Freemasonry and Ancient Egypt A Quick Trail

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1 Freemasonry and Ancient Egypt A Quick Trail By Cathie Bryan Fragment of the Book of the Dead 2 Model stoneman s tools: UC16166 and UC16165 plumb bob UC1674 Cubit rod. and UC7508 Rope. 4 UC14362 Stela of the stonemason Bakenmin 5 UC14309 Tomb relief of Tepemankh. 6 UC408 Relief depicting a tomb court with colonnade 7 UC14226 Stela of Nesykhonsu 8 UC14404 Stele with the barque of Amun 7 9 UC8709 Statue of Imhotep 10 UC14230 Coffin case of Niry ti sit nefer UC28005 Pottery figure of a sphinx 12 UC8787 Pottery figure of Isis and Horus 13 UC30489 Bronze figure of Isis and UC30493 Apis Calf 14 UC15941 Painted pottery slab 15. Bronze figurines of Harpocrates and a bronze figurine of a winged Isis..

2 Introduction This is a trail that accompanied a lecture on the uses of ancient Egypt by freemasonry, which was given by Cathie Bryan at the Petrie Museum, before moving on to a tour of relevant objects at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry in November 2010 and February UC32444 Fragment of the Book of the Dead, illustrated in ink on linen. Ptolemaic. This vignette shows the judgment of the dead before a tribunal of gods. Book of the Dead judgement scene (UC32444). 2 Model stonemason s tools: UC16166 Square and UC16165 plumb bob. Sedment. Dynasty The mason s square enables determination with great accuracy of both 90 and 45 degree angles. It is still in use today. Both of these builder s tools feature as symbols in Freemasonry: the square represents morality, and the plumb rule represents justness and uprightness. Freemasons meet on the square. 3 UC1674 Cubit rod. UC7420 and UC7508 Rope. All objects are from Lahun, Dynasty 12. The royal cubit, equal to 7 palms, was the main unit of measurement in ancient Egypt (52.4 cm). The cubit was represented as hieroglyph of a forearm and hand. A cubit system of measurement was already used for the layout of a mastaba of the 1st dynasty at Naqada. Page 2 of 5

3 4 UC14362 Stela of the stonemason Bakenmin. Memphis. Dynasty 18. Bakenmin is shown with 23 members of his extended family. Those who sniff lotus flowers are deceased, i.e. breathing in the Afterlife. This Egyptian stonemason was wealthy enough to commission a fine funerary stela. 5 UC14309 Tomb relief of Tepemankh. Saqqara. Dynasty 5. Craftsmen at work 6 UC408 Relief depicting a tomb court with colonnade, Two statues and a heap of offerings. Memphis. Late Dynasty Before the purpose and meaning of tombs in the Valley of the Kings were understood through archaeology and decipherment of texts, some people thought these monuments were sites of the Mysteries. Representations of the king before the gods, and views of the trials in the afterlife were often interpreted as rituals of initiation by the Freemasons. 7 UC14226 Stela of Nesykhonsu, wife of the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem II, offering incense to Osiris. Thebes. Dynasty UC14404 Stele with the barque of Amun carried by priests in a religious procession. Koptos. Dynasty 19? The shrine of the god carried in a barque is an ancient Egyptian prototype of the Ark of the Covenant. 9 UC8709 Statue of Imhotep. Saqqara. Late Period. Imhotep is the world s first named architect, designer of the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Later deified and identified with Asclepios, the cult of Imhotep at Saqqara was also associated with medicine and writing. 10 UC14230 Coffin case of Niry ti sit nefer. Dynasty 26? The deceased appears before the gods on the front of the case. The interior bears inscriptions from the Book of the Dead. A mummy case would have been a desirable object in a 19th century Masonic Cabinet of Curiosity. Page 3 of 5

4 Most of the objects we have looked at so far look date to the pharaonic period, up to the end of the 30th dynasty, 332 B.C. The new rulers of Egypt were descended from Alexander s General, Ptolemy, and from this time many aspects of Egyptian art and culture experienced Classical influence. Representations in art of the gods and traditional Egyptian icons during the Graeco-Roman period could sometimes look more Greek than Egyptian. 11 UC28005 Pottery figure of a sphinx. Roman. period. The sphinx no longer looks traditionally Egyptian he is reinterpreted in Graeco-Roman fashion. Similar Roman Egyptianising sphinxes may be seen on Egyptian themed Masonic certificates of the 19th century. 12 UC8787 Pottery figure of Isis and Horus the child. Memphis. Roman. Isis has been syncretised, or assimilated, with several important Graeco- Roman goddesses. Isis went on to be worshipped beyond Egypt, and had a great sanctuary in Rome itself. Here she holds the young Horus, known as Harpocrates, who has his finger to his mouth.the Greeks and Romans mistook this Egyptian gesture of childhood for a caution to silence, hence Harpocrates was thought of as a god of Silence. Silence is a virtue to Freemasonry. Harpocrates sometimes features in Masonic iconography. 13 UC30489 Bronze figure of Isis, mother of the Apis and UC30493 Bronze figure of the Apis Calf (on shelf 1). Both Saqqara, Dynasty 30 Ptolemaic. An alternative view of Isis, associated with the Egyptian goddess Mehet-Weret. In this combined form, Isis represents the mother of the Apis bull. At its death, each bull was mummified and buried in a necropolis known as the Serapaeum in Saqqara. Page 4 of 5

5 14 UC Painted pottery slab (sistrum handle?) with Hathor headed column. Qurna. Dynasty 18. Views of the Temple of Hathor at Denderah by Vivant Denon (1802) and in Description de l Egypte (1809 for volume 1) made the Hathor headed column a popular element of the Napoleonic Egyptian Revival. Note the cow ears of the goddess. Hathor headed columns feature in Masonic Lodge architecture and decoration, and on Egyptian themed Masonic certificates of the 19th century. 15. Bronze figurines of Harpocrates and a bronze figurine of a winged Isis are located in the stairway gallery. The display cases here are enriched with lotus capital columnettes. Further Reading Curl, J. S., (1991), The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry Curl, J. S., (2005), The Egyptian Revival: A Recurring Theme in the History of Taste Hamill, J. and Mollier, P. (2003), Rebuilding the Sanctuaries of Memphis: Egypt in Masonic Iconography and Architecture in Humbert, J. M. and Price, C. (eds.) Imhotep Today: Egyptianising Architecture, pp Iverson, E. (1993), The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition MacNulty, W. K. (2006), Freemasonry: Symbols, Secrets, Significance Montserrat, D. (2000), Ancient Egypt: Digging for Dreams (exhibition catalogue) Tompkins, P. (1981), The Magic of Obelisks Trope, Quirke and Lacovara (2005), EXCAVATING EGYPT: Great Discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Witt, R. E. (1997), Isis in the Ancient World Page 5 of 5

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