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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

The Royal Cup-bearer and Fan-bearer

Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer

Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer

The Pillar of Ramsesemperre with Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer shows the importance of these roles in the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’ court. This pillar dates to Ramesses II or slightly later. Ramesses II is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire.

One famous story about one Royal Cupbearer comes from the Bible in Genesis:

“Sometime later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.  Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. He put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.”

According to the bible story, Joseph had earned a reputation as an interpreter of dreams. He interpreted the dreams of the Royal cupbearer and the Royal Baker, while they were imprisoned on suspicion of theft. Joseph prophesied that the cupbearer’s dream meant that he would soon be acquitted and returned to his role as Royal Cupbearer. On the other hand, the baker’s dream meant that Pharaoh would have him executed. These dream interpretations by Joseph come to pass, and his reputation spread.

We do not know the story of the Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer on this pillar.  We can only imagine what he saw and heard in the Royal Palace of the Pharaoh.

Ancient Egyptian Life

Most ancient Egyptians were farmers tied to the land. Their dwellings were constructed of mud-brick designed to remain cool in the heat of the day. Each home had a kitchen with an open roof, which contained a grindstone for milling grain and a small oven for baking the bread.

The ancient Egyptians placed a high value on hygiene and appearance. Most bathed in the Nile and used a pasty soap made from animal fat and chalk. Men shaved their entire bodies for cleanliness; perfumes and aromatic ointments covered bad odours.

Clothing was made from simple linen sheets that were bleached white, and both men and women of the upper classes wore wigs, jewellery, and cosmetics. Children went without clothing until maturity, at about age 12, males were circumcised and had their heads shaved.

Music and dance were popular entertainments. Early instruments included flutes and harps, while instruments similar to trumpets, oboes, and pipes developed later and became popular. In the New Kingdom, the Egyptians played on bells, cymbals, tambourines, drums, lutes and lyres.

Egyptian cuisine consisted of bread and beer, supplemented with vegetables such as onions and garlic, and fruit such as dates and figs. All enjoyed wine and meat on feast days. Fish, meat, and fowl could be dried or could be cooked in stews or roasted on a grill.

Both men and women had the right to own and sell property, make contracts, marry and divorce, receive an inheritance, and pursue legal disputes in court. Married couples could own property jointly and protect themselves from divorce by agreeing to marriage contracts. Compared with their counterparts in the ancient world, ancient Egyptian women had a greater range of personal choices and opportunities for achievement. Women such as Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII even became pharaohs, while others wielded power as Divine Wives.

Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer

  • Title:               Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer
  • Created:         1279 – 1204 BC
  • Period:           19th Dynasty, Reign of Ramses II  to Merenptah
  • Find-site:        Saqqara, also spelt Sakkara or Saccara, Egypt
  • Media:            Limestone
  • Museum:        The Archaeological Civic Museum of Bologna

Highlights of the Archaeological Civic Museum of Bologna

A Tour of Egyptian Art

Reflections

  • Did Cupbearers also play the role of wine taster to make sure there were no poison plots?
  • Was this a ritual that Joseph from the bible stories may have witnessed?
  • How many Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer would there have been in service ready to serve Ramesses II?
  • What makes Egyptian art unique?

~~~

“Know the world in yourself.
Never look for yourself in the world,
for this would be to project your illusion.”

– Egyptian Proverbs

~~~


Photo Credit 1)JOM

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