Earliest Egypt

A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905), Chapter III, pp. 25-50

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Art & Architecture


nificent regalia in gold and precious stones (Figs. 13, 17) involving the most delicate soldering of the metal, a process accomplished with a skill of which even a modern workman would not be ashamed. While the products of the industrial craftsman had thus risen to a point of excellence, such that they claim a place as works of art, we find that the rude carvings and drawings of the predynastic people have now developed into reliefs and statues which clearly betray the professional artist. The kings dedicated in the temples, especially in that of Horus at Hieraconpolis, ceremonial slate palettes, maces and vessels, bearing reliefs which display a sure and practiced hand (Fig. 19).2 The human and animal figures are done with surprising freedom and vigour, proclaiming an art long since conscious of itself and centuries removed from the naive efforts of a primitive people. By the time of the Third Dynasty the conventions of civilized life had laid a heavy hand upon this art; and although finish and power of faithful delineation had reached a level far surpassing that of the Hieraconpolis slates, the old freedom had disappeared. In the astonishing statues of king Khasekhem at Hieraconpolis (Figs. 20-21), the rigid canons which ruled the art of the Old Kingdom are already clearly discernible.

The wreck of all this splendour, amid which these antique kings lived, has been rescued by Petrie with the most conscientious and arduous devotion, from their tombs at Abydos. These tombs are the result of a natural evolution from the pits in which the predynastic people buried their dead. The

'The bracelets of Fig. 17 are of amethyst and turquoise mounted in gold. The uppermost has a rosette of gold, of exquisite workmanship. The purpose of the gold bar (Fig. 13) is unknown.

'Fig. 19 shows both sides of the greatest of these palettes. In the top row (left) the king, followed by his sandal bearer and preceded by four standard bearers and his vizier, inspects the decapitated bodies of his fallen enemies. The middle row contains two fantastic animals of uncertain meaning, and in the bottom row, the king as a bull, breaches a walled city', and tramples down his enemy. The other side (right) shows the king` smiting a fallen foe, while as a Horns hawk he also leads captive the sign of the North, bearing a head with the rope in its mouth. At the bottom are fallen foes.

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