Stone Vessel

One of the things that’s both fascinating and frustrating about the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo is that as well as the big set piece “masterpieces” of Egyptian art there are also other intriguing objects tucked into corners but they’re often unlabelled.

This is a case in point, a stone … something … tucked into a corner in a doorway between two Old Kingdom reliefs. I’ve just captioned it “Stone Vessel” on my photo site, but I think it might be a stand for an offering bowl as I’ve seen something similar in the Brooklyn Museum.

I love the detail in the hieroglyphs, I’m always a sucker for objects where the Egyptian who made it has blurred the boundaries between writing and art (which are already pretty blurred for the hieroglyphic script).

Edited to add: Nigel Strudwick has given me more information. It’s from tomb B7 at Saqqara, dating to the 5th Dynasty (probably) and is published in Porter-Moss II 2nd ed p490 with the text published in Strudwick’s “The Administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom” p333. The accession number is CG1298 or CG1301. The text is a sequence of titles and a name, transliterated as: tAyty, zAb imy-r zS, Hry-sStA zT(A)w. He didn’t give a full translation in the comment but piecing it together from what he, Vicky Metafora, Dave Robbins and John Patterson have said I think it’s something like: ?, Judge, Overseer of Scribes, Master of Secrets Zetjau (where Zetjau is the man’s name). Thank you everyone, it’s nice to find out more about this! 🙂

Stone Vessel. CG1298 or CG1301

See it on my photo site: and go one to the right for a (better focused) close up of two of the hieroglyphs.

See the other offering stand on my photo site:

I’ve written about hieroglyphs and the other writing scripts in Egypt on the blog in the past:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

“The Rise of the Theban Necropolis. Current research in the early Middle Kingdom tombs of North Asasif” Dr Patryk Chudzik

At beginning of October Dr Patryk Chudzik gave a talk via Zoom to the Essex Egyptology Group about his work at

the early Middle Kingdom tombs at North Asasif, high above Montuhotep II’s and Hatshepsut’s temples. Click through for my write up of his talk on my Other People’s Tales blog.

Ostracon Depicting Meretseger

Not all ostraca are throwaway sketches or notes, some are fully finished objects in their own right. This is one of those – it was found in the temple at Deir el Medina, and shows the goddess Meretseger as a snake in front of offerings of lotus flowers.

Presumably it was a votive offering left there by a worshipper. It seems to be a standard design – I’ve seen another very similar one in Turin where the goddess and the offerings look the same but there is more text on this one than on the Turin one.

Meretseger was a fairly localised goddess associated with the Theban Necropolis. She was particularly worshipped by the craftsmen who worked on the tombs (in the Valley of the Kings etc). This little piece was probably made by one of these craftsmen to win the goddess’s favour.

ETA: Dario Nannini on Facebook tells me that the inscription says it was dedicated by the “servant in the Place of Truth, Meryre, true of voice before the great god”.

Ostracon Depicting Meretseger. From Deir el Medina. New Kingdom. Acc. No.: JE43661

It’s now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no. JE43661.

See it on my photo site:

See my photo of the Turin one on flickr:

I’ve written about Meretseger on the blog in the past:

Jigsaw puzzles:

Statue of a Bearer

This is one of my favourite pieces in the Cairo Museum, it’s a wooden statue of a man carrying containers and it’s a bit over a foot high. It was found at Meir, in the tomb of a man called Niankhpepi who lived during the reign of Pepi I in the 6th Dynasty in the Old Kingdom.

The box in his arms is very highly decorated, and you can just see the handle at the top. And on his back he carries what looks very like a child’s school satchel, except that it has legs sticking down from the base so that when you put it down it will stand up.

The statue is a model servant, placed in the tomb to work for Niankhpepi in the afterlife. These sorts of models developed into the elaborate dioramas of activities like bread baking or brewing which have been found in First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom tombs.

Statue of a Bearer. From Tomb of Niankhpepi, Meir. Old Kingdom, 6th Dynasty, reign of Pepi I, c. 2289-2255 BCE. Acc. No.: JE30810 = CG241

It’s in the Cairo Museum, acc. no. JE30810 or CG241.

See it on my photo site: and go to the left for two more photos of him.

I’ve talked about Tomb Models on the blog before:

Jigsaw puzzles:

Cosmetic Jar with Lions, Hunting Scenes and Captives

One way of looking at this is as an ornate jar for a king to keep some sort of cosmetic cream in, maybe it’s moisturiser to keep his skin supple in this life or the next, or perhaps it has ritual significance.

The other way of looking at it is as a very unsubtle piece of royal propaganda. Tutankhamun’s name is on the lion on top, reminding you of the association of the king with this predator and that he is under the protection of lion associated deities like the fearsome Sekhmet.

The side of the vessel has a hunting scene on it. Not just the sport of kings – desert creatures like the gazelle represented chaos, and the hunting dogs (who would be under the control of a human, you can see collars on two of them) are avatars of order.

The imposition of order over chaos is one of the primary duties of the king so this scene demonstrates his power and his upholding of maat. There’s even a lion (you can see its haunches at the right), the king himself joining in the defeat of chaos.

And finally at the bottom you can see three human heads sticking out from underneath it – there’s another one round the other side for four in total. These are the traditional enemies of Egypt, crushed beneath the weight of the king’s power and might.

So it might be pretty, but it’s also a fairly brutal message – Tutankhamun, lord of all he surveys imposing order on the chaos of the world by violence.

Cosmetic Jar with Lions, Hunting Scenes and Captives. From KV62, Valley of the Kings. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, c. 1334-1325 BCE. Acc. No.: JE62119

It was found in KV62, Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and in 2016 it was in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE62119).

See it on my photo site:

I talked a little bit about hunting symbolism in my article on Tutankhamun’s ostrich fan:

Jigsaw puzzles:

Ostraca Depicting a Cat Herding Geese

As well as the formal art that we have so much of from Ancient Egypt there are also quite a few examples of informal art drawn on flakes of pottery or stone called ostraca, like this one. It’s part of a genre of art showing animals acting like people.

As there’s no text to go with this (or the other examples) it’s hard to know what the context of the drawing is. It might illustrate some story that was part of the oral culture of the normal people of Ancient Egypt that never got immortalised in any textual sources.

Or it might be a parody of the scenes the artist normally drew – there are parallel scenes of men herding geese (for instance in TT39). Or maybe it’s a satirical comment on the elite? “They’re just like cats herding geese, and you know what a cat does when it catches the goose!”

Ostraca Depicting a Cat Herding Geese. From Deir el Medina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19-20, c. 1291-1075 BCE. Acc. No.: JE63801

Found at Deir el Medina and now in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE63801).

There’s a paper on animal scenes on ostraca that I found while writing this piece:

See the photo on my photo site:

Jigsaw puzzles:

Statues of Rahotep and Nofret

This pair of statues were found in the tomb of the people they represent – Mastaba 6 at Meidum. Rahotep and his wife Nofret were members of the 4th Dynasty royal family, and it’s thought that Rahotep was probably a brother of Khufu who build the Great Pyramid.

Of course they probably didn’t look quite like this. As with all Egyptian art the statues represented them but weren’t a portrait of them (realism as the aim of art is a very modern thing comparatively speaking). This is the ideal, the way they wanted to be for eternity.

I like the details on Nofret’s headband – rosettes and flowers on what I assume would’ve been a strip of white linen in life. And the way her natural hairline pokes out the front from under the thick wig.

Statues of Rahotep and Nofret. From the Mastaba of Rahotep, Meidum. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Sneferu, c. 2575-2551 BCE. Acc. No.s: CG3, CG4

They are now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no.s CG3 and CG4.

See it on my photo site: and go one to the right for a face on photo of Nofret.

Jigsaw puzzles:

Canopic Jar of Tjuyu

This is one of the canopic jars belonging to a woman called Tjuyu made out of Egyptian alabaster with a small gold coffinette inside in which her mummified internal organ was placed. I think it may be the one that contained her intestines, as I think it mentions the deity Serket.

She was married to a man called Yuya, and they were the parents of Tiye who was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten. Their tomb was in the Valley of the Kings, KV46, and was discovered robbed but still with many of its grave goods in 1905.

I always find the alabaster objects from Ancient Egypt eye-catching, particularly when the inscriptions are picked out in ink like this one is. It’s something about the juxtaposition of the creamy rounded stone that looks almost soft, and the crisp neat text on it.

Canopic Jar of Tjuyu. From KV46, Valley of the Kings, Thebes. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, c. 1391-1353 BCE. Acc. No.: JE 95244

This is now in the Cairo Museum with the rest of the contents of their tomb (acc. no. JE95244).

See it on my photo site: and go one to the right for a photo of another one of these.

Jigsaw puzzles:

Senet Board and Pieces

This board and pieces date all the way back to near the very beginning of Egypt as a unified country – to the Early Dynastic Period, with the board just generically dated to the 1st & 2nd Dynasties, and the pieces rather more specifically to the reign of Djet in the 1st Dynasty.

They are probably for the game of senet, which is known from throughout Pharaonic Egyptian history and on into the Roman period. Later on, in the New Kingdom and later, it definitely has spiritual connotations and represented the journey of the ka to the afterlife.

Exactly what rules the Egyptians used to play the game, and how those rules changed over time, is unknown. But it is thought to be a race game, where dice determine how many spaces you can move your pieces and the first to get all of them to the last square wins.

Senet Board and Pieces. Board: From Abu Roash. Early Dynastic Period, 1st-2nd Dynasties, c. 2920-2649 BCE. Acc. No.: JE45038 Pieces: From Tomb of Djet, Saqqara. Early Dynastic Period, 1st Dynasty, reign of Djet, c. 2920-2770. Acc. No.: JE98212

Both board and pieces are in the Cairo Museum (as of 2016 when I visited), the board (acc. no. JE35038) was found at Abu Roash and the pieces (JE98212) were in Mastaba S3504 at Saqqara (the tomb of Djet or a high official).

See it on my photo site:

Jigsaw puzzles:

“Life on The Edge: Updates from Hierakonpolis’ Elite Cemetery” Renée Friedman

At the beginning of September 2021 Dr Renée Friedman gave a talk via Zoom to the Essex Egyptology Group about her latest work at the site of Hierakonpolis. Click through to read my write up on my Other People’s Tales blog.