Saturday, November 19, 2011

House-Warming Gifts

So a certain person's house-warming party is coming up this Christmas break. Veronica and I decided to do something creative (read: inexpensive but unique), so I found some interesting ancient Near Eastern texts that we could recreate. The first is taken from the tomb of Unas (2375-2345 BCE), the last king of the 5th Dynasty. He is the first to have elaborate prayers inscribed on the walls of his tomb, which would later be called the "Pyramid Texts." I found a suitable passage (i.e. one not referring to cannibalism or baboon penises). During this period of Egyptian history, after the Pharaoh died he was supposed to rise into the sky and join the gods, either becoming a star or merging with the sun itself. The passage I selected is a prayer/incantation/blessing to enable Unas to rise into the sky to take his rightful place. After selecting the text, I found how Alexander the Great had his name written in Egyptian after he conquered the area and replaced Unas' name with that. Then taught Veronica how to draw the signs, as she's more artistically inclined than myself. We consulted images of painted inscriptions to try to get the right colors. When information was not available, we made choices based on aesthetics. Here is the final product, which is about the size of a sheet of paper.
Here is the translation, taken from James Allen's The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts:

Ascending Toward the Sky:
The sky has been bled and Sothis lives, for Alexander is the living one, Sothis’s son, for whom the Dual Ennead have cleaned the imperishable Striker. Alexander’s house for the sky will not perish, Alexander’s seat for the earth will not end.
People have hidden, the gods have flown away, for Sothis has flown Alexander to the sky amidst his brothers, the gods. Nut has bared her arms to Alexander; the two foremost bas of the bas of Heliopolis, who spent the night making the god’s bewailing, have knelt down at the Sun’s head.
Alexander’s seat is with you, Sun, and he will not give it to any other. So, Alexander will go up to the sky by you, Sun, the face of Alexander as that of falcons, Alexander’s wings as those of birds, his nails as the talons of Him of Atfet.
There is no case involving Alexander at the earth with people, there is no guilty verdict of his at the sky with the gods, for Alexander has removed the case involving him and Alexander has destroyed the one against his ascending to the sky.
Paths-Parter has flown Alexander to the sky among his brothers the gods. Alexander has acquired arms as a Nile goose, Alexander has beaten wings as a kite. A flier has flown, people: Alexander has flown away from you.

Next, I found an Ugaritic text which celebrates when Baalu, the storm god and king of the gods, finally got a home (temple) for himself. The Baal cycle dates to about 1400-1350 BCE. The passage describes the building of the house and the beginning of the house warming celebration he has afterwards. I got some sculpty clay and used a wooden wedge that I have to inscribe the passage. Here is the result:

Here is the translation, taken from Mark Smith and Wayne Pitard's The Ugaritic Baal Cycle, Volume II:

Quickly his house was built,
Quickly his palace was erected.
He went to Lebanon for its trees,
to Siryan for its choicest cedars.
Lebanon for its trees,
Siryan for its choicest cedars.
A fire was set in the house,
a flame in the palace.
There! For a day and a second,
a fire burned in the house,
a flame in the palace.
For a third and a fourth day,
a fire burned in the house,
a flame in the palace.
For a fifth and sixth day,
a fire burned in the house,
a flame amid the palace.
Then on the seventh day,
the fire went out in the house,
the flame, in the palace.
The silver had turned to plates,
the gold had turned to bricks.
Mightest Baalu rejoiced:
“My house I have built of silver,
my place of gold.”
Baalu made arrangements for his house,
Haddu made arrangements for his palace.
He slaughtered large stock (as well as) small:
He killed bulls (and) fatling rams,
year old calves.

Both passages mention homes, so I thought they would be appropriate. Let me know what you think.


  1. Very nice! These look really good and I like how they reference Alexander and houses. Little known fact: Alex was actually a cannibalistic baboon in a past life(weird), although he doesn't like to talk about it too much these days. This is why he likes Kird Ape so much. Are you going to include a translation to go along with the gifts?

  2. Yes, I was going to include the translations. I didn't know about Alex was a cannibalistic baboon in a past life...that explains sooo much. Now that you mention kird ape, I wonder if I could try to translate a magic card into Egyptian or Ugaritic. Image a clay magic card, or one made of papyrus, just like the ancients used to play.

  3. Dude, that is an awesome idea!! You should totally make ancient Egyptian magic cards. I'd love to see kird ape swinging around the pyramids on a card written in cuneiform.

  4. Oh and also these are amazing housewarming gifts. Mrs. Schlesinger will love them.

  5. And one final note: I appreciate your skills at using a ruler.