Examining the Grooves at the Ptah Temple, Karnak in Light of Comparanda

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Julia Troche



Grooves in stone surfaces remain an enigmatic, but ubiquitous phenomenon throughout Egypt. They date as early as the New Kingdom and endure at least into the early modern era. Woefully understudied, these marks, also known as “pilgrim grooves” or cupules were likely used by different actors across time towards a variety of ends. This study offers an introduction to the phenomenon and explores the possible functions of these grooves at the Ptah Temple located within Karnak Temple. To better understand these grooves, this study turns to “external contexts of practice”—comparanda from later periods in Egypt, and cross-cultural examples from outside of Egypt. I conclude with analyses that use these external examples as possible bridges to better understand the phenomenon in ancient Egypt; here I argue that increased temple access in the New Kingdom may contribute to an increase in grooving activities and that grooves at Ptah Temple were pious acts of engagement.


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