Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


2 September 2011

A pride of leopards: A unique aspect of the hunt frieze from Tell el Dab‘a

Lyvia Morgan Egypt and the Levant. International Journal for Egyptian Archaeology and Related Disciplines XX (2010): 263-301.

Abstract (from the Introduction)

Tell el Dab‘a (Avaris) is situated along what was, in ancient times, the eastern bank of the most easterly branch of the Nile Delta. The settlement would have been surrounded by channels and basins, with natural inlets perfect for harbours. To this strategic location – en route to the East and next to a river course leading to the Mediterranean -Aegean artists were apparently brought to paint the walls of Egyptian palaces. Excavation of the area which yielded these paintings – near the modern village of Ezbet Helmi – has continued since their discovery in 1990, directed by Manfred Bietak of the University of Vienna, under the auspices of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Publication of the remarkable Bulls Frieze, by Manfred Bietak, Nanno Marinatos and Clairy Palyvou, appeared in 2007. From the same deposit, and surely from the same iconographic programme, came numerous fragments of a Hunt Frieze, with felines, human hunters, dogs and prey, all within rocky and riverine landscapes. The articles in this volume on leopards and griffin (Morgan) and lions (Nanno Marinatos) constitute the preliminary publication of the feline hunters. As such, reconstructions and conclusions, particularly in relation to the landscape and prey, are tentative and will be open to modification as the work progresses towards the final publication of the Hunt.

Both friezes were found thrown into a dump at the entrance ramp to Palace F (H/I), a small ceremonial building within a larger palatial compound, in the Ezbet Helmi area of the excavation. Only the foundations have survived, with casemate substructures filled with brick and earth to form a platform on which the palace was built. A ramp led up to a courtyard with columns, which in turn led to the palatial rooms. A large lake lay between Palace F and the larger Palace G to the south (where remains of paintings were also recovered). Stratigraphic analysis places the construction of the buildings within the early Tuthmoside period, making the earliest possible date for the paintings Tuthmosis I, the latest Hatshepsut – early Tuthmosis III.


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