The possibility of finding archaeological evidence of Joseph (Gen 37:3;
41:14-49; 47:1-27) has generated
great interest. However, viewed as an unreliable historical source, the Bible is excluded from any consideration in the
interpretation of archaeological data by contemporary archaeologists. For biblical archaeologists, interpreting archaeological
evidence through the prism of the Bible, correlating biblical chronology with Egyptian chronology is a challenging, difficult and
Published by the Austrian Academy of Science Press in its journal EGYPT AND THE LEVANT - International Journal for Egyptian
Archaeology and Related Disciplines (ed. Manfred Bietak, vol 16, 173-185, 2006) is a review of the archaeological data of the
statue found in Avaris, which many, who have a trust in the historical reliability of the Old Testament, consider as strong evidence
of Joseph. This article can be seen in its entirety at
The article is provided here, without its bibliography, so that you can learn of the raw archaeological data and appreciate
the challenges that all archaeologists have in interpreting the data. In attempting to penetrate the obscurity of ancient history,
presuppositions are necessary for archaeological interpretation despite their risks resulting in a wide diversity of views that
often reflect the worldview of the interpreter.
The site of Tell el-Dabca, today generally identified with ancient Avaris (BIETAK 1996), has become synonymous with a meeting
point for East Mediterranean cultures, a fertile urban ground for reshaping various traditions to local needs. Among the most
remarkable, and monumental expressions of this found at the site are the fragments of a larger than life statue of an Asiatic man. The
head, bearing a voluminous mushroom shaped coiffure, and an adjoining shoulder fragment have been published (BIETAK 1991 b, 62-63,
Abb. 10, Taf. 16, 17; 1994; 1996 a, fig. 17, pl. 4 B-C) and often reproduced (e.g. BOURRIAU 2000, 189; SCHNEIDER 2003, 188-189).
Further fragments can be attributed to this sculpture and, while constituting only a very small part of the whole, a reconstruction
of the statue is suggested here (figs. 2, 3 and 5). The following questions will be addressed: The archaeological context of the
fragments, the reconstruction of the statue and a discussion of the mutilations is excluded here (see SCHIESTL. In print).
Fig. 1 Map of Tell El-Dabca, Area F/I, southeastern part of cemetery of strata d/2 and d/1
(H and G/4), late 12th Dynasty to early
13th Dynasty. The shaded tombs (p/19-Nr. 1-10, o/20-Nr. 11, p/21-Nr. 1) indicate
where fragments of the statue were found.
1. INTRODUCITON TO THE LATE MIDDLE KINGDOM CEMETARY, WHERE THE STATUE FRAGMENTS WERE FOUND
All the pieces of the statue presented here were found between 1986 and 1988 in a southeastern part of the cemetery F/I at Tell
el-Dabca by the excavation team of the Austrian Archaeological Institute under the directorship of Manfred Bietak. The cemetery of
stratum d/2 is the oldest cemetery unearthed at Tell el-Dabca to date (BIETAK 1991 b). The boundaries of the cemetery have so far
been only discovered in the north, where a settlement, centering around a Syrian "Mittelsaalhaus", was discovered (BIETAK 1984,
324-325, Abb. 3; EIGNER 1985, 19-21, Abb. 1). A small group of tombs was built immediately to the south of the residential area, but
the main cemetery area began about 50 m to the south. Of this cemetery, which seems to have been used exclusively for funerary
purposes, an area covering roughly 3500 m2 and 45 tombs have excavated to date. The tombs are predominantly mud brick built chambers
covered with mud brick vaults, which were set into pits. They stand in an Egyptian tradition of funerary architecture. A small number
of tombs consist only of pits with architecture. Most people were interred individually, adults as well as children, but our picture
is blurred by the high degree of plundering. There is a great variation in tomb size, ranging from brick cist tombs for infants and
small children (e.g. tombs o/19-Nr. 6 and 7; Fig. 1) to large single- or multi-chambered constructions. The diversity in dimensions
of tomb constructions among the adult burials could be indicative of a marked social stratification. While we lack almost any
inscriptional evidence, the remaining funerary ensembles represent an intriguing mixture of Egyptian and non-Egyptian features. The
overwhelming majority of the ceramic tomb goods are Egyptian in shape, fabric and production, specific symbolic goods, however, such
as the weaponry are exclusively of Syro-Palestinian types, for example a duck bill axe, numerous socketed javelin heads and a dagger
with tow mid ribs (SCHIESTL. 2002 and in print). Also the earliest evidence at Tell el-Dabca for the Near Eastern custom of ritually
interring a donkey in entrance pits of tombs of in an offering pit in the cemetery (o/19-offering pit 3, o/19-tomb 8, o/21-pit 14, see
Fig. 1) occurs in stratum d/2. We are dealing with an ethnic group of ꜤꝪm.ω or Asiatics, as they are called in Egyptian
and referred to in Egyptology respectively. (2)
Fig. 2 Graphic reconstruction of limestone statue
of an Asiatic man of Tell el-Dabca, area F/I.
from tombs p/19-Nr. 1 (head, fist,
fringe of garments, fragments of seat and base),
p/21-Nr. 1 (right shoulder),
o/20-Nr. 11 (left foot).
In the following stratum d/1 this cemetery continued to be used. 27 tombs have been unearthed so far. They now formed
part of an elite and organized necropolis of homogenous appearance, focused on the palatial structure erected in the north (EIGNER
1985; BIETAK 1991 b) and thus dubbed "Palace Cemetery". The older tombs of stratum d/2 were generally respected and not disturbed by
2. THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONTEXTS OF THE SCATTERED FRAGMENTS AND THE ORIGINAL PLACEMENT OF THE STATUE
The fragments of the statue under discussion were discovered in the context of plundered tombs of strata d/2 (=phase H, late 12th
Dynasty; ca. 1820-1785 B.C.), d/1 (=phase G/4, early 13th Dynasty, ca. 1785-1750 B.C.) and possibly c (=phase G/1-3, first third to
mid 13th Dynasty, 1750-1701 B.C.); (3) see Fig. 1, shaded tombs). The tombs lie in an area which
continued to be used as a cemetery throughout the 13th and into the 15th Dynasty (the Hyksos period). It is noteworthy that no
fragments of the statue were found in these later tombs (not shown in Fig. 1).
It has been argued (BIETAK 1991 b, 61-64) that the statue was originally set up in the most prominent tomb structure
of stratum d/2, tomb p/19-Nr. 1, where the head, a part of the right fist, different fringes of garments, numerous fragments painted
red and presumably belonging to the seat and a part of the inscribed base were discovered in the upper layer of a robber's pit. The
tomb is a massive construction at the southern end of the cemetery, with remains of a superstructure measuring 8 x 7 m and a smaller
annex, 3.7 x 3.7 m, erected in the east of it (BIETAK 1991 b, Abb. 7-9). All in all it covered about 70 mm2. As only the lowest layers
of this construction remain, we cannot say what its superstructure originally looked like, but other Middle Kingdom parallels suggest
a vaulted chapel. The tomb had been completely plundered and nothing was left of the original tomb equipment inside the chamber. Bone
fragments from the burial chamber can be assigned to two individuals, and adult male and a mature female. (4)
While this tomb remains a very good possibility for the original location of the statue, tomb p/21-Nr. 1 of stratum d/1, discovered
20 m to the east one year later, would also qualify. In order to accommodate such a massive figure, a large superstructure is required,
which both tombs possess. Of the superstructure of tomb p/21-Nr. 1 only the length (approximately 8.2 m) is known. The width is not
clear, as the construction is cut off by a huge pit in the south. If the width is reconstructed symmetrically in relationship to the
tomb-chamber, it reaches almost the same measurements, resulting in a roughly square layout of even greater size than p/19-Nr. 1 (see
Fig. 1). In a brick-lined entrance shaft to the tomb-chamber a large assortment of lime stone fragments, many without traces of hewn
surfaces, and amongst them the right shoulder of the statue was found. As head and shoulder were a fit, it was clear one statue had
been smashed and the fragments spread out. Thus the likelihood that further fragments discovered also belong to the same statue
increased and all fragments discovered, such as a left foot around the in the tomb o/20-Nr. 11 of stratum d/1 (Fig. 1), are included
in this reconstruction. (5) Chips of limestone painted red were found in the small tomb p/19-Nr.
10, just south of p/19-Nr. 1. This tomb was completely robbed and filled with settlement debris. It is very difficult to date, but
most likely should be placed in stratum c (G/1-3).
Thus, unfortunately, the original position and stratigraphic attribution of the statue remain ambiguous. The end of
this monument, its mutilation (Fig. 4.1 and 4.2) and destruction (see SCHIESTL in print) are tentatively assigned to the end of stratum c.
3. THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE STATUE
Putting the pieces together, the following reconstruction is suggested (Figs. 2 and 3): (6)
The seated figure of a man reaches a height of approximately 2 m, the depth of the seat is about 70 cm (about 1.3 m including the
base). (7) The figure is approximately one and a half times life size. On the back of the right
shoulder the top right corner of a back support is still visible, thus making its placement and height certain. Emerging from the
fragment of the fist tiny traces of the throw-stick or crook can be detected, (8) thus clearly
placing it in the right hand. The length of the garment is a hypothetical. Also, there are no indications of how the left arm and hand
were positioned. The fragments painted red on their flat and smoothened surfaces are considered as part of the seat. Initially the
statues' eyes were considered to have been inlayed. A limestone eye-inlay found north of the tomb p/21-Nr. 1 was suggested to be from
the statue (HEIN in BIETAK and HEIN (eds.) 1994, 99, 112-113). However, the eye sockets are not deep enough to receive inlays. The eye
inlay, which is hardly damaged, mast therefore have belonged to something different – possibly a funerary mask.
Larger than life size statuary of non-royal Egyptians in the Middle Kingdom is very unusual, but rare examples do
exist throughout the 12th Dynasty, both from tombs (9) and from temples. (10)
They seem to be limited, however, to families of highest ranks. In the late Middle Kingdom non-royal statuary can become quite small
in size (VANDIER 1958, 255, 271, 284), as represented by the statuette from tomb l/19-Nr. 1 of stratum d/1 (BIETK 1991 b, Abb. 12).
On the other hand, most examples of non-royal larger than life statuary date to this period as well. (11)
Fig. 4.1 Head of the statue of
Asiatic from Tell el-Dabca. Chisel
marks on top of head.
Fig. 4.2 Head of the statue of
Asiatic from Tell el-Dabca. Chisel
marks in left eye.
Fig. 3 Graphic reconstruction of Asiatic man from
Tell el-Dabca, area F/I. For findspots of
fragments see Fig. 2
The most prominent features of the statue are the protruding hair-do, which is painted in a dark brownish red, and
the throw-stick or crook, which in Egyptian hieroglyphs (ך) can be used to write ꜤꝪm "Asiatic". The skin is painted yellow and
its combination with red hair constitutes the Egyptian ethnic code for Asiatic people. Parallels for these features are well known in
Middle Kingdom art, such as for example on a relief from the pyramid complex of Sesotris I from Lisht (HILL 1995, 153) or the
representations of Asiatic group from Beni Hasan tombs 2 (GRIFFITH 1900, pl. XXIII, 3) and 3 (NEWBERRY 1891, pl. XXX). The hair style
appears in the depictions of conquered Asiatic warriors on the pectoral of princess Mereret from Dahshur (DE MORGAN 1895, pl.
XX, 2, pl. XXI). It is also worn by a bound Asiatic prisoner on a Middle Kingdom magic wand (FISCHER 1987, pl. IV, 14). And is similar
to the hairstyle of crudely fashioned execration figurines, covered with magical texts (POSENER 1940, frontispiz, Figs. 3-4). Two
small figures of foreign women also have comparable hairstyles, a wooden statuette from Beni Hasan (BOURRIAU 1988, 108-191, fig. 97)
and an ivory figure from Kerma (Wildung 1984, fig. 159). The closest parallel is a limestone head recently acquired by the Egyptian
Museum in Munich. (12) The hair protrudes even more prominently on all sides. In contrast to the
Dabca head, traces of a beard, which by Egyptian standards is typical for Asiatics, have remained as well. The colors on the Munich
head have disappeared but for a small region in the back where the back pillar enters the hair and some traces on the top. The
remaining traces of color are of the same diagnostic reddish brown as on the Tell el-Dabca head.
Another feature emphasized in Egyptian depictions of Asiatic people is their colorful attire. On our statue traces
of the design of the garment are best visible on the back of the right shoulder (Fig. 5): A collar is detectable, with three horizontal
stripes in black, red and black, with white spaces in between. Above this, short vertical red lines radiating from the neck are visible.
Beneath the collar, the cloth consists of vertical red stripes (see Fig. 5). Traces of the same design can still be detected on the
front upper chest, beneath the crook. It is clear that the right shoulder was covered and therefore, despite our scarce evidence, we
can draw some conclusions as to how the garment looked. (13) The whole upper body was covered,
as is clear by the way the horizontal stripes of the garment fall in the back (Fig. 5). Furthermore, if a shoulder is left bare, it
is generally the right one, both in Syro-Levantine (14) and Egyptian costumes. The figure was
clearly not wearing the Syro-Mesopotamian robe with fringes ("Fransenmantel") (15) or thickly
rolled borders ("Wulstaummantel"), (16) which either leaves the right shoulder free
(17) or drapes one end of the garment over it. (18) The
fragment of an end of a cloth shows a different arrangement of stripes: four vertical red stripes and two vertical black stripes
remain, as well as part of a larger, possibly round black design. It is most likely that this fragment is from a separate garment,
the main piece of clothing, while the red striped garment might constitute a sort of short cape. Such garments are shown as worn by
elite men in Egyptian tombs of the Middle Kingdom (e.g. NEWBERRY 1894, pl. XI, XII, XIX, XX). (19)
However, in addition there are three small fragments which seem to be part of a wavy fringe painted black (Inv. Nr.
8754H 2, 3, 4, Fig. 6). This fringe could have formed part of the main garment, possibly a wrap around cloak with a vertical fringe.
Such garments appear on stelae of the Second Intermediate Period (MARÉÉ 1993), possibly representing a fashion influenced by Asiatics.
Fig. 5 Statue of Asiatic from Tell el-Dabca.
View of the back of the right shoulder. The
reconstruction of the garment: The dark
areas represent traces of actual colours.
The backpillar has been omitted.
The fabrics worn by Asiatic men and women (NEWBERRY 1891, pls. XXX-XXXI) tend to be shown as very ornate and full
intricate detail, in contrast to the Egyptian's clean cut textiles. A parallel to the comparatively plain cloth worn by the Dabca
statue can be found in the depiction of Asiatic men on a well preserved stela at the temple of Serabit el-Chadim on Sinai. Two figures
are wearing kilts with a décor of horizontal red and white stripe (ČERNY, GARDINER and PEET 1952-1955, 206, fig. 17, pl. LXXXV). There
also exist long Egyptian cloaks with horizontal stripes (Cf. NEWBERRY 1894, pl. VII); one type in particular had become popular in
late Middle Kingdom private statuary (VANDIER 1958, 231, 256).
It seems most likely that the cape and cloak represented an Egyptian-Asiatic stylistic mixture. A similar blend can
possibly be seen in the cloak, draped equally over both shoulders, depicted on a Bronze statuette of an Asiatic dignitary, which is
said to have been found in the Delta (Wildung 1984, 186, fig. 164).
4. MIDDLE KINGDOM TOMB STATUES AT TELL EL-Dabca AND IN THE DELTA
The excavations of the late Middle Kingdom and 2nd Intermediate Period cemeteries of Tell el-Dabca have produced few
tomb statues. From the hundreds of tombs excavated at Tell el-Dabca to date, only three statues have been found, and only
one is clearly associated with a specific tomb. (20) So far all tombs discovered are associated
with the Syro-Palestinian population, which settled at Tell el-Dabca as of the late Middle Kingdom (stratum d/2). While
there is evidence of Egyptian settlement at the site at least from the early 12th Dynasty onwards, we lack any information on their
tombs and thus are not able to compare the funerary customs of the immigrants to local ones. While tomb statues, as the sculptural
representation of the deceased set up in his or her burial place, are an integral feature of Egyptian tombs, this is not the case
for the Middle Bronze Age Levant, the region from where it is assumed the Asiatic population at Tell el-Dabca came. However,
the few statues found are also from a cemetery of Asiatic people, albeit only associated with tombs of the earliest two strata (d/2
and d/1, H and G/4) discovered so far. Despite a range of foreign features already present in these oldest tombs (SCHIESTL 2002),
many aspects of the funerary equipment are in agreement with contemporary Egyptian tombs. Tomb statuary might have been one element
of Egyptian religious life the Asiatic settlers originally integrated into their culture of death, but, over time, eventually decided
Most tombs excavated at Tell el-Dabca date to the very late Middle Kingdom and the 2nd Intermediate
Period. In the course of the Middle Kingdom changes in Egyptian funerary practices are observable. The importance of tomb statues
seems to decrease, while the wish to set up statues and stelae in temples (DELANGE 1987, 8; BOURRIAU 1991, 8) and shrines, both local
and "national" such as at Abydos, increases. This shifting of importance from the resting place of the dead body to cultic centers
might have intensified in the 2nd Intermediate Period.
However, other regional factors should be taken into account as well. There is a remarkable general dearth of private
Middle Kingdom tomb statuary from the Delta (VANDIER 1958, 261-262). It cannot only be explained by the lack of large scale excavations
of Middle Kingdom cemeteries there, as also "unprovenanced" hard stone statues in museums and collections very rarely refer to Delta
sites. One factor could be the disappearance of any wooden statuary, as no organic material survived in the environment of Tell
el-Dabca and other Delta regions. Considering the local absence of stone raw material, the small wooded areas of the Delta
(Butzer 1975, 1048) could have served as the basis of a regional tradition, now lost. Thus our understanding of wooden statues in the
Middle Kingdom and the observation that they become less frequent towards the end of the 12th Dynasty (Vandier 1958, 255; DELANGE 1987,
7; for exceptions see NEEDLER 1981; FAY 1996, 137, fig. 26), is based on statues from Middle and Upper Egyptian sites. In this context
one could note the recent discovery of gold foil originally covering two remarkable late Predynastic or Protodynastic wooden statues
from the Eastern Delta sit of Tell el-Farkha. (21) Had they not been covered in metal, no evidence
of these wooden statues would have survived.
Fig. 6 Fragment of a fringe (8754H2), from tomb
p/19-Nr. 1, limestone, wavy ridge painted black, 1:1.
5. ASIATICS IN MIDDLE KINGDOM ART
Due to the lack of Palestinian early Middle Bronze images, looking for comparisons one is largely forced to resort to either
Egyptian or Syrian depictions. Both have their ethno-cultural (22) and contextual limitations.
In the Egyptian perspectives, Asiatics are restricted to ethnic stereotypes and limited to scenes of conquered or bound
prisoners, the Asiatic people essentially being vanquished by definition. There are, however, some indications in Middle Kingdom art,
which could be interpreted as a cautious loosening of the rigidly prescribed role the Asiatic foe previously had to play. As
other sources tell us of a sizeable Middle Kingdom Asiatic presence in Egypt (POSENER 1957; SCHNEIDER 2003), before and beyond
the region of Tell el-Dabca, these changes in Egyptian society are but dimly reflected in art. This is on the one hand due
to a generally swift visual integration. Of the large group of people specifically noted as ꜤꝪm (Asiatic) mentioned and shown
on Egyptian Middle Kingdom stelae, only very few are visually set apart from Egyptians: In one case a woman is marked by an unusual
hairdo and costume (SCHNEIDER 2003, 186, in another case the men's skin color is shown as red (SCHNEIDER 2003, 59). On the other hand,
when Asiatics need to be identifiable as such, different trends can be observed in their depiction: In the Beni Hasan scene
(NEWBERRY 1891, pl. XXX), the Asiatics are not shown vanquished, but as traders, self-confidently carrying their own weaponry
and their leader is not an anonymous enemy, but has a title (ḥqꝪ-ḫꝪś.t, "leader of the foreign land") and the name, Jbsha.
(23) Furthermore, on the above mentioned Dahshur pectoral, only visible on the reverse side, we
can detect the conquered enemy wearing a barrel shaped śwr.t-bead, an Egyptian type of jewelry, which was often inscribed with
the name of the owner (ANDREWS 1990, 196-197) and thus marked their identity as Egyptians and as human individuals. A conflation of
these two trends could be seen in the base of a statue showing heads of captives which had completely lost their foreign features
(SPANEL 1988, 70). Visually Egyptianising foreigners in such a composition would seem to blur the message.
6. THE TELL EL-Dabca STATUE IN SOCIAL CONTEXT
Our reassembled statue, however, is a rare example of the self-representation of foreigners living in Egypt, drawing on and
emphasizing Egyptian stereotypes of skin color and hairstyle and transforming them to a monument of self-confidence. The statue
reflects iconographically what the material culture of the tombs of the strata d/2 and d/1 indicated: a highly Egyptianised, elite
group of Asiatics, who strived to successfully combine their own traditions with the new ways of the country to which they
had immigrated. The material of the statue, limestone, and the high workmanship are definitely Egyptian, the conception a collaboration
of the Egyptian artist and his Asiatic client. The size and quality of the product argue for a connection to a royal workshop.
Of particular interest is the inscribed block, which must have formed part of the base upon which the feet rested,
it is painted red on the smoothened top and sides, the bottom was left rough and unpainted. Of the hieroglyphic inscription the only
legible part is the word śnṯr, incense, written at the beginning of a horizontal line of text, running from right to left.
Above it, a second horizontal line can just be made out, but the signs unfortunately remain illegible (discussion in SCHIESTL in
print). They are the last traces of the offering formula, in which the deceased requested certain provisions, such as food, drink,
clothes and more, to be offered to him. What makes this most remarkable is that this is our first clear proof that an Asiastic
inhabitant of Tell el-Dabca is presented as an integrated member in the Egyptian concept of afterlife and all that entails.
Whether he, or the other people buried in these tombs, believed in it as we do not know.
Until the recent discovery of statues flanking the entrance to the royal tomb in Qatna (ELSEN-NOVÁK, NOVÁK and
PFÁLZNER 2003, 156-163), the concept of a tomb statue was considered alien to Middle Bronze Age Syria-Palestine. However, temple
statues and other imagery from tombs at Ebla offer close iconographic parallels to the to the Dabca statue. One of the
statues discovered in a pit, associated with temple P 2, (24) shows a man holding a similar
crook in his left hand over the left shoulder, while the right hand holds a bowl. A scene on a curved ivory object from the tomb of
the Lord of the goats at Ebla (25) presumably depicts a funerary banquet. A man, probably
the deceased, holding a crook or staff in his right arm over his right shoulder, just as in Tell el-Dabca, is seated in
front of a table heaped with offerings. The shape of object itself is reminiscent of Egyptian magic wands of the Middle Kingdom.
As unusual as the Tell el-Dabca statue seems, within Egyptian tomb statuary it simply is a variation.
Its language was derived from an iconographic Egyptian pool and as such clearly understandable to Egyptian viewers. When interpreting
its message, we are easily influenced by the later history of Tell el-Dabca as capital of foreign rulers in Egypt. Thus,
is it to be seen as a provocative statement of autonomy on the part of the local Asiatic community and, from the Egyptian point of
view, as a warning sign of loss of control? The relationship of the Asiatic population at Tell el-Dabca to the
Egyptian state, and their degree of independence are, during this period, not clear. Lacking textual evidence, we have to base our
"reading" of their political role on the remains of the material culture. This shows a high degree of acculturation to late Middle
Kingdom Egyptian culture. There is no evidence that the Asiatic community was acting against Egyptian interests, but indications to
the opposite. Within a suggested scenario of cooperation between the Egyptian state and the local Asiatic community in mining,
trading and possibly even military expeditions, another, complementary, reading of the statue could be suggested. While it clearly
shows an Asiatic man in power, a dignitary, it could also be read as a dignitary ruling over Asiatics. During the period under
discussion, it could be argued both sides profited from this collaboration, resulting in a discourse on power and control. The statue
could be seen as a product of this discussion, to which it also contributed. Such a collaboration must have been fraught with a
certain amount of distrust on both sides. Keeping an Egyptian conception in mind, the iconographic fusion of Egyptian and "Asiatic"
roles was one way of appropriating the latter. Within the fluid concepts of ethnicity, in the statue under discussion the Asiatic
characteristics were (over)emphasized, just as they were completely omitted in the statuette from tomb l/19-Nr. 1 (BIETAK 1991 b,
Abb. 12). In the Egyptian way of thinking, what induced fear was often used precisely against it and thus elegantly subdued. In the
realm of religion and magic, dangerous creatures such as crocodiles, snakes and scorpions were turned into benevolent gods, and for
example, the scorpion goddess was called upon to help fight scorpion bites, thus, "fighting like with like… the dangerous force
is neutralized" (PINCH 1994, 36-376). In the case of the god Sopdu, he was turned into a god of foreign lands, and could appear
in Asiatic garb (SCHUMACHER 1988). In the Middle Kingdom he appears as such also in border regions, such as the Wadi Gasus (Gawasis),
and on Sinai in the get up of a Beduin, holding a crook in one hand (ČERNY, GARDINIER and PEET 1952-1955, pl. XLVII).
Thus, the Dabca image could be considered as actually reassuring Egyptian power over the Asiatics, both
in and outside of Egypt, while in skillful iconographic ambiguity, simultaneously conveying to the local Asiatic community an
appropriate message of their growing importance.
1. This is an updated version of a paper presented at the Third ICAANE in Paris in April 2002.
2. For discussion of the term see the latest summary by SCHNEIDER 2003, 5-11.
3. Cf. BIETAK 1996, fig. 3.
4. I thank K. Grossschmidt and his team for this information.
5. It cannot, however, be excluded that more, very similar statues had been set up.
6. I am indebted to my father Reiner Schiestl, my colleague Nicola Math and Biri Fay for helping me with this
reconstruction. Any mistakes are, however, my own.
7. The reconstruction is based on the Egyptian canon (Cf. ROBINS 1991). It should, however, be noted that the neck
is "too" wide, possibly indicating that the whole figure is to be reconstructed with a stockier build.
8. I thank N. Math for this detection.
9. E.g. Evers 1929, Taf. 22, 24; Cf. the depiction of the transport of a colossal statue in the tomb of
Djehuti-hetep at el-Bersheh (NEWBERRY 1894, pl. XV); WILLEMS, PEETERS and VERSTRAETEN 2005, 173-189.
10. Abydos; MMA 02.4.191; Wildung 2000, 149, Nr. 71.
11. E.g. Ibu from Qau, STECKEWEH and STEINDORFF 1936, pl. 15 a; Imenjseneb from Elephantine, HABACHI
1985, 51, pls. 61-67 (Nr. 21).
12. MÄS 7171, WILDUNG 2000, 165, Nr. 83; I would like thank Biri Fay who kindly provided me with information on
13. The evidence for dress from tombs is also scarce. As of stratum b/3 (F) onwards toggle pins are found
in situ in tombs at Tell el-Dabca. They are always on the left side of the upper body (Cf. BIETAK 1991 a, 156-157).
14. There are, in glyptic art and wall paintings, exceptions, where the left shoulder is shown bare. For example in
Beni Hasan tomb 3 (NEWBERRY 1893, pl. XXX): Of the group of four Asiatic men in the middle, one is depicted with a bare left, one
with a bare right shoulder. On seals (cf. for example, SCHROER 1985, Abb. 12, 44) in both cases two persons are shown antithetically
and the person facing right is shown with a bare left shoulder, presumably due to the composition as a mirror image.
15. STROMMEGER 1958, 121.
16. SCHROER 1985, 51-115.
17. E.g. statue of Ishtup-Ilum, from Mar, PARROT 1959, pls. I-II, of statue of dignitary from Elba, MATTHIAE
1992, pl. 50:1-3.
18. E.g. statue of Ishtup-Ilum, from Mar, PARROT 1959, pls. IX-X, of statue of a sitting king from Elba,
MATTHIAE 1992, pl. 50:4, pl. 51:1-2.
19. I thank Dorothea Arnold for this suggestion.
20. Statuette Inv. Nr. 5093 was found in the chamber of F/I-I/19-tomb 1 (BIETAK 1991 b, 64-65, Abb. 12, Taf. 25 B,
C), which dates to stratum d/1. A second statuette (Nr. 7195) was found out of context, in area F/I-p/I9-above tomb I3 (HEIN 1994).
Other out of context finds of fragmentary Middle Kingdom statues were considered to originally have been set up in temples (ROGGE
1994, 193-193). The royal Middle Kingdom statues discovered by L. Habachi had most likely originally been set up in the Memphis-Fayoum
region and been carried off to Avaris at a later point in time (ENGEL 2001, 156).
22. The problem of using primarily North Syrian and Mesopotamian sources to reconstruct Palestinian and Levantine
costume was addressed by D. REDFORD. He concludes, however, that "Cloak over kilt… also was the vogue in Palestine and the
Levantine coast" and it can be "construed as the basic winter costume of the "Amorite" upper class" (REDFORD
23. For the suggested reading 'Ab(i)-šait see SCHNEIDER 2003, 129.
24. MATTHIAE 1995, 411.
25. PINNOCK 1994, 22, pl. V c.