The latest from the excavation at Tell Edfu reported the discovery of a private shrine inside a home. Such a find is normally rare as few private shrines have survived the archaeological record. But more interesting is that someone scratched out the faces of the worshiped figures. Modern scholars call this the damnatio memoriae, “the damnation of memory.”
The ancient Egyptians said that a person dies three times: death of the body, death of the memory, and death of the name. First, one’s physical body dies. Second, the memory of the person dies as those carrying a living memory of that person also die. Finally, the person suffers a death of name as all traces of his name, when all traces of the name (or image) of that person perish.
An interesting block from Tell el-Amarna shows a relief of two Nubians and two Semitic Asiatics. The faces of the Asiatics were chiseled out while the faces of the Nubians remained intact. Workers took the block from one Akhenaten’s construction projects and used it as fill for a pylon during the reign of Seti I. This means that the defacement took place between the reigns of Tutankhamun and Seti I. The damnatio memoriae was an attempt to destroy the memory of the Asiatics to hasten their ultimate death.