Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reserve Heads - Part 3 : preliminary analysis

What is the role of Reserve Heads ?

Numerous Egyptologists dealt with the riddle of Reserve Heads.

And it is necessary to recognize that there are no absolute certainties - we have elements of answer, "trends" which will help us in this sketch of difficult analysis.

Some people wondered if Reserve Heads was not prototypes for the stone - cutters (useful for statues or reliefs) ? 


Or if Reserve Heads was not models for funeral masks ?

In view of the existing proofs, it seems that it is not the case.


In the "jungle" of the other hypotheses appears the fact that a head represents at the same time a person (the deceased) and a graphic symbolism.

It represents a person because its first function is to be able to "replace" the real head (associated with the body) of the deceased (if the head must be damaged or lost).

This function of replacement can be spread to other funeral components (e.g. a statue which can replace the body of the deceased).

It represents a graphic symbolism or image what means that it is equipped with certain "power" : for the ancient Egyptians, the image can be associated with the domain of the sacred.


To understand this notion it is necessary to remember itself that everything is made to protect the deceased and make sure that he can arrive "complete" in the other world (in the religious sense of the term).

We spoke in the previous article of tracks of apparently voluntary mutilations.

How to explain these mutilations ?

The explanation which seems admitted is that these mutilations are bound to the domain of the sacred - in other words they are member of a rite1  of mutilation, located in a place of the grave2.


The head (which is the object of this rite) so acts for the deceased and protects him from hostile influences.

A parallel can be made with mutilated hieroglyphs (practice which appears to the end of the Old Kingdom) - we speak about "murder" semantic.

The hieroglyph (or sign / image) mainly in its role of determiner can be a "danger"3 for the deceased.


To delete this "danger" (or cancel the possible impact), it is enough to mutilate the concerned hieroglyphs4.

The head could be seen as a statue reduced to a hieroglyphic shape, the determiner of the human rests of the deceased.

What is the object of this rite ?


Delete any "dangerous" impact and make sure that the head can bring to a successful conclusion its role of replacement - it becomes clear that the concern of the ancient Egyptians is that the victims of this "murder" semantic continue their "roads" towards the other world.


This obsession to the ancient Egyptians to take all these religious precautions stays a mystery : disturbing circumstances during the death of the person ? Possible danger for the alive ?


The fact of the presence of a head in the grave (symbol of archetypal beheading), even if it undergone a particular treatment or rite (sensible to inhibit his negative effects), perplexed leash - the deceased was - he so innocent as it ?

The location of heads generally close to the ground, even on the ground, far from the look while they undergo a "heavy" treatment leaves so perplexed.


We will analyse others aspects in the next article.


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1 Probably complementary rite (in correlation with other important rites) during the ceremony - made on the place where is put down the head  - before the closure of the grave and can be after the departure of the family of the deceased.

To every practised type of mutilation corresponds a particular symbolism (e.g. beheading itself, hardship of the senses, the physical fractures).

The use of color for a head in the funeral texts is rather frequent (particularly the white color) - any colors were found on Reserve Heads, only some tracks of pigments probably used for some adjustments.


2 The location of the head is not harmless - certain Egyptologists think that there is a link with the conception (or cartography) of the other world - little in the style of statues in a chapel or serdab.

3 The hieroglyph as determiner can introduce possible "dangers" (in the magic sense of the term) harmful for the body of the deceased - The sign becomes semantically active or speaking.

4 To note that there are no changes of syntactic or grammatical order for the concerned hieroglyph.