Head of a Female Personification of an Estate

This is an example of some ancient royal recycling! It was dug up at Lisht North, in the pyramid complex of Amenemhat I (of Dynasty 12), but was originally created for the pyramid complex of Khufu (of Dynasty 4) at Giza (i.e. to go with the Great Pyramid).

This happened a lot throughout Ancient Egyptian history and beyond – why go to the trouble of quarrying new blocks of stone and carefully shaping them when you could just nick some from a monument of a long dead king and flip them round to carve on what had been the back side.

The female figure on this is the personification of an estate which was endowed by Khufu to supply offerings to his funerary cult in perpetuity – the text and cartouche above her head give the name of this estate: Perfect is Khufu. Khufu was not modest! 😉

Head of a Female Personification of an Estate. Probably from the Pyramid Complex of Khufu in Giza originally, excavated at the Pyramid Complex of Amenemhat I, Lisht North. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Khufu, c.2551-2528 BCE. Acc. No.: 22.1.7

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 22.1.7

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1361/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1a90a84eddcb
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1d91a0e409e5

Ancient Graffiti at the Step Pyramid Complex

Graffiti is an odd two-natured thing, and it fascinates me. When it’s modern, we cry “vandalism!” and punish the perpetrator. When it’s ancient we cover it with perspex and take the tourists to see it.

This is a photo of the latter, of course – graffiti written some 3500 years ago on the walls of an Ancient Egyptian site (the Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara) which dates to the reign of Djoser of the Third Dynasty some 4500 years ago!

It’s written in the hieratic script and I don’t know exactly what it says (I tried to look it up, but failed to find it). However I do know that it’s (roughly speaking) a verbose form of “Name was here!”. It tells you who the person was and that he visited, and when he visited.

Hieratic Graffiti from Ancient Tourists.

I’ve written about the Step Pyramid on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/07/01/building-for-eternity/

And I’ve also written about hieratic as part of my article on Egyptian scripts: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/10/01/write-like-an-egyptian/

See this photo on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/754/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2194ec39aea0
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2e1e818fef4c

Stone Vessel

One of the things that’s both fascinating and frustrating about the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo is that as well as the big set piece “masterpieces” of Egyptian art there are also other intriguing objects tucked into corners but they’re often unlabelled.

This is a case in point, a stone … something … tucked into a corner in a doorway between two Old Kingdom reliefs. I’ve just captioned it “Stone Vessel” on my photo site, but I think it might be a stand for an offering bowl as I’ve seen something similar in the Brooklyn Museum.

I love the detail in the hieroglyphs, I’m always a sucker for objects where the Egyptian who made it has blurred the boundaries between writing and art (which are already pretty blurred for the hieroglyphic script).

Edited to add: Nigel Strudwick has given me more information. It’s from tomb B7 at Saqqara, dating to the 5th Dynasty (probably) and is published in Porter-Moss II 2nd ed p490 with the text published in Strudwick’s “The Administration of Egypt in the Old Kingdom” p333. The accession number is CG1298 or CG1301. The text is a sequence of titles and a name, transliterated as: tAyty, zAb imy-r zS, Hry-sStA zT(A)w. He didn’t give a full translation in the comment but piecing it together from what he, Vicky Metafora, Dave Robbins and John Patterson have said I think it’s something like: ?, Judge, Overseer of Scribes, Master of Secrets Zetjau (where Zetjau is the man’s name). Thank you everyone, it’s nice to find out more about this! 🙂

Stone Vessel. CG1298 or CG1301

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/517/ and go one to the right for a (better focused) close up of two of the hieroglyphs.

See the other offering stand on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/62/

I’ve written about hieroglyphs and the other writing scripts in Egypt on the blog in the past: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/10/01/write-like-an-egyptian/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0f759b293b97
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=00374e057278

Statue of a Bearer

This is one of my favourite pieces in the Cairo Museum, it’s a wooden statue of a man carrying containers and it’s a bit over a foot high. It was found at Meir, in the tomb of a man called Niankhpepi who lived during the reign of Pepi I in the 6th Dynasty in the Old Kingdom.

The box in his arms is very highly decorated, and you can just see the handle at the top. And on his back he carries what looks very like a child’s school satchel, except that it has legs sticking down from the base so that when you put it down it will stand up.

The statue is a model servant, placed in the tomb to work for Niankhpepi in the afterlife. These sorts of models developed into the elaborate dioramas of activities like bread baking or brewing which have been found in First Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom tombs.

Statue of a Bearer. From Tomb of Niankhpepi, Meir. Old Kingdom, 6th Dynasty, reign of Pepi I, c. 2289-2255 BCE. Acc. No.: JE30810 = CG241

It’s in the Cairo Museum, acc. no. JE30810 or CG241.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/489/ and go to the left for two more photos of him.

I’ve talked about Tomb Models on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/11/01/tomb-models/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14c9f3f4f1f8
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=143146ee18cb

Statues of Rahotep and Nofret

This pair of statues were found in the tomb of the people they represent – Mastaba 6 at Meidum. Rahotep and his wife Nofret were members of the 4th Dynasty royal family, and it’s thought that Rahotep was probably a brother of Khufu who build the Great Pyramid.

Of course they probably didn’t look quite like this. As with all Egyptian art the statues represented them but weren’t a portrait of them (realism as the aim of art is a very modern thing comparatively speaking). This is the ideal, the way they wanted to be for eternity.

I like the details on Nofret’s headband – rosettes and flowers on what I assume would’ve been a strip of white linen in life. And the way her natural hairline pokes out the front from under the thick wig.

Statues of Rahotep and Nofret. From the Mastaba of Rahotep, Meidum. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Sneferu, c. 2575-2551 BCE. Acc. No.s: CG3, CG4

They are now in the Cairo Museum, acc. no.s CG3 and CG4.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/527/ and go one to the right for a face on photo of Nofret.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1d0f421f65e2
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0d918c85af84

Statue of a King on a Throne with Lion Arms

Despite being battered by the last few thousand years this statue still manages to convey a sense of solid power and grandeur. Not just aesthetically, either – having the ability to command the skilled labour necessary to make the statue is a statement of power in itself.

I don’t know much about it other than that it was in the Cairo Museum in 2016 when I visited. I think it’s Old Kingdom in date, in part because it was near other Old Kingdom material and in part because the throne arms have similarities to those of the statue of Khafre near it.

And again I make the assumption it’s a king because of the power involved in its creation and the similarity of those lion chair arms.

Statue of a King on a Throne with Lion Arms. Old Kingdom(?)

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/513/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3059ac5c1af5
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3758ae371339

Relief of Servants Bearing Offerings

This man is part of a row of men who each are bringing food for the deceased person who had this relief in their tomb. Most of the servants bring a large bird, or a leg of beef, but this guy is an overachiever – a leg of beef AND 7 (small) birds!

The production of this relief is an odd mix of careful and slapdash work. The carving looks carefully done, to a well composed design. There’s nice detail on the hair and in the hieroglyphs, and I particularly like the way the birds are shown.

But then the painter has come along and slapped red paint on the figure without worrying about the edges. Except that he’s taken more care to not get skin colour on the beef or the kilt. Very odd. Perhaps the commissioner died so they finished it off in a hurry?

This piece is in the Cairo Museum (or was in 2016) but I know nothing else about it – I think it’s probably Old Kingdom in date, based on where it was in the museum (near other Old Kingdom stuff) and my amateur assessment of style!

Relief of Servants Bearing Offerings. Old Kingdom?

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/498 and go left for two more views of this relief.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3a0a8c63f5ad
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2da5fb58e8d3

Statue of Khafre Protected by Horus

This statue represents the 4th Dynasty king Khafre who was the builder of the second pyramid at Giza. It was found by Auguste Mariette, in 1860, in Khafre’s Valley Temple near the Great Sphinx. It’s now in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE10062 or CG14).

It’s quite a large piece – 168cm (5’5″) tall and as the king is seated it’s larger than life size. This is quite the contrast to the only known statue of Khufu (Khafre’s father, and builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza) which is tiny.

I’ve taken the photo from this angle to show the falcon Horus who sits behind the king’s head as an emblem of his kingship and as his protector. I also like the way you can see how the nemes headdress stands out from his head and curves around his ear.

Statue of Khafre Protected by Horus. From the Lower Temple of Khafre, Giza. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, Reign of Khafre, c. 2520-2494 BCE. Acc. No.: JE 10062 or CG14

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/510

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3254be8287da
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=12305701d348

Relief with a Desert Scene

This is another relief from an Old Kingdom tomb at Saqqara, but a little bit younger this time – it’s from the 5th Dynasty tomb of Pehenuka (which means it dates to about 2450 BCE). It’s now in the Brooklyn Museum (acc. no.: 64.147).

It’s a bit of an odd chunk to have chosen to hack out of the tomb for display elsewhere – whilst it is nicely centred on the head of the male antelope, all the little vignettes are broken off. Maybe that was the original block edges, or maybe the collector didn’t care.

I do like the way the original designer composed the scene (even if the collector mutilated it) – the breaking up of the formal registers by having the head of the antelope stick through the baseline provides a striking focal point and brings interest to the image.

This is a desert scene, but it’s a fertile desert – for instance the central antelope is mounting his mate and the one in the bottom right corner is giving birth. The wider scene was of hunting so it was eternally portraying both creation and the imposition of order on chaos.

Relief with a Desert Scene. From Tomb of Pehenuka (D70) at Saqqara. Old Kingdom, mid-Dynasty 5, c. 2472-2455 BCE. Acc. No.: 64.147

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/259/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=09c93ae7d0da
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0e00bbbbd60c

Relief Depicting Akhtyhotep

This is a relief from the tomb of Akhtyhotep which shows the man himself labelled in front of his face reading right to left. Although I can’t read hieroglyphs I can recognise the hotep bit which is the block of three at the left, the bird & initial semicircle are the Akhty bit.

He lived during the early Old Kingdom in either late Dynasty 3 or early Dynasty 4 – about 4600 years ago, and possibly before the Great Pyramid at Giza was built (or maybe he got to see it being built!). He himself was buried in Saqqara, which isn’t that far from Giza.

Relief Depicting Akhtyhotep. From tomb of Akhty-hotep (tomb A1), Saqqara. Early Old Kingdom, late Dynasty 3 – early Dynasty 4, c. 2650-2600 BCE. Acc. No.: 57.178

It’s in the Brooklyn Museum, acc. no.: 57.178

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/279/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=372d9dcd352c
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=18c39b4cecdf