“The Narmer Palette [Again]: Early Egyptian Stone Carving in Practice” Dr Kathryn E. Piquette

The May 2022 meeting of the Essex Egyptology Group was an in person one, and the talk was given by Dr Kathryn E. Piquette about her fascinating work on the Narmer Palette. Click through to read my write up of her talk on my sister blog, Other People’s Tales.

Stela of the Temple Servant of Amun, Irtihareru

This stela was probably found in one of tombs 811-840 in Asasif (which is on the west bank of Thebes near Deir el Bahri). The Met Museum (acc. no.: 30.3.57) have it now – they think it came from one of their excavations in 1929-1930, but bought it from a Luxor dealer (in 1930).

It belonged to Irtihareru, and we see him standing at the far left and far right of the vignettes. He lived sometime in Dynasty 25 or 26. This stela was part of his funerary goods and has an offering formula on it – asking for offerings to be made to sustain him in the afterlife.

The pictures to accompany the text show him worshipping two gods. These are Re-Horakhty on the left, with his name in the two columns of text in front of his sun disk. And Atum on the right, again labelled in front of his crown. The other columns label Irtihareru in each case.

It’s an interesting mix of neat and a bit sloppy. The gods are well proportioned, but Irtihareru has a smaller head than I’d expect. And the labels for the figures clearly weren’t drafted out in advance – on the left Irtihareru’s name spills out of the column designated for it.

Stela of the Temple Servant of Amun, Irtihareru. Said to be from Tombs 811-840, South Asasif, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period – Late Period, Dynasty 25-26, c.750-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 30.3.57

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1485/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=12dd4a18ede7
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2d65fcc5da83

Old Kingdom Wooden Coffin

The words “ancient Egyptian coffin” conjure up images of gold, of intricate decoration & texts, and of human shaped boxes. But this was not always the case, and earlier coffins (like this one which dates to the early Old Kingdom) can be quite a bit less ostentatious & elaborate.

To start with it’s shorter than you might expect – this is because in this period (c. 2500 BCE) people weren’t laid out straight for burial. Instead they were placed in their graves curled up in a contracted position that’s sometimes referred to as the foetal position.

But don’t mistake it for a cheap or shoddy piece of work. Decent wood wasn’t plentiful in ancient Egypt, so a wooden coffin is demonstrating that you can bury a certain amount of wealth. Even given it was local Egyptian tamerisk wood I imagine it would still make a statement.

It’s also shaped to convey meaning. The long sides mimic the palace facade motif, which is part of the king’s iconography and is also used in the funerary context by more than just the king. The lid is vaulted and this is the shape of the shrine associated with Lower Egypt.

Old Kingdom Wooden Coffin. From Tarkhan. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 3-4, c. 2649-2467 BCE. Acc. No.: 12.187.54

This coffin was excavated by Petrie at Tarkhan in the Faiyum and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 12.187.54).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1370/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3b69d5b42476
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1487b7dfb59a

Menat Counterpoise

Counterpoises like this are often attached to necklaces made of beads, called a menat, which were used like a rattle to make noise during rituals for the goddess Hathor. This one however was intended to have an aegis attached, it no longer exists but maybe depicted Hathor.

An aegis is a collar with a deity’s face above it, and it would’ve been attached so that when the counterpoise was held in the hand to shake the goddess’s face was upright. I assume (but am not sure) that there would also still have been beads to make it a rattle.

The goddess picked out in gold inlay in the top part of the object is called Nebethetepet – she’s associated with Hathor and personifies the original creative act of Atum. The columns on either side of her do have Hathor heads, and there’s a Hathor head above the shrine too.

At the bottom of the object is Horus as a falcon, sitting in the papyrus marshes – a reference to how he was hidden away when young so that Seth couldn’t find him and murder him like he’d murdered Osiris. Hathor was one of Horus’s protectors during this time.

I like the way bronze with gold inlay objects such as this look, with the shiny gold against the warm dark bronze. But it’s important to remember that’s probably not how it looked! The bronze would’ve been shinier in the past and there may even have been colour added.

Menat Counterpoise (for Attachment to an Aegis). Provenance unknown. Third Intermediate Period – Late Period, c. 800-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 08.202.15

The counterpoise dates to the Third Intermediate Period or Late Period, and it’s not known where it was found. It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 08.202.15.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1436/

Some of the legends I’ve retold on the blog are referenced in this object:
The Heliopolitan creation myth: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/11/01/how-everything-became/
The death of Osiris: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/09/01/the-draught-of-her-wings-was-the-breath-of-life-in-his-nose/
Two episodes from the dispute between Horus & Seth: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/01/11/from-his-own-mouth-condemned/ and https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2021/06/07/weep-not-for-horus/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0bb24103d1d8
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=235d635a0a20

Relief from the Tomb of Nespakashuty

The vizier of Thebes at the beginning of the 26th Dynasty was a man called Nespakashuty, and he commissioned a tomb in the cliffs at Deir el Bahri near the temple of Hatshepsut and right in the courtyard of a much earlier 11th Dynasty tomb.

Maybe he intended to be too elaborate, maybe he just didn’t live long enough after work was started on the tomb, but whichever it was the reliefs weren’t completed before Nespakashuty died. Which is nice for Egyptologists as it gives a lot of evidence for how the work was done!

This portion shows how the carving was done in two phases. A team of workers has been along the wall and carved out the outlines of all the elements of the design. None of the internal details are present yet, and none of the cutouts (like the vases on her head) have been done.

In the next phase another team (or the same one, perhaps) would come along and do all of the details that you can see drawn in red paint on the figures. They’d also round off the edges and generally make it all look a lot more finished and ready for the painters.

Relief from the Tomb of Nespakashuty. From the bottom of west wall of outer hall of the Tomb of Nespakashuty (TT 312, MMA 509), Deir el-Bahri. Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Psamtik I, c. 656-610 BCE. Acc. No.: 23.3.468

The tomb is numbered TT312 or MMA509, and there are several pieces of relief from it in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 23.3.468) in various stages of decoration.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1446/ and there are two more photos to the left.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3f1b7345da10
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3790af18a0cb

Part of the Outer Anthropoid Coffin of Pakherenkhonsu

This is a section from the head end of an anthropoid coffin, and we’re looking at the outer wall. The coffin belonged to a man called Pakherenkhonsu, and it was found in one of the tombs at Thebes (MMA832).

The coffin dates to the 25th Dynasty, however the tomb it was found in was constructed during the 11th Dynasty according to the museum label; wikipedia says 22nd Dynasty which is quite a contradiction! Whichever it is, it’s clear Pakherenkhonsu was re-using someone else’s tomb.

He was a Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun, a relatively minor part of the temple hierarchy. But nonetheless he must’ve had things worth stealing – his burial was found in a disturbed condition, with his coffins in pieces.

Part of the Outer Anthropoid Coffin of Pakherenkhonsu. Pakherenkhonsu was the Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun, he was buried in a reused Dynasty 11 tomb. From MMA 832 (Tomb of Aafenmut), Khokha, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25, c.712-664 BCE. Acc. No.: 28.3.53

This and other pieces of his coffins are in the Met Museum (this is acc. no.: 28.3.53).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1497/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=243dcfd0e903
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14f7b833dbb3

Block Statue of Ankhwennefer

This type of statue is called a “block statue” and is first seen in the Middle Kingdom but then used throughout the rest of ancient Egyptian history. You should imagine the man sitting on the ground with his knees up in front of him hugged by his arms & a tight cloak round him.

The long inscription on the front tells us who he is (Ankhwennefer), who his son is (Peftjauabastet), and that he’d like anyone who comes into the sanctuary of Bastet at Tell al-Muqdam to make offerings for him. He and his son are both priests, royal acquaintances and scribes.

Even though it’s not known where this was found I imagine it was likely to’ve been set up in the sanctuary it names – somewhere prominent where it would catch the eye of a literate person walking past who would read the inscription and make the offerings requested.

Block Statue of Ankhwennefer. Provenance unknown. Late Period, late Dynasty 25-early Dynasty 26, c.690-650 BCE. Acc. No.: 1993.161

It dates to the Late Period, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 1993.161).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1465/ and go one to the right for a close up of the top of the inscription.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3990707b5742
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=29c62de1e18c

Tomb Chapel of Raemki

This is one of several scenes of butchering that are present on the walls of a tomb chapel that originally stood in Saqqara and dates to the 5th Dynasty in the Old Kingdom (around 4500 years ago). The whole chapel is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.:08.201.1).

Butchering scenes were common in these chapels to provide meat for the deceased person in the afterlife. This one is on the west wall of the chapel, near the false door where offerings to the deceased were placed. So its likely function is to provide offerings in perpetuity.

Despite being a common scene type this example is still unusual. The museum website points out that it’s a stage in the process not normally represented – the cow is part butchered and its ribs are exposed now that the first cuts have been removed.

Scene from the Tomb Chapel of Raemki. Raemki usurped this tomb chapel from Neferiretenes, but changed none of the scenes. From Saqqara, north of the Step Pyramid. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 5, original reigns of Neferirkare to Niuserre (c.2446-2389 BCE) but usurped before the beginning of reign of Isesi (c.2381 BCE). Acc. No.: 08.201.1

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1377/ And there are several other scenes from the walls to the right and left (11 in total).

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1db322f63ec9
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1239d1b1dff9

Stela of Userhat and His Wife Nefertari

This fragment of a stela was found in the temple of Montuhotep II at Deir el Bahri, but you can tell from a glance that it must date to a much later period than that – the two figures, of Userhat and his wife Nefertari, show the influences of the Amarna art style.

And the textual evidence backs this up – the text that remains on the stela includes mention that Userhat is a priest in the mortuary cults of both Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun. The names of the kings are not in cartouches, but inside squares representing the temple enclosure.

I love the elegance of this piece and all the delicate details in the depictions of the two people. You can clearly see the difference in texture between Nefertari’s hair and the band she wears across her forehead. Their fine quality linen clothing is also particularly well done.

Stela of Userhat and His Wife Nefertari. From the Temple of Montuhotep II, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, c. 1327-1209 BCE. Acc. No.: 05.4.2

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 05.4.2

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1005

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1443e93a0721

The Coffin of the Noble Lady Shep

This coffin belonged to the Noble Lady Shep, and dates to around the 25th or 26th Dynasty (around 2500 years ago). It’s quite a different style to the earlier 21st Dynasty coffins – where they are bright, yellow and busy this one is almost minimalist by comparison!

The scene on the left of her chest (right of the photo) has the Devourer eagerly waiting in front of Osiris. But the scene on the left of the photo shows that she was disappointed – the Noble Lady Shep has passed the Judgement and is escorted by Thoth and Maat to Osiris.

Below these two scenes are, I think, two of the Sons of Horus protecting the deceased. There’s 4 registers of pairs of figures and at the bottom on her feet are two jackals sitting on shrines. Above you can see the bottom of her broad collar necklace and the ends of her wig.

The Coffin of the Noble Lady Shep. Third Intermediate Period-Late Period, Dynasty 25-26, c. 760-525 BCE. Acc. No.: O.C.6B

I don’t think it’s known where the coffin comes from, but it’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: O.C.6b). I don’t have a full length photo of it, but there’s one on the museum’s website: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/552621

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/940

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=031e7f7d95ba
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1b0b5bdd195b