Shabaka Stone

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Shabaka Stone on display in The British Museum.
(0.66 m tall by 1.37 m wide, not high resolution)

The Shabaka Stone, sometimes Shabaqo, is a relic incised with an ancient Egyptian religious text, which dates from the 25th dynasty;[1] in later years, the stone was likely used as a millstone, which damaged the hieroglyphics. This damage is accompanied by other intentional defacements, leaving the hieroglyphics in poor condition.

Provenance[edit]

Historical Origins[edit]

Originally erected as a lasting monument at the Temple of Ptah in Memphis in the late eighth century BCE, the stone was at some point removed (for unknown reasons) to Alexandria,[2] from there, it was transported by a navy vessel from Alexandria to England. It was brought back as ballast along with a capital of an Egyptian column, fragments of a Greco-Roman black basalt capital, two fragments of quartzite lintel of Senwosret III, and a black granite kneeling statue of Ramesses II;[3] in 1805, the stone was donated to the British Museum by George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834), who was First Lord of the Admiralty and since 1794 the trustee of the museum.[4] In 1901, the stone was deciphered, translated, and interpreted for the first time by the American egyptologist, James Henry Breasted,[5] the monument has remained at the museum to the present day.[2]

Dating[edit]

Since this stone was meant to be a preservation of an older text, the question regarding the dating of the original work has been sought after. Attempts to attribute a definite date for the original text have been inconclusive. Breasted, Adolf Erman, Kurt Sethe, and Hermann Junker all dated the stone to the Old Kingdom.[6] The stone is archaic, both linguistically (its language is similar to that used in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom) and politically (it alludes to the importance of Memphis as the first royal city),[6] as such, Henri Frankfort, John Wilson, Miriam Lichtheim, and Erik Iverson have also assessed the stone to be from the Old Kingdom.[6] However, Friedrich Junge and most other scholars since then have argued that the monument was produced in the Twenty-fifth Dynasty.[6] Today, scholars feel it is clear that it cannot predate the Nineteenth Dynasty.[7]

Composition[edit]

Measurements[edit]

The stela is around 137 cm wide, with the left side height estimated at 91 cm and the right side about 95 cm.[8] The written surface is 132 cm in width and on average, 66 cm in height.[8] The rectangular hole in the center is 12 by 14 cm, with eleven radiating lines ranging in length from 25 to 38 cm.[8] The area of the surface which has been completely worn-out measures 78 cm across.[8]

Material[edit]

In 1901, James Henry Breasted identified the stone as a rectangular slab of black granite.[9] While other scholars postulated that the monument was a slab or basalt or a conglomerate stone, a recent analysis by a scientist of the British Museum revealed the stone to be green breccia originating from Wadi Hammamat.[10]

Content[edit]

The text includes two main divisions with a short introduction and an ending summary, the first division relates the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Ptah works through Horus to accomplish this unification, the other is a creation story, the Memphite Theology, that establishes Ptah as the creator of all things, including gods.

The text stresses that it is in Memphis that the unification of Egypt took place,[11] the inscription also states that this town was the burial-place of Osiris, after he drifted ashore.[11]

Introduction and Titulary of the King[edit]

The first line of the stone presents the fivefold royal titulary of the king: "The living Horus: Who prospers the Two Lands; the Two Ladies: Who prospers the Two Lands; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt: Neferkare; the Son of Re: [Shabaka], beloved of Ptah-South-of-His-Wall, who lives like Re forever.”[12] The first three names emphasize the king's manifestation as a living god (especially of the falcon-headed Horus, patron god to the Egyptian kings), while the latter two names (the king's throne name and birth name) refer to Egypt's division and unification.[13]

The second line, a dedicatory introduction, claims that the stone is a copy of the surviving contents of a worm-ridden, decaying papyrus found by the pharaoh Shabaka as he was inspecting the temple of Ptah in Memphis.[13]

The Unification of Egypt[edit]

Lines 3 to 47 describe the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the god Horus at Memphis,[12] the text first declares the political and theological supremacy of the Memphite god Ptah, the king of both Upper and Lower Egypt, and the creator of the Ennead.[14] The inscription then describes how Horus, as a manifestation of Ptah, initially rules Lower Egypt while his rival Seth rules Upper Egypt.[15] However, Horus receives Upper Egypt from Geb, becoming the sole ruler of the land.[15]

The Memphite Theology[edit]

Lines 48 to 64 recount the creation myth known as the Memphite Theology.[12] Ptah, the patron god of craftsmen, metalworkers, artisans, and architects was viewed as a creator-god, a divine craftsman of the universe who was responsible for all existence.[16] Creation was first a spiritual and intellectual activity, facilitated by the divine heart (thought) and tongue (speech/word) of Ptah.[17] Then, creation became a physical activity carried out by Atum, who, created by Ptah's teeth and lips, produced the Ennead from his seed and hands.[17]

Summary[edit]

Lines 61 through 64 summarize the text as a whole.[12]

Purpose[edit]

According to Ragnhild Bjerre Finnestad, there are three theories on the possible purpose of the Shabaka text:

  1. To assert the supremacy of the Memphite theological system over the Heliopolitan
  2. To claim the hegemony of the Memphis and its priesthood over Heliopolis and its priesthood
  3. To present an ontology.[18]

As a temple text written down and set up in the temple of Ptah, it is likely that the Shabaka Stone served a religious, cultic-theological purpose, placing its subject matter within a cultic frame of reference.[19]

Damage[edit]

Projecting from the rectangular hole in the center of the stone are radial rough stripes, which destroyed the inscription within a radius of 78 cm, measured from the middle of the stone.[20] According to the secondary literature on the monument, this damage occurred because the stone was re-used as a millstone,[20] the oldest reference speculating the stone's use as a millstone is found in the display of the British Museum of 1821.[20] However, the stone could instead have been the foundation of something round, possibly a column or a pillar.[21]

Some parts of the stone were intentionally cut out during the Dynastic Period,[21] this included the name of Seth (line 7), a god which was condemned during this time.[21] Additionally, Psamtik II or Psamtik III erased the proper name and throne name of Shabaka from the stone.[22] Psamtik III then engraved his name onto the stone, but his name was in turn erased by the Persians during their conquest.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Shabako Stone, British Museum
  2. ^ a b Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 5 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  3. ^ El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. pp. 567–8. 
  4. ^ El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. p. 567. 
  5. ^ Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 2 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  6. ^ a b c d Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 10 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  7. ^ Van De Mierroop, Marc (2011). A history of Ancient Egypt. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. p. 303. ISBN 978-1-4051-6070-4
  8. ^ a b c d Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 7 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  9. ^ Breasted, James Henry (1901). "The Philosophy of a Memphite Priest". Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde. 39: 458. 
  10. ^ Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 6 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  11. ^ a b Finnestad, Ragnhild Bjerre (1976). "Ptah, Creator of the Gods: Reconsideration of the Ptah Sections of the Denkmai". Numen. 23 (2): 81. 
  12. ^ a b c d Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 8 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  13. ^ a b Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 9 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  14. ^ Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 13 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  15. ^ a b Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 14 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  16. ^ Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 17 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  17. ^ a b Bodine, Joshua J. (April 2009). "The Shabaka Stone: An Introduction". Studia Antiqua. 7 (1): 18–9 – via BYU ScholarsArchive. 
  18. ^ Finnestad, Ragnhild Bjerre (1976). "Ptah, Creator of the Gods: Reconsideration of the Ptah Sections of the Denkmai". Numen. 23 (2): 82–3. 
  19. ^ Finnestad, Ragnhild Bjerre (1976). "Ptah, Creator of the Gods: Reconsideration of the Ptah Section of the Denkmai". Numen. 23 (2): 83. 
  20. ^ a b c El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. p. 569. 
  21. ^ a b c El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. p. 570. 
  22. ^ El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. p. 571. 
  23. ^ El Hawary, Amr (2007). "New Findings About the Memphite Theology". In Goyon, Jean-Claude; Cardin, Christine. Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Leuven (Belgium): Peeters Publishers & Department of Oriental Studies. p. 572. 

External links[edit]