Umm el-Qaab VII: Private Stelae of the Early Dynastic Period from the Royal Cemetery at Abydos. By GEOFFREY THORNDIKE MARTIN. DAI Cairo, Archaologische Veroffentlichungen, vol. 123. Wiesbaden: FARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2011. Pp. 219,90 plts. [euro]128.
Here is another superb offering from the pen of Geoffrey T. Martin. In what was surely a labor of love, the author collected all the excavated stelae, a large number of which are housed in various museums in Egypt, Europe, and the United States, dating to the Early Dynastic period from the site of Abydos. Some of these stelae are lost today, which necessitated the use of the original excavation photographs or drawings, but the existing museum pieces were collated in person; the long list of acknowledgments to museum curators (p. 16) attests to this effort.
The catalogue itself consists of a number of assemblages: the stelae excavated by W. M. F. Petrie in the early twentieth century (nos. 1-168); and by E. Amelineau in the late nineteenth century (nos. 169-239, a numbering system instituted by P. Kaplony in his seminal work on the Early Dynastic material (Die Inschrffien der agyptischen Fruhzeit [Wiesbaden, 1963] and followed by Martin); additional pieces presented by Kaplony (nos. 240-50 and 251-66, the latter being Kaplony's entries 1.1 to I11.1, to which Martin has given consecutive numbers for the sake of consistency); material originally poorly recorded by excavators (nos. 267-72); the newer stelae found in the last two decades by the German Archaeological Institute expedition under the directorship of G. Dreyer (nos. 273-358); and finally, one fragmentary piece excavated by the Pennsylvania-Yale-Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Project under D. O'Connor and M. Adams (no. 359).
Each piece is presented with its dimensions; a brief description of its current condition; the text, usually consisting of title and name, given in transliteration; and a bibliography. Photographs of the high quality one expects from the German Archaeological Institute publications are given at the end of the book. Additionally, the author believes very strongly in publishing each stela with an accurate drawing; as he states (p. 2), "texts or scenes are not fully published unless a facsimile record is provided."
The provenance of each stela is also given, but here a caveat is necessary. The point is made (pp. 2-3) that two main two factors contribute to the difficulty in retrospectively providing proper...