Friday, November 02, 2012

Working with epigraphic material in Gebel el Silsila – Adrienn’s summary of the first season

The primary aim of the epigraphical work during the season 2012 - the survey of the main quarry of Silsila - has been accomplished and the inscriptions previously published by W. Spiegelberg and F. Preisigke have been localized and identified. As the first editor of the Demotic text, W. Spiegelberg never visited the site and used only the copies of G. Legrain, so one of our first steps in the recording process was to check and compare every inscription listed in the 1915 publication.

Some parts of W. Spiegelberg’s texts are not or only partly translated due to certain difficulties which G. Legrain must have encountered: many of the inscriptions are situated too high for the naked eye to record the details, and of course for copying by the help of acetate (transparent plastic paper), and the surface of the quarry walls consists almost everywhere of tool marks made by chisels used during the quarrying - naturally, this often makes the texts hardly visible.

These problems made also our work difficult and in many cases we could work with only a monocular/binoculars to create a preliminary drawing on site, which later is to be compared with, analysed and adjusted based on good quality photos (thanks to our good photographers), all of which help us to create a complete record and to translate the texts. For copying I sometimes used a ladder, and for taking photos Maria and John often climbed up on ledges and high ridges to be able to capture the highly situated texts and quarry marks (which were heroic deeds in certain cases). I am sure we will find during the analysis of the texts more interesting details and connections with other sites.

Besides checking and recopying the published texts we have found and recorded many unpublished inscriptions: more than half of them show no indication of having been discovered during the archaeological survey of G. Legrain, but others were not published by W. Spiegelberg in spite of being numbered or encircled by white chalk. These chalk-markings made us believe that G. Legrain probably planned to return to Silsila to complete the work.

If I must choose a favourite place in the main quarry I will choose Section D (south) with its corridor. The inscriptions of this section have a special interest. Some of them refer to a specific deity in adoration style, thus showing the religious importance of the site.

As most of the Demotic texts have a religious content (adorations) the epigraphical work of the site can contribute to the identification of role of the quarries in the religious life. Two types of divinities appear in these adorations: the main deities of the temples which were built by the stone blocks of Gebel Silsila (like Horus of Edfu, Isis, Khnum) and local protectors (like Pshaï/Psais, Min and Pachimesen - the protective daemon of the quarry). Revealing the identity of the local divinities will be an interesting aspect of the studying the texts and the role of the quarry.

written by A. Almasy, linguist and epigrapher specialising on demotic inscriptions

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