Egypt Archaeology – The New Kingdom

By | January 11, 2022

According to top-mba-universities, art flourishes again in Egypt with the XVIII dynasty, when the country rediscovers its political arrangement in the reconstructed unity. The first important work is the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari: with three sloping terraces in the background of the same basin in which the temple of Montuhotep stood, each equipped with a portico with columns with 16 edges. The actual chapels are carved into the rock, and all the surfaces are covered with reliefs that narrate the queen’s exploits in an archaic style very close in many details to that of the Old Kingdom. Of the Thutmosis and of the second Amenhotep there remain numerous notable monuments, both architectural (for example, a part of the temple of Karnak) and sculpture, characterized by a style of extreme refinement and cold elegance. Among the most significant works are the statue of Thutmosis III in Cairo, and the granite goddesses Sakhmet that Amenhotep III commissioned for the courtyard of the temple of Mūt in Karnak. Some grandiose temples also date back to this period, such as, for example, that of Ammon in Thebes (Luxor). The remains of a royal palace discovered in Madīnat Ḥabū also date back to the reign of Amenhotep III, with remains of paintings characterized by an impressionistic technique that also returns in tomb paintings of the time. Also in the area of ​​Thebes, a Belgian mission has unearthed two graves of two high officials of the reign of Amenhotep II. There are also some sculptures in the round from this period, such as the figure of a woman preserved in Florence, or the king’s head in the Cambridge museum, full of a new vitality, an expression of the artistic conception sponsored by Amenhotep IV, who became Akhenaten, and centered on Tell al-Amarna. In sculpture and relief a language is imposed in which the taste for movement predominates (heads with prosthetic minds, heavy bellies and breasts), subverting the traditional positions of balance, and where light plays on surfaces (folds, wrinkles). These tendencies result in full realism (eg, the numerous plaster masks, very faithful portraits), but often also in caricatural and excessive forms.

Nothing remains of the architecture of the time of Akhenaten, the temples were all destroyed during the Theban reaction, but from the iconographic sources and the scarce remains we note a weighting of the forms, while the decoration is more luxuriant. The problem of the genesis of this art is very complex: one can certainly hypothesize the influence of the Near East, more pictorial than the Egypt, and provincial and non-canonical tendencies also played their part. After Akhenaten the art of Tell al-Amarna continues to live, refined, in statues of the immediate successors (thus the findings of the tomb of Tutankhamun, or the statue of Khons, of the same period, in Cairo). With the beginning of the nineteenth dynasty there is a resurgence of classicist tendencies (reliefs of the temple of Sethi I in Abido), but already with Ramesses II a balance is found between the two opposite tendencies. In architecture, the severe and somewhat baroque forms of the Akhenaten period serve as a model for new constructions. Among the main works we remember the hypostyle hall of the temple of Ammon in Karnak, the Ramesseo and the two temples carved into the rock at Abū Simbel, in Nubia, of a spectacular and scenographic taste. In Saqqara, French archaeologists have discovered the tomb of Necharomes, Ramses II’s staff director, and the pyramid of Queen Ankhsn-Pepi. Also important was the discovery, in 1996, of a double pink granite statue representing Ramesses II as king and god.

For the last dynasties, the excavations at the end of the 20th century. of the Italian missions are related to the recovery of the funerary palace of Sheshonq of the Saitic dynasty (XXII dynasty) in Thebes and to the tomb of Harwa, a dignitary who lived under the XXV dynasty. The evidence relating to the late period essentially consists of a large quantity of Templar statues, such as, for example, those found in the so-called cachette of Karnak (over 1000 stone statues) – important because they allow the identification of the major dignitaries who lived in late times, who deposited their ex-votos in Karnak – or in that of Luxor. The sculpture of this period (from the XXII to the XXX dynasty) is characterized by an archaizing language, precisely called Neomenfite, because it refers to the sculpture of the Old Kingdom, which demonstrates an unchanged dominion over stone, inherited from a distant past, but always maintained I live even during times of crisis. Works such as the black basalt falcon in the Louvre, or the head preserved in Turin (Egyptian Museum) are of the highest artistic level. Of the bronze statuary remain some masterpieces datable to the Ethiopian dynasty (XXII), such as the female statues of the lady Takushit and Princess Karomama (Paris, Louvre). The tombs of this period find a new location within the Templar precincts (eg, at Tanis in the precincts of the temple of Ammon). It is possible that the reason for this innovation consisted in the desire to tighten the relationship with the dynastic divinity, as in the case of the tombs of the kings of the XXVI dynasty (destroyed) which according to Herodotus they were placed in Sais within the enclosure of the temple of the goddess Neith, their dynastic divinity. As for the non-real funerary architecture, the material evidence is limited to the tombs of officials in the necropolis of Saqqara and Thebes. In Saqqara there are the tombs of characters connected to the court, such as the hypogean tomb of the vizier of Psammeticus I, Bakenrenef, and that of Pedipep, tutor of Psammetich II. The Theban necropolis frequently presents large tombs, with superstructures similar to a real temple, and they are richly decorated with very extensive wall reliefs. As in Saqqara, these are the tombs of court dignitaries and priests. The religious architecture retains the characteristics of the pharaonic past; however in the 4th century. BC, alongside some innovations such as intercolumniation in stone.

Egypt Archaeology - The New Kingdom