Ancient Egyptians and the Representation of Foreign Landscapes: The Ash-tree Reconsidered
Claudia Kemna [+]
Under the rich legacy of Ancient Egypt there are the representations in tombs and temples concerning religion and daily life which found the interest of so many researchers and travelers in that country. One topic of daily life is the depiction of nature in its aspects of agriculture and gardening versus desert life and landscapes abroad. Especially during the New Kingdom, when Egypt became the dominant power in the Near East, an increasing interest in the nature of the subdued countries is perceptible. Though a lot of pictures are quite detailed which enable modern scientists to determine the species represented, there is a common sense that the Ancient Egyptians completely failed to draw the conifers of Lebanon, so that an exact determination of the species is impossible. Since LORETs article in 1916 it is mostly accepted that the aS-tree is a(n umbrella-)pine or a fir. Those who are not convinced follow CHABAS 1861 and SETHE 1908 who equated the aS-tree with the cedar of Lebanon. Some scientists remain neutral in translating aS as “conifer” others think even of juniper as a subspecies of aS (BARDINET 2008). So the translations of the Egyptian texts mentioning the aS-tree remain arbitrary, depending on the researcher’s opinion on the nature of the tree as well as its presumed area of exportation. The chapter reconsiders the criteria which led to the identification of the aS-tree with conifers and will question whether the Egyptians of the New Kingdom might have seen something different abroad from the Egyptologists of the Industrial Era imagine. It assumes that the representations of the aS-tree are correct and indeed show deciduous trees. A possible candidate will be presented and compared to conifers and the aS-tree according to the criteria which led to the conifers. Additionally, the chapter reflects further information the Egyptians give concerning habitat and timber production; on the one hand and technological qualities in respect of weapon production and shipbuilding and products of the wood on the other. Finally the areas of export of the aS-tree in Lebanon will be determined (which throws a light on the deforestation of deciduous trees in Lebanon during the Middle Bronze Age) and an explanation of the origin of the rivalry between the gods Bata and Iam in the valley of the aS-tree is given.