Stela of Khety and His Wife Henet

This bright and eye-catching stela belonged to a man called Khety (in the centre) and his wife Henet (behind to the left). It shows them receiving offerings from their son Montuhotep (to the right). These people lived around 4000 years ago, at the beginning of the 12th Dynasty.

If you look closely at the photo you can see traces of the red gridlines the artist used to line everything up, it’s most clear at the left but you can see it elsewhere too. Using this means that the figures all have the same proportions, which unifies the composition.

Full gridlines like this were an innovation in the early Middle Kingdom – in the Old Kingdom they used horizontal rules to line up various features but didn’t elaborate the system into as fixed a canon of proportions as was done in the Middle Kingdom.

I like the details in the offerings and the way the artist has used the paint to enhance the carved shapes, like the way the skin on the leg of beef is black & white, or the way you can see feathers and the scaly legs of the goose that flops across the table.

Stela of Khety and His Wife Henet. Provenance unknown. Middle Kingdom, early Dynasty 12, c.1981-1917 BCE. Acc. No.: Kunsthistorisches Museum Ägyptisch Sammlung INV 202

It’s not known where this was found, but it is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, acc. no. 202.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1626/category/8

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0e541b4df3e0
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=16898e8de288

Anthropoid Sarcophagus of Usermontu

This is a relatively unusual object – it’s a human shaped granite sarcophagus, which is not unusual in itself but it belonged to a private individual who lived during the New Kingdom and at that period it was generally only royalty who got stone sarcophagi.

The man who was once buried in it was called Usermontu, and he held a suite of high ranking titles including High Priest of Montu and Overseer of the Treasury. This reinforces the impression of very high status that’s implied by the sarcophagus.

And he didn’t just have one stone sarcophagus – in his tomb (TT382) there’s another larger black one, into which this one presumably fitted (this one wasn’t found in the tomb, it was originally bought in Egypt from an antiquities dealer in 1913).

Yet another indicator of his prestige is the size of his tomb, which is bigger than the others around it. That tomb was known at the beginning of the 20th Century, but somehow misplaced and only rediscovered in 2010 when some modern buildings were demolished.

Anthropoid Sarcophagus of Usermontu. Probably from Theban Tomb 382. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II, c. 1279-1213 BCE. Acc. No.: 17.190.2042 a-c

This sarcophagus is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 17.190.2042

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/991/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=138c3b85c13d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2346e2af6372

Wig Belonging to Nany

This is a 3,000 year old wig, which was found inside the coffin of a woman called Nany. She held the title “King’s Daughter of His Body”, and Egyptologists think her father was Pinedjem I (a High Priest of Amun who used the title “King” during the 21st Dynasty).

The wig is (probably) made of human hair, and then coated in beeswax. You can see that it’s made of a collection of braids which are gathered together along the central parting and would’ve fallen to either side of the head, the longest braid is 25cm long.

Egyptian art shows Egyptians with black hair, yet this wig is brown. I’m not sure why that is (and couldn’t find an answer), it might be that the colour choice in art is more conventional than realistic or it might be that this wig has faded over time.

It wasn’t intended to cover up baldness, but instead seems to be a fashion accessory – if you look closely at 3D depictions of women on coffins or as statues then you will often see the woman’s real hair depicted as poking out along the forehead from under her wig.

Wig Belonging to Nany. From TT358 in Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, reign of Psusennes I, c.1040-992 BCE. Acc. No.: 30.3.35

It was found in TT358 at Deir el Bahri, and is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 30.3.35

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1552/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3c73e7e564eb
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=03cbf164b279

Bowl Buried with Rennefer wife of Noferkhawt

This bowl was found inside the coffins of Rennefer next to her head. She lived during the reign of Thutmose III and her husband, Noferkhawt, was a scribe – she’s buried in his tomb (MMA 729, excavated by the Met in 1935 and this piece is now in that museum acc. no.: 35.3.78).

It’s decorated with a marsh scene – the square in the centre is the water, with lotus plants growing from it. Some of these are in flower, while some are still just buds. There are also some marsh birds (6 in total tho I think only see 4 in the photo) and 2 tilapia fish.

It has become rather discoloured over the course of the 3500 years it’s existed, but you can still see some of the original turquoise colour of the faience on the left of the photo. When new this would’ve been vivid and shiny, and really rather nice to look at.

The design is notable given the find context. The marshes are a place of fertility, the lotus flower is associated with rebirth and the tilapia fish is associated with Osiris. So it was included in her funerary goods as part of the process of getting her into the afterlife.

Bowl Buried with Rennefer wife of Noferkhawt. From a tomb east of Deir el Bahri, Thebes. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III, c. 1479-1425 BCE. Acc. No.: 35.3.1 – 35.3.105 (some)

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1152/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=17290a22b444
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=18a34f22dd8e

Jar with Lid Decorated with a Frog

This jar (acc. no.: 22.2.33) is part of a set of four that the Met Museum bought in 1922. Because they were purchased there’s no record of where they were found but they are thought to date to the reign of Amenhotep III, because similar ones were found in the tomb of his in-laws.

Each jar has a different carving on the lid, a frog in this case and the others are an ibex, a calf or bull and the god Bes. They are clearly not canopic jars (wrong animals/deities, wrong shape) and because there are no inscriptions I don’t think it’s known what they were for.

The frog has a long history in Egyptian iconography, and a strong association with fertility, rebirth and large numbers. It is associated with Heket, the goddess of childbirth, as well as with the male members of the Ogdoad (central gods in one of the creation myths).

It’s a shame we don’t know more about these jars. Were they just a fleeting fashion in elite circles? Were the contents linked to the decoration? And many more questions!

Jar with Lid Decorated with a Frog. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, possibly reign of Amenhotep III, c. 1390-1352 BCE. Acc. No.: 32.2.33

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1118/category/6

I’ve talked about frogs before on the blog: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/12/21/hundreds-of-thousands/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3649e0973060
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=067bd73eb340

Inner Coffin of Khonsu

This is the inner coffin of a man called Khonsu, who lived in Deir el Medina and worked in the Valley of the Kings during the reign of Ramesses II (around 3200 years ago). He was found buried in his father’s tomb, and his coffins were sold to the Met in 1886 (acc. no.: 86.1.2).

The portion I’ve photographed here includes the goddess Nut kneeling and spreading her arms and wings around Khonsu’s chest to protect him. She’s wearing a red dress with a yellow (or white?) belt tied round her waist, mirroring a red sash in her hair.

You can tell it’s Nut, not just because it’s normally her depicted in this place on coffins, but also because her name and some titles are written above her head. I think it translates as “Nut, greatest of (the horizon?). Nut, lady of the sky, mistress of the gods.”

The three characters immediately above her head are her name: to the left is a small pot, which stands for the syllable “nw” (the type of pot it is) and to the right is a small semi-circular bread loaf that is the letter t. These spell nwt or Nut.

Underneath there’s a third symbol that represents the sky, it does have sounds associated with it in other contexts but here it’s a determinative. It’s a feature of the writing system not the language and tells you what sort of word you’re looking at: in this case a “sky” word.

Which makes sense, because Nut is the mistress of the sky. And you can see the sky determinative turns up again to the right of her name, at the bottom of a short column, indicating that the two symbols above (p and t) are to be read as pt which is the word for sky.

Inner Coffin of Khonsu. From the tomb of Sennedjem (TT1), Deir el Medina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Rameses II, c.1279–1213 BCE. Acc. No.: 86.1.2

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1578/category/6

I’ve written about the Egyptian scripts on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/10/01/write-like-an-egyptian/

And I’ve re-told an Egyptian creation story including Nut’s birth here: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/11/01/how-everything-became/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3f2e50122dc6
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=30bcd6820ee2

Pesesh-Kef from the Naqada I Period

I talked a little while ago about the length of Egyptian civilisation and its continuity using Khaemwaset’s reconstruction work on Unas’s pyramid as my example, and today my photo is of another example of the deep, deep roots of Pharaonic Egyptian culture.

The implement in the photo is a pesesh-kef, a knife which was used in one of the key funerary rituals throughout ancient Egyptian culture – the Opening of the Mouth ceremony. This was performed on the mummy and it rendered the deceased able to breathe and eat in the afterlife.

It was a ceremony that was also performed on statues, rendering them able to be vessels for the deceased’s ka. This was a key part of what we might think of the soul of a person, and it was this part of your person that received food offerings left at the tomb after your death.

And this example of a pesesh-kef dates to waaaay before the time of Pharaonic Egypt: it was excavated at a place called el-Ma’mariya and it dates to the Naqada I period around 3800-3500 BCE, so something like five to eight centuries before Narmer unified Egypt.

Of course we can’t be at all sure that it was used for the same purposes, but it does demonstrate that the rituals grow out of deep roots in the local Egyptian culture and that even before the concept of Egypt as a country existed elements of that later culture were developing.

Pesesh-Kef from the Naqada I Period. From Mahameriah, Egypt. Predynastic Period, Naqada I, c. 3800-3500 BCE. Acc. No.: 07.447.870

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 07.447.870.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/264/category/2

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=25533ca732d2
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2a11c1f630e7

Funerary Papyrus of Sethnakhte

This is a scene from the far left end of a much longer papyrus (around 4m) which is a funerary text belonging to a man called Sethnakhte who was a Tax Master and Steward during the 19th Dynasty (around 3,300 years ago). It was read from right to left so this is the final part.

It shows Sethnakhte on the right, in a very high quality linen garment – the pleats are marked on in red, and the linen is of such good quality that you can see his limbs through his clothing. On the left is Osiris-Wennefer-Khentyamentiu, a composite deity with a falcon head.

Sethnakhte is holding one hand up in front of himself in adoration of the funerary deity, who is actually a statue on a pedestal. In front of the divine statue is an offering table, and Sethnakhte is also holding up a small figure of the goddess Maat.

The whole scene is taking place within a shrine – you can see the top of it has feathers of Maat and uraei snakes alternating as protective elements, and the walls double up as the lines separating the vignette from the rest of the text.

Funerary Papyrus of Sethnakhte. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, c. 1320-1200 BCE. Acc. No.: 35.9.19

Its provenance is unknown, but it’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 35.9.19

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/837/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0a3e2f200e22
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=057c704e8ca1

Statue of Harbes Holding a Figure of Osiris

This statue depicts a man called Harbes holding onto a statue of Osiris (you can tell it’s a statue of the god because it’s standing on a pedestal on top of the pedestal Harbes is standing on). It dates to the 26th Dynasty, around 2600 years ago.

There are inscriptions on the sides & back that tell us about Harbes: he is the Chief Scribe of the Great Prison who lived in the time of Psamtik II. He also used the name Psamtiknefer (Psamtik is good), which was a common piece of sycophancy used by officials at this time.

The inscriptions also make offerings to Osiris and to Amun-Re, the god he is holding and the god in whose temple the statue was set up. It was eventually found in the cache of statues hidden beneath the floor of Karnak temple and had once been on view in the temple itself.

Statue of Harbes Holding a Figure of Osiris. From Cachette, Temple of Amun, Karnak, Thebes. Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Psamtik II, c.595-589 BCE. Acc. No.: 19.2.2

It is now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 19.2.2

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1455/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=10d228ffaccd
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=20e00936f7f5

Inner Coffin of Tabakenkhonsu

This is the inner coffin of a woman called Tabakenkhonsu who lived and died during the 25th Dynasty around 2600 years ago. She was buried in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, and I shared a photo of her bead shroud a few weeks ago.

She was buried in 3 coffins and you can see parts of them all in this photo. The outer one was rectangular and the other two are person shaped – you can see the lower part of the outer one with bedpost like corners at the far end, as well as the lower part of the middle one.

The inner one is displayed here with the lid as well as the base. On the foot end is a very typical decoration for this period – the deceased is shown as a mummy being carried by the Apis Bull towards the tomb.

Inner Coffin of Tabakenkhonsu. From the pit in the Hypostyle Hall of the Hathor Shrine, Temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25, c.680-670 BCE. Acc. No.: 96.4.3

These coffins were found at Deir el Bahri and are now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 96.4.3.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1538/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=19dc43b9be31
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0e8bc2abae05