This alabaster jar is well over 4000 years old, dating to the reign of Pepi II at the end of the Old Kingdom. It’s about 5½ inches tall, and presumably once held some sort of unguent or ointment or other cosmetic. It no longer has a lid, but probably did when new.
It’s a beautiful piece of work, I am always a fan of these sorts of vessels with the juxtaposition between the creamy alabaster and the neatly incised and coloured text. And although it’s showing signs of its age, you can still imagine how lovely it would’ve been when brand new.
The text gives us two of the names of the king – on the left his Horus name in its serekh (Netjerikhau), and on the right his throne name in a cartouche (Neferkare). Below the names “given life like Re” runs in both directions sharing an initial hieroglyph.
The rulers of Egypt appear to’ve shared my liking for these sorts of pieces – for instance a thousand years later Tutankhamun was buried with many alabaster vessels, several labelled with his names. They probably took them rather more for granted as a piece of everyday life!
This jar is now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 12.182.17
This beautiful piece of jewellery was found in the tomb of a woman called Sithathoryunet, who had the titles King’s Daughter and King’s Wife. She was buried next to the pyramid of Senwosret II, and it’s thought that she was his daughter and wife of his son Senwosret III.
The pectoral was made using the cloisonné technique which involves cutting semiprecious stones to the right size to fit perfectly into the gold framework. Given it’s only just over 3 inches wide at its widest it displays an awe-inspiring level of skill on the part of its crafter!
The cartouche contains one of Senwosret II’s names, and the piece can be read as the sentence: “The god of the rising sun grants life and dominion over all that the sun encircles for one million one hundred thousand years to King Khakheperre”. Propaganda, as well as beauty!
This delicate ivory pedestal is tiny – only 5cm high and 3cm from front to back. Once upon a time it would’ve held a small statue (presumably a bit bigger – I’m imagining the back of the pedestal coming up to the statue’s knees, but that’s pure imagination).
The carving on it really shows off the skill of the artisan who made it – the side panel we see in my photo can’t be more than 2cm tall (if it’s even that big). And yet the three foreigners with their offering tables are clearly delineated.
They are lined up worshipping towards the back panel, and on that was written the name of Akhenaten with the sun disk of the Aten above it. So a nice little piece of royal propaganda: all the peoples of the world bow before the king.
It was probably found at Amarna, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 30.8.222).
This is a close up of the torso of a small statue of Amenhotep III. I took this photo because the detail on this piece is fantastic – I love the pleats on the clothing, and the little knotted cord that holds the fringed shawl in place.
It’s known to be Amenhotep III because his name is inscribed on it. The text associates him with the god Amun-Re, and it’s thought to’ve been made for his third heb-sed festival which was celebrated in Year 37 of his reign.
The museum says you can tell it was late in his reign because the king’s shape is “portly”. But I think it also has hints of the androgynous style of the Amarna period – that’s quite the feminine looking waist from this angle (less so in profile though).
This stela makes up in enthusiasm for what it lacks in skill. It dates to Dynasty 11, and is still quite clearly in a “provincial” First Intermediate Period style, when local elites didn’t have access to the skilled craftsmen of the court of the Old Kingdom kings.
The couple seated on the right are Tetu and his wife Nefertjentet. In front of them their 5 daughters and two sons present offerings to them, including a table piled high with food. The text labelling each of their children is a mix of hieroglyphs and hieratic.
The artist has clearly had a bit of a tough time working out how to position Tetu and Nefertjentet on their chair. It’s obvious they’re supposed to be side by side, but is she on his left as her arm position suggests or his right as her legs suggest.
But for all its technical flaws I rather like it. It has a dynamism that some of the more formal art can lack.
This is a model boat which was probably found in the tomb of Ukhhotep in Meir, dating to the 12th Dynasty around 4000 years ago. It apparently bears the name of Ukhhotep although it’s not visible in this photo.
It’s showing a part of a funeral – the deceased in his coffin, presumably representing Ukhhotep, is being transported by boat to his final resting place. He’s accompanied by two women mourners, representing Isis and Nephthys mourning the dead Osiris, and two priests.
I like all the little details in this scene. The canopy over the coffin has a leopard skin on top, and both priests are also wearing leopard skins (their official “uniform”). You can even see the head of the cat on the shoulder of the priest at the back of the photo.
The priest closest to us holds an incense burner, looking like a spoon on a long stick. And the priest at the rear has a scroll which has an actual offering text written on it (you can’t see it in any of my photos, but the museum has a good one).
This rather beautiful blue chalice is about 15cm tall, and is made of faience. It dates to the Third Intermediate Period (between 2500 and 3000 years ago) and is said to have come from Tuna el-Gebel (it’s now in the Met in New York, acc. no. 26.7.971).
The scenes on it are really finely modelled – you can even see the feathers on the bird (next to the man carrying the calf) and the scales on the fish. I’m not sure exactly what the meaning of these scenes is, but I think they are all to do life, creation and rebirth.
I’m particularly intrigued by the man holding apart some sort of antelope-y creature and what looks a lot like a rhino (I’m sure it isn’t, but I’m not sure what it is!). It reminds me of earlier motifs of men with beasts, so perhaps it’s depicting man bringing order to chaos.
This shabti belonged to a man called Djehutyirdis, who was the son of Nephthysiti. He was a High Priest of Thoth (and I think his name means something like “given by Thoth”), and he lived during the 30th Dynasty (about 2400 years ago).
It’s made of faience, and it’s really finely detailed. You can see his agricultural tools, ready for use on his owner’s behalf in the Field of Reeds. He also wears a false beard like Osiris, to show his owner has successfully been reborn in the afterlife.
You can only see a little bit of the inscription on this photo, but the hieroglyphs are also very crisp and sharp. It’s a fine quality piece of work, for the burial of an important person.