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

Stela and Miniature Chapel of the Overseer of the Troops Sehetepib

This stela is quite an unusual object, as it combines both a stela and a miniature chapel (with niches to hold statuettes of the commissioner and his family). Both individual parts are known from other monuments, but the combination is rare or perhaps unique.

This commissioner was a man called Sehetepib who lived during the 12th Dynasty and was the Overseer of the Troops. The text also names his father Senbebu and his grandfather Heqaib, and it’s possible that these men are also known from statues found on Elephantine.

However this stela was probably erected at Abydos, alongside many hundred other monuments commissioned by officials of the Middle Kingdom to line the processional route at this site of pilgrimage – a way of partaking in the ceremonies honouring Osiris forever.

Stela and Miniature Chapel of the Overseer of the Troops Sehetepib. Provenance unknown. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, probably reign of Amenamhat II or Senwosret II, c. 1919-1878 BCE Acc. No.: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden AP 78

This object is now in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden (acc. no.: AP 78), but I took this photograph at an exhibition in the Met Museum in 2013.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1633/category/8

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=053f6770b26f
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1268d5c2029b

Cast of an Architrave of Khafre

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.

Cast of an Architrave of Khafre. This is a modern cast of an ancient original. Original was probably for Khafre’s Pyramid Temple and was reused in the entrance corridor of the Pyramid of Amenemhat I. Original from Dynasty 4, c.2520-2494 BCE. Acc. No.: 1999.4.1

This cast is in the Met Museum, acc. no. 1999.4.1 (see: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/551054), and the original is still in Amenemhat I’s pyramid at Lisht.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1371/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=21d79d91289d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=162cb9def3fb

Coffins of Nephthys

In these rather splendid coffins was buried a woman called Nephthys, who held the title of Mayor’s Daughter and lived during the Middle Kingdom in the reigns of Senwosret I & Senwosret II (so around 4000 years ago). She was found in her coffins in an intact burial at Meir.

She wasn’t the original owner of the coffins – her name looks added into the inscription later, and previously the coffin was inscribed for a man called Ukhhotep. You can’t see it on this photo, but the text of the name is in a subtly different colour to the rest.

The outer coffin (box shaped) is made of wood – sycomore and ziziphus wood, which are both (I think!) found in Egypt. So not the highest quality of wood (that would be imported woods like cedar) but the planks look pretty straight and even so it was an expensive coffin.

The inner coffin is made of cartonnage (which is like papier-mâché but made with linen and plaster) and has a gilded face, and a broad collar made of inlaid stones. I particularly like the colour of the gold, which gives the effect of being both golden and skin coloured.

Coffins of Nephthys. From Cemetery of Meir. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign Senwosret I – Senwosret II, c. 1961-1878 BCE. Acc. No.s: 11.150.15a-c

The coffins (and Nephthys) are now in the Met Museum, acc. no.s: 11.150.15a-c.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1249/category/6 and go one to the right for an angle where you can see the text alteration.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1b0777118e57
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=03da66950fbb

“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.

Relief of Nebhepetre Montuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor

This is a really stunning piece of relief, which came from the temple of Montuhotep II at Deir el Bahri. It was made for the main sanctuary which was built near the end of Montuhotep II’s reign. Even this soon after the start of the Middle Kingdom art has reached new heights.

It’s been carved in low relief and then each hieroglyph has details incised into it and is artfully painted to turn each into a work of art in its own right. If you look closely at the palace facade in front of the king you can see it has lots of delicate crosshatching.

To the right of the scene is Hathor – she was originally damaged on Akhenaten’s orders as part of his focus on the worship of the Aten. She was later restored in the 19th Dynasty but that was done with plaster which has since fallen out again.

Relief of Nebhepetre Montuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor. From the temple of Montuhotep II, Deir el Bahri. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, late reign of Montuhotep II, c. 2010-2000 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 07.230.2

It’s now at the Met Museum, acc. no.: 07.230.2, and I saw it as part of the Ancient Egypt Transformed exhibition in 2015.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1655/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3c6dfadbf8ad
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14823c7e898b

Relief of Offerings

These two pieces of relief come from the tomb of a man called Dagi, who counted amongst his titles “sealer, sole companion, favourite of the god, director of those who are among the gods”. He lived during Dynasty 11, and was buried at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna in tomb TT103/MMA807.

The primary point of this relief is to provide Dagi with food in his afterlife, and the offering table is certainly piled high with readily identifiable tasty things. He even has a whole stack of bread moulds for the afterlife bakers to make his daily bread in!

The inscription below gives us those titles I listed earlier and the text at the top is part of what the Met Museum calls his “menu” but I prefer to think of as his shopping list! The full grid originally listed with quantities the foodstuffs necessary for his funerary cult.

Relief of Offerings. From TT103, Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, Thebes. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, late reign of Mentuhotep II, c.2010-2000 BCE or reign of Mentuhotep III c.2000-1988 BCE. Acc. No.s: 12.180.245, 12.180.244

The relief fragments are now in the Met Museum, acc. no.s: 12.180.244 and 12.180.245

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1283/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=21cec3866b22
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3e121235c66c

Shabti of Senebimi

I saw this shabti as part of the Met Museum’s exhibition called Ancient Egypt Transformed, but it is part of their permanent collection (acc. no.: 11.150.14) and was excavated at Meir in 1910 by Sayyid Pasha Khashaba who sold it to the museum a year later.

Shabtis are plentiful, a single tomb from later Egyptian history might contain hundreds! This one is notable because it is a very early example – it dates to the early 12th Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom not long after shabtis began to be a part of the funerary goods of the elite.

So it’s not surprising that some of the later standard features are missing – like the text on the front is an offering formula requesting offerings for the deceased rather than the shabti spell requesting the shabti to stand in and work for the deceased.

It also has no hands. Later examples generally have arms crossed on their chests and hold the tools of their trade (agricultural implements or overseer’s whips and flails) but this mummiform figure has his hands underneath his wrappings.

I particularly like the slender elegance of this piece, which probably arises from its maker working within the constraints of the piece of wood he had available. The face is also very striking and finely carved.

Shabti of Senebimi. From Meir. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, c. 1981-1802 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 11.150.14

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1637

I’ve written about shabtis on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/02/01/here-am-i/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14f6f3ce3891
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b2a852172db

Pectoral and Necklace of Sithathoryunet

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!

Pectoral and Necklace of Sithathoryunet. From the Tomb of Sithathoryunet (BSA Tomb 8), Lahun. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign of Senwosret II, c. 1887-1878 BCE. Acc. No.: Met Museum 16.1.3

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1645/

It’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 16.1.3) and they have a long write-up on their site explaining the symbolism: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544232

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=34b4e26f41e1
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3b3ec607fc4f

Stela of Tetu and Nefertjentet

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.

Stela of Tetu and Nefertjentet. From debris east of TT279, el-Assasif. First Intermediate Period – Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, c. 2124-1984 BCE. Acc. No.: 19.3.33

It’s now in the Met, acc. no.: 19.3.33

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1209

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=22156ac9be41
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1aacc33f7050