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re: mycenaeans in Egypt
Topic Started: Feb 18 2015, 07:08 AM (316 Views)
George Nicolaides
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Hi everyone,
I have a question for the experts.
While viewing Andrea Salimbeti’s excellent webpage on the Greek Age of Bronze, I came across the Armarna papyrus depiction of possible Achaean warriors in Egyptian service.

Mr Salimbeti writes that..
"Outside the Greek mainland and Aegean Island a possible representation of Achaean warriors equipped with boar tusks helmets is from an Egyptian papyrus fragments from Tell el-Amarna, home of Amenhotep III's son, dated around 1350 BC (*2). In this papyrus some warriors are depicted with conical pale-yellow helmets which remaind in general design the typical Aegean boar tusks helmet. This identification is strengthened by the find of a piece of boar’s tusk, with perforations for attaching it to a leather frame, during excavations at Qantir, the site of the Ramesside capital Pi-ramesse in the eastern delta. It appears likely that this piece was part of the famous boar’stusk helmets worn by the Achaean elite. These elements and the recent discovery in Kanakia, Salaminas island of a corselet bronze scale with the stamp of pharaoh Ramesses II (see the page dedicated to the scale armour) are clear evidences that Achaean mercenaries have been on duty in the Egyptian troops in different periods."


Now, while I have no doubt that Mycenaean mercenaries may well have been present in Egypt, I am not convinced that the above papyrus is a definite depiction of Achaeans.
My main objections to the boars tusk identification are twofold.
Firstly, the helmets are depicted in yellow, which usually depicts a helmet made of bronze.
Depictions of boar’s tusk helmets are normally coloured white, presumably to depict the colour of the boar’s tooth.

See the Pylos fresco figures

A similar colour scheme to the papyrus can be seen in the Sea Peoples section of Mr Salembeti’s site, this time a sculptural depiction of a Sherden Helmet

Mr Salimbeti writes:
“In this well preserved representation of Sherden warrior from Luxor the bronze color of the helmet is still visible. The horn is painted in light blue color so it was very likely made of different material like for instance ivory or tin or lead.”

If the helmet in the papyrus is fully bronze, then by definition it cannot be a boar’s tusk helmet.
However, there IS one depiction on Mr Salimbeti’s site showing two warriors from a Pylos fresco, wearing yellow helmets. These are identical in shape and decoration to the normal white boar’s tusk helmets seen on other Pylos frescoes, except for the colour.


Are these full bronze helmets? I hope Mr Salimbeti can shed some light on this.

My second objection is this. Boar’s tusk helmets are usually shown with horizontal divisions, depicting the bands of boar’s tusks encircling the helmet.

See the Mycenaean Helmets 1500-1300BC figures here:

On the papyrus, the helmets have clear vertical divisions, again indicating to me that this is not a typical boar’s tusk helmet. While the conical shape does appear in Greece, it is can also be found elsewhere in the near east, so shape alone cannot be used as an identifying characteristic.

The overall details, ie: vertical helmet divisions, and side/neckguard covering the ears, are unfamiliar. Does anyone recognise this style or can point to broadly similar helmets around this time period?

If these men aren’t Achaeans, then who are they?

I’d like to offer an intriguing possibility. Akhanaton’s father was Amenhotep III.

“In the Amarna letters, Amenhotep III wrote to the Arzawan king Tarhunta-Radu that the "country Hattusa" was obliterated, and further asked for Arzawa to send him some of these Kaska people of whom he had heard. The Hittites also enlisted subject Kaska for their armies. When the Kaska were not raiding or serving as mercenaries, they raised pigs and wove linen,[7] leaving scarcely any imprint on the permanent landscape[8”

Could these unfamiliar soldiers be the Kaskans sent at the time of Amenhotep III, or the descendants of a Kaskan military colony in Egypt?
Your thoughts, gentlemen.

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Todd Feinman
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I think it is a great stretch to consider the helmets from the Egyptian depiction boar tusk helmets; the wearers even look Egyptian, and the Egyptians would likely have depicted foreigners differently, as Egyptians were very nationalistic. Those helmets could actually even be leather or even textile. The helmets with the horizontal registers and divisions that are of yellow hue in the Pylos depiction certainly look like boar tusk helmets to me --the artist just used a different color of paint. I'll have to look into the Kaska thang!
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Matthew Amt
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Sorry, George, but all I can add is that Mr. Salimbeti's interpretations sometimes drive me bananas! His whole multicolored segmented armor typology is a complete house of cards. There is absolutely no way we can draw such solid conclusions from such flimsy and vague shreds of evidence. BUT it is certainly true that they are all we have!

He used to post on this board, but maybe we argued with him too much...

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