Ostracon Depicting Meretseger

Not all ostraca are throwaway sketches or notes, some are fully finished objects in their own right. This is one of those – it was found in the temple at Deir el Medina, and shows the goddess Meretseger as a snake in front of offerings of lotus flowers.

Presumably it was a votive offering left there by a worshipper. It seems to be a standard design – I’ve seen another very similar one in Turin where the goddess and the offerings look the same but there is more text on this one than on the Turin one.

Meretseger was a fairly localised goddess associated with the Theban Necropolis. She was particularly worshipped by the craftsmen who worked on the tombs (in the Valley of the Kings etc). This little piece was probably made by one of these craftsmen to win the goddess’s favour.

ETA: Dario Nannini on Facebook tells me that the inscription says it was dedicated by the “servant in the Place of Truth, Meryre, true of voice before the great god”.

Ostracon Depicting Meretseger. From Deir el Medina. New Kingdom. Acc. No.: JE43661

It’s now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no. JE43661.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/641/

See my photo of the Turin one on flickr: https://flic.kr/p/rYwhT1

I’ve written about Meretseger on the blog in the past: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/10/11/she-who-loves-silence/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0ef7c3793f76
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=17dad0e1a5ac

Cosmetic Jar with Lions, Hunting Scenes and Captives

One way of looking at this is as an ornate jar for a king to keep some sort of cosmetic cream in, maybe it’s moisturiser to keep his skin supple in this life or the next, or perhaps it has ritual significance.

The other way of looking at it is as a very unsubtle piece of royal propaganda. Tutankhamun’s name is on the lion on top, reminding you of the association of the king with this predator and that he is under the protection of lion associated deities like the fearsome Sekhmet.

The side of the vessel has a hunting scene on it. Not just the sport of kings – desert creatures like the gazelle represented chaos, and the hunting dogs (who would be under the control of a human, you can see collars on two of them) are avatars of order.

The imposition of order over chaos is one of the primary duties of the king so this scene demonstrates his power and his upholding of maat. There’s even a lion (you can see its haunches at the right), the king himself joining in the defeat of chaos.

And finally at the bottom you can see three human heads sticking out from underneath it – there’s another one round the other side for four in total. These are the traditional enemies of Egypt, crushed beneath the weight of the king’s power and might.

So it might be pretty, but it’s also a fairly brutal message – Tutankhamun, lord of all he surveys imposing order on the chaos of the world by violence.

Cosmetic Jar with Lions, Hunting Scenes and Captives. From KV62, Valley of the Kings. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, c. 1334-1325 BCE. Acc. No.: JE62119

It was found in KV62, Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and in 2016 it was in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE62119).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/625/

I talked a little bit about hunting symbolism in my article on Tutankhamun’s ostrich fan: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/07/11/rich-in-gold-rich-in-meaning/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3d074b98a7d5
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1dab978a4daa

Ostraca Depicting a Cat Herding Geese

As well as the formal art that we have so much of from Ancient Egypt there are also quite a few examples of informal art drawn on flakes of pottery or stone called ostraca, like this one. It’s part of a genre of art showing animals acting like people.

As there’s no text to go with this (or the other examples) it’s hard to know what the context of the drawing is. It might illustrate some story that was part of the oral culture of the normal people of Ancient Egypt that never got immortalised in any textual sources.

Or it might be a parody of the scenes the artist normally drew – there are parallel scenes of men herding geese (for instance in TT39). Or maybe it’s a satirical comment on the elite? “They’re just like cats herding geese, and you know what a cat does when it catches the goose!”

Ostraca Depicting a Cat Herding Geese. From Deir el Medina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19-20, c. 1291-1075 BCE. Acc. No.: JE63801

Found at Deir el Medina and now in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE63801).

There’s a paper on animal scenes on ostraca that I found while writing this piece: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0752/10/3/40/htm

See the photo on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/638

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=031cb8e86771
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1bc11297f557

Canopic Jar of Tjuyu

This is one of the canopic jars belonging to a woman called Tjuyu made out of Egyptian alabaster with a small gold coffinette inside in which her mummified internal organ was placed. I think it may be the one that contained her intestines, as I think it mentions the deity Serket.

She was married to a man called Yuya, and they were the parents of Tiye who was the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten. Their tomb was in the Valley of the Kings, KV46, and was discovered robbed but still with many of its grave goods in 1905.

I always find the alabaster objects from Ancient Egypt eye-catching, particularly when the inscriptions are picked out in ink like this one is. It’s something about the juxtaposition of the creamy rounded stone that looks almost soft, and the crisp neat text on it.

Canopic Jar of Tjuyu. From KV46, Valley of the Kings, Thebes. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, c. 1391-1353 BCE. Acc. No.: JE 95244

This is now in the Cairo Museum with the rest of the contents of their tomb (acc. no. JE95244).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/653/ and go one to the right for a photo of another one of these.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b58f08ff52c
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=342823541eb8

Statue of Queen Meritamun

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!

Statue of Queen Meritamun. From the Temple of Meritamun, Ramasseum, Thebes. New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II, c. 1279-1212 BCE. Acc. No.: JE31413 CG600

It’s now in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo – or at least it was in 2016. Acc. No.: JE31413/CG600

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/584 and go left for a side-on view.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3cdc11f1fc58
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b2737f1dd7b

Funerary Bed with Hippo Heads from the Tomb of Tutankhamun

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).

Funerary Bed with Hippo Heads from the Tomb of Tutankhamun. From KV62, Valley of the Kings. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, c. 1334-1325 BCE. Acc. No.: JE62012

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).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/614/ and go one to the right for another view of the toothy grin.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2ce8b28c9803
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=24ab7e60c7c6

Image of Nut in the Sarcophagus of Merenptah/Psusennes I

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!

Image of Nut in the Sarcophagus of Merenptah/Psusennes I. Found in the tomb of Psusennes I at Tanis. Originally made in the New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Merenptah, c. 1212-1202 BCE. Re-used in the Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, reign of Psusennes, c. 1045-994 BCE. Acc. No.: JE87297

In 2016 when I visited it was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, acc. no.: JE87297.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/669/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=10bb9b53e8d6
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1f317ffb407e

Coffin of Ahmose Meritamun

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.

Coffin of Ahmose Meritamun. From tomb TT358, Deir el-Bahri. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep I, c. 1525-1504. Acc. No.: JE6250

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/460/ and go 1 to the right to see a photo of the foot end.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2d71a36ddf42
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=029f4eb53225

Facade of a Small Shrine from the House of Panehsy in Amarna

Amarna period art can often look alien and bizarre, but this scene also has a sense of elegance and grace. Akhenaten and Nefertiti stand beneath the rays of the Aten making offerings, serenely receiving the gifts the Aten bestows on them.

Quite a lot of paint survives, enough to let us picture how it would’ve looked. The couple clearly made a matching pair – not the same, but complementary. Both wear blue crowns, Akhenaten’s is what we refer to as “the blue crown” and Nefertiti wears her distinctive headdress.

They both receive life from the hands of the god at the ends of the rays coming from the sun disk (which I’ve cropped out of this image). They are both also being patted on the head, which I think is to do with conveying the idea that their crowns were bestowed by the god.

And the hands of the god also reach out to the offerings that Akhenaten proffers – he’s pouring water (or perhaps some other liquid) into vessels into which the hands reach.

Facade of a Small Shrine from the House of Panehsy in Amarna. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten, c. 1351-1334 Acc. No.: JE65041

This is the decoration on the facade of a small shrine or altar which was found in the house of Panehsy at Amarna and it’s now in the Cairo Museum (JE65041). The whole facade looks a bit like a pylon of a temple.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/568/ and there are another couple of photos, less close up, to the left.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2fdf04308784
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=30fbe40bf92f

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat

Thutmose was the oldest son of Amenhotep III (and probably Tiye), but he died prematurely and Amenhotep IV took the throne instead (later Akhenaten). This is one of the few things that has the name of Thutmose on it, if it didn’t exist we wouldn’t know he had been Crown Prince.

But it’s not some solemn and grand thing, it’s the sarcophagus in which his pet cat was buried. I like the way the cat is portrayed on its sarcophagus with all due formality, seated before its very own table of offerings wearing a rather fine scarf.

And I like that the grand Crown Prince, Overseer of the Priest of Upper and Lower Egypt, High Priest of Ptan in Memphis and sem-Priest Thutmose still loved his cat enough to ensure it was well fed in the afterlife!

Now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no.: CG5003 (although not everyone is convinced of its authenticity, I found a paper by Heimo Hohneck from 2014 which casts doubt on it but I don’t have full access to the paper (or good enough German) to see what he says).

Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s Cat. From Mit Rahina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, c. 1387-1350 Acc. No.: CG5003

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/462/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=33fe5b83c2ff
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=34ff6bc3ae09