Lab #2 – MFA


The trip to the MFA was an interesting one. Walking through the different ancient exhibits with intent and purpose changes your perspective on your experience. Having a more familiar understanding of the purpose of ‘text’ and ‘medium’ makes the time spent even more worthwhile. I felt as though I was on a mission to find the artifacts that had something special to say. The three artifacts, which I have chosen to analyze, cover Egypt, Sumer, more modernly known as Iraq or ancient Mesopotamia, and all the way to the Southern Sudan. These artifacts range all the way from 1427BC to 2037BC, so needless to say they are truly ancient.

 

The “Block Statue of Prince Mentuherkhepeshef” was the first and most interesting artifact that caught my attention. It’s a large statue from Egypt being made anywhere between 1279-1213BC. It depicts the Prince squatting down, but it displays a large message using text on the front of it. Apparently the statue was made for someone else, and the etched text was changed and re-written. This is similar to the palimpsests, which we have been learning more about. The ability to change something is important. The power to change what is said about history is powerful. The layout of this statue provides a large surface to display a great message. The fact it is of a prince makes it that much more important. More importantly, however, is the fact that the text (which is nearly unreadable) seems to be the most important feature on the statue. I believe this statue meant to relay a historical message about the importance of this royal prince. The message was obviously more important than the prince himself because of the lack of detail in the shape of face and head, which are the only identifiable features visible.

 

The “Victory stele of Thutmose III” was another large faced tombstone looking object that dates back to between 1479-1425BC. The stele, which looks similar to a massive flat-faced tombstone, served as a reminder of power that king Thutmose had. Apparently, the king’s image was located at the top of the stele, but was “erased.” This is interesting, because his conquests still remain, and apparently include over 50 lines of text. The image would have been etched in just as the text, and here again we see something similar to a palimpsest. The ability to erase and rewrite or alter is a very powerful ability. Some of the text written on the stele was translated by the MFA: “Thutmose describes himself as ‘one who smites southerners, who decapitates northerners, who smashes the heads of those evil character…who subdues the lands at the end of the earth…and reaches the borders of the foreign lands that attacked him.’” Obviously King Thutmose was a serious and powerful person with his empire spanning all the way from Syria to Sudan, but he used steles like this one to demonstrate his power. It was a way to retain power without actually being in a location. I think the stele of King Thutmose III is a powerful instrument conveying text in a simple and straightforward manner.

 

Obviously the cuneiform tablet is among one of the most interesting artifacts that the MFA has to offer. To see (and unfortunately not be able to hold) one of the oldest used forms of writing known. This makes the cuneiform extremely interesting! The cuneiform is small tablet with etching in it. The etchings would have been completed when the clay was still soft, which explains how there is great detail. Someone asked the question in class to the time in which it would take to prepare a cuneiform; I am pretty certain that a trained person would be able to write one of these extremely quickly. The cuneiform does so much! It manages to convey specific details of a transaction just like a receipt from the store today would. It is small enough to fit quite a bit of information on it, but still remain very portable. The idea of technology, sophistication, and obviously writing are important. All three are demonstrated with the use of the cuneiform tablet.

Block statue of Prince Mentuherkhepeshef

Block statue of Prince Mentuherkhepeshef

Victory stele of Thutmose III

Victory stele of Thutmose III

Sumerian Cuneiform Tablet

Sumerian Cuneiform Tablet

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