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Musée Egyptien de Turin
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  Egypte pharaonique   :|:   Document

Painted linen from Gebelein
1 October 2014 | by Francis Leveque | ref. : en.1149.2014
IVe - Ve millennium BC | [en] tissu
Egypte (Haute Egypte) ( Egypte )

The town of Gebelein, whose archaeological site is known as Naga el-Gherira, is located in Upper Egypt 29 km south of Thebes on the west bank of the Nile. Its name in Arabic means "the two mountains". The site consists of a northern hill with a cemetery and a southern hill with an ancient temple of Het-Hert located close to the Nile.

Excavations of the area have been conducted primarily by the Egyptian Museum at Turin, Italy, after 1930 and the earliest finds have been some linen cloths painted with boats, men and women in a funeral dance, and scenes of hippopotamus hunting and fishing. These cloths, found in a predynastic grave in the northern hill cemetery, attest to the very ancient settlement in this area. They are dated to the first phase of the Nagada civilization beginning from the first half of the 4th millenium B.C, Naqada IIa - Naqada IIb.

Only the central section have been preserved. The pieces mesure 2m x 1m.

Many scholars identify this painting as a dynastic point of departure a directory (Kantor 1944: 114-116) to become widespread during the Nagada III period (Case & Crowfoot Payne 1962: 17).

There are at least 4 boats depicted on this linen cloth : two small carft following behind two larger vessels.

The two small boats

The two small boats are equipped trains with 8 to 10 oars. The lines representing the oars are extended to the hull on one, stops under the hull to the other. A similar structure to the two boats occupies the central space: 2 poles connected by two intersecting lines.

The bottom big boat

The two large boats are crescent shaped. On the bottom there are 4 rowers with their oars but other oars hanging below the hull (like oars to represent the opposite side). Other oars are shown in the front but the condition of the stuff did not keep the rowers. The helmsman has a steering oar larger (left). Two cabins occupy the central space. Between them a person is sitting in the same position as rowers and a black line behind it may be an indication of an other oar.

The left cabin has a pole projecting from the structure. A ring is attached to it by a rope. The rear of the cab is curved. The right cabin is different. She have 2 poles protruding from the structure and a cover 2 slope between the two poles.

The upper big boat

The boat does not have rowers but a helmsman at the back. The curved stern rises high and ends with a decoration. Red and black horizontal lines appear to indicate the presence of a cabin with a flat roof. Front of the cabin a character is sitting on a kind of throne. It seems to wear something on his head while the rowers are bareheaded. A black line appears to indicate that he holds an object in the hand (a scepter? the whip Nekhekh ?). Obviously this is an important person.


Bibliography :

B.B. WILLIAMS, T.J. LOGAN , The Metropolitan MuseumKnife Handle and Aspects of Pharaonic Imagery before Nar-mer, in JNES , 1946, p. 245-285
G. Galassi, Preistoria e protostoria: l’arte del più antico Egitto nel Museo di Torino, in Rivista Studi Orientali/Riv. Ist. Naz. Arch. St. Arte, vol. IV , 1955, p. 5-42
E. Scamuzzi, Museo Egizio di Torino, Edizioni d'Arte Fratelli Pozzo, Turin , 1964, pl. I-V
B. Landström, Ships of the Pharaohs: 4000 years of Egyptian shipbuilding, Doubleday & Company, Stockholm , New York , 1970, p. 14, n° 17, fig. 22
S. Curto, Due tele dipinte a figure, in Dal Museo al Museo. Passato e futuro del Museo Egizio di Torino, Turin , 1989, p. 86-87
W. Davis, Masking the Blow: The Scene of Representation in Late Prehistoric Egyptian Art, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford , 1992, p. 43, 45, fig. 4
B. Adams, K.M. Ciałowicz, Protodynastic Egypt , Shire publications , 1997, p. 37
K.M. Ciałowicz, La naissance d’un royaume : l’Egypte dès la période prédynastique à la fin de la Ière dynastie, Cracovie , 2001
F. Raffaele , Dynasty 0, in AH, vol. 17, S. Bickel - A- Loprieno eds. , 2003, p. 99-141
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