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20/02 - Lezing Stefan Baumann

House of Silver: Mineralogy and Secrecy in Egyptian Temples

Vanaf 2024 versterkt Stefan Baumann met een FED-tWIN mandaat het docententeam aan de KULeuven én het KMKG in Brussel. We geven hem dan ook graag de eer om zijn onderzoek voor te stellen in deze eerste lezing van het jaar. Voorafgaand aan de lezing nodigen we u tevens uit om van een kleine welkomstreceptie te genieten. Deze zal doorgaan op de 4e verdieping van het Erasmushuis, van 18u30 tot 19u45. Iedereen welkom!

Made from everlasting stone, Egyptian temples are monumental structures that were designed to serve as eternal houses for the gods. The religious inscriptions engraved upon the temple walls were meant to keep alive the rituals performed in these buildings. At the same time, the sheer number of hieroglyphic texts – especially in the temples of the Graeco-Roman period – form a rich ‘lithic library’, preserving and transmitting various branches of knowledge over millennia. In many temples, there is even a specific chamber, the so-called ‘treasury’ or 'silver house', dedicated to the world of minerals and functioning as a kind of sacristy, holding precious cult objects. The hieroglyphic texts of this chamber reveal valuable details about the materiality and meaning of the individual objects but also about rituals and the logic behind the layout of a temple. Even though these texts are primarily concerned with cultic matters, they nonetheless provide valuable insight into how substances were systematically classified and ascribed with hierarchical value – practices that form the beginnings of scientific inquiry. Thus, they make up a hitherto completely neglected source on the history of mineralogy, which, according to traditional understanding, only begins with Greek and Roman natural philosophers.

Another important aspect is that these treasuries lead to hidden chambers. Most intriguing are the complex below the temple of Athribis and one chamber in Dendera that has only recently become accessible. Based on the fieldwork I conducted at these sites, this presentation will explain the function of these secret spaces and how they were reimagined in Late Antiquity and the Islamic Period.


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