Garstang Museum of Archaeology

An Aging Rocker and a Couple of Old Hoes: Objects from an Egyptian foundation deposit


Part of a model rocker 2014/261

Small wooden model tools are one of the most common types of objects found within foundation deposits of the mid-18th dynasty of Egypt. Foundation deposits were collections of objects with a ritual significance, buried within the foundations of temples (and tombs) at the start of construction, in order to provide magical protection for the building.

Model hoes 2014/258-260

It is from such a context that four artefacts in the Garstang Museum originate (above and left). They were donated to the museum by the Sion Baptist Church in Rawtennstall, with no information about their origins or excavation history. However, the hieroglyphic texts inscribed on the objects actually record the name of the temple under which they were buried – something very few archaeological artefacts are kind enough to provide!

Three of the objects are nearly identical. Measuring approximately 30cm in length, with a base diameter of around 10mm, each of these wooden sticks has a small roughly circular hole approximately 30cm from the top. A short, vertical inscription is positioned beneath the hole on each piece, on what was originally the outer surface of the tool.

Their curved, tapering form, along with the remains of another wooden rod which had been inserted into the hole on each stick, indicate that these objects are what is left of three model hoes (see below for a complete example).

Model hoe in the Ashmolean Museum, AN1895.150 (surrounding a model adze, AN1895.147).

The fourth object is a fragment of a model rocker (see figure 3 for a complete example), approximately 20cm in length. Broken into two pieces, the fragment has been glued back together in modern times. Traces of nine small spherical holes remain, positioned at regular intervals along the curved edge of the fragment. These are the features that reveal that the object is the remnant of one side of a model rocker – a tool used to facilitate the movement of large stone blocks. A horizontal line of text is inscribed on what was once the outer side of the model.

Complete model rocker in the Ashmolean Museum, AN 1895.149.

TEXT IN TRANSLATION The formulaic nature of the inscriptions correlates with those commonly found on objects form foundation deposits during this period –  ‘The good god (king) X, beloved of (god) Y’ frequently (although not always) followed by ‘lord of (town/temple) Z’. The inscriptions on the Garstang Museum objects read (from right to left): nfr nTr mAat-kA-ra mr(y)t imn xnt Dsr-Dsrw ‘The good god, Ma’at-ka-re, beloved of Amun, foremost (of) Djeser-Djeseru.’

Part of model rocker. 2014/261 (scale = cm).

These short inscriptions are extremely useful as they provide us with their date. They were deposited during reign of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who was also known by her throne-name, Ma’at-ka-re. She ruled Egypt as a member of the 18th dynasty (1539-1292BC), during the period known as the New Kingdom..

The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri “Djeser-Djeseru” (C) Charlie Phillips

The inscriptions also give us the original location of the foundation deposit in which the objects were buried: the Queen’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari, which was known as the Djeser-Djesru (‘holiest of holies’). This temple was the first of a series of great mortuary temples built on the west bank at Thebes (modern day Luxor), each dedicated to the cult of a different Pharaoh of the New Kingdom

Part of model hoe. 2014/258 (scale = cm).

Drawings by Carrie Jenks.