Egyptian stelae in the British Museum from the Thirteenth to Seventeenth Dynasties
Project leader: Marcel Marée
Department: Ancient Egypt and Sudan
Project start: 2001
Project end: 2012
Other British Museum staff:
Janet Ambers, Caroline Cartwright, Duncan Hook, Philip Fletcher (all CSR); Richard Parkinson (AES); Sandra Marshall (Photography)
Other departments: Conservation and Scientific Research, Photography and Imaging
Detlef Franke, Germany
The aim of the project is to fully publish the Department’s large and important collection of ancient Egyptian stelae from the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period (c. 2000-1550 BC). Most of these tablets have only been published in the outdated ‘Hieroglyphic Texts’ series, which offers the briefest of descriptions, no in-depth analysis, and no photographs. All these requirements are addressed in the present undertaking. The catalogue is to appear in four volumes, with the first going to press this year. It will be novel in many ways.
Main authors Detlef Franke and Marcel Marée are both specialists for the period in question. Franke presents full translations and general comments on the monuments, covering such subjects as their religious context, iconography and the owners’ professions and families. Marée comments on style and artistic origin, linking the stelae to other works by the same craftsmen and workshops, and appraising their methods and cultural setting.
Scientific staff at the British Museum play a major role in researching this material. Petrographic and chemical analyses of the stones are undertaken by Caroline Cartwright, Duncan Hook and Philip Fletcher. In an attempt to identify the general origin of these stones, they compare the stelae with stone samples from pharaonic quarries, collected and recently donated to the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan by Dietrich and Rosemarie Klemm (University of Munich). This scientific work supplies additional clues on where the stelae were manufactured before set-up in a more or less distant location. That the stelae were once also brightly painted is easily forgotten. Pigment remnants, now often infinitesimal, are analysed by Janet Ambers.
The catalogue includes page-size photographs of every stela, some in colour. All new photography is done by Sandra Marshall, and a number of supplementary drawings are the work of Richard Parkinson.
An announcement of the project was published in the online journal British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 1 (Jan. 2002): http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/bmsaes/issue1/franke.html