Phoenicians in Egypt

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From "Who are you calling a foreigner? Ancient and Modern Perspectives on Craft Workers in Egypt" by Janet Picton
(Reproduced without permission)
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Iconography — Art objects don't travel by themselves

The expansion of the Egyptian New Kingdom empire and the resulting "international age" led to the diffusion of sophisticated industrial techniques, applied to artwork, which was part of the development of a common culture in architecture, decor, metallurgy, ceramics, (Caubet 1998: 107), an "integration of culture and extraofficial modalities", as Lilyquist describes it (1998: 29). "Objects don"t travel by themselves - they are carried by people: by migrating groups carrying their own indigenous cultures with them; specialised persons coming from a foreign country bringing cultural assets; middlemen and traders dispersing merchandise; sailors and caravaneers - all part of the international intercourse when circumstances are favourable" (Kochavi 1991: 8). The visible result of this shared technology can be seen in complex instruments such as chariots (where much of Egyptian technological vocabulary obviously had a semitic origin), musical instruments, etc. (Caubet 1998: 108; Lilyquist 1998: 29). The unacceptable face of this multi-culturalism (in the view of art historians) lay in the contamination of pure Egyptian iconography with some of the decorative extravagances of the Phoenician craftworkers.

It is hardly surprising therefore that the traditional iconography of Egypt underwent substantial changes in periods of unrest and the Mediterranean people of North African dynasties are a prime example of this. While attempting to preserve continuity by adopting traditional iconography, some glaring idiosyncrasies are apparent. One of the more obvious of these is the frequent incorrect use of hieroglyphs. To cite just a few examples: the papyrus of Tashedtkkhonsu in the Twenty-first Dynasty incorrectly quotes the owner"s name, as does the papyrus of Baumuternekhtu (Goff 1979: 140). On the latter the god Imsety is also incorrectly labelled Hapy (ibid). Perhaps these are examples of what Forman & Quirke (1996: 145) describe as "an age when the visual triumphed over the written word, without abandoning it entirely". Goff sees the Twenty-first Dynasty Egyptians as pragmatists - as their problems changed, so did their focus, which leads to inconsistencies in interpretation of iconography (op. cit. 177).


There are numerous instances within Egypt of hieroglyphs being used wrongly and it is possible that the use of hieroglyphs had developed amuletic properties regardless of their role as a script. Much of Egyptian ornament of the Twenty-first Dynasty falls into this class of symbols used for reassurance without verbal explanation. For example, the sculpture of Astemakhabit contains "pseudo-text" which "demonstrates that little need was felt to supplement the symbolic forms by words" (Goff 1979: 135). Goff questions whether the text itself was inherently potent apart from any comprehensible meaning.

Many faience and metal objects produced during the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties contain incomprehensible hieroglyphs: a faience spacer in the Eton collection (Eton 459.24.6.), has two cartouches, one containing meaningless hieroglyphs and one with the signs "wpt-rnpt-nfrt" (Tait 1963: 130). A double-sided faience spacer from Tuna-el-Gebel, of the Twenty-first/Twenty-second Dynasty, executed in the most minute detail, has three cartouches engraved on the piece, all three illegible (Muscarella 1974: plate 224).

The misuse of hieroglyphs was not peculiar to the Third Intermediate Period. The Royal Butler Ramessesami"on dedicated a badly carved stela which contained errors in orthography, spelling and grammar (Schulman 1986: 192). Since Ramessesami"on was an Egyptianised foreigner working within the Ramesside court we can draw a parallel with the Mediterranean people of North Africans of the Delta. Several of the Twenty-first Dynasty intrusive coffins found in the Nineteenth Dynasty tomb of Iurudef at Saqqara, the Memphite necropolis, are also inscribed with mock hieroglyphs (Martin 1992: 144).

When the question of an Egyptian origin for some of the most outstanding Phoenician attributed Egyptianising ivories is raised the response is always negative. Professor Kenneth Kitchen in his Addendum to Herrmann's Nimrud volume (1986a: 37-42) said "?that any Egyptian craftsman carved any of these pieces seems almost impossible. Almost throughout, non-Egyptian treatment of motifs (not to mention the signs) and styles of workmanship exclude a strictly Egyptian origin. Even so fine a piece as No. 1003, (two Heh figures facing each other), rivalling Egyptian carving and style, cannot be so attributed because of the treatment of subject matter...." (my italics). Motifs used out of context, detached from their original meaning, used in unusual combinations, incorporating 'alien' elements can not, by this definition, be Egyptian. Yet throughout Egyptian history there were regular occurrences of un-Egyptian treatment of subject matter, non-standard treatment of iconography, and workmanship not always of the highest quality, even in periods of stability and cultural integrity.

The adoption of alien motifs: "unchanging Egypt" and its changes.

Egyptian paintings are conceived within a matrix of symbolism and magic in which form and shape, size, materials, colour, number, hieroglyphic symbolism, actions and gestures must all be considered. The symbolic details make significant non-verbal statements although Wilkinson does add caveats against assuming that we understand how these symbols work; or that everything that we might identify as symbols would be recognised as such by the ancient Egyptians (Wilkinson 1992; 1994: 8, 11); and that the meaning of symbols change over time, or can be understood in more than one way at the same time.

Caubet wrongly believes that, "Egypt, comfortable in its cultural identity, offered a greater resistance to international culture" (1998: 110); we should rather ask whether the Egyptian cognitive process required them to rationalise their adoption of alien motifs into their craft and religious iconography. As Wilson suggests, "in every respect, a cultural expression which was timeless, changeless, and dogmatically static was actually subject to constant change, as it bent to the winds of passing time. Thus ancient Egypt survived "unchanged" for long centuries by changing constantly and ignoring such change" (Wilson 1951:76). The traditional view of the artistic traditions of the ancient world and of Egypt is that they were not governed by aesthetic principle but by ideology and culture which made the artistic process subordinate to the need to display ritual roles; to maintain the cosmos (Hornung 1992; Baines 1976; 1990; 1996); which dictated both subject matter and form with a conservative result. In Egypt this did result in an apparently conservative tradition but one that was quite prepared to accept new additions. These may be in the adoption of minor decorative motifs on jewellery, but even major changes in iconography can occur; one of the most notable of these is the adoption of the winged female sphinx.

The male sphinx traditionally exemplified the power and strength of the pharaoh and was one of the most important motifs throughout Egyptian history (Crowley 1989: 43). The motif was adopted without its royal connotation in the Eastern Mediterranean and Anatolia and acquired wings, a head-dress and tail and, most unusually, it also assumes female status (first seen in the Megiddo treasury plaque: Loud 1939: plate 7). As such it appears on a tunic of Tutankhamun (Crowfoot & Davies 1941: 125-6) and on a bracelet of Queen Tiye (Metropolitan Museum MMA 26.7.1342) suggesting that it had, by this time, become entrenched within Egyptian iconography of the minor media. The bracelet "?combines purely Egyptian imagery with that of Asia" with "...a deliberate blend of Tiye in the form of the violent eye of Ra with that of an Asiatic goddess, probably Anat" (Kozloff and Bryan 1992: 443).

More surprisingly, the female sphinx also appears on a statue of Horemheb and Mutnodjmet (produced in a period often regarded as the apogee of Egyptian artistry) decorating Mutnodjmet"s side of the throne (Turin Museum). From a symbol of the majestic and very masculine power of pharaoh, the motif has changed out of all recognition from its original meaning and been transformed into a languid female sphinx, associated with symbols of fertility and regeneration (the vegetative crown): what was an alien motif is now so thoroughly incorporated as an Egyptian motif that it is acceptable as royal iconography and placed on a dedicatory statue of the king.

As the use of the sphinx demonstrates, knowing the origin of a symbol does not explain its later function. Artistic influence moved both ways, a manifestation of broad trade-related, cultural phenomenon common to the east Mediterranean littoral (Markoe 1990: 17). There is no reason to believe that the Egyptians utilised art, rituals and myth in the same way throughout their history - there may have been continuity of emotional impact of the symbol and ceremony but the functions of the symbols may have changed because of a changed intellectual horizon and social and political problems.

We should also consider the politics of interpretation; the critical questions being: who created the images? for whom? and in what circumstances? How were such images deployed in society? And just as important - what is the agenda of the modern viewer and interpreter? We can not assume that our identification of an image is what the ancient viewer perceived as semiotically coherent. The interpretative skills involved must have been more complex than we, from a twentieth-first century perspective, can be aware of, especially in view of the ancients' restricted literacy, lacking our "knowledge" of ancient Egypt acquired through the texts that accompanied the images.

Kemp (1989: 4) points out that we may try and interpret past usages according to our best understanding of ancient Egypt, and that if we could speak to the Egyptians themselves we might get a "yes" or "no" answer, but we might hear "we hadn"t thought of that before, but it"s true none the less, a revelation, in fact". In this respect we can compare the treatment of art with myth which Tobin (1988: 110) sees as the final sum of its component parts, with different interest groups in different periods stressing particular concepts and ideologies to accomplish their perceived purpose. This applies as much to Egypt as to anywhere else in the Near East. When we refer to what we consider as "alien" motifs, but which we know had been familiar to the Egyptians over many generations (and this argument obviously works in the other direction as well), we should beware of our terminology: there may have been nothing at all alien about them to Egyptian eyes which, after a generation or two of acculturation, regarded them as legitimate Egyptian motifs.

Consequently, the definition of what constitutes genuine Egyptian art/ craft/ production can not be limited by the inclusion or exclusion of particular motifs at any period, even less so at a time of such great social upheaval in Egypt as the first millennium. It is not valid to use uncritically any value of symbols demonstrable in one period for interpretation in another. This applies even when the symbol appears to be used in a comparable way, let alone when it does not. If, as Liverani proposes, ""historical" accounts reproduce mental representations of what happened; we can"t reconstruct the event - only the ideological representation of it" (1990: 292), how much more limited must we be when the use of the ideological iconography is undergoing a major change?

Material values

As with so many things, modern assessments of value can not be assumed to be valid in our study of the ancient world"s cognitive processes. Clay, to us, may be a practical, cheap, material; of no intrinsic value. To the ancient Egyptians it was imbued with the essence of life; as a naturally occurring mineral it tied the artefact to the primeval mound (Friedman 1998: 24). Similarly, faience was not a poor man"s substitute for more valuable materials but an expression of the luminosity which was so much a part of the aura of the gods (ibid). Colours, materials, numbers, and hieroglyphs are all part of the symbolic composition of the object to be "read" as text is today (Wilkinson, 1992: 8; Baines 1989). Faience was also popular as an inlay in other materials: "this multimedia technique was as old as Egyptian civilisation itself but its symbolic value is often overlooked" (Friedman 1998: 26). Thus "objects embellished by faience were "mineralised", incorporating into the fabric the totality of the earth"s mineral wealth" (Friedman 1998: 29).

Did ivory have a specific role within this roster of materials and colours of symbolic value? The horns and tusks of wild animals were thought to contain magic virtues (Aldred 1978: 10). On a practical level, it was a relatively easy material to work, pleasing in colour and texture and could be overlaid or inlaid with no difficulty (Krzyszkowska: 1990). During the predynastic era in Egypt ivory had been used to produce a large number of "powerfacts" (Hoffman 1980: 316), "objects with symbolic linkages to the ideal role and personification of kingship", and the material was used instead of what appear to be more valuable materials (Hoffman 1908, Spencer 1993). Ivory remained popular through Egyptian history and was also exported in large quantities (Morkot 1995; 1996; Caubet 1998; Pulak 1992; Bass 1987). Although its absence in the archaeological record during the Late New Kingdom suggests a decline in use, perhaps ivory"s popularity as a material in the Eastern Mediterranean had been reintroduced into Egypt by the craftworkers employed in the Delta. The immigrant craftworkers may have been inspired by the interchange of cultures to reproduce, in a relatively easily acquired material with which they were familiar, some of the iconography associated with royal ritual in their land of adoption, for a more general audience.

Ivory is only one of the media used to portray a range of scenes common to particular schools of workmanship. The same iconography, techniques etc., were used in wood, bone and stone. We know from Egyptian tomb scenes of the 18th Dynasty that ivory working took place in association with woodworking, and probably with jewellery-making also. Within first millennium Egypt we can examine a variety of materials which employed either the same techniques, or the same iconography, or a combination of both.

Shared workshops and foreign workers

A small wooden statuette in the Bologna museum of a protective goddess and a kneeling figure of a king employs the same open-work cloisonn? techniques as the finest Egyptian jewellery, and some of the Egyptianising ivories. It is dated to the 9th/8th centuries BC by comparison with other pieces. A bronze figure of a protective goddess and a kneeling king is unprovenanced, although an inscription identifies the pharaoh as Sehibre of the Twenty-third Dynasty (Arslan 1997: 54). The British Museum has a bronze of a spread-winged goddess protecting an infant sun figure which came from Memphis (BM acc. nos. EA12588 /EA67198). This piece can also be compared to a faience spread-winged goddess that formed part of a pectoral (Museum of Art, Rhode Island, acc. no 1966.73.1a-c. Illustrated in Freed 1998: 147, 247). The image of the spread-winged protective goddess gains increasing popularity in the first millennium continuing a tradition established on the shrine of Tutankhamun and within the Khonsu temple at Karnak; it is also found on a pectoral of Tutankhamun (Cairo Museum, Stierlin 1997: 65), a pectoral of Psusennes (Stierlin 1997: 211), and on the sarcophagus of Sheshonq (Stierlin 1997: 187).

One important group that should be included in any discussion of shared techniques across different media is in jewellery. The quality of cloisonn? work had improved steadily from the Middle Kingdom onwards reaching a peak in the Eighteenth Dynasty. Comparisons between the fine cloisonn? pectorals of the Twenty-first Dynasty and the Egyptianising ivories are many (Herrmann 1986; Barnett 1982; Culican 1973; Markoe 1990). We should consider whether this could be a result of production of similar objects in Egypt, sharing iconography and techniques with the metal-workers, faience and glass makers. For a discussion of Egyptian jewellery see Aldred (1971; 78); Andrews (1996); Canby (1967); Vilimikova (1969); Wilkinson (1971).


Metal-working was possibly one of the industries with which immigrant workers were most strongly associated. Consider the Philistine monopoly on metal working in the Eastern Mediterranean, controlling the Israelite access to metals (Mazar 1992: 265; I Samuel: 13:21). Gjerstad"s analysis of the iconographic influences at work on bowls produced in Cyprus suggest the presence of both Egyptian and Phoenician bowls in use as patterns on the island, as there are clear differences in styles in local production (1946: 4). Cups, bowls, flasks and stands in a variety of metals also incorporate much of the same range of iconography.

The "Tell Basta treasure" is a collection of gold and silver vessels found in 1906. There has been considerable discussion as to the date of the material with a consensus of the very end of the Nineteenth Dynasty or slightly later (Simpson 1959: 40, 43; Maspero 1912: 202-3, figs 395, 396, 397). Several points suggest that although some of the pieces date to the Nineteenth Dynasty, some are later; for example, the iconography on the bowl found at Bubastis is almost identical to one found in the tomb of Psusennes. The treasure itself was probably part of the temple regalia and as such would have been used over a long period; furthermore, the presumed condition of the material at the time of burial, the presence of terracotta "models" for some of the jug handles, and scraps and ingots found with it, have suggested that the material was from the goldsmith"s workshop within the temple. If this is the case the material could be of substantially mixed ages and buried some considerable time after its date of manufacture. Tell Basta was an important cult centre in the Late New Kingdom but achieved prominence under the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties. It is interesting to hypothesise that the material was in use through a large part of this period and it, or material very similar to it, provided the models for the faience relief chalices (whose decoration is so remarkably similar to some of the vessels), that Tait dated so conclusively to the Twenty-second/ Twenty-third Dynasty.

A number of metal bowls have been found throughout the Mediterranean and have been analysed in detail by Markoe (1985), Culican (1971; 1976; 1982); Curtis (1988); Muscarella (1970; 1984). The bowl from the Bernardini tomb at Palestrina ( Markoe 1985: 32, 72, 188-191, ills 274-277) is completely Egyptian in its iconography (Frankfort 1970: 331). It has been attributed to Phoenician manufacture on the basis of two decorative bands of pseudo-hieroglyphs, and a Phoenician name inscribed above the central medallion. If we now accept that pseudo hieroglyphs do not invalidate an Egyptian source for the bowl then the attribution should be re-examined. The arrangement of central medallion and registers of narrative activity, and the type of motifs used on the Tell Basta bowl are directly comparable with those on several Phoenician metal bowls (Simpson 1969: 29; Markoe 1985: 15). Since no 'Phoenician' bowl has been found in Phoenicia, it is not impossible that some of the bowls with the most recognisably Egyptian iconography (i.e. of the first millennium) may have been made in workshops in Egypt.

A group of "Phoenician Egyptianising" bowls found on Cyprus are defined according to their predominantly Egyptian iconography; a quadripartite decorative scheme and the use of "pseudo" hieroglyphs (Markoe 1985: 31). Their strongest comparison is to the Tell Basta vessels and to the relief chalices. A silver bowl found at Golgoi in Cyprus was originally identified as Cypro-Phoenician (Gjerstad 1946: 13), but is now acknowledged as being of Egyptian manufacture (Markoe 1985: 13) although based on the same criteria and because of its similarity to a bowl found in Tanis (Montet 1951: plate. LV; see also Maspero 1912: 202, fig 393). One wonders if the Golgoi bowl would still be regarded as 'Phoenician' if it had contained inaccurate hieroglyphs.

Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean

Although the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period is marked by aggressive campaigns against Israel, relations with Byblos probably never ceased: statues of both Shoshenq and Osorkon II were found there, presumably sealing a commercial alliance (Kitchen 1986b: 292). Redford sees the campaign of Shoshenq I into Israel as an attempt to legitimise the Mediterranean people of North African dynasty's control of Thebes (1973: 6-11) while Kitchen puts it more into its historical context vis a vis Egypt's relations with the powerful kingdom of Solomon. Interestingly, the Bible records that "innumerable people came with him from Egypt: Mediterranean people of North Africa, Sukki and Nubians" a.ka. sub-Saharan black Africans (op cit. 295).

In Solomon's twenty-fourth regnal year Shoshenq gave refuge to Jeroboam and his followers, thus fostering the fragmentation of the Israelite state (Kitchen 1986b: 294). When Rehoboam came to the throne Shoshenq's support for Jeroboam resulted in an Egyptian invasion of Israel, destroying many cities. The material result of this, recorded in I Kings and 2 Chronicles, was Shoshenq's seizure of the Temple's treasury and the impoverishment of the petty kings of Judah and Israel (Kitchen 1986b: 300). This booty, (including slaves/workers?) was no doubt used to endow temples, and to finance the development of new building work at Thebes and Memphis while the king was established at a new estate Pi-ese, south of Tanis (op. cit. 301).

It can be assumed that a major factor in the campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean was for commercial purposes and the interruption of Israelite control of the Arabian incense trade was an additional benefit. This economic strategy resulted in expanded Egyptian contact with the Phoenician states on the Mediterranean coast, especially Tyre (Ehrlich 1996: 64-5). Ahab's relationship with Tyre is well-established in biblical tradition and during the reign of his son Ahaziah (c851-849) there is some textual and archaeological evidence to suggest that both Philistia and Israel continued under Phoenician influence (Ehrlich 1996: 71). It is becoming increasingly clear that Phoenicia"s political influence was greater than previously supposed. Markoe (1991) believes that Egypt was actually dependent on Phoenician for the supply of metals.

The Third Intermediate Period is the period of the greatest contact between Mediterranean Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. Were the workshops of the their kings flooded with new ideas, or even with new craftworkers as a result of this contact? This would fit well with the argument for production centres based in the Delta and northern Egypt, perhaps manned by Phoenician craftworkers. Petrie said, after his excavations in northern Egypt during 1890-91, that a "profound separation existed between the 22nd Dynasty and all that was previous, and that the new men of the Delta must have obtained their habits from a fresh source" (Petrie 1974b). While Israel played such an important role in the control of the incense trade from Arabia during the tenth to eighth centuries (Groom 1982; Elat 1979; Eph"al 1982; Kitchen 1994; Parr 1986; Liverani 1992) perhaps the people of the Delta traded in materials that they knew would find a ready market in the "nouveau riche" Eastern Mediterranean - luxury products associated with the Egyptian elite — such as metal bowls and ivory plaques.

Phoenicia in Egypt

Why is it so difficult to accept that the Phoenicians could have had a defining influence on Egypt in the first millennium? We know that their influence was of substantial importance in the developments in the Mediterranean during this period, but we do not follow this logic through to Egypt. Although racial anti-semiticism is no longer a factor do the stereotypes still influence thinking? Kopcke thinks so (Kopcke 1991: 10) and the evidence supports him. Harden, writing in 1980 (p.218), says, "?. the Phoenician, though he possessed an artistic bent, was less interested in art for his own purposes than for the price he could get for it abroad"? - still the tricky, greedy merchants of Homer. If an unthinking bias still influences scholarly treatment of the Mediterranean how much more likely is it in the treatment of Egypt, where we have this accepted construct of an unchanging, unified, kingdom antipathetic to outside influences, or as Redford puts it "god"s isolated favourite race" (1992: 214).

The fact is that the Nile Delta and the Phoenician coast were involved in mutual trading activities with evidence found at Byblos, Tyre, and Sidon of links with the Twenty-second Dynasty (Redford 1992: 334; Kitchen 1986b). The question is not whether there was any contact and involvement but how much, and of what type. Kohl"s description of a world system in which multiple core areas coexisted and intermittently came into direct or indirect contact (1989: 233), can be used as a model here. One of the questions we should perhaps be addressing is - who are the cores and who the periphery in the first millennium Mediterranean. One factor that argues most strongly for a considerable amount of involvement for the Phoenicians in Egypt is the amount of Egyptian material found elsewhere in the Mediterranean, at sites associated with the Phoenicians (Sch?fer 1910: 65; Markoe 1985: 31; Sagona 1986: 13). Pendlebury (1930) cites Egyptian objects of Twentieth to Twenty-fifth Dynasty origin at three sites in Crete, at Sparta, Athens, Eleusis, and in Thessaly, where a bronze vase was found. Egyptian objects of the first millennium have been found at Tharros in Sardinia (Culican 1958: 93); at Almunecar, Spain (Leclant 1968: 13); and on Rhodes (Trolle 1979).

Who were the agents of transport for all these artefacts if not the Phoenicians? "It was in Phoenician bottoms that Egyptian and Egyptianising art objects found their way to remote islands and the Italian and Iberian peninsulas" (Redford 1992: 335). Phoenician trade routes in the Mediterranean were not a question of choice so much as necessity, imposed by the winds and currents that dictated a route from the Eastern Mediterranean coast - Cyprus - Rhodes - the Cyclades - Greek mainland - Etruria - Crete - Egypt - Eastern Mediterranean (Bass 1987).

Our knowledge of Phoenicia has, until recently, been almost entirely a "view from the west". Traditionally regarded as the gypsy sea-peddlers of the Mediterranean and viewed through a Homeric/classical perspective, the Phoenicians have been consistently under-rated. This has been compounded by the almost total lack of physical evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean itself. Fortunately, this is now changing with scholars concentrating on increasing understanding of the impact of Phoenician colonisation on Greece, Etruria and Anatolia, which only begin to explore the previously undervalued role of Phoenicia in the Mediterranean world system (Markoe 1990; 1991; 1992; Ridgway 1979; Aubet 1993;).

The Phoenician impact was enormous, with colonies throughout the Mediterranean which influenced not just the trading and colonisation patterns of the Greeks themselves, but provided a pattern for the alphabet, architecture, cult and crafts. This revised view of the balance of power between east and west in the first millennium is also shared by scholars working on Phoenician evidence in Italy (Morris 1991: xiv). Antipathy to "diffusionism" is being overcome as we become more aware of Phoenician influence in the west. Egyptology has largely escaped this debate about diffusionism because of its perceived isolationism, and cultural unity. The time has come to consider the effect that Phoenician presence in the Delta had on the art and iconography of Egypt in the first millennium.

We can assume from written and archaeological sources that the Phoenicians had trading entrep?ts in many Delta towns during the late second / early first millennium (Montet 1928; Chehab 1968: 8; Leclant 1968: 10). Herodotus referred to Tyrians in Memphis (Herodotus, Book II: 170, S?lincourt transl 1972), while Redford refers to this as a situation already in existence for a thousand years (1992: 228). Tell Dafana (Daphnae) has evidence of Phoenician/Cypriot occupation and the ongoing excavations by the Egyptian Antiquities Department continue to yield Phoenician material (Gubel 1992: 347). During his Memphis excavation Petrie found a faience or pottery mould of which he said '...the elements of this are all Egyptian; but the combination of these, and the workmanship, are un-Egyptian, and probably due to a Phoenician in Egypt, like the silver bowls with mock-Egyptian subjects" (1909: 16, and plate XXVI, 11). Segall believed that Phoenician jewellers were operating in Egypt during the Hellenistic period but saw it as part of an older tradition (1946: 97-107), verified in part by the discovery of Aramaic-Phoenician texts found in Saqqara (Segal 1983). Material traces of Phoenician settlement in Egypt have also been found at Migdol in the Sinai (Oren 1984), at Tell el Herr, and Tell el Retabeh, on the routes through to Egypt, while Phoenician amphorae have been found in quantity in Egypt (Gubel 1992: 346). This indicates that the Phoenicians were not only masters of the sea route south to the Delta but also using the land routes through the Sinai and along the Wadi Tumilat.


The text of Wenamun (Lichtheim 1976: 224-229) assumes the presence of a large Phoenician merchant fleet in the Delta. In the Iliad Achilles selects as a funerary games prize "...a mixing bowl of silver, a work of art, ... for its loveliness it surpassed all other on earth by far, since skilled Sidonian craftsmen had wrought it well, and Phoenicians carried it over the misty face of the water" (Iliad: 23.741-44: Lattimore 1961). Hiram of Tyre sends Solomon a craftsman "who knows the art of working in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, wood, scarlet, violet, fine linen and crimson materials, and is competent to carry out any kind of engraving and to execute any design which may be entrusted to him" (2 Chronicles 2: 7). Whether fact or fiction, all this textual material clearly demonstrates how high a reputation Phoenician craftsmanship enjoyed during the later Iron Age when these stories were being recorded.

Intricate trade relations may take place without leaving any distinguishable archaeological relic. Not all objects found in Egypt were made in Egypt and not all objects made in Egypt were made by Egyptians. It is possible that Phoenician craftworkers within Egypt were producing objects of the highest quality using iconography as understood by an Egyptianised, but essentially alien, elite. Without more evidence from Delta sites, and a re-evaluation of the surviving material of the Third Intermediate Period, it will remain impossible to reach a conclusion, and even more difficult to try to establish whether luxury goods were produced by Egyptians, or by Phoenician or other Eastern Mediterranean craftworkers within Egypt.


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