Collection: Object of the Month
Origin: Taula enclosure of Torre d'en Galmés (Alaior)
Technique and materials: Bronze smelting in cast
Size: 15 cm in height (18 cm including the base)
Culture: Ancient Egypt/End of Talayotic
Date: Made in the 7th -4th Centuries BCE
This small bronze sculpture represents the Egyptian god Imhotep was found in 1974 during the excavations led by Guillem Rosselló Bordoy at the taula enclosure of the Torre d'en Galmés settlement.
Who was Imhotep? We could say that he was a real person that underwent a gradual apotheosis process. He is the first person we know of that did not belong to royalty. During his lifetime, he was primarily popular as the architect of the first pyramid, that of the pharaoh of the Ancient Egyptian Empire Djoser. It was only in the Late Empire period that his facet as a doctor was acknowledged, making him the patron saint of this field.
Alongside the bronze sculpture, a small group of related objects were found. They consisted of two small bronze lancets, which could be considered surgical instruments, and a quadrangular stone, that we could relate to the pouring of liquids during rituals. This set of objects was found in situ, although slightly displaced, within the settlement sanctuary. It seems to be quite certain that they were in use during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.
The small sculpture is a particular example of a votive sculpture typical of the Late period of Ancient Egypt, of which we have samples created mainly during the 7th to 6th centuries BCE (Saite period). There are many examples found in different museums around the world that are virtually identical, or at least very similar, such as the British Museum, the Louvre or the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. However, in all these cases, the sculptures are either from collections whose origins are unknown or they all come from Egypt, more specifically from Saqqara, where they have been found in larger quantities, as this is where its beliefs were first developed.
The small sculpture is clearly made following the Egyptian style, as can be deduced from observation and comparison with the hundreds of examples we have. It is a high quality sculpture, very well conserved, that shows the typical iconography of this kind of sculpture. Imhotep is seen here as a seated adult, dressed with a long pleated skirt typical of an Egyptian priest, wearing a large usekh necklace and a cap on his head that relates him directly to his mythical father: the god Ptah. On his lap, there is an unrolled papyrus with a hieroglyphic inscription that identifies him as “Imhotep, son of Ptah, born of Khereduankh”. A small detail that further confirms the quality of this small sculpture are two small sheets of gold foil set over his eyes. Under his feet, we can see the remains of an approximately 3-cm base, which leads us to believe that the sculpture may originally have been found on a sort of plinth, currently lost.
The discovery of this small sculpture in Menorca is exceptional in many senses. Firstly, it is interesting to find an Egyptian sculpture out of its place of origin, although this would be relatively common if we bear in mind the frequent trade commerce carried out at that time in the Mediterranean Sea. What really strikes us is that it is the sole example currently documented of an Imhotep sculpture found out of Egypt in a very particular archaeological context. Therefore the explanation as a mere trade exchange of a luxury object, as it had been traditionally construed, cannot be as simple as this. These facts allow us to believe that this case is more complex than it initially seemed, as in our opinion, the person responsible for the group of objects knew perfectly well who Imhotep was as well as the rituals related to his worship, already developed in Egypt.
Author: Irene Riudavets
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CAUVILLE, S.: “Imhotep, un avatar de Thot”, Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion, Göttinger Miszellen, Göttingen, 2010, pp. 224-230.
FERNÁNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ, J. M.: "Objetos e iconografía egipcia en el mundo colonial e indígena del Extremo Occidente", en Molinero Polo, M. A.: Arte y sociedad del Egipto Antiguo, Encuentro DL, Madrid, 2000.
FLAQUER FABREGUES, J.: Alayor (Menorca) Torre d´En Gaumés. Excavaciones de 1943. Madrid: 1953. Noticiario Arqueológico Hispánico, I cuadernos 1-3, 1952. pp. 99-120.
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Educació i Esports, Maó, 1993.
HURRY, J. B.: Imhotep, The egyptian god of medicine, Ares Publishers, Chicago, 1926.
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Blázquez, Primitivas religiones ibéricas, T. II: Religiones prerromanas, Cristiandad,
Madrid, 1983, pp. 465-473.
PONS, E.: “Los metales en el mundo de las transacciones comerciales internacionales entre Egipto y otros países hasta el Imperio Nuevo”, Cadmo, Revista do Instituto Oriental Universidade de Lisboa, Gráfica de Coimbra, nº 13, Ciombra, 2003, pp. 111-127.
ROSSELLÓ BORDOY, G.: “Excavaciones arqueológicas en Torre d'en Gaumés (Alayor, Menorca), El recinto de taula y el sistema de recogida de aguas (Campañas 1974,1975 y 1977)”, Noticiario Arqueológico Hispánico, nº 19, Madrid, 1984, pp. 140-141.
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IMHOTEP SMALL BRONZE SCULPTUREMore information
Formatgera de TrepucóMore information
Origin: The prehistoric village of Cornia Nou (Maó)
Size: 20cm long and 2cm of maximum width, approximately
Excavation reference: Recovered during the excavation campaign of 2009.
Date: Approximately 800-600 BCE
It refers to an object made from a long piece of adult cattle bone. It is completely polished due to abrasion, therefore conserving none of its original surface, which makes it impossible to identify which part of the body the bone is from. The sharp end is very long and defined and the end used as the handle, is completely smooth.
From a general point of view, the bone punch is an object of remote origins, with a broad distribution across different continents during recent Prehistory, maintained by a similar development process and little variety of its final shape. The main conditioning factor was related to the type of faunal species available in each area.
In the Balearics’ prehistory, punches are the most common, amongst the bone instruments found. In agreement with both the ethnological research and experimental archaeology carried out on similar objects from other regions, its function could be linked to working with leather and/or basketry. There are also records documenting the bone punches use as a tool for textiles and related to grafting.
The punch to which this work refers to, comes from what they call the South Building of Cornia Nou, a rectangular construction of monumental nature which is attached to the southern side of the sites’ greatest talayot. It was recovered amongst the levels of debris in the West Room of Area 1 in the South Building. It has been possible to establish that this monument was already in use around the year 1000 BCE and was abandoned around 600 BCE. From the radiocarbon dating carried out, it has been suggested that the punch belongs to the last period of use of the South Building, dated between 800-600 BCE approximately.
The significance of the Cornia Nou punch must be understood within its context. This punch is part of a wider ensemble of objects made from animal bones, found in the South Building of Cornia Nou, amongst which there are more than 15 punches, 3 spatulas as well as 3 discs. In addition, the South Building has provided an abundant range of stone utensils (hand grinders, hammers, mortars and pestle), ceramics as well as vegetal and animal remains. Using all this evidence, it has been concluded that the South Building was an area used to carry out activities related mostly with the management, processing and storage of food for the community that lived at Cornia Nou during the first half of the 1st millennium BCE.
Card author: Damià Ramis
Anglada, M.; Ferrer, A.; Plantalamor, L.; Ramis, D. & Van Strydonck, M. 2011. Les comunitats humanes a Menorca durant l’edat del bronze: el jaciment de Cornia Nou. Quaderns de Prehistòria i Arqueologia de Castelló, 29: 27-46.
Anglada, M.; Ferrer, A.; Plantalamor, L.; Ramis, D. & Van Strydonck, M. 2012. Arquitectura monumental y complejidad social a partir de finales del segundo milenio cal BC: el edificio sur del sector oeste de Cornia Nou (Menorca). Sardinia, Corsica et Baleares Antiquae, 10: 23-44.
Anglada, M.; Ferrer, A.; Plantalamor, L.; Ramis, D. & Van Strydonck, M. 2013. La sucesión de ocupaciones entre el Calcolítico y la Edad Media en el yacimiento de Cornia Nou (Menorca, Islas Baleares). Espacio, Tiempo y Forma. Serie I, Nueva Época (Prehistoria y Arqueología), 6: 269-299.
Anglada, M.; Ferrer, A.; Plantalamor, L.; Ramis, D.; Van Strydonck, M. & De Mulder, G. 2014. Chronological framework for the early Talayotic period in Menorca: the settlement of Cornia Nou. Radiocarbon, 56: 411-424.
BUC, Natacha. 2011. Experimental series and use-wear in bone tools. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38: 546-557.
Ferrer, A.; Plantalamor, L. & Anglada, M. (coord.) 2014. Desenterrant el passat. Les excavacions arqueològiques a Cornia Nou. Maó: Museu de Menorca.
SIDÉRA, Isabelle & LEGRAND, Alexandra. 2006. Tracéologie fonctionnelle des matières osseuses- une méthode. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, 103: 291-304.
UGARTE, Luxio 1987. Útiles de hueso actuales. Supervivencia de técnicas ancestrales en Oñati. Munibe, 3: 151-155.
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