Monday, 2 August 2010

Mentuhotep II - Dr. Joann Fletcher. 29th July 2010

Once again Joann’s inimitable style of speaking was most informative, entertaining and sometimes humorous. Her talk on Montuhotep II, which included a little of her own likes and
dislikes about ancient Egyptian culture was delivered with true professionalism.

The perfect recipe for a really enjoyable evening.

Terry Frodsham

Mentuhotep II was the king accredited with the re-unification of Egypt after the First Intermediate Period c.2160 – 2055 BCE.

Joann set the timeline by describing the collapse of the Old Kingdom, how the state of Egypt and the nature of kingship changed and how central administration disintegrated leaving individual nomes, or provinces, under local control.

This period of fractured leadership, provincial in-fighting and civil unrest was called the First Intermediate Period. These troubled times were illustrated by the tomb models of Egyptian soldiers and Nubian archers found in the tomb of Mesehti at Asyut.

The tenuous rule by the Herakleopolitan leaders 9th and 10th Dynasties (leaders called Akhtoy or Khety) was eventually broken by the Theban leader Mentuhotep II, the fifth ruler of the 11th Dynasty, who ruled from 2055 – 2004 BCE.

Using a plethora of old photographs and illustrations made by the excavators of the early 1900’s Joann described how the architecture and art of the early Middle Kingdom was not only quite exquisite, but was a compliment to the restructuring of the nation from its Theban base.

Montuhotep II carried out restoration work and built many temples to Montu, Amun and Hathor, but his most innovative was the Temple built at Deir el-Bahri which became his resting place and that of his royal ladies.

It was unique in design and included elements of Old Kingdom pyramid complexes, such as causeway ramps and sloping shafts to the tombs; but the multi-tiered colonnaded construction was inspirational, and the precinct, with its tree-lined court of sycamore, fig and tamarisk must have been delightful. The king’s tomb was cut into the rock face at the back of the temple and there were six chapels and tombs for his wives and family.

Incredibly the temple was buried beneath sand until the 1900’s. Joann showed us photographs of some of the reliefs they excavated; scenes of the ladies of the court having their hair dressed and adorned with ornaments, scenes of wildfowl and of the king and she lamented that many of the reliefs were now scattered in museums around the world. It was shocking to hear that some of the mummies that were found were sent to Cairo and subsequently dissected, de-fleshed and the remains left now in small boxes.

Today the temple remains are argely overlooked by the visitors to Hatshepsut’s Temple just next door. Also eclipsed are the court officials’ tombs cut higher in the rock face. One of these, Meketre’s tomb, contained numerous tomb models, all exquisite in detail and preservation, showing scenes from everyday life – baking, weaving, carpentry, fishing and even a miniature house with garden, plants and pool.

Joann also mentioned the work of Herbert Winlock, who uncovered the tomb of some sixty archers/soldiers near to the Temple of Mentuhotep II, a band of brothers that died in battle who still had arrows embedded in their bodies. Had these men died in the struggles that led to the re-unification of Egypt?

The talk was enlightening and entertaining and the use of old photographs from the actual excavations and even drawings, brought this period of Egyptian history to life. That the Old Kingdom was a golden age and the New Kingdom an exciting age is undisputed, but the Middle Kingdom with its art, architecture, literature and hieroglyphs and its key players were given due respect in this great talk by Joann.

Susan Corcoran

Reviews of Horus Meetings

As a new feature of the Horus Egyptology Society Blog, following meetings we will bring you a summary review of each speaker and the topic(s) they covered, starting with notes on the most recent speaker - Dr. Joann Fletcher who was our guest on the 29th July 2010.