Thutmosis III, the condition of the blocks is very unstable so they are trying to conserve these and remove the ones that are in danger and fragile, build better foundations then relay the blocks that are stable. There were more examples of foundation blocks with joint cartouches of Tut III and Hatshepsut. And Senumut’s name also is present. A lot of the foundation blocks are reused from other periods and should be on display. The work of the restorers was shown by a fantastic Hathor headed column that had been rescued. There was much mutilation by the atonists and then restoration by various kings like Tutankhamen, Ay and Horemheb.

One of the discoveries was a lovely statue of a queen of Amenhotep III. Although this has much been reported in the press as being Queen Tiye (Ti) it actually has no name and could be Sitamun, Mutemewa or Tiye. The modus has cartouches of Amenhotep all the way round and it would have come from the last 7 years of his reign.

The second part of the lecture was a complete revelation for me and forgive me if my notes are incomplete or inaccurate as I was trying to write in the dark and take it in.

Dr Bryan gave a fascinating insight into the Festivals of drunkenness. Now being drunk was not socially acceptable and there is wisdom literature support that moral stance. However there is much that encourages people to get drunk in order to experience God. This has links with the story of Hathor being made drunk in order to stop her destroying mankind. Mut is linked with Sekmet and Bast which is why there are so many statues of Sekmet from that temple. It seems that a part of the religious worship was to get so drunk you passed out and just before you did you experienced the divine. They even had ‘designated drivers’ who would look after you so you could lose control in a very controlled situation.

Scenes of this are in evidence at tombs like Kahri at El Kab where the deceased family talk to each other and make remarks like asking for 18 jars of wine. In Rekhmire the question is posed ‘Is it Ma’at to get drunk’ and the hieroglyphic for Ma’at is turned round indicating ‘Yes go for it’. In tt38 there are scenes of vomiting

Phrases like ‘roaming in the marshes’ indicate that sexual activity is also an important part of this and associated with the Beautiful Feast of the Valley where you communed with dead relatives. In TT82 there is a song which talks of “rejoicing in drunken women”

Mut appears to have a role to play in the Eye of Re, which is an aspect of Hathor where she takes revenge on mankind when they don’t behave. (I am not sure I got all this clearly so if anyone can give me more I would appreciate it)

In the question and answer session two other things came out. One questioner talked about the influence in Sufism of Ancient Egypt and how getting into an altered state to experience the divine was there. And another lady mentioned the princess of Mentuhotep who had scenes of granaries and might be an earlier example of this religious experience. Probably all these granaries at the Mut temple where were all this beer was coming from.

So another excellent lecture which widened my understanding. I did like the site report but this part 2 was the best bit for me

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