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18-08-2015, 15:33

A central painting in a small house

Few wall paintings were recorded from Lahun, but the 1889 clearance photographs confirm a published line drawing, showing a framed double register of scenes with, below, doorways and plainer rectangular outlines and, above, a man bringing a jar to a seated man, the two figures placed between table laden with vessels, and an indistinct form, perhaps an outline of a canopy or porch building. On his town plan, Petrie pinpointed the location of this painting as the central chamber of one in a series of six - to nine-room houses in the main town. Another painting, depicting columns, he located in the central chamber of a similar house across the street. It is not known whether this part of the houses was a closed room or an open court, with other rooms arranged around the central open space. Nor is it certain that the paintings were added while the building was being used as a living space; possibly, disused house rooms had been turned into offering spaces. Nevertheless, the ambiguity itself shows how

Figure 2.19 Painting in a house in the late Middle Kingdom town near modern al-Lahun, as recorded by W. Petrie in 1889. From W. Petrie, Jllahun, Kahun, Ourab, David Nutt, London, 1891, pl.16.

Difficult it can be to maintain our division of religious, even funerary, from domestic. The paintings may be an indication of offering practices more frequent than we have imagined, connecting the inhabitants with divine forces— whether deities or ancestors or other. petrie also received from the clearance teams, though without noting find-place, a series of faience and limestone figures of childbirth protectors: dwarves, lion-faced or lion-masked male and female forms (Aha/Bes), and the standing lion-hippopotamus (Ipy/Reret/ Taweret). Some limestone figures supported truncated cones, perhaps lamps or incense burners—Petrie interpreted them as bread altars. We cannot yet locate the figures in a social context, within small, medium, or palatial houses, and though portable, the figures may or may not have been moved around the site. Nevertheless, their presence tends to confirm the evidence of the paintings— that offering practices formed a more widespread part of life than might be assumed from the relative lack of distinctive, figurative finds across the third and early second millennia BC (Figure 2.19 and Figure 2.21).