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Object Study I: Soldier’s Statue

Watch Dr Steven Snape describe a soldier's statue, from the Garstang Museum of Archaeology
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Hello, I’m Steven Snape. I’m Reader in Egyptian Archaeology here at the University of Liverpool, and I’m also Director of the Garstang Museum of Archaeology. My main research interests are in Egyptian foreign relations, Egyptian military activity, and Egyptian fortresses. This object that we’re looking at here is a little limestone statue. It’s not the world’s greatest piece of sculpture, it has to be admitted. It’s rather crudely formed, it’s rather simple in it’s carving. And you’d expect something better out of such a soft stone like limestone.
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But I think the reason it’s not such a brilliant piece of work is that it’s an object which was made for an ordinary person, and probably a style of statue that was made in really quite large quantities. The reason that this statue is particularly interesting is that it is part of a class of these little statues which were made for soldiers. In the Second Intermediate Period, at a time when the Hyksos were occupying Northern Egypt. Of course, the Thebans in the south we’re looking to push north against the Hyksos enemies. And one of the great border points between the Thebans and the Hyksos in the north was Abydos.
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Now Abydos was a site which had been of importance and interest in religious terms for many years. In the Middle Kingdom, it was seen as the burial place of the God Osiris, god of the dead. And because of that, it had great importance for ordinary Egyptians who wanted to connect with Osiris, and have a good afterlife for themselves. In the Second Intermediate Period, when we have these garrisons of soldiers being stationed at Abydos, I think what happened was that they were taking advantage of being stationed at this important religious site.
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And so they had little statues made for themselves to be left at the site, perhaps in the Temple of the God Osiris, or perhaps nearby on the processional route to the tomb of Osiris. Many of these statues were made for soldiers by members of their own family. And there are probably a whole series of intriguing stories behind these statues. Were they left by members of their families after these soldiers had been killed in battle? Were they meant as sort of lucky charms so when they were deposited at the temple, the God Osiris will protect them in life and death? We simply don’t know. The histories, the lives, the biographies, of many ordinary Egyptians are simply unknown to us.
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While we know lots about kings and high-ranking individuals, the lives of people like this are often really quite mysterious to us. But it’s interesting to speculate that a not particularly well-carved statue like this may tell the whole story of a soldier caught up in a conflict which eventually would result in the supposed liberation of Egypt from the Hyksos in the north by an army in which he was part.

Dr Snape says that it is interesting to speculate on the identity of the individual that this statue represents. Let’s try to breathe some life into our Egyptian Soldier. Take a close look at the statue and feel free to comment on any aspect of this soldier’s life that you find interesting. Even if we can’t be sure that we are correct, we’ll have built up a reliable picture of life as an Egyptian Soldier. You might consider the following themes:

  • What rank did he hold in the Egyptian Army?
  • How wealthy would he have been?
  • Was he a professional, or a part-time soldier?
  • What armour might he have worn, and what weaponry might he have carried?
  • Did he have a family? Where did they live?

To help with these questions, we have also provided a short article on the statue written by Dr Snape, which you can access below.

This article is from the free online

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