VISA - Sept. 19th, 2011
Egypt literally means “the gift of the Nile”. People dammed up the Nile to control water
flow. Politically ruled by dynasties (rich families).
Palette of Narmer, c. 2950-2775 BCE: Early Dynastic period. Egypt is controlled by
pharaohs, who have control of everything. Kingship was a divine state, so they were on
par with Gods. Goddess Maat is a woman with an ostrich feather. This piece is made of
slate. Narmer is in the center, he is the largest figure, the most important. Palette is a flat
stone and on the reverse has a circular depression in the center. Used for grinding black
pigment which was cosmetic. Believed to be used for ritual purposes. Narmer has one
raised arm and is holding the hair of the individual in front of him, which is a sign of
submission for the individual. This is a clear depiction of power. Both sides are
decorated in low relief. Head tends to be in profile, and the center part of the body is
frontally placed. We know this is Narmer because his name appears at the top in
pictographs. Small little figure behind the Pharaoh is carrying sandals, this is normal. On
the back side you can see the Pharaoh, the scribe behind him, and the enemy lying
upwards, neatly decapitated. This reinforces the strength and power of Narmer. The
palette was found in the temple.
The patrons of art would have the most control on the depictions of art. The Pharaohs
and their families would have control, which is why the art is so uniform throughout time.
Their begins to be interest in death rituals, elaborate funerals, they would all be buried
with their things. It would also be a place of passage into the afterlife.
Egyptians believed in many Gods. These Gods could appear in many forms. They could
have Gods from the underworld or the living, or the future. As they went along, new
deities were added when needed. The Egyptians believed that every human being had
a life force. This was someone’s “ka”. This meant that the person lived on after death.
This led to elaborate funerals and mummification. A sculpture of the individual was often
included as well in case the mummy did not help the ka live on in the afterlife. You would
also need some of your objects from daily life to live on with your ka. These would be
aspects of your existence on earth. Bodies were buried in sand. It would take 72 days to
mummify a body. Key organs would be removed, sodium would fill the body, and linen
would be used to wrap the body. All this was done to ensure that the Ka would make it’s
journey to the next world.
Mastaba: A low rectangular tomb. Flat on top, slopping sides and tombs below. Mastaba
means “bench”. In the later years they were built with stone. Usually the bodies were at
ground level or below. They often grew to incorporate family. Stepped Pyramid at Funerary Complex of Djoser, Saqqara, c. 2630: Around the stepped
pyramid would have been offering spaces. Inside the underground chambers there
would be elaborate flooring. All graves would be sealed in by rocks, both to keep grave
robbers out and to respect the Ka.
Pyramids at Giza: Taking the stepped pyramid and modifying it to make smooth sides.
Hand polished, smooth sides. There are a significant amount of pyramids still standing
in Egypt. These were built in the Old Kingdom for three Pharaohs (Khare, Khufu,
Menkaure). After the Pharaoh was inside, the entrance would be sealed by extremely
heavy stone. They were still looted as time went on. Perhaps even looted by other
Pharaohs. It took enormous man power to build these, and work would have been done
over many many years. Excavations have uncovered a village nearby the pyramid.
The Great Sphinx c. 2613-2494 BCE, Giza: Believed to be Khafre himself. Lions are
important in Egypt as guarding entrances. The more defined the sculpture, the more
important the better the sculpture.