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.
Its provenance is unknown, but it’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 35.9.19
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.
I don’t actually know very much about this statue. It was in the Cairo Museum but unlabelled when I took the photo in 2016. Judging by the other items around it in the museum, and the way it looks, I’m guessing that it’s an Old Kingdom statue of a family group.
It’s suffered from the depredations of time, there’s an arm missing off both the two chaps where clearly it’s been bashed about at some point, and the paint is chipped and rubbing off. But despite that you can still see that this was once a pretty nice statue.
The three individuals have been represented as prosperous and well off. They’re dressed in fine white linen, carefully pleated for the men’s kilts and a close fitting sheath dress for the woman. They also all wear jewellery and look like they are healthy and well fed.
I particularly like all the detail on the woman’s dress and accessories. The dress, necklaces and bracelet clearly make a cohesive outfit, and I wonder if this was something she would’ve worn in life or an idealised outfit designed for eternity.
As I said, it’s in the Cairo Museum or at least it was in 2016, but I’ve no idea where it came from, when it was made, nor the accession number. If anyone has more information then do let me know! 🙂️
This little piece, only a little over 9 inches wide, is a model tambourine made of faience. This sort of object was given as an offering to Bastet at festivals and the scene visible on this side shows Bastet’s sacred boat sailing on her sacred lake at one of these festivals.
You can see quite a few details on the boat – at the rear is a gazelle head decorating the prow. Next to this are a pair of large oars like you see on model boats, and a little (hawk headed?) chap who may be tending them or may be gazing at the central shrine.
The shrine in the centre contains another sort of a shrine, a naos shrine. On the side of that (or inside, I’m not sure which) is presumably Bastet or her statue flanked by two winged protective beings. To the right is another figure, kneeling and possibly holding a flagpole.
This face once belonged to a seated statue of an Egyptian queen, perhaps with the king seated beside her. It was broken up in antiquity with only the torso and head of the queen (less than a foot tall) remaining to be found by the Met Museum in the early 20th Century.
She’s wearing the vulture headdress over a large wig. In this photo you can mostly see the wing of the headdress, with just the one braid of the wig framing her face. The vulture’s head has been damaged (along with the queen’s nose, cheek & lips).
The museum dates it on stylistic grounds to the beginning of the New Kingdom, or just before, and very tentatively suggest that it might be Ahmose-Nefertari who was one of the line of formidable queens who oversaw the inauguration of the New Kingdom.
Her husband (and brother) was Ahmose I, the first ruler of the 18th Dynasty, and her son was Amenhotep I. Alongside her son she was deified after her death and they were worshipped in Deir el-Medina as patrons of the village.
This small piece (a little over 6 inches high) represents the goddess Mut. It’s probably an attachment for something like a piece of furniture – perhaps to be carried on procession or used during a ritual.
The goddess is represented wearing the double crown, which is a symbol of a unified Egypt – it has the shape of both the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the White Crown of Upper Egypt. Once upon a time those elements of the crown were gilded (as the face still is).
Even though they were gilded the two colours of the crown were still indicated – the White Crown portion (that looks like a bowling pin) was covered in a pale mix of gold & electrum, and the Red Crown portion was covered in pure gold which the Egyptians associated with red.
Even though it’s a bit cross-eyed it’s a lovely little piece and must’ve been very eye-catching when shiny and new. It’s not known where it was found, but it dates to the Third Intermediate Period and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 26.7.1427).
This is a modern cast of an architectural element probably from the court of the Pyramid Temple at Khafre’s pyramid at Giza, which was subsequently re-used in the pyramid of Amenemhat I some 500 years later and was so deeply embedded in that structure that it can’t be removed.
The inscription on it is damaged in an interesting way – someone has carefully chiselled little lines around the outline of most of the hieroglyphs and motifs on the block. But not in such as way as to obscure them, everything is still legible.
The Met Museum’s website has quite a long discussion of the piece in its curatorial interpretation – they think the damage may indicate that it was reused more than once, perhaps originally by Khafre moving it from the building it was originally in.
The reuse by Amenemhat I was probably partly for pragmatic reasons (why quarry another huge piece of stone if you can just re-use an old one), but it also probably had more symbolism than that – it would link Amenemhat I and his tomb to the great old kings of the Old Kingdom.
When an Egyptian deity was taken on procession its statue was placed in a shrine on a small boat (called a barque) which was carried by the priests. As well as the main deity there was also an entourage, including a sphinx like this one mounted on a pole at the prow.
The Ancient Egyptians called it a “sib”, and it stands poised and alert ready to defend the deity in the shrine – it was described as “trampling the sun god’s enemies”. Accompanying it on its stand are two snakes with raised heads, also protective symbols.
Even though the description references the sun god, I think these sibs appeared on barques carrying other deities – rather than being literal it’s intended to reference the night and day voyages of the sun god in his boat, as are detailed in the Egyptian funerary texts.
It’s not known where it was found, but it dates to the 26th Dynasty (c.600 BCE) and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 2011.96)
This statue represents a man called Amenemope-em-hat, who’s shown here kneeling and holding a representation of the goddess Hathor in front of him. He lived during the reign of Psamtik I at the beginning of the 26th Dynasty (aka Saite Dynasty), which was around about 650 BCE.
Like his father he was the Overseer of the Singers of Amenemope (a form of the god Amun). These singers would’ve sung at cult rituals for Amenemope. He was also Director of the Singers of the North, a high level title implying authority over musicians throughout Lower Egypt.
The style consciously harks back to older times – the Saite Dynasty elite were keen to stress their links to Egypt’s deep past. Prior to them Egypt had been ruled by Kushite kings, and then the Assyrians had sacked Thebes, so reasserting continuity legitimised the new kings.
The statue was probably found at the temple of Ptah at Memphis, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 24.2.2),
Glass is something we rather take for granted in the modern world. We have our windows with large, flat, clear panes; cheap jewellery might have coloured glass to mimic semi-precious stones; food comes in disposable glass jars.
But in ancient Egypt glass was more of a luxury item. Glass working & production were unknown before the New Kingdom, so glass used prior to that was naturally formed in the desert. And even once glass can be made rather than found it’s valued similarly to semi-precious stones.
And it didn’t even really look like our modern idea of glass – if I say “glass vessel” then whether you think wine glass or vase you’ll be thinking see through. But as these vessels demonstrate the Egyptian glass vessels were opaque and look more like painted stone at a glance.
These four date to the Ramesside period, in the second half of the New Kingdom. This was in the middle of the period when Egyptians made glass – it started around the time of Akhenaten and faded out at the end of the New Kingdom, only returning with the Ptolemies.
They are now in the Met museum, the blue one at the back has the accession number 30.8.170 but I don’t have the details for the other 3.