sábado, 29 de noviembre de 2014

Ancient Egyptian Ostraca: A Reevaluation

Ancient Egyptian Ostraca: A Reevaluation

Jennifer Babcock, 2009–2011 Hagop Kevorkian Curatorial Fellow, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
«Although I am an Egyptologist, I recently worked for two years in the Museum's Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art as the 2009–2011 Hagop Kevorkian Curatorial Fellow. The experience was invaluable, not only for its curatorial training, but also for the opportunity to approach my dissertation topic—ancient Egyptian ostraca—from a cross-disciplinary perspective.»
Ostraca are flakes of limestone that were used as "notepads" for private letters, laundry lists, records of purchases, and copies of literary works. My research focused specifically on the "figured," or illustrated, ostraca that some Egyptologists interpret as visual parodies of Egyptian social hierarchy.1 These images portray animals acting as humans, as well as "topsy-turvy worlds" in which everything is the reverse of how it occurs in nature.

Ostracon, New Kingdom, Ramesside, Dynasty 19–20, ca. 1295–1070 B.C. Egypt. Limestone, paint. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Anonymous Gift, 1960 (60.158)
For example, in the upper register of an ostracon from the Met's collection (shown above), a seated monkey is depicted interacting with a bipedal cat—an indication that these animals are to be understood as having human characteristics. Other ostraca of this type portray anthropomorphized animals in different but equally nonsencial roles, such as mice being waited on by their cat servants. These types of figured ostraca are all approximately palm sized, and typically depict a single image or event without any accompanying text. Many were found in or are believed to be from Deir el-Medina,2 a New Kingdom (1150–1070 B.C.) village that housed the draughtsmen, carvers, and painters for the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Imagery of animals acting as humans is prevalent in ancient Near Eastern art as well, particularly during the Proto-Elamite period (3200–2700 B.C.). At first glance, however, it seems that these types of images in the Near East occupied a more elite sphere than those from ancient Egypt. For instance, there is a silver statuette of a kneeling bull offering a vessel in the Met's collection that demonstrates a masterful blend of human and animal traits, and careful articulation of textile pattern. The bull's material and high level of craftsmanship suggests that it was officially commissioned.


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