Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom
This chapter discusses the evolution of scholarly interest in Christian antiquities in Egypt after 1900. The archaeology of early Christianity developed much later than the field of Egyptology and initially focused only upon the clearing of monumental churches. Growing interest in Byzantine art and archaeology in the mid-1920s fostered greater support for excavations of expressly Christian settlements, which were primarily monastic communities. The wealth of archaeological evidence preserved in Egypt’s arid climate, such as documentary evidence (ostraca and papyri), textiles, manuscripts, and small finds such as items made of leather, reeds, ivory, and wood, helped foster a greater appreciation for Egypt’s history after the age of the pharaohs.
In the famous projects of ancient Egyptian architecture, sunlight had always a special role. An expert use of light and shadows helped in creating halls filled with sacredness in many temples; but most of all the Sun was the visible face of Ra, the Sun God. As a consequence, religious and funerary architectural projects were connected with the sun rays on special days of the year through astronomical alignments. The chapter focuses on a few key examples—the Akhet hierophanies at Giza and Amarna, and the winter solstice alignment at Karnak—showing the potentialities of modern archaeoastronomy in understanding key aspects of ancient Egyptian monuments and religion.
Evidence suggests that the cost of wrapping and decorating a mummy was an expensive enterprise, and considering the wide range of people involved and the materials required, one would expect transactions concerning such costly items to have generated some paperwork. However, textual evidence for the production of mummies, burial assemblages, or tombs in Roman Egypt is almost non-existent, so much so that funerary art could almost be defined as art without artists, created by invisible hands. This article collects the available evidence and attempts to understand better the working life of the funerary artists and craftsmen of Roman Egypt.
Martin Andreas Stadler
This article discusses Egyptian funerary religion during the Roman period. During this period, there was a greater diversity of modes in which individuals could be commemorated and at the same time envisage the afterlife — as Egyptian, Hellenized Egyptian, Egyptianized Greek, and so on, depending on personal and local circumstances. The textual sources superficially show a similar variety: some compositions survive in numerous copies, while other, quite extensive texts are unique and may represent an individual creation. By the start of the Ptolemaic period, funerary compositions adapted from temple ritual texts began to appear, highlighting a connection between tomb and temple functions that became increasingly evident in the Roman period but no doubt reflects long-standing practices as well.
Throughout the Roman empire, the living emperor was the subject of worship and also, in part, the object of a cult that was often very similar, if not identical, to the cult of the gods. This also applies to the Roman province of Aegyptus. Here the worship of the living ruler as a god was already a 300-year-old Ptolemaic tradition. This article presents the institutional structures of the cult of the emperor in Roman Egypt.
This article discusses mummies and mummification in Roman Egypt. The question of whether mummies from Roman Egypt attest a decline or a late heyday of mummification techniques can be answered firmly in favour of the latter. The different but generally high standards of embalming, using traditional as well as innovative Egyptian craftsmanship including excerebration, evisceration, and large quantities of embalming resins and linen, were dependent on two factors: cost and local practices. The use of extensive linen wrappings, mummy decoration (masks, shrouds, portraits, etc.), amulets, jewellery, and other burial goods, and the gilding of the skin, often correspond to high-quality mummification. However, the extremely high expense of a first-class burial in Roman Egypt was beyond almost everyone's reach.
Traditional Egyptian religion involved much more than temples, priests, and processions. The rhythms of agriculture, the experience of the landscape, and the perpetuation and fortune of family and village all involved ritual interactions with diverse gods and spirits: in the home, in local shrines, and at festivals. Using papyri and epigraphical documentation, historians of Egyptian religion can track the fortunes of the temples through the Roman period from, first, two centuries of imperial munificence, then through financial decline (third to fourth century
Ian C. Rutherford
This article discusses travel in Roman Egypt. The epigraphic habits of tourists, pilgrims, and other travellers in Roman Egypt allow us to trace their movements to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman empire. To judge from surviving evidence, the provenance of almost all the visitors was Egypt itself or the eastern half of the Mediterranean; visitors from Italy are rare. Most wrote in Greek, though the volume of graffiti in Demotic remains difficult to quantify with precision when so many remain unpublished. Most of the visitors tend to see Egypt through the lens of earlier Greek writers who had written about Egypt.