Sunday, February 14, 2010
The practice of stamping mud bricks produced for royal projects arose at the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty and continued through the New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.) and Third Intermediate Period (1070-712 B.C.), though becoming increasing sporadic after the Twentieth Dynasty. Typically, bricks were impressed with the cartouches of the throne name (also called the prenomen) and sometimes the personal name (nomen) of the king. Occasionally the name of the chief queen was substituted for one of the king’s cartouches, and once in awhile, the name of the building for which the bricks were intended was stamped into them.
The original excavators at Malqata noticed that the bricks of the various structures that compose the palace complex were stamped and they recorded the impressions. This information proved useful when they realized that different areas of the site tended to be constructed with bricks of different stamp types. This allowed them to reconstruct the order in which the structures had been built.
So far, twelve different types of stamps have been found at Malqata. Two types have both the throne name of Amenhotep III (Neb-maat-re) and his personal name (Amen-hotep). Two types have only the name Nebmaatre. Two types have Nebmaatre and the name of his queen, Tiye. Three types have the phrase “Neb-maat-re is in the House of Rejoicing (the ancient name for Malqata).” One type has the phrase “Nebmaatre is in the House of the Rejoicing in the House of Amun.” One type reads “The House of Amun in the House of Rejoicing.” And a partially preserved stamp says only “…a great many.”
While these stamps have proven archaeologically useful, their beauty is perhaps in the eye of the beholder. The stamps were impressed into a mix of mud and straw, a combination of materials not chosen for its ability to hold a clear impression of a rounded and increasingly worn stamp (as you can see in the photo below)!
Though the stamped bricks are less common now after a century of wind denudation and increased human activity across the site, we have found a few in the past few days (and faithfully recorded them), adding further information to the history of the construction of this palace city of Amenhotep III.