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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

 

Description:

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

 

Bibliography:

ALVAR, J.: “El contacto intercultural en los procesos de cambio”, Geriñon 8, 1990, pp. 11-27.

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.

----------: Excavaciones en Torre d´en Gaumés (Menorca) 1942. Mahón: Ateneo Mahón, 1943. pp 174, fig 2.

GUAL, J. M.: Figures de bronze a la protohistoria de Mallorca, Conselleria de Cultura,

Educació i Esports, Maó, 1993.

HURRY, J. B.: Imhotep, The egyptian god of medicine, Ares Publishers, Chicago, 1926.

---------- : “The tutelary deity of Medicine, The Claims of Imhotep”, The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, nº 3508, Londres, 1928, pp. 565-566.

NUNN, J. F.: Ancient Egyptian Medicine, Red River Books, Londres, 2002.

ORFILA, M.: “Estatuillas de bronce antiguas”, A: MASCARÓ PASARIUS, J. (ed.) Geografía e Historia de Menorca, Vol. IV, Ciutadella, 1983, pp. 101-146.

PADRÓ, J.: “Las divinidades egipcias en la Hispania romana y sus precedentes”, Simposio “La religión Romana en Hispania”, CSIC, 1981, pp. 337-344.

---------- : “Amuletos y divinidades egipcios en la Hispania prerromana”, en J. M.

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.

---------- : El poblado prehistórico de Torre d'en Gaumés (Alaior), Institut d'Estudis Baleàrics, Palma de Mallorca, 1986.

ROSSELLÓ BORDOY, G., SÁNCHEZ-CUENCA, R., DE MONTANER ALONSO, P.:

“Imhotep, hijo de Ptah”, Separata de Mayurqa, XII, Palma de Mallorca, 1974.

VVAA: A Companion to Ancient Egypt, Willey-Blackwell, United Kingdom, 2010.


 


 


 

IMHOTEP SMALL BRONZE SCULPTURE

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Origin: The prehistoric village of Cornia Nou (Maó)

Material: Bone

Size: 20cm long and 2cm of maximum width, approximately

Culture: Talayotic

Excavation reference: Recovered during the excavation campaign of 2009.

Date: Approximately 800-600 BCE

 

Descripction:

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

 

Bibliography

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.

Bone punch from Cornia Nou

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ANTHROPOMORPHIC CARVING FROM THE COVA DES MUSSOL CAVE

 

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Origin:

Cova des Mussol cave (Ciutadella)

Matter:

Olea europaea wood      

Size:

Height: 94 mm.; frontal width: 53 mm.;

side thickness: 64 mm.

Culture:

Prototalayotic                                                 

Excavation reference:

MU-S3c-VM-10a                                                                                                

Date:

1279 - 993 cal BCE (95.0%)

987 - 980 cal BCE (0.4%)

(Beta-110137: 2930±50BP)  

Carving made from olive tree wood that depicts a man’s head, face and neck. It shows rather realistic anatomical features among which the superciliary arches, the jaw and the half open mouth are worth highlighting. This individual was depicted with a slight extension of the neck that makes it seem as if it was looking upwards.

It was carved using the trunk or main branch of a tree that was growing a secondary part as, can be seen from the two points of growth that are on this wood fragment. One shaft follows the direction of the neck and the other goes from the jaw to the upper-rear part of the skull. This object is finished to a high standard and its surface is almost entirely polished, and in order to accomplish this level of detail in the physical features it would have been necessary to alternate between polishing and carving.

The condition of its conservation is rather good, despite the loss of its right ear and tip of its nose, two cracks going between what is left of the nose and ear, and the left cheek having insect holes.

This carving is part of a group of wooden artefacts and small ceramic pots found inside room 3c of the Cova des Mussol cave. This cave is located on a cliff, in Cala Be cove, in the area of Punta Nati (Ciutadella). Its access is rather difficult and dangerous by both land and sea. the cave has two entrances, the main one, and then a secondary one 20 m above sea level. The main access is only a few meters below. It is a cave of karstic origin with an uneven floor due to fragments of rockfall from the ceiling. The deepest rooms present diverse speleothems.

The Cova des Mussol cave was first explored by Pere Arnau on 26th June 1997, who discovered its archaeological content. Apart from the content in 3c, it was documented that room 1 was used as a mass burial cemetery -between 1050 and 800 BCE- and some of the interior rooms were used as ritual sites between 1600 and 1400 BCE, and also as a deposit of votive objects in the 9th century BCE.

Room 3c is not the deepest room however it is one of the most hidden away and difficult rooms to access of the whole cave and its two entrances were found covered up by stone slabs purposefully placed to close them up. The room is small and it is impossible to stand up as it does not go above 90 cm of height at any point.

The ceramic objects found inside and outside room 3c are thought to be lamps. These lamps would light up the space where the depicted individual in the first carving would observe a second zoo-anthropomorphic carving placed on a higher point.

There are no equal findings of these carvings around the Mediterranean and the most similar are findings made in lagoons and peat bogs in Northern Europe and the British Isles. However, in these other cases, the full body is usually represented and the chronology is rather wide, the oldest being one from 5300 BCE in Volkerak and the most modern being one found in Friesack dated from 600 CE.

​                                                                                                                                           

 ZOO-ANTHROPOMORPHIC CARVING FROM THE COVA DES MUSSOL 

 
  

 

 

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Origin:

Cova des Mussol cave (Ciutadella)

Matter:

Olea europaea wood      

Size:

Height: 149 mm.; frontal width: 55 mm.;

side thickness: 40 mm.

Culture:

Prototalayotic                                             

Excavation reference:

MU-S3c-VM-14a/15a                                                                                                

Date:

1434 - 1192 cal BCE (94,4,0%)

1143 – 1132 cal BCE (1%)

(Beta-110137: 3060±50BP)  

Carving made from olive tree wood that depicts the head, face and neck of a being with both human and animal features.  The face could be human however, it presents two horns on the upper part of its head. Two oblique incisions form the eyes and the mouth is created by one horizontal incision. It had no ears and its chin is narrow but prominent. These features give it a serious and arrogant expression.

It was carved using the trunk or main branch of a tree that bifurcated into two shafts. When it was discovered, the carving had two cracks that were repaired in the laboratory as well as many insect holes.

This carving is part of a group of wooden artefacts and small ceramic pots found inside room 3c of the Cova des Mussol cave. This cave is located on a cliff, in Cala Be cove, in the area of Punta Nati (Ciutadella). Its access is rather difficult and dangerous by both land and sea. the cave has two entrances, the main one, and then a secondary one 20 m above sea level. The main access is only a few meters below. It is a cave of karstic origin with an uneven floor due to fragments of rockfall from the ceiling. The deepest rooms present diverse speleothems.

The Cova des Mussol cave was first explored by Pere Arnau on 26th June 1997, who discovered its archaeological content. Apart from the content in 3c, it was documented that room 1 was used as a mass burial cemetery -between 1050 and 800 BCE- and some of the interior rooms were used as ritual sites between 1600 and 1400 BCE, and also as a deposit of votive objects in the 9th century BCE.

Room 3c is not the deepest room however it is one of the most hidden away and difficult rooms to access of the whole cave and its two entrances were found covered up by stone slabs purposefully placed to close them up. The room is small and it is impossible to stand up as it does not go above 90 cm of height at any point.

The ceramic objects found inside and outside room 3c are thought to be lamps. These lamps would light up the space where the zoo-anthropomorphic carving was found fallen on the ground and facing the wall.

Despite this, it seems that originally it might have been placed on a rock protuberance higher up the wall looking towards where, on a lower level, the anthropomorphic carving was.

There are no equal findings of these carvings around the Mediterranean and the most similar are findings made in lagoons and peat bogs in Northern Europe and the British Isles. The researchers who carried out the dig and analysed the Cova des Mussol's content dated the carving between 1200 and 1000 BCE and called it "the horned god”. Due to the characteristics of its horns, it has been related to a predecessor of the Celtic divinity Cernunnos.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

LULL, V., MICÓ, R., RIHUETE HERRADA, C. i RISCH, R. (1999), Rituales de vida y muerte en la prehistoria de Menorca. La Cova des Càrritx, Consell Insular de Menorca, Barcelona

LULL, V., MICÓ, R., RIHUETE, C. i RISCH, R., (1999), La Cova des Càrritx y la Cova des Mussol. Ideología y sociedad en la prehistoria de Menorca, Barcelona.

                                                                                                                                           

 

COVA DES MUSSOL

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