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History of the Art of Counting

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The Art of Counting comes from seven years of development. It was born from my dissertation project, which began at the memorial temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu (c. 1185 B.C.E.). All (except very heavily damaged) relief scenes in the temple that include the king have been entered into my database. These include all wall scenes, those found on the columns and pillars, and also the scenes in the pylons and the East High Gate. This effort was shaped by the astute insights of my advisor, Dr. David B. O’Connor (Institute of Fine Arts, NYU), as wells as invaluable guidance from my other readers—Dr. Ogden Goelet (NYU) and Dr. Diana Craig-Patch (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY).

The current phase of the Art of Counting project tracks 132 variables, focused primarily on the king’s costume, interactions, and context.

There are a total of 765 scenes in the Medinet Habu database and now that they have been recorded in this manner it is extremely easy to identify how often and where any of the variables occur. This type of simple analysis is referred to as a frequency, and I’ll discuss it first as it is the easiest of all of my analytical techniques to understand. Using the database, it takes only seconds to identify the 56 scenes where the king holds an ankh in his hand, the 30 scenes where at least three royal names are used (rather than just the usual nomen and prenomen), and the 72 scenes that appear along the main temple path.

This list represents only a few of the frequency results—if there is a particular attribute you are interested in at Medinet Habu that you would like more information on, please comment on this post or contact me at amy@artofcounting.com.

More details on the Art of Counting (including an introduction video) can be found here.

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The Art of Counting is dedicated to the memory of Margery Meilleur, who first taught me to view history through the eyes of the images we create.