Research history

Discussions related to funerary cones can be traced to as far back as the early stages of Egyptology. Egyptologists have been mainly researched the purpose of them from that time on (today it is still one of the major topics). Here let's review research history briefly.

Champollion 1827: 164-166.
Champollion briefly introduced 20 examples of cones that were housed in the Louvre, France.
According to him, cones were commonly called 'sceaux' (for misunderstanding) at that time. However, as he thought it a kind of label, he mentioned it 'cône funéraire', the same way as of today in French. As we will see hereafter, funerary cones have been called in various ways also in English and in German.
(Eventually, Champollion avoided addressing the functions of cones for he wanted to do it after discovering the intact tombs with cones in situ for more precise analyses.)

Wilkinson 1847: 399.
Wilkinson regarded them as passports from the family, or the priest who had the superintendence of the tomb, to permit strangers to visit it.

Birch 1858: 25.
Birch took them architectural ornaments referring to the clay nails found at Uruk.

Rhind 1862.
Rhind found nearly 90 examples of cone # 406 in situ, lined in two rows at TT 47 (p. 136). He called the prism type of cones in line as 'Frieze of Brick Cones' (p. xv). See also the findings of Waseda University at 'Original locations' page and Kondo et al. 2016 and Kondo et al. 2017 below. They found cones and a stamped brick in situ, on the wall of the same tomb.

Mariette 1864: 144-146.
When he was a director of the museum at Boulaq (today's Egyptian Museum in Cairo), Mariette published a guidebook of the museum. In it he briefly explained cones; according to him, cones were tomb markers as well as symbolic breads offered to the deceased.

Maspero 1883: 138-139.
He thought cones were symbolic offerings.

Wiedemann 1885.
Wiedemann published the first corpus of cones in which he classified them into eight groups based on their inscriptional type. This systematically compiled catalogue, however, was prepared only to explain the various types of texts; it did not provide any other insightful purposes that may uncover the then-unknown features of funerary cones, such as their appearance based on dates.

Schiaparelli 1884: 25-27.
Schiaparelli insisted that the cones were the symbolic sun mainly for the following circumstantial reasons.
1. Cones are found in Theban necropolis and the most of the tombs located there were for priests or other persons engaged in the temple of Amun, which is the symbol of the sun in Thebes.
2. There are cones with solar bark, the scene of the rising sun, or prayer to the sun.
3. The shape represents rays from the sun.
As for the reason of cones' geographic distribution being limited to Thebes, Schiaparelli explained that cones were the tool for expressing cultural and political identity for cone holders and the most of them were priests who tend to respect traditions.

According to him, funerary cones were called 'coni funebri' in Italian at that time.

Petrie 1887-1888: 64-65.
Petrie considered how to classify cones for the corpus he had been preparing. Then he reached the 'simplest and best plan': arranging them according to their lines of inscription. Then he follows:
 Beginning with those bearing the largest number of vertical columns of inscription, we proceed from 5 to 4, 3, and 2 columns; next come those reading vertically in three or two parts without dividing lines; then, in the reverse direction, we proceed to the horizontal inscriptions in two or three parts; and lastly, take the horizontal inscriptions between lines, of 2, 3, 4 or 5 lines. At the end the various forms of squares, cartouches, &c., may be placed. Under such of these 14 classes subdivisions may be made by taking first those beginning with amakhi kher Asar (devoted to Osiris), then those with Asar (the Osirian), and lastly those without religious formulæ. Thus by this system anyone can at the first glance at a cone refer it certainly to one of 30 or 40 different categories: at which stage of subdivision it is easy to compare it with all that are in the same class, either in a publication or in a museum thus arranged.
He called cones as 'funereal cones'.

Petrie 1888.
He collected 107 types of cones, totaling to over 250 examples, from local Egyptians and presented freehand drawings of them along with a translation of the texts. This is the second corpus ever made following Wiedemann's. What is the most unfortunate is that he cut them and discarded the rear ends for transportation. While Petrie is famous for his archaeological methods of study, it can be stated that the shape of a cone was unimportant for him. Therefore, although his collection is one of the largest in terms of both quantity and quality, it does not contribute towards studies related to the length of cones. Moreover, his collections were without findspot data since he bought them from dealers as Petrie himself stated.
Anyway, he classified these cones following the rule he himself made in Petrie 1887-1888: 65.

He called cones as 'funereal cones' again.

Edwards 1891: 335
Edwards was a famous British author, Egyptologist, and founder of the EEF (now EES) and the Department of Egyptology at UCL. She traveled Abu Simbel and wrote the following in her A Thousand Miles Up the Nile:
 By shoring up the ground, however, they were enabled completely to clear the landing, which was curiously paved with cones of rude pottery like the bottoms of amphorae. These cones, of which we took out some twenty-eight or thirty, were not in the least like the celebrated funereal cones found so abundantly at Thebes. They bore no stamps, and were much shorter and more lumpy in shape.

She might have found funerary cones, the bottoms of which were like those of amphorae (this may mean that they were made on a turning wheel. Cf. Manufacturing methods), at Abu Simbel but she states she didn't. It seems that we cannot know they were funerary cones or not because where she found them may already have sunken in the Lake Nasser.

Daressy 1892: 269-352.
G. Daressy presented 299 sketches of cones and challenged the theories related to the functions of funerary cones, as many of his colleagues did at the time. He refuted the 'offering' theory and provided an interesting discussion based on actual archaeological circumstances, not on the imagination. Daressy supported his theory by providing the following reasons:
First, he stated that apart from white coated cones, which were believed to be false bread and hence offerings, there are also are red and blue ones.
Second, he argued that many cones have been discovered in the courts of the tombs and not from the inside the tomb, while Egyptians typically placed offerings inside of the tomb, which is clear from the wall paintings.
Furthermore, he claimed that cones are not always conical, which is the shape of Egyptian bread.
Thus, by pointing out the inconsistencies related to the function of funerary cones as offerings, Daressy suggested an alternative: the 'visitors' cards' theory.
In short, he promulgated the theory that visitors would place cones at the tombs on every visit. However, as he himself admits, there are many examples of the same type of cones with identical markings, indicating that they were made around the same time. Since it is natural to assume that people would visit a tomb after a gap of some years, if Daressy's idea was correct, cones with the same seal would not have been found. While Daressy did not address this issue, which he himself identified, his approach based on the archaeological evidences is noteworthy.
Daressy also completed another study of cones in which he attempted to assign cones to known tombs, for the first time. Based on his study, he identified 32 types of cones that belonged to tombs; this work can be regarded as pioneering with respect to later research.

Borchardt 1899 [ZÄS 37]: 80-81.
Borchardt used the term 'Pflastersteine' to refer to cones despite the wide application of the terms 'Grabkegel' or 'Opferbrote' at that time. Also he stated funerary cone was an architectural material to reinforce the entrance hall.

Davies (EES. 1920 [JEA 6]: 294)
Working at Theban West bank, Norman de G. Davies also was very interested in cones. According to the document in the JEA, he was collecting the inscriptions of cones as early as 1920.
 N. de G. Davies asks us to call the attention of Curators of Local Museums and owners of private collections to the Corpus of Funerary Cones upon which he is engaged. Mr Davies would be grateful for any copies or rubbings of inscriptions occurring on this curious class of objects. Letters to Mr Davies on this topic should be addressed to the office of our Society.
(Emphasis mine)

Bruyère 1924: 62-63.
He noted the cones and ushabtis had similar role in funerary context.
 Les modes funéraires ont évolué. Sous la XVIIIe dynastie la coutume impose les cônes funéraire; sous les Ramessides ce sont les oushebtis. Le cône funéraire de terre cuite est vraisemblablement le simulacre d'un pain d'offrandes spécialement destiné à Osiris. Il fait partie du même ordre d'idées mystico-magiques que les oushebtis.
Il est à remarquer que les côes funéraires sont très nombreux quand les oushebtis sont rares, et qu'ils disparaissent quand les oushebtis deviennent nombreux à leur tour. Une relation doit donc exister entre ces deux objets.
Les défunts avaient pour obligation d’approvisionner journellement la table d’Osiris, et ils avaient intérêt à le faire ponctuellement, puisque, par ricochet, ils bénéficiaient des reliefs du festin. Les familles des morts devaient avoir souci, pour le bonheur de ceux-ci, de fournir ample provision de pains comme de toutes victuailles requises, et ils en multipliaient le nombre, ajoutant un rang de cnôes après l'autre, pour que le dieu et le défunt fussent rassasiés et satisfaits.
Mais sans doute les inconvénients de ce procédé de ravitaillement ne tardèrent pas à se montrer et firent abandonner le simulacre du pain pour le simulacre du producteur de ce pain. C'est alors que la cause étant substituée à l'effet, la tombe se garnit de ces statuettes funéraires armées d’outils agricoles qui devaient subsister...

Budge 1925: 394.
In this book, Budge introduced the hypothesis of the purpose of cones as Phallic signification insisted by 'Hodges, Tyler, Cull, and others'.
I do not know who these three researchers were and so far I have not read their works yet.

Winlock 1928 [BMMA 23, sect. 2]: 3-58.
This work is very important because it contains the pictures of cones in situ. Cones that are installed on the outer wall above the entrance, of the MK tomb No. 110 at Deir el Bahari, are clearly visible and these pictures are the first and so far the sole example that show such a view (though funerary cones and a stamped brick in situ which were inserted on the side wall of the court were discovered at TT 47. See below). Looking closely, one may find the geometric designs on the face of cones, which I think were the graffiti by Copts.
This discovery is one of the reasons for the notion that the original place of cones were there.
It appears that Winlock was the first to think the purpose of funerary cones as symbolically expressed architectural beams.

Wallerius 1931: 43.
Wallerius formulated a new hypothesis about the function of funerary cones. According to her, they were votive offerings, just like votive stelae found at Abydos. She said that when a person's grave was removed from roads, the number of people who passed-by and prayed for the dead became smaller and smaller. Therefore, they made stelae and put it on temple area where many people visited.
The similar custom spread at Thebes and cones played a role in the phenomena.

Borchardt, Königisberger, and Ricke 1934 [ZÄS 70]: 25-35.
These three published the paper with the two goals in mind: first, to determine the original location of the cones and second, to identify the names. In order to do so, they first classified the conical cones and bricks that bear seal impressions and reconstructed the outer views of the tombs. Thereafter, they coined the word 'Friesziegel' to refer to these objects because they consists not only of conical cones but also of bricks. The name perhaps is after the phrase 'frieze of brick cones' by Rhind.

Davies's Red notebook and Davies and Macadam 1957

Davies's Red notebook
As Davies died in 1941, he may have studied cones over 20 years. During the period, he had wrote his ideas on cones in a red notebook. It contains various data of each cone: length, colours, condition (fragile/hard, etc.), museum holdings if any, the tomb to which the cone once belonged, find spots, owner's name, titles, and any other remarks he had noticed.
After his death, Egyptologists had done their best to publish this intellectual heritage. Macadam states:
Mrs Nina Davies handed the material on to Profeßer Battiscombe Gunn, who did much valuable work in sorting & claßifying the papers, but found that the final collation of the drawings, & the editing & research still needing to be done if anything in the nature of commentaries on the texts were to be attempted, were more than he could find time for. The Committee of Management of the Griffith Institute then handed the task to me, & for some years in spare time I have endeavoured to carry it forward.

I have collated Davies' drawings with as many examples of each cone as I could lay hands on. After I have discovered more complete texts than he had, but I have endeavoured where poßible only to apply corrections, not to make new drawings, & thus to preserve those eßential characteristics which he, even in the most minute size, could delineate so exquisitetly. Even so some have had to be re-drawn, & serve only to make the excellence of his line by comparison the more obvious.
 Unfortunately however, in 2011, when I saw this notebook now housed in the Sudan Library at the University of Khartoum, 53% of all pages had been eaten by bugs. Furthermore, many pages had already been worn and torn so it was very difficult to read.

Davies and Macadam 1957
At last largely based on the Davies's notebook, Macadam compiled the most important work in the research history of funerary cones. This book has been, and will, remain a standard reference point for specialists in funerary cones. I believe this to be cited at least for the next 500 years! One of the reasons for that is it shows cones with full-scale facsimile drawings. Archaeologist in the field at Thebes can now compare what they found with those in this catalogue. Also, facsimile drawings enables us to distinguish similar but different cones. To know exact number of types, it is necessary to have facsimiles. Another reason of its importance lies in the fact that it has 611 types of inscriptions. This large number is the fruit of N. de G. Davies's 20 years painstaking work as I stated above.

The most regrettable parts are, however, its indices for names and titles of the owners. According to the Macadam's collections preserved in the Sudan Library, it seems that anonymous person belonging to the Griffith Institute had added these two without permission of Macadam and the two have many errors which made him angry. I guess this is why the Part II of this catalogue has never been published in spite of the following statement in the Preface:
  We should also consider what else should be published in connexion with these drawings. There is no doubt that first & foremost indexes of names & titles are needed. Both are in course of preparation, together with registers to show how the numbers allotted here correspond with those in earlier publications, of which there are not a few in rare periodicals. A list is also being made of cones related to tomb-numbers.
 Discußion of the texts themselves must wait for a future publication which the writer hopes to prepare, based largely on Davies' notes.
 This declaration of the publication of the next volume and the consequential failure of it may have made other scholars to wait for the publication for a long time and thus made a blank period in studying cones.

Macadam's unpublished files ('Red file', 'Green file', 'DALEX file 1', and 'DALEX file 2')
These 4 files are now housed in the Sudan Library, Khartoum. Red and Green files contain detailed description of each cone listed on Davies and Macadam 1957 and the two DALEX files have indices of personal names and titles, etc.
The four materials contain rich and well-organised archaeological data of each cone: shape of the cone and of the impression, tombs to which each cone belonged, date, colours, length, manufacturing method, the number that Davies formerly possessed, museum holdings and their inventory numbers, transliteration and translation, and other information, such as unearthed places and their sources. The presence of many 'personal communication' sources greatly enhances the value of the material.
However, additional materials, which I have not seen, may still be somewhere in Sudan or may have been lost. Although Davies and Macadam 1957 contains examples of 611 cones, Macadam's files (Red and Green) contain only 211 examples in two volumes; that is, four more of these notebooks are probably missing. Macadam's unpublished manuscripts about cones are mentioned in Dafa'alla 2010 but the said materials seem to be different from what I had found at Sudan Library.

Eigner 1984
Eigner discussed stamped bricks found in Asasif and suggested reconstructed image of the wall with cones.

Stewart 1986.
In anticipation of a crisis, such as the damage incurred by the Petrie collection during the Second World War, H. M. Stewart exhaustively documented and published data pertaining to the cones in the Petrie collection in 1986. As mentioned previously, Petrie's collection comprised many examples of cones; therefore, many aspects of the cones can be deduced based on Stewart's catalogue. In particular, Stewart provided archaeological data such as the length of the cones or their 'mother tomb' (tomb to which each cone belonged). This naturally led to several discussions pertaining to cones from varying archaeological viewpoints. Unfortunately, however, as mentioned above, Petrie cut many of the cones for the purpose of transportation. If he had not done so, further studies on their length could have been conducted.

Reeves and Ryan 1987 [VA (3(1))]: 47.
This paper introduces Henry Salt's statement which demonstrates he had found funerary cones in situ (below).
  An ancient brick, with Hieroglyphics upon it; and a fine collection of stamped seals which have been found arranged over the door of a Tomb, found by me at Thebes.
The cone may 'with fair confidence' be identified with D. & M. # 54.

Manniche 1988.
Based on the notion that every cone belonged to a tomb in which it was to be set, cones could help researchers in estimating the number of lost tombs. In her work, Manniche assigned 119 types of cones to 81 tombs. Prior to this publication, Egyptologists mainly focused on the way cones were used. However, following the publication of Manniche’s work, attention was directed primarily to the relationship between cones and tombs. While Daressy and Stewart also assigned the cones to tombs, the former did it before the publication of Davies and Macadam’s catalogue, thus only a few examples were successfully related to each other. Stewart’s work concentrated only on those in Petrie’s collection. Contrary to these, Manniche studied many types of the cones from the New Kingdom, exploiting their uses and relationships, and for this reason, study pertaining to the cone–tomb relationship began to attract attention.

Ryan 1988 [VA 4]: 165-170.
Ryan first introduced the existence of a double-headed cone (Inv. no. D.1925.63 in the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow) in this article.
After discussing a variety of aspects of cones, he insisted the followings in the 'conclusion' section:
 a) the texts be more properly referred to as "funerary stamps" in order to help avoid the categorical homogenization of the physical objects themselves;
b) assuming that the stamped elements are components of tomb friezes, objects bearing the same stamps might be considered an archaeological assemblage;
c) the archaeological study of intra- and inter- assemblage variation should provide interesting results in the future.

Gaál 1993.
Ernõ Gaál, a Spanish archaeologist who excavated TT 32, referred to the unearthed bricks bearing seals # 336 and # 346 as 'stamped bricks'. TT 32 which was built during the reign of Ramesses II yielded at least 238 examples of two brick types but no funerary cones. Also worthy of note is the five small chases at the top of # 346. Regarding this unique decoration, Gaál says:
 The decoration ...[snip]... seems to resemble a gateway topped with a cavetto cornice. The cavetto cornice, being the most vulnerable part of the ornament, has disappeared in many cases. But the remaining pieces clearly show this distinctive characteristic of Egyptian architecture. This gateway leads directly to the chief goal and purpose of all Egyptians, to the attainment of the afterlife.
(Emphasis mine)

Kampp 1996.
Kampp examined the cone–tomb relationship and assigned 169 types of cones to 110 tombs.

Vivó and Costa 1998 [BSÉG 22]: 59-72.
This paper introduces 6 types of cones that were regarded as unpublished but were, in fact, proven to be already published by Davies and Macadam 1957. It also details 14 authentic newly discovered cones, each was named A.01 - A.14 by the authors respectively.

Vivó 2002 [Nilus 11]: 5-30. Also online here.
Vivó states the history of the research pertaining to cones and discusses their geographical distribution as well as their assignment to tombs. If you want to know the research history of funerary cones in more detail, you must read this article. Also in this paper, he assigned 226 types of cones to 140 tombs; however, his allocation might require modification because while some assignments did not take into account the provenience of the cones, several others were based exclusively on it.

Al-Thibi 2005
M. Al-Thibi discussed the chronology and aspects of cones from various viewpoints. He created his own database to list, compare, and discover appropriate theories. For example, it was he who first pointed out that the word 'Osiris', which was inscribed on the cones, began to disappear before the reign of Amenhotep III; further, he attributed this to the result of the replacement of solar associations. Al-Thibi was also the first to learn that funerary cone scenes depicted on wall paintings primarily date back to the late 18th dynasty and the Ramesside period, and are not from the middle of the 18th dynasty which witnessed the production and use of the funerary cones more than any other period.

Galán and Borrego 2006 [Memnonia 17]: 195-208.
The report written by Galán and Borrego, who are from the Spanish-Egyptian mission at Dra Abul Naga, is one of the ideal funerary cone reports. This is because it includes thorough maps that represent all the locations at which cones were found. Papers dealing with excavated cones that were published during the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, possessed poor quality documentation, such as ‘two cones have been found from the house of Mr. XX’ or something like that. Besides, this paper shows the quite rare, triple headed cone of Djehuty, the owner of TT 11 (cf. 'Form' section).

Polz 2007
Polz publicized the MSS of Winlock's excavation results on cones. Thanks to this report, we now know the places and numbers of each cone discovered. It seems that this is the only source that tells us that there are cones at Dendera.

Dibley and Lipkin 2009
Bron Lipkin, one of the authors of this book, knows well about fake funerary cones. In this book, besides such forgery, two palimpsest cones, black cones, sunken relief cones are introduced with clear full colour images.

Zenihiro 2009a
This is the revised and updated translation of my thesis (M. A.) which was originally submitted to the Waseda University in 2007. This book examines the social ranks of the Theban nobles in the New Kingdom. By comparing the titles stamped on each face, funerary cones were employed as the tools to determine the hierarchy. Other remarkable features of this publication include:
· Introducing the existence of hollow cones,
· Showing a couple's cones for which different colours were used intentionally for husband's and wife's cone respectively, suggesting the cones were used to decorate a tomb, and
· Describing the places where each cone was found thoroughly.

Zenihiro 2009b [Oriento (52(2))]: 108-124.
As written here briefly, this paper discusses the functions of cones. Although the author, I, could not identify the purpose, I could eliminate the 'symbolic sun' hypothesis with concrete statistic data. It seems this is the first time to adopt the scientific approach to study the functions of cones.

Kruck 2012.
This publication presents results from the collection and analysis of 770 examples of funerary cones with 65 different inscriptions owned by 62 Theban officials that were discovered by the DAIK since 1991. Among many others, followings are worthy of note:
· Two cone-brick intermediate configurations, which I think are cone-imitated bricks.
· Archaeological reconstruction of the process and methods of manufacturing. The possibility of unstamped cones not being unique to the Middle Kingdom is suggested.
· Many cone holders buried within DAIK concession at Dra Abul Naga were workers from the Amun temple at Karnak.
· Discovery of the 6 new cones named DAN I - DAN VI though DAN II I think is actually D. & M. # 46.
For more details, see my review.

Vivó 2015.
This article deals with in total of 33 cones which were not seen by Davies nor Macadam themselves but published in their Corpus. Among them, Vivó succeeded to demonstrate that some cones (# 150, # 211, # 219, # 239, and # 274) actually existed though they have been shown with rough handwritten sketches in the book. Added to this, he also insisted that # 416 and # 617/A.06 are the same cone.

Kondo et al. 2016. and Kondo et al. 2017.
These are the preliminary reports of the Waseda University mission to Khokhah area, at TT 47 and and its environs. There they found funerary cones and a stamped brick in situ. See also the findings of Waseda University at 'Original locations' page.

Zenihiro 2017.
  In this paper, I discuss Nakhtmin, the owner of Theban tomb TT 87, who was active during the reigns of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. Examining his six types of funerary cones revealed that the tomb was not his only tomb, that he had had another one in the Khokhah area before he constructed TT 87. The question then arises as to why he constructed TT 87 at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna area even though he already had one (which is now missing). I suggest the unexpected promotion to Overseer of the Double Granaries in Upper and Lower Egypt caused him to construct the new one to reflect his new social position. This idea is mainly backed up by his two shrines at Gebel es-Silsila.
(from abstract)

& Width
Image galleryMacadam's unpublished
manuscripts in Sudan
Data on
each cone
Museum HoldingsCones not listed
on Davies & Macadam
Stamped bricksAbbreviations
& References

Last updated on 2nd Nov. 2017.


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