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.
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).
I like the style of this depiction of the Weighing of the Heart – the elegance of the lines and the delicate shading to distinguish the clothing and wigs of the various deities. And the pleats in the linen kilt that the deceased is wearing are clearly marked out as well.
It’s a piece that rewards looking at the details – the little adjustment weight that Horus is reaching for is shaped like a heart. Thoth appears twice in the scene, once as an ibis-headed man recording the result of the Judgement and once as a little baboon on top of the scales.
And the Devourer, Ammut, has teats and even little teeth. The edge of her feather of Ma’at is also shaded to look like the fringe of a feather. She’s not looking towards the deceased, but instead appears to be eyeing the offering table to the left with a toothy grin.
This piece of papyrus is in the Cairo Museum (as of 2016) but had no label so I don’t know how old it is nor who it belonged to.
Despite being battered by the last few thousand years this statue still manages to convey a sense of solid power and grandeur. Not just aesthetically, either – having the ability to command the skilled labour necessary to make the statue is a statement of power in itself.
I don’t know much about it other than that it was in the Cairo Museum in 2016 when I visited. I think it’s Old Kingdom in date, in part because it was near other Old Kingdom material and in part because the throne arms have similarities to those of the statue of Khafre near it.
And again I make the assumption it’s a king because of the power involved in its creation and the similarity of those lion chair arms.
I love the grace and elegance of this vase. Both the physical form of it, and the line of crocodiles spiralling up the side while the hippos sit more chaotically next to them interspersed with zigzag lines that are presumably representing the water these creatures live in.
I say “vase” because if something like this was in my house that’s what it’d be used as – a decorative centrepiece with some flowers in it. But that’s probably not what the person it was made for did with it. Maybe it contained drink, or some food stuff?
I don’t have much information about this object, but I think it’s from the Naqada I or early Naqada II periods – so some 500 to 1000 years before Egypt was unified in 3000BCE. A beautiful survivor of what was clearly a sophisticated and rich culture in the deep past.
It’s in the Cairo Museum (or at least it was in 2016 when I visited) but I don’t know the accession number or the provenance.
Meritamun was one of the daughters of Ramesses II and this partial statue was found in her father’s mortuary temple, the Ramesseum. The thing that makes her significant amongst his many daughters is that after the death of Nefertari she took on the role of King’s Great Wife.
She’s a well protected Queen – not just two uraeus serpents on her forehead, but a whole collection encircling the base of her headdress. This headdress would once have had a sun disk on top with two large plumes.
The colour has lasted well, you can see the wig would once have been blue for instance and the pink that her lips are picked out in is still present. It has a delicate beauty as it survives now, but would once have been almost garishly bright – a reminder that that tastes change!
It’s now in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo – or at least it was in 2016. Acc. No.: JE31413/CG600
This golden hippo head with a fine toothy grin is part of one of three funerary beds found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The purpose of these beds isn’t clear, the books I looked at fall back on a standard phrase “ritual purposes”, perhaps to do with mummification or funerary rites.
The creature is either Ammut, the Devourer who eats the hearts of those who fail the Judgement, or Taweret, a protective goddess associated with birth (or in this case rebirth). She has a hippo head (at the head end of the bed), the body and legs of a lion or leopard (the sides and feet of the bed) and the tail of a crocodile (at the foot board).
When I photographed it in 2016 it was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, acc. no. JE62012. By now it must be in the new Grand Egyptian Museum built at Giza, with a new accession number (I believe).
Many coffins and sarcophagi have images of the goddess Nut on the inside of the upper lid – the sky stretching herself protectively over the deceased. This rather fine example is carved in high raised relief inside a granite sarcophagus.
Around and on the goddess are texts and scenes carved in the more usual sunk relief. I particularly like the way she is wearing a close-fitting garment which is covered in stars.
The sarcophagus was found in Tanis (in the Egyptian Delta region) in the intact tomb of the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes I, who died in 994 BCE. But that’s not where it was originally intended for – it started out as the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Merenptah, some 200 years earlier!
In 2016 when I visited it was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, acc. no.: JE87297.
This is the coffin of an early queen of the 18th Dynasty – Ahmose Meritamun, who was the wife of Amenhotep I. She was also his full sister, and they were the third generation in a row of brother-sister marriages. It is perhaps unsurprising that they appear to’ve had no offspring!
She gets a bit overshadowed by her mother, Ahmose Nefertari, as her mother had in her turn been over shadowed by her own mother (Ahhotep). But sadly Ahmose Meritamun appears to’ve died young and didn’t live long enough to take on the role of preeminent woman in the kingdom.
I think this coffin is particularly beautiful. The face is very delicately defined and looks almost as if it was a real person (whether or not (likely not) it looks anything like the real woman). I also like the effect of the blue on gold paint of the wig.
It was found at Deir el-Bahri in tomb TT358, and is now in the Cairo Museum acc. no. JE53140.
This man is part of a row of men who each are bringing food for the deceased person who had this relief in their tomb. Most of the servants bring a large bird, or a leg of beef, but this guy is an overachiever – a leg of beef AND 7 (small) birds!
The production of this relief is an odd mix of careful and slapdash work. The carving looks carefully done, to a well composed design. There’s nice detail on the hair and in the hieroglyphs, and I particularly like the way the birds are shown.
But then the painter has come along and slapped red paint on the figure without worrying about the edges. Except that he’s taken more care to not get skin colour on the beef or the kilt. Very odd. Perhaps the commissioner died so they finished it off in a hurry?
This piece is in the Cairo Museum (or was in 2016) but I know nothing else about it – I think it’s probably Old Kingdom in date, based on where it was in the museum (near other Old Kingdom stuff) and my amateur assessment of style!
These two small stone vessels were found in the tomb of the 2nd Dynasty king Khasekhemwy at Abydos. After more than 4500 years they are still sealed with their original gold foil lids and little clay sealings – and so they may still hold cosmetic material of some sort.
They look quite simple but they would be luxury items. And it’s not just the gold that makes them so. Carving out a hard piece of stone into a graceful and polished container with the technology available at the time would be extremely labour intensive as well as requiring skill.
They are now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no.s: JE34941, JE34944