The Context of Ancient Egyptian Statuary in the Levant

Posted in: AIAR
Tags: AIAR, Albright Institute, Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, Albright Institute of America, Ancient Egyptian Statuary, Ashley Fiutko Arico, Egypt, George A. Barton Fellow, Johns Hopkins University, Levant
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Ashley Fiutko AricoBy: Ashley Fiutko Arico, The Johns Hopkins University, George A. Barton Fellow

The presence of Egyptian material culture in the Levant has long intrigued scholars in the fields of Levantine archaeology and Egyptology alike as evidence of interconnections between the two regions in antiquity. My dissertation focuses on a distinct subset of this material, stone statuary. This study combines art historical analysis with a review of related archaeological data to better understand the context and function of ancient Egyptian statuary in the Levant.

My dissertation is divided into two main sections: a detailed catalogue of known statuary fragments with Levantine provenances; and an analysis of their temporal and spatial distribution within the region. The primary focus of my research while at the Albright was to amass the data needed to compile the catalogue section of my study. Although many of the statues in my corpus have been known for nearly a century, a significant portion of them remain only partially published. This is because they fall into an academic gray area – having been excavated in the Levant but being culturally Egyptian. In addition, because many of the statues in this study appear only briefly in preliminary excavation reports, the full extent of the corpus has not previously been recognized. A detailed examination of the fragments and their relationship with works from Egypt proper is, therefore, long overdue.

Egyptian statues in the Levant represent a wide range of types that are known from the Egyptian canon and include representations of kings, private officials, and even deities. However, because almost all of the examples are fragmentary, determining their original form and related issues such as their chronology and how they were repurposed for use in a new environment can be difficult. This is further complicated by the fact that publication of these pieces is scattered in different journals and books, and often lacks pertinent details or even photographs. The data collected as part of this project will fill this scholarly gap, and, more importantly, enable the study of the spatial distribution of the statues based on type, material, relative date, etc. It is my hope that the compilation of these corpora into a single database and their subsequent analysis in my dissertation will create a framework for understanding not only those statues that have already been excavated, but also those that remain to be discovered.

The time that I was able to spend in Jerusalem thanks to the generosity of the George A. Barton Fellowship was vital to completing the research needed for my dissertation. During my two months at the Albright, I was able to examine Egyptian statuary fragments in numerous local collections, including the Rockefeller Museum, the Israel Museum, the Skirball Museum of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the École Biblique, and the IAA storage facility at Beth Shemesh. My research also benefited greatly from the opportunity to discuss my corpus of material with members of Israel’s academic community. Most importantly, being at the Albright provided me with the time and resources to write a section of my dissertation, which I plan to complete in 2015. I am incredibly grateful to the AIAR and its staff for their support and for providing me with a home in Jerusalem, allowing this project to come to fruition.

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