Sounds like some sort of disease or horrific spell from a Harry Potter book, doesn’t it? In a way, it does resemble a “spell”—so whenever I’m writing or reading about it, I secretly like to imagine it that way. Essentially, it’s when an individual’s name or image has literally been erased from the record in order to do basically what the phrase sounds like—damning someone’s memory; and in the case of the Ancient Egyptians, ruining their afterlife as well.
We see this occur often in the 18th Dynasty—perhaps most notably with Akhenaten (often known as the “heretic king”, so his name’s fate isn’t very surprising). I’ll speak more of the 18th Dynasty in later posts, but for now I’m just going to talk briefly (I promise!) about the 25th Dynasty. As I mentioned previously, I am absolutely obsessed with the 25th Dynasty—it’s the most prominent aspect of my thesis; and consequently, I pretty much live, breathe, and sleep the Kushite rule of Egypt. As it turns out, some Kushite kings, like Akhenaten and Tutankhamen, were erased from memory as well.
After the Kushites were driven out of Egypt, Psamtik II did a fairly thorough job of striking their names from monuments in Egypt (which makes sense—why would he want to remember kings of “Wretched Kush” as pharaohs of Egypt and compromise his own sovereignty?). However, we also see instances of erasure in Nubia, where evidence points not to Psamtik, but another culprit. This creates what I’ve been referring to everyone as a “Sherlock Holmes scenario”, because we really have no idea who is responsible for this erasure. It’s been a heavily debated topic for decades, and will likely continue as such for decades to come.
I’m not going to go into agonizing detail, but pictured above are images of Piankhy’s Victory Stela (ca. 725 BCE) found at Gebel Barkal-which describes his military and political attempts to conquer Egypt and create a Double Kingdom with Kush. This stela provides us with a fairly unique situation. As you can see in the lower image where I’ve zoomed into the stela’s lunette, Piankhy’s image has been erased—but even more notably, was later restored! Though more difficult to see in these images, his name has also been erased and replaced in the upper scene. Clearly Piankhy (or his family) did something that displeased the elusive culprit. As a friend told me, “God, whoever it was must have been really pissed to have taken the time and effort to chip away at stone for hours…it’s not like pressing the delete button or something.” This is true—as is the subsequent observation that someone must have cared enough to go back and carve Piankhy’s memory into the stela again! Whomever was responsible, clearly something of note was transpiring along the southern stretches of the Nile.
Apologies if you feel a bit unsatisfied after reading that—the situation is inconclusive, sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating :) This entry was really just meant to introduce one of the hundreds examples of Egyptian (and in this case, Nubian) mysteries!
PS: That was a bit longer than I intended, and I didn’t even hit the tip of the iceberg…sorry! The pictures may not be as breathtaking as those accompanying my previous anecdotes, but I hope you enjoyed the post all the same!! Also, if anyone has questions about the 25th Dynasty, I’d be more than happy to try and answer them; I just wanted to attempt not to bore everyone with a more extended discussion of the period! And the next post will be shorter and incorporate some of the poll suggestions…