2016 October Series


The Egyptian Colony in Avaris during the Hyksos PerioD

Manfred Bietak, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

The capital of the Hyksos Avaris (now Tell el-Dab‘a in the eastern Delta) was not only inhabited by immigrants from the Near East whom we may call for convenience sake Canaanites. Their power in Egypt rested not only on their own people but also on other ethnicities, especially also on Egyptians. We know from papyri such as Papyrus Westcar and Papyrus Rhind that Egyptian literature and sciences and most probably administration were maintained by Egyptian scribes whose ancestors lived at this town before. Their settlement at ‘Ezbet Rushdi was small, regular and surrounded by a wall. The community survived to live there also in the Hyksos Period when the northern half of Egypt was governed by kings of Near Eastern origin. We can recognize this from the different settlement pattern and the lack of intramural burials introduced by the Canaanites. The Egyptians were even able to enlarge their settling ground on the expense of Canaanite space during the Hyksos Period. This is a sign that they had enjoyed respect under the foreign suzerains. Also other foreign communities lived under the Hyksos in Avaris such as Nubians and Cypriots, but their quarters have not yet been identified. By and by archaeology is able to reveal a multi-ethnic urban landscape in one of the biggest towns of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period.

Animal Classification in Ancient Near Eastern Scripts: Between Hieroglyphs and Cuneiform

Orly Goldwasser, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

How did ancient cultures perceive the “animal kingdom”? What and who constituted an “animal”?  Did a distinction between domesticated and non-domesticated animals exist? And how were fantastical animals classified? Answers to these questions may be found in a unique trove of emic data: the classifier systems of the ancient scripts in the Near East. In general, emic information on world classification is found in two main forms: explicit and implicit. Cases of explicit emic classification are found, for example, in “lists” wherein scribes consciously list elements in the world—a common genre in Mesopotamia but rare in Egypt, or in descriptions in the pictorial that present the world according to kinds, roles, or utilitarian use. The pictorial description is more common in Egypt.

Implicit emic classification can be uncovered when classification occurs in contexts that do not involve an a priori genre-prescribed classification effort. Such is the case of information provided by the classifiers (determinatives) of the scripts. The ancient hieroglyphic and cuneiform scripts share the phenomenon of a prescribed graphemic “slot” that could be used to provide graphemic information for any noun. This slot was reserved for unpronounced semantic information provided by the scribes. When it comes to “animal nouns,” the classifier slot is a veritable gold mine of emic information regarding humankind and its relation to the animal world. This lecture will illustrate the animal landscape of the Ancient Near East as perceived through the lenses of classifier systems.