Ostraca from the Tomb of Nespekashuty

Deir el-Bahri was used as a place to bury the elite of Ancient Egyptian society for millennia, most famously in association with the temples of Montuhotep II and Hatshepsut but the burials continued long after this. And any given tomb might be used long after it was first dug.

These pottery fragments (ostraca) illustrate both those points: they were found in the courtyard outside tomb TT312 which was built for Nespekashuty who was a Vizier during the reign of Psamtik I in the 26th Dynasty, but two of the ostraca are from a later date than that.

The two drawings of column tops are probably contemporary to the tomb’s construction and may even be preliminary sketches for the decoration. At the back is an incised design of a crocodile which is probably from a couple of hundred years later during the Ptolemaic Period.

The ostracon to the left is part of a group of textual pieces that seem to’ve been a single scribe practising his writing (and then discarding them) around a hundred years after Nespekashuty’s burial (based on his handwriting style). It lists the days of the month.

The museum doesn’t give a suggestion for the grazing antelope piece, so it presumably isn’t quite close enough in style to any of the other pieces to be sure where it fits in.

Ostraca from the Tomb of Nespekashuty. From courtyard rubbish at the Tomb of Nespekashuty (TT 312, MMA 509), Deir el-Bahri. Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Psamtik I, c. 656-610 BCE (except 23.3.30, with a sketch of a crocodile, which is Ptolematic Period, c. 332-30 BCE). Acc. No.s: 23.3.29, 23.3.30, 23.3.34, 23.3.35

All 5 were excavated by the Met Museum at Deir el-Bahri in the 1920s, and are now housed in the museum, acc. no.s: 23.3.29, 23.3.30, 23.3.34, 23.3.35, 26.3.168

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1449/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=156213360ecc
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=255023732bcb

Lentoid Bottle Inscribed for God’s Father Amenhotep

This rather finely carved vessel is called a lentoid bottle (because of its shape) or a New Year’s Bottle because in Ancient Egyptian culture these vessels were filled with some sort of liquid and given as gifts in the celebration associated with the New Year.

The inscription on the front asks the Theban Triad (Amun, Mut, Khonsu) to give protection to the God’s Father Amenhotep, son of God’s Father Iufaa, and two inscriptions on the sides also ask Montu and Amun-Re to give him a happy new year.

It looks a bit dull today, though you can see that the carved decoration retains some of its original colour. When new it would’ve been much brighter – the original glaze was a bright turquoise against which the dark blue decoration would’ve stood out.

Lentoid Bottle Inscribed for God’s Father Amenhotep. Late Period, c.664-350 BCE.

It’s not known where it was found, but it dates to the Late Period and is now in the Met Museum acc. no. 30.8.214.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1435/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1088c3150e9f
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=30f432573f4d

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

Barque Sphinx

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.

Barque Sphinx. Provenance unknown. Late Period, Dynasty 26, c.664-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 2011.96

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)

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1594/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=21557f760899
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=290e6e0256aa

Statue of Amenemope-em-hat

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.

Statue of Amenemope-em-hat. Said to be from the temple of Ptah, Memphis. Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Psamtik I, c.664-610 BCE. Acc. No.: 24.2.2

The statue was probably found at the temple of Ptah at Memphis, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 24.2.2),

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1470/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1def8e2f0d9b
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=156437bc3d0f

Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Bekenrenef

In the reign of Psamtik I, in the 26th Dynasty, the Vizier of Lower Egypt was a man called Bekenrenef. He built his tomb at Saqqara, cut into the cliff face at the eastern desert edge. The stone there isn’t great quality so he lined it with Tura limestone before decorating it.

The tomb was found early in the history of Egyptology, by Lepsius who published what it looked like in the middle of the 19th Century. Sadly before the end of the 19th Century most of the reliefs had been removed from the tomb and dispersed around the world.

It takes a bit of imagination to see it as it was when it was new. The limestone would be gleaming white – this is the same stone as was used for the outermost layer of the Great Pyramid. And the decoration was all painted, blue for the text and reds & yellows for the figures.

The decorative scheme of the tomb was heavy on texts, and light on figures. I believe these are magic spells, and come from the antechamber to the innermost room (which was presumably the most sacred part of the tomb).

Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Bekenrenef. From the Tomb of Bakenrenef, east of the Step Pyramid, Saqqara. Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Psamtik I, c. 664-610 BCE. Acc. No.: 11.150.50d1-9 (left) and 11.150.50c (right)

It was purchased, along with other reliefs from the tomb, by the Met Museum in the early 20th Century and is displayed there (acc. no. 11.150.50). They have quite a detailed description of the tomb if you expand the “Curatorial Interpretation”: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/549495

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1469/category/6 and go to the right for more pictures.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=12dd3533e6e7
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2a6466ed0316

“The Temple of Amun at Medinet Habu: Birth Place and Burial Place of the Primordial Deities” Lucia Gahlin

At the beginning of July Lucia Gahlin visited the Essex Egyptology Group to talk about the Small Temple at the site of Medinet Habu which was actually more important to the ancient Egyptians than the big temple of Ramesses III that we go to visit as modern tourists. Click here to see my write up of this talk on my sister blog, Other People’s Tales.

Head of the Anthropoid Coffin of Heribsenes

The head of this coffin is interesting – at first glance it’s a rather fine piece of work, but as you look more closely you can see it doesn’t look like it was made all in one go! The face doesn’t quite seem to match the surrounding wig, and looks rather nicer quality.

The coffin itself is inscribed for a woman called Heribsenes who lived in the 26th Dynasty, but the Met Museum’s website dates the face to the New Kingdom based on the style. So anything from 500 to 1000 years older than the rest of the piece.

But this doesn’t appear to be a modern frankenstein of a coffin – the wig is nicely shaped round the face, for instance. So this is ancient re-use: Heribsenes (or those burying her) saw this fine old coffin fragment and thought it would look rather nice on her coffin.

Head of the Anthropoid Coffin of Heribsenes. Provenance unknown. Late Period, Dynasty 26, c. 664-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 33.5

It’s not known where it was found, but it is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 33.5

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/949/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=37b16342bb5d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0f08432526b5

Funerary Stela of Nesikhonsu

This is a detail from a stela that was commissioned by a man called Nesikhonsu, who lived during the 26th Dynasty (so around 2500 years ago). He held several titles, including God’s Father – which is a priestly title and is involved in the daily ritual in temples.

The vignette shows Nesikhonsu standing in front of the god Atum. You can see he’s wearing a very fine linen robe with a leopard skin over the top. Leopard skins were worn by Egyptian priests, in particular by sem priests – presumably this was also one of Nesikhonsu’s titles.

If you look closely you can see that as well as all the colour that remains on the stela there are also hints of gold leaf. Atum must once have had golden skin and the giant lotus flower that Nesikhonsu is presenting to the god had golden sepals. It was probably quite garish!

Funerary Stela of Nesikhonsu From passage in Tomb MMA60, Deir el-Bahri. Late Period, Dynasty 26, c.664-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 25.3.210

The stela was found in tomb MMA60 at Deir el Bahri, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 25.3.210).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1486/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3ce88553077e
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2cbe0131c2bf

Inner Coffin of Ankhshepenwepet

This is a close up of the front of the coffin of a woman called Ankhshepenwepet who lived during the second half of the 25th Dynasty, around 2500 years ago. She was buried in the temple grounds of Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahri, and her tomb was robbed in antiquity.

Around the middle you can see the deceased being led from the far right of the photo towards several divine beings. Thoth leads Ankhshepenwepet away from the weighing of the heart, which you can just see around the right hand side of the coffin as you look at it.

The queue of beings is headed by Osiris with Isis behind him, but I think most of them are the judges from the Hall of the Two Maats. These are the divine beings to whom the negative confessions are addressed as the deceased demonstrates they are worthy to enter the afterlife.

Inner Coffin of Ankhshepenwepet. She was buried in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahri. From MMA56, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, second half of Dynasty 25, 690-656 BCE. Acc. No.: 25.3.202

The coffin is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 25.3.202.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1506/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b369df1eb39
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2c9be89548d0