BMCR 2019.02.54

Schatzkammern: Ihre Dekoration und Raumkonzeption in ägyptischen Tempeln der griechisch-römischen Zeit. Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion, Band 19

Stefan Baumann, Schatzkammern: Ihre Dekoration und Raumkonzeption in ägyptischen Tempeln der griechisch-römischen Zeit. Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion, Band 19. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2018. xvi, 886. ebook.

Publisher’s Preview

The nineteenth volume in the series Studien zur spätägyptischen Religion is dedicated to an in-depth study of the so-called treasuries ( “Schatzkammer”, “trésor”) that one encounters in several Egyptian temples dating to the Ptolemaic and Roman eras. The author, Stefan Baumann, has taken, very wisely, a holistic approach to the topic, in order to gain a very detailed insight into the nature of this type of chamber. By taking into account the location, the architectural features, the decorative patterns applied to the walls of the treasury as well as its contents and the role and purpose of these chambers in the temple cult, he is able to provide, for the very first time, a detailed presentation of the important function these rooms performed within temples of this era.

After a general introduction to the topic, the first chapter sets the treasuries in a larger historical context and provides a general overview of their occurrence in pre-Ptolemaic times. Baumann briefly mentions their appearance in the profane sphere already from the time of the Old Kingdom onwards (e.g. in residences, military fortresses, individual houses as well as cemeteries) and focuses mainly on treasuries in the temple context – as an independent building near the temple, or as a designated chamber within the temple. The overview of the still existing pre-Ptolemaic structures and related inscriptions show that the vast majority of the remaining evidence dates to the New Kingdom,1 and that most independent treasury buildings and chambers integrated within a temple are located either in the Theban region (i.e. Karnak as well as the temples on the West Bank) or at Abydos. These chambers clearly influenced the outlook of their counterparts in temples of Ptolemaic and Roman times.

In the second chapter, Baumann provides an overview and analysis of five Egyptian designations commonly in use to refer to treasuries in Ptolemaic and Roman temples: pr-ḥḏ (‘silver-house’), st-nfrt (‘perfect seat/chamber’), wḏȝ (‘storeroom’), ‘bȝ-ḏfȝw (‘chamber of food provisions’) and ḥwt-ḏfȝw (‘mansion of food provisions’). The chapter also offers general information and a description of the seventeen treasuries that have been identified so far, based on inscriptions: the chambers are located in nine temples, with the Repit temple of Athribis, the Horus temple of Edfu, the Hathor temple of Dendara and the Isis temple of Philae containing from two up to four treasuries within their walls. It is interesting to note that the construction and decoration patterns of all chambers, except that of the Isis temple at el-Qal’a, date exclusively to the Ptolemaic era.

In the third and by far largest chapter of the volume (pp. 69–751), the author presents in great detail the decorative program (text and image) of all treasuries. The author chooses to organize the material by individual and distinct architectural components (i.e. doorways, bandeaux, soubassement (base or plinth), walls, friezes and ceiling), instead of presenting each individual treasury separately one after the other, which is to be commended. It allows the reader to observe immediately any (dis)similarities in text and decorative arrangement between specific architectural elements of the various treasuries. For each architectural component, Bauman provides a comprehensive analysis of the decorative program as well as a transliteration, translation and commentary of all inscriptions. The accompanying figures clearly position scene and text within the treasury and enable one to orientate oneself effortlessly in the decorative pattern of each individual chamber.

The most elaborate part of the chapter focuses on the processions located on the soubassement. In temples of the Ptolemaic and Roman era, the lowermost area of a temple wall more often than not contained long processions of offering bearers providing the main deities of the temple with a series of products, such as the annual yield of the fields or the produce of specific (mountainous/foreign) regions, but also aspects of the Nile inundation. At first sight, these processions might give the impression of being merely repetitive, monotonously duplicating one offering bearer after another. However, the texts associated with each figure contain vital information, almost of an encyclopaedic nature, on the land of Egypt and the surrounding regions. In the case of the treasuries, the processions consist of offering bearers depicted with the dw -hieroglyph (representing a mountain) on the head and vessels or trays in the hands, which contain the produce of mountainous regions and/or quarries. These regions are located partly within Egypt, but mainly abroad, from Nubia and Punt in the south to Cyprus and Central Anatolia (Hatti) in the north. In his study of these particular processions, Baumann not only provides an analysis of the evidence from the treasuries themselves, but also discusses all other processions involving the produce of mountainous regions, including those that appear in Ptolemaic and Roman temples outside the treasuries, and New Kingdom precursors. The author also investigates the general structure and organisation of the processions, both from an iconographic and a textual point of view, and compares them with other mineral lists located outside the treasuries and dating to all periods of ancient Egyptian history.

One outstanding contribution of the entire volume is undoubtedly Baumann’s attempt to identify and analyse all 46 toponyms and 37 minerals (i.e. precious stones, metals, pigments etc.) mentioned in these processions. In doing so, the study breaks through the bounds of the treasury chamber itself and provides fundamental information on mountainous regions as well as minerals known to the Egyptians at that time. This part of the study will undoubtedly prove to be of great use for scholars working on any topic related to the temples of this era, but also on the subjects of geography, mineralogy and trade – to name but a few.

Following the very elaborate study of the processions on the soubassements, the third chapter concludes with an exhaustive presentation and analysis of the ritual scenes depicted on the treasury walls. Next to the transliteration, translation and commentary of the inscriptions, Baumann also discusses the decorative program of each individual treasury. His research clearly reveals that, despite intrusions of the local/regional theology in the decorative scheme (and function) of each individual chamber, each treasury contains a number of recurring characteristic components, general concepts (e.g. dominion over foreign territories and Egypt, and the provision of nourishment and adornments) and deities (e.g. Geb, Min and Ptah) that evidently superseded the individual temple.

In the fifth and final chapter, Baumann discusses the architectural layout and position of the treasuries in the temples of this era, distinguishing three general types according to their location (i.e. a: in the very core of the temple, near the sanctuary; b: as a room positioned to the side of the hypostyle hall; and c: in the temple pylon). The author also points out the close relation that can be observed between the treasury and nearby rooms in the temple: between the treasury, the chamber of linen and the complex of the wabet -chapel and open court in the core of the temple,2 as well as between the treasury and the crypts (as the actual storage place of the precious products and goods in the innermost part of the temple). A similar architectural and functional relation can be observed between the treasury located near the hypostyle hall (as the storage place for cultic equipment, amulets and minerals) and a room providing access to the temple for (food) offerings during the daily cult. The author’s final analysis manifestly demonstrates that the treasury’s location within the temple and its relation to the other chambers in its immediate vicinity evidently had an impact on the exact function a specific treasury fulfilled.

At the very end of the volume, one finds an extensive bibliography, wide-ranging indices, detailed plans of all temples containing a treasury, figures with all processions of mountainous regions/quarries, and maps indicating these regions within Egypt and surrounding territories.

In conclusion, the study is extremely well researched, with a close eye for detail, and is appropriately positioned within its larger historical context as well as in the context of previous research. Information is presented throughout the volume in a very lucid manner, making it easy for the reader to follow the argumentation and train of thought of the author. Text and footnotes contain an absolute minimum of misspellings, which do not detract from the overall quality of the study or interfere with the communication of ideas. Overall, Stefan Baumann’s study will be for many years to come the standard work on any aspect of treasuries in ancient Egyptian temples, and not only for the Ptolemaic and Roman eras. In addition, the volume not only provides important information on the general organisation and workings of an Egyptian temple in this period, but also contains a trove of information on ancient Egyptian geographical and mineralogical knowledge.

Notes

1. To the author’s overview of the šn‘ or storeroom located in Old Kingdom pyramid temples, one should still add the information provided in the papyrus archives from Raneferef’s pyramid complex at Abusir. The designations pr- šn‘, prw- šn‘ and rȝ-S šn‘w occur almost a dozen times in the archive, which provides information on the goods stored in the rooms (e.g. barley, wheat, dried fruits and cloth). See P. Posener-Kriéger, M. Verner & H. Vymazalová, The Pyramid Complex of Raneferef. The Papyrus Archive, (Abusir X), (Prague 2006), pp. 343–344 and plates 8C, 9F, 43B, 45-46Ac, 62, 63Ae, 63Ah, 64D, 66Ac and 86E. In general on the šn‘a in the Old Kingdom, see also T. Savelieva, “Houses šn‘w in the Old Kingdom Temple Economy considered in the Light of the Abusir Papyri”, in E. Kormysheva, (ed.), Ancient Egypt and Kush: In Memoriam Mikhail A. Korostovtsev, (Moscow 1993), pp. 335-345.

2. In this perspective one could also add the presence of a staircase leading to the roof of the temple, regularly located in the immediate vicinity of (or accessed via) these specific chambers, as illustrated by plates 12, 13, 14 and 19 in Baumann’s study.