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 A New Interpretation of the Cone on the Head in New Kingdom

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MensajeTema: A New Interpretation of the Cone on the Head in New Kingdom    Miér Mayo 03, 2017 8:24 am

A New Interpretation of the Cone on the Head in New Kingdom Tomb Scenes

Review by Eleanor B. Simmance
Joan Padgham. A New Interpretation of the Cone on the Head in New Kingdom Tomb Scenes.
BAR International Series. Archaeopress: Oxford. 2012. ISBN 9781407310305. £31.00. x +
159 pages, 22 figures, 28 tables and 8 appendices.
The connection between the cone on the head and perfume or ointment is well established in
Egyptology. In this, her revised doctoral thesis, Padgham avoids simply accepting this theory;
she sets out to determine, primarily, if there is symbolic meaning relevant to different tomb
scenes and, secondarily, if there is indeed a direct connection between the cone and perfume,
oil or unguent (p. 1). The results of her undertaking are an admirable display of thorough data
collection and analysis, and she provides a feasible alternative to the traditional schools of
The initial chapter sets out her aims (as described above), research limits and foci, and
the results of primary analyses. Limiting herself to the New Kingdom, studying mainly the
cone on the head of the male tomb owner, and focusing on three scene types in which this
was most common (Opening of the Mouth, Gold of Honour and Banquets) are sensible
boundaries, which can be appreciated when one considers even then how large her data set
becomes. Despite these limits, she aims to gather a representative sample, using as many
tomb scenes as possible, allowing for issues of survival, from all over Egypt where possible.
Most tombs come from the Theban necropolis, understandably, but she does give special
attention to those from Tell el-Amarna. Aside from the indication of location in her databases
(‘Tomb ID’), Padgham makes but few references to location in her analyses; perhaps it is too
much to expect fuller remarks on potential regional variation, not least because of the great
skew towards the Theban material.
The following literature review is a full chronological summary, from the initial
thoughts surrounding the cone in the 1880s and the belief that it was a physical object, to the
more modern opinions that it was symbolic. What is made clear is that the connection with
perfume, fragrant oils and other substances has underpinned the interpretation of the cone
since the beginning. Whilst Padgham agrees that the cone is symbolic, she believes that it is
important to push aside the connection to perfume as the specific concept symbolised until it
can be proven more substantially.
The next three chapters each constitute a close study of the above scene types. The
first, on the Opening of the Mouth, sets the tone for the others: heavy on classification and
sub-classification of the scenes, numbers, percentages and tables, a methodology which risks
the reader being left a little overwhelmed and needing to flick back and forth to various tables
and databases to confirm and reaffirm the calculations. However, Padgham should be
credited for providing an empirical foundation upon which future research can build. She
states initially that the most common scene with the cone is that in front of the tomb, and
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MensajeTema: Re: A New Interpretation of the Cone on the Head in New Kingdom    Sáb Mayo 06, 2017 12:30 am

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