The Decoration on the Cult Chapel Walls of the Old Kingdom Tombs at Giza: A New Approach to Their Interaction. BY LEO ROETEN. Culture & History of the Ancient Near East, vol. 70. Leiden: BRILL, 2014. Pp. lix + 436, illus. $218.
Full disclosure: I have never been anything more than competent with mathematics, nor am I particularly comfortable with results displayed on a graph. So imagine my surprise when a study's hard-won conclusions are largely presented in that particular format. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, as the reader must get accustomed to acronyms such as CPSD ("Co-occurrence percentage surrounds discrepancy"), which is explained as "a calculated value giving the quantified difference between a CP [= "Co-occurrence percentage"] value and the CP values surrounding it in a table of CP values" (p. xiv). Given that such language is mostly impenetrable to me, I am happy to report that the author's thorough work has paid off with some rather interesting results, which are summarized in a concluding chapter that uses words exclusively. The author himself seems to be aware of the unconventionality of his approach, as he states that "[a]lthough some of the conclusions are so obvious that the employment of the methodology that has been developed may seem superfluous, the fact remains that the methodology adds a mathematical basis, thus making them more reliable" (p. lvi).
The book begins with a presentation of technical terms and abbreviations, followed by a general bibliography of works cited and a useful and up-to-date bibliography of the Giza tombs. After this comes a brief introduction followed by a numbered list of "(sub)themes" found on the chapel walls, such as the tomb owner standing or sitting alone (no. 1) or in the presence of his family (no. 2), personified estates bringing goods (no. 6) or servants also carrying goods or leading animals (no. 5), and so forth. Because these (sub)themes are often simply referred to by their numbers within the discussion of their occurrences and which (sub)themes surrounded them, the reader might wish to copy those three pages (lvii-lix) for easy consultation while reading the book.
Following this, chapter I presents the architectural and iconographic development of Giza mastabas and a discussion of the secular versus the non-secular content of the previously mentioned (sub)themes. This includes an examination of the difference between ritual and cult, where it is explained that cultic...