Blue-green Egyptian faience
H. 113 cm (44 1/2 in); w. 73.7 cm (29 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, by exchange, 1948 48.160.1
Within Djoser’s funerary complex at Saqqara apartments were carved out beneath both the king’s pyramid and a building called the Southern Tomb. The rooms around the king’s burial chamber—reserved for his use and located 28 meters (92 feet) belowground—and in the Southern Tomb include a series of chambers whose walls are faced with sculpted limestone blocks, into which thousands of small faience tiles were fitted. The vivid color of this covering gave these apartments their name: the Blue Chambers of Djoser, which can no longer be visited.
In the Blue Chambers under the pyramid, one wall has four panels surmounted by djed pillars (the hieroglyph meaning “stability”) supporting an arch; another, probably representing the palace facade, is decorated with three niches and small windows sculpted in limestone, which stand out from the blue wall tiled with faience. The backs of the niches are magnificently decorated in relief. Here, King Djoser is seen performing rites, most importantly, running the Heb Sed race. The royal apartments of the Southern Tomb display the same decoration.
The tiles have different shapes and dimensions. Those surrounding the windows are much smaller than the others and form a tight grid. At the top, djed pillars, with their elongated shapes, curves, and representations of veins, evoke stylized plant elements, such as reed grass. Probably the decoration on these walls depicts reed matting and captures the appearance of the lightweight constructions of the era. Yet it should perhaps be seen as more than an evocation of architecture. The symbolic value of the blue-green color (signifying regeneration) and the mention in the Pyramid Texts (cat. no. 177) of a “field of reeds” located in the next world suggest that this decoration also alludes to the destiny of the deceased king.
Like most of the tiles discovered in the Blue Chambers, the examples in this exhibition are rectangular and are sometimes marked on the back with a hieroglyphic sign. The slightly convex face is covered with blue glaze; the flat back, which is white and unglazed, has a rectangular tenon with a hole through it to accept a string for attachment. These are among the oldest examples of molded Egyptian faience.
The limestone facing was prepared and sculpted to house the tiles. In this example, bands of molding represent the ties holding bundles of upright reeds. Channels serve to house the tiles: a tenon on the back of each tile fits into a mortise in the side of the limestone channels. At regular intervals, small conduits were drilled into the stone moldings. A brace was passed through them, holding a sequence of four to eight tiles in place until the plaster mortar dried.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser contained no fewer than thirty-six thousand of these tiles, and many examples of this type have been found in other monuments dating to the early dynasties, including royal tombs, the temple at Elephantine, and even non-royal mastabas.1
1. Friedman 1998, p. 181.
Provenance: Saqqara, Step Pyramid of Djoser
Bibliography: Borchardt and Sethe 1892, pp. 86-87 (for marks on the back); Lauer 1936-39, vol. I, p. 36; Hayes 1953, p. 60; Porter and Moss 1978, pp. 401, 408; Friedman 1995, pp. 1-42; Friedman 1998, pp. 180-81, nos. 17-20
Architectural class project, Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto, 1990; completed by Georgia Guenther, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ca. 1991
Wood, cardboard, and plaster of paris
H. 109.2 cm (43 in.); w. 467.4 cm (15 ft. 4 in.); d. 161.1 (63 3/8 in.)
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto 992.285.1
The present model, which shows the complex of the Third Dynasty king Djoser in the necropolis of Memphis, is based on the results of excavations conducted by Jean-Philippe Lauer, beginning in 1927. The enclosure wall of the actual complex, measuring 277 by 544 meters, replicates in stone the paneled brick wall of the royal palace. It has fifteen gates, but only one, at the south end of the east side, functions as a real entrance. The central focus of the complex is a six-step mastaba usually called the Step Pyramid (although it is not a true pyramid), which rises over underground apartments. These apartments reproduce elements of a royal palace. A second royal underground palace (the Southern Tomb) lies below the center of the enclosure’s south wall. Both underground apartments contain chambers covered with blue-green faience tiles. A palace or templelike structure of unknown cultic purpose adjoins the north side of the step mastaba.The complex’s eastern area is filled with rows of smaller sanctuaries belonging to deities who apparently visit the king. Twenty-five to thirty chapels for these deities are arranged around an elongated court. Two larger and apparently more significant sanctuaries lie north of the court. A large open area south of the step mastaba probably served as a festival court. The western and northern parts of the complex are filled with buildings that seem to be giant storehouses for the royal possessions.
The complex is the earliest large-scale stone monument of ancient Egypt. It is a copy of the king’s earthly residence, cult, and administration center intended for his eternal use. In it early Egyptian buildings that were constructed of brick, wood, and reed were simplified and translated into stone. Most structures are massive mock buildings that have no interior rooms, and their function is for the most part open to speculation. Apparently no rituals were performed in the complex. It seems that the replica had the power to produce the intended reality.
The interior’s clustered organization is partially the result of several building phases. However, it is clear that the designers were not attempting to achieve the rigid orientation, frontality, and symmetry typical of later Egyptian architecture. DA.
Third Dynasty Limestone
Total h. 211.3 cm (83 1/4 in.); w. 30.5 cm (12 in.); d. 25.4 cm (10 in.)
Egyptian Museum, Cairo JE 98951a,b
During excavations in 1992-93 at Saqqara, two interesting reused blocks were uncovered in the pavement of the funerary temple of the Sixth Dynasty queen Iput I. When subsequently fitted together, the pieces were found to form a doorjamb that dated to the reign of the Third Dynasty king Djoser, builder of the Step Pyramid.The jamb has a flat top, decorated front and sides, and a blank back. Its front was divided into twenty compartments. The uppermost compartment is large and has a curved top. It contains a rectangular serekh surmounted by a falcon wearing the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, which represents the god Horus. The serekh encloses hieroglyphs spelling Netjeri-khet, the Horus name of Djoser. Below the serekh are twelve compartments, alternately large and small; each of the large registers contains a recumbent jackal, while in each small one there appears a recumbent lion or lioness. Below these compartments is another serekh, beneath which is another sequence of jackals, lions, and lionesses. Only six registers of the lower sequence are preserved. Given the Egyptian love of symmetry, it is likely that the second block also contained twelve registers; the monument may even have contained a third identical block.
The recumbent jackal and lion/lioness figures have been carefully arranged within different-sized compartments tailored to fit the animal depicted. The lion/lioness, positioned slightly off center in each compartment, displays a lashing tail that suggests an alertness belied by its recumbent pose. The jackal is more centered in its compartment, but its carefully rendered tail extends to the bottom line, while its ears touch the top. Unlike the lion/lioness, the jackal is thus connected with its frame.
Each of the side panels is divided into two long, vertical compartments, the upper round-topped, the second rectangular. The undulating body of a snake with a protruding forked tongue, portrayed as if slowly sliding across the sand, fills each compartment. The artist emphasized the importance of these serpents by carving them in higher relief than the decoration on the front and by crosshatching their bodies to give the appearance of skin.
This block may have come either from Djoser’s Heb Sed court or from a lost ceremonial gate, which perhaps gave access to a valley temple some distance from the Djoser complex as it exists today. ZH.
Provenance: Saqqara, Hawass excavation, 1992-93
Bibliography: Hawass 1994, pp. 44-55
Third Dynasty, reign of Djoser Limestone
H. 29.5 cm (11 5/8 in.); w. 22.5 cm (8 7/8 in.); d. 6 cm (2 3/8 in.)
Lent by the Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago 13652
The large court south of Djoser’s Step Pyramid has yielded a number of stelae bearing the name of the king and of two “daughters of the king,” Inet-kaes and Hetep-her-nebti. (These women are also depicted on reliefs from Heliopolis [cat. no. 7b] and on small curved-top stelae found near the serdab north of the pyramid.) Present opinion holds that these stelae were erected at the start of construction on the pyramid, perhaps to mark off the sacred area or to delimit the vast space between the pyramid and the Southern Tomb.There are nearly forty of these stelae, which were reused in the paneled revetment walls that line the south court. They look like truncated cones and are about 2 meters (80 inches) high with a base measuring 1 meter (40 inches) in diameter. Composed of several stacked half-drums of limestone, each bore a sculpted inscription arranged in a frame measuring about 20 centimeters (8 inches) per side. These inscriptions, carefully executed in the type of raised relief carved on the stelae in the Blue Chambers at Saqqara (cat. no. 1), are all identical. This fragment is one of the best preserved.
Near the center, “Netjeri-khet,” Pharaoh Djoser’s Horus name, is inscribed in three hieroglyphs on the walls of a palace surmounted by a divine falcon. On the right, the imiut fetish holds out its beneficent signs to the figure, symbolizing life and strength. Above the fetish is the dog of Anubis, the god associated with the imiut fetish, and his epithet, “He Who Presides over the Sacred Land.” The names of the two princesses are inscribed at the left. CZ
Provenance: Saqqara, precinct of Djoser, Great Southern Court; purchased by James Henry Breasted 1926
Bibliography: Firth and Quibell 1935, vol. 2, pl. 87(6); Lauer 1936-39, vol. 1, pp. 187-89, fig. 209; Porter and Moss 1978, p. 407
H. 63.5 cm (25 in.); diam. 19.1 cm (7 1/2 in.)
Egyptian Museum, Cairo JE 65423
This vase, quite extraordinary in its dimensions, was discovered in an underground gallery of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. While excavating the complex, the archaeologists James E. Quibell and Jean-Philippe Lauer were surprised to discover about forty thousand vases of various shapes and materials. Since the ceilings of the corridors had collapsed, most of the vessels were broken. The fact that they were often arranged one inside another strongly suggests that they were placed there for safekeeping by Djoser, either after earlier tombs had been plundered or because such tombs were in poor condition. In any case, many of these vases do not date to the reign of Djoser but to the First or Second Dynasty, as inscriptions on certain vases attest. They are all of high quality, reflecting the skill and patience of the artisans, who had only modest tools available for hollowing out and decorating different types of stone, some of which—such as graywacke, granite, and amethyst—are very hard.
The decoration on the present example imitates rope, or rather a sling made of rope, that encircles the vase and creates a geometric motif. It probably represents a device designed to transport the vase, translated into a purely ornamental pattern. The knots and twills of the rope are rendered very realistically. SL-T
Provenance: Saqqara, Step Pyramid of Djoser, underground galleries, Egyptian Antiquities Service excavation
Bibliography: Unpublished; for comparisons, see El-Khouli 1978; Saleh and Sourouzian 1987, nos. 19, 20
H. 19.5 cm (7 3/4 in.); w. 35 cm (13 7/8 in.); d. 23 cm (9 1/8 in.)
Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich Äs 6300
On two faces of this alabaster block a pair of human heads has been sculpted side by side in high relief. Their features reflect two ethnic types that were depicted throughout the pharaonic period: the Near Eastern with full beard, aquiline nose, and high cheekbones, and the Libyan with round face and a goatee. Among the list of the pharaoh’s traditional enemies only the Nubians are missing.
A rectangular cavity carved in the top of the block suggests that this object was the pedestal of a statue. The viewer must imagine it surmounted by the figure of a triumphant pharaoh, symbolically trampling his defeated enemies. This evocative theme, first introduced on Predynastic palettes,1 was treated again on the pedestals of royal statues from the Archaic Period. These latter statues depict the sovereign in the costume of the Heb Sed, the ceremony in which he ritually renewed his strength.2. From Djoser’s complex at Saqqara came several statue bases very similar to this one in both form and decoration.3 There, chiseled faces emerge from the block of stone in an identical arrangement, and the features are individualized without compromising the general meaning of the group. For stylistic reasons, too, this work may be assigned to the Third Dynasty. The prominent cheekbones, thick mouths, and brutal energy of the foreign enemies of the pharaoh suggest the large statue of Djoser (fig. 29), and the flatness of the faces characterizes the nonroyal statuary of his era (see cat. nos. 11-13). CZ.
- Midant-Reynes 1992, pp. 228-34.
- For example, the statue of King Khasekhemui in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, JE 32161; Saleh and Sourouzian 1987, no. 14.
- Firth and Quibell 1935, pl. 57.
Bibliography: Wildung 1980a, p. 6; Wildung 1980b, pp. 26off.; Schoske and Grimm 1995, p. 44, fig. 43; Grimm, Schoske, and Wildung 1997, no. 6; Donadoni Roveri and Tiradritti 1998, p. 265, no.248
7A—C. Decorated Fragments from the Chapel of King Djoser at Heliopolis
Third Dynasty, reign of Djoser
a. H. 20 cm (7 7/8 in.); w. 50 cm (19 3/4 in.) Not in exhibition
b. H. 13.5 cm (5 3/8 in.); w. 7 cm (2 3/4 in.)
c. H. 13 cm (5 1/8 in.); w. 27 cm (10 5/8 in.)
Soprintendenza al Museo delle Antichità Egizie, Turin (a) 2671/15, (b) 2671/21, (c) 2671/20
Executed with exquisite refinement and precision, these reliefs once decorated a chapel built by Pharaoh Djoser at Heliopolis, not far from modern Cairo. Thirty-six fragments belonging to the same monument were discovered by the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli in the foundations of a later building, where they had been reused. It is not known what Djoser’s temple looked like initially or why it was destroyed. The images and texts carved on the fragments are primarily invocations to the assembly of the nine creator gods of Heliopolis (the Ennead); they suggest that the chapel was dedicated to the jubilee feast, or Heb Sed, during which the pharaoh ritually renewed his strength (cat. no. 121). Images of the primordial gods are separated by columns of text immortalizing the words of protection they direct to the sovereign.One fragment (a), which bears wishes for “life, stability, dominion, and happiness” in a vertical column at left, shows, in the center, a palace facade with double doors. According to very old conventions, above the palace appears the pharaoh’s Horus name, Netjeri-khet, of which only the last two signs survive. On each leaf of the door, two other elements of the royal titulary are finely sculpted: “King of Upper and Lower Egypt” and “He of the Two Ladies.”
A second fragment (b), on which only the lower part of the scene has been preserved, depicts Djoser seated on a throne, one hand on his knees, the other holding the ceremonial flail, whose dangling ends are visible at the top of the block. Three small female figures are kneeling at the pharaoh’s feet. Texts give the identity of the first two: “daughter of the king, Inet-kaes,” followed by the queen, “she who sees Horus and Seth, Hetep-her-nebti.” The identity of the third is unknown. She encircles the pharaoh’s leg with her arm, in a pose that was later imitated in royal and nonroyal statuary (see cat. nos. 126, 130).1
The third fragment (c) depicts a seated god wearing a long wig and the “divine” beard, with curled tip. The powerful face, thick lips, and coarse profile of the deity are reminiscent of Djoser as he is depicted at Saqqara. A broad collar embellishes the plain, clinging garment from which one hand emerges to rest on the knees. The hieroglyph for “b,” which appears above the figure and is probably the last sign of his name, suggests this is the god named Geb. A column of hieroglyphs records the deity’s wishes for Pharaoh Djoser: “I give life, stability, dominion, and happiness eternally.”
These fragments, which have extraordinary historical and religious importance, may be compared with the admirable stelae in the funerary complex of Djoser at Saqqara (see cat. no. 4). There is the same subtlety in the way the relief stands out against the background, the same precision in the details, and the same mastery in the carving and arrangement of the large hieroglyphs. CZ
1. Fay 1998, pp. 160-61, nos. 2 (Snefru), 3 (Djedefre).
Provenance: Heliopolis, temple area, Schiaparelli excavation, 1903-6
Bibliography: Schiaparelli, inv. ms. 1903-6, n. 2671; Weill 1911-12, pp. 9-26; Sethe 193 3, pp. 153-54; Porter and Moss 1934, p. 61; Smith 1946, pp. 133-39; Roccati 1987, fig. 1; Curto 1988, fig. 48; Leospo 1989, pp. 199-201, figs. 301, 302; Kahl, Kloth, and Zimmermann 1995, pp. 1 14-19; Donadoni Roveri and Tiradritti 1998, pp. 260-61, nos. 239-41
Third Dynasty, reign of Zanakht
H. 33 cm (13 in.); w. 41 cm (i6’/s in.)
Trustees of the British Museum, London, Egypt Exploration Fund 1905 EA 691
The image of a pharaoh beating the head of an enemy with his club as he grabs him by the hair is among the common themes that express the omnipotence of the sovereign of Egypt, great warrior and subduer. It appeared during the Archaic Period, on the tablets of King Den, for example (fig. 102).1 The theme was repeated extensively on the pylons of temples, boundary stelae, and the most precious jewelry.2 This is one of the earliest examples, rendered in relief. King Zanakht, Djoser’s shadowy predecessor, or perhaps successor, is slaying a warrior (no longer visible) who personified the tribes of the Eastern Desert. The sovereign, whose name is inscribed at right on the wall of a palace surmounted by the falcon god Horus, is wearing the red crown, symbol of his power over Lower Egypt. In front of him on a shield was the emblem of the god Wepwawet, now lost. The few hieroglyphs surviving in the right corner of the fragment signify “turquoise,” a highly prized stone, which the Egyptians went to the mountains of the Sinai peninsula to extract.
This relief, a large stela carved in the red sandstone of Wadi Maghara, comes from that region. Executed in the cliff itself under difficult conditions, and exposed to the elements for more than four millennia, it does not display the same sculptural qualities as reliefs almost as old from Saqqara or Heliopolis (cat. nos. 4, 7).
It belongs to a series of inscriptions with the names of kings Djoser, Sekhemkhet, and Zanakht that commemorate the first expeditions launched by the pharaohs to the so-called turquoise terraces. Distinguished from nonroyal inscriptions by their bellicose iconography, they magically mark the limits of the pharaoh’s domain and immortalize his appropriation of the world. A text from the time of Djedkare-Isesi, a Fifth Dynasty pharaoh, reveals that royal troops also came to Wadi Maghara to seek another very precious resource, copper.3 CZ
- See the palette in the British Museum, London, EA 55586.
- Bonheme and Forgeau 1988, pp. 196-235.
- Valbelle and Bonnet 1996, p. 3.
Provenance: Wadi Maghara, Sinai
Bibliography: Porter and Moss 1951, p. 340; Gardiner, Peet, and Cerny 1952-55, vol. 2, p. 56; James 1961, p. 1, no. 1, pl. 1; Spencer 1993, p. 101, fig. 77
H. 50.5 cm (19 7/8 in.); w. 31 cm (12 1/4 in.); max. d. 2.8 cm (1 1/8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris E 25982
Aside from an inscription, the only decoration on this stela carved in low relief is the image of a sovereign in the embrace of a god with a falcon’s head. The scene is framed by a relief border that is widest at the left and across the bottom of the slab.
The pharaoh is depicted standing, wearing the white crown, a false beard, a corselet, and a kilt adorned with an animal’s tail. A dagger is passed through his belt. In his right hand he holds a mace with a pear-shaped head and in his left a long staff with a pointed tip and a flange in the middle, a type of staff well documented for the Old Kingdom.1 The falcon-headed god Horus faces him, clasping the king’s forearm with his left hand, while the right arm encircles the sovereign’s shoulders as a sign of protection. This is one of the oldest known representations depicting Horus as a man with a falcon’s head.
The two figures are identified by the hieroglyphs above them. At left the falcon perched atop the palace facade gives the king’s Horus name, “Horus Qahedjet,” while the facing hieroglyphs read “Horus in the Residence.” The pharaoh is thus called by one of the many names that place him under the protection of Horus, tutelary god of royalty. Horus is depicted in the form worshiped in Heliopolis, a city near Cairo. Nothing is known about Qahedjet, who is sometimes identified with Huni, last king of the Third Dynasty.”
In its very shallow relief, which blends into the background, this stone carving is comparable to six stelae adorning the niches under Djoser’s pyramid and Southern Tomb at Saqqara.3 There is the same subtlety in the treatment of the human body, whose forms are rendered through slight gradations of the surface. The subtle modeling indicates the structure of the king’s face, the more pronounced facial features of the divine falcon, the articulation of the knees,
and the musculature of the legs. This simple, perfectly ordered composition is echoed in the large hieroglyphs that surmount the scene. Even though the work is smaller than the stelae of Djoser, we can assume that, like them, it occupied the back of a niche and stood out against a background of blue-green faience (see cat. no. 1). CZ
- Fischer 1978, p. 24; Stewart 1979, fig. 2.
- Vandier 1968b, pp. 16-22.
- Firth and Quibell 1935, pls. 15-17, 40-42.
Provenance: Unknown; purchased 1967
Bibliography: Cenival 1968, p. 14; Vandier 1968a, p. 108; Vandier 1968b, pp. 16-22; Wildung 1969, p. 101, n. 4; Vandier 1974, p. 165, N4; Beckerath 1984, p. 51c; Ziegler 1990a, pp. 21, 23; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 54-57, no. 4; De Putter and Karlshausen 1992, p. 66; Fischer 1992, p. 143; Manniche 1994, p. 48; Michalowski 1994, fig. 28; Ziegler 1994, p. 535, n. 43; Clayton 1995, p. 25; Berman and Letellier 1996, pp. 36-37, 94; Val-belle 1998, p. 38
H. 21.4 cm (8 1/2 in.); w. 9.7 cm (3 7/8 in.); d. 8.9 cm (3 1/2 in.)
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund 58.192
This is one of the oldest surviving Egyptian statues of a standing deity. The figure is sculpted in a rare stone, anorthosite gneiss,1 known as Chephren’s diorite, which Egyptians went searching for on the borders of distant Nubia (see “Royal Statuary” by Krzysztof Grzymski in this catalogue, p. 53). The figure has his back to a broad support with a curved top, whose shape is suggestive of the royal stelae of Abydos. Standing with his left leg forward, arms at his sides, he is depicted in an attitude that later became customary for statues of men. His left fist is clenched, and his right hand holds a knife. Its wide blade, pressed against his thigh, stands out in sharp relief. The torso is modeled with care, as are the bones of the rib cage and knees. The figure is nude except for a wide belt knotted in front, from which a penis sheath is suspended. The full face, framed by a broad, round wig, is organized in horizontal bands: the eyes, their upper lids emphasized by a large pouch of fat; the short, wide nose; and the horizontal mouth, bordered at the bottom by the false beard, which falls low on the chest. The god’s palpable strength is concentrated in the broad shoulders, on which the head seems to rest directly.As the provenance of this work is unknown and there are no hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating must rest on stylistic criteria. The unusual treatment of the knife, sculpted partly in high relief, may be compared with the carving of the scepter tipped up against Sepa’s right arm in the two large statues of him from Saqqara (cat. nos. 11, 12). The voluminous wig and the proportions of the back support suggest a date prior to the Fourth Dynasty. The archaic form of the penis sheath and the long beard, which is different from the one ordinarily worn by pharaohs, suggest this is the statue of a deity, Old Kingdom examples of which are very rare. The god represented may be Onuris, who is depicted in Egyptian iconography with a penis sheath and round wig and who sometimes brandishes a weapon. The statue probably came from a sanctuary; possibly it was part of a group of divine figures2 placed in small niches tucked away in the back of chapels belonging to Djoser’s funerary complex at Saqqara. CZ
- For this material, see Aston 1994, pp. 62-64.
- The head of a similar statue is in the collection of the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, E 7039.
Provenance: Unknown; Levy de Benzion collection
Bibliography: Wildung 1972, pp. 145-60; Fazzini 1975, p. 24, no. 12; Vandersleyen 1975a, no. 120; Karig and Zauzich 1976, no. 9; Smith 1981, p. 61, fig. 46; Neferut net Remit 1983, no. 11; Fazzini et al. 1989, no. 7; Seipel 1992, p. 82, no. 7
Third Dynasty, before or during reign of Djoser
H. 165 cm (65 in.); w. 40 cm (15 3/4 in.); d. 55 cm (21 5/8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris n 37 (-A 36)
Purchased for the Louvre in 1837 with the reliefs of Aa-akhti from Saqqara (cat. no. 18), two large statues of Sepa (see also cat. no. 12) and one of Lady Nesa (cat. no. 13) undoubtedly originated at the same site. All three statues are sculpted in a bio-clastic limestone produced by bivalves and gastropods; the quarry from which it was cut may be at Helwan. The three figures have retained abundant traces of colored paint: black for the hair and eyes, and green for the wide cosmetic bands used in the Archaic Period.They are the oldest known examples of large Egyptian nonroyal statuary. The date proposed is based on the inscription on a shard found in the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which mentions a titulary identical to Sepa’s, although the name has been lost.
Sepa is standing, and he apparently is walking because his body weight seems to fall on the advancing left leg. With his left arm bent across his waist, he grips a staff. In his open right hand he holds a scepter with an elongated tip, which stands out in sharp relief against his arm. The statue has no back support, and, although its proportions are close to lifesize, it has a certain massiveness and rigidity that are accentuated by such features as the very short neck, the broad shoulders, the position of the arms held tightly against the body, and the thick legs and ankles.
A short, voluminous wig hugs the contours of the round face, concealing the ears and extending to the base of the neck but leaving the forehead uncovered. The carefully detailed rows of curls are all of equal length. The top of the head has a circular depression from which the locks of hair radiate, forming a circle that organizes the rest of the hairstyle. A wide band of green cosmetic is drawn under the eyes, and the upper lid of each eye forms a ridge that was once highlighted in black; the inner corners are drawn with a certain naturalism. On the right eye the ridge extends to the outer corner and around part of the lower lid. The upper lids are indicated by a fold; the fine eyebrows curve gently. The nose has been restored. The upper lip of the sharply outlined mouth is notched in the center by a clearly defined philtrum. The placid face is expressionless.
The modeling of the body is not pronounced. Such anatomical details as the tendons in the neck and the individualized clavicle shown as an almost horizontal ridge are carefully rendered, however. On the rounded pectorals the nipples are indicated by two circles in relief. The curve of the abdomen is captured, with a recessed round navel and the hipbones showing. No muscles are visible on the flat arms. The treatment of the back is even more understated: the upper body emerges from the plain kilt, a furrow represents the spinal column, and, more unusually, the shape of the shoulder blades is indicated by two symmetrical semicircles.
Seen from the front, the short kilt, fastened by a plain belt with an oval knot, is pleated along the right side; the pleats on either side of the staff are treated differently. On the statue’s thick legs emphasis is given to the left knee with its quadrangular cap, flanked toward the top by two protuberances and accentuated by a ridge in the shape of a chevron, which joins the ridge of the tibia. The space between the legs has not been cut away, and only the external line of the right leg is sculpted. Like the left leg, it is treated with great simplicity: muscles are schematized as a vertical ridge, and a bump indicates the anklebone. The left-profile view reveals the silhouette of the thigh extending up beneath the kilt.
The inscriptions, which stand out in relief on the top of the pedestal, give the titles and name of Sepa: “Chief of the Tens of the South, Priest of Nezer and Kherty, Royal Acquaintance, hery seqer, Staff of the White Bull, Sepa.” According to a practice that dates to the very beginning of the Old Kingdom, the inscriptions do not face the beholder but are arranged to be read from the side, from the front to the back of the statue. The right-profile view, which shows both legs, is the most important, as it is on reliefs of the same period. CZ
Provenance: Probably North Saqqara; Mimaut collection; purchased 1837
Bibliography: Weill 1908, pp. 257-59, pl. 5; Bissing 1914, p. 5, pl. 5; Bénédite 1923, p. 276; Steindorff 1923, p. 316, pl. 176; Schàfer and Andrae 1925, p. 219; Boreux 1932, vol. 1, pp. 223-29, pl. 30; Weill 1938, p. 125; Scharff 1940, p. 46; Desroches 1941; Capart 1942, vol. 2, pl. 126; Hornemann 1951-69, no. 202; Shoukry 1951, pp. 58-59, fig. 9; Wolf 1957, pp. 131, 133, fig. 97; Merveilles du Louvre 1958, p. 44; Vandier 1958, pp. 41 n. 2, 61, 102, 126, fig. 664; Du Bourguet and Drioton 1965, pp. 115, 117, pl. 19; Michalowski 1968, figs. 201, 202; Vandier 1970, p. 10; Vandier 1974, p. 161, n. 2; Vandersleyen 1975a, pp. 218, 219, fig. 119a; Aldred 1978, pp. 182-83, figs. 177, 178; Naissance de l’écriture 1982, no. 27; Helck 1984, col. 590, n. 7; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 21, 24; De Putter and Karlshausen 1992, p. 65; Franke 1992; Manniche 1994, pp. 45-46; Tietz 1995, p. 100; Ziegler 1995b, pp. 167-69; Eaton-Krauss and Loeben 1997, pp. 83-87; Ziegler 1997a, pp. 141-44, no. 39, with earlier bibliography
H. 169 cm (66 5/8 in.); w. 44 cm (17 3/8 in.); d. 50.5 cm (19 7/8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris N 38 (=A 37)
This statue is somewhat taller than the other figure of Sepa in this exhibition (cat. no. 11) but is identical in pose, costume, and features, as well as in style. There are a few differences in treatment, however, some attributable to the effects of wear.
Although they are not as clearly delineated, the eyebrows are more pronounced than those of Nesa (cat. no. 13). The hori-zontality of the mouth is tempered by the notch in the upper lip. The modeling of the wings of the nose, indicated by a slight groove, is particularly well done. The indication of the shoulder blades with symmetrical semicircles is emphasized by two curving furrows on either side of the spinal column, which is rendered with a broader and deeper groove. Old photographs of the statue taken before it was restored show two vertical ridges running the length of the leg. The details of the knees are less pronounced than in the other statue of Sepa. The line of the clavicles also seems more curved; it is continuous and forms a ridge in the center. There are no nipples. The left forearm forms an acute angle with the upper arm. The left thumb is very flat and more awkwardly carved.
The inscriptions, which stand out in relief on the top of the pedestal, give Sepa’s titles and name, and they are very similar to those carved on his other statue. CZ.
Provenance: Probably North Saqqara; Mimaut collection; purchased 1837Bibliography: Weill 1908, pp. 2.57-59, pl. 5; Boreux 1932, vol. 1, pp. 228-29, pi. 30; Vandier 1951, p. 3; Vandier 1970, p. 10; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 21, 24; De Putter and Karlshausen 1992, p. 65; Ziegler 1995b, pp. 167-69, pl. 63b,f; Eaton-Krauss and Loeben 1997, pp. 83-87; Ziegler 1997a, pp. 145-47, 40, with earlier bibliography
Third Dynasty, before or during reign of Djoser
H. 154 cm (60 5/8 in.); w. 41 cm (16 1/8 in.); d. 39 cm (15 /3/8 in.); h., base 11 cm (4 3/8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris N 39 (=A 38) Paris only
This statue of a woman named Nesa was found covered to the hips with saltpeter; treated in 1966, it remains extremely fragile. Nesa is standing with her feet together, the traditional pose of female statue subjects. Her right arm is at her side; her left arm is bent at a right angle and resting on the stomach. Her sheath dress, with a wide V-neck, reveals a body curiously similar to the figures of Sepa purchased for the Louvre in the same year at Saqqara (cat. nos. 11, 12): the head is set deep into the shoulders; the shoulders and chest are very wide, merging imperceptibly into a barely indicated waist and hips; the ankles are thick and the feet short. The identical treatment flattens the figure’s natural curves and accentuates the rigidity of the pose.Only the slight swelling of the chest, the nipples that show through the fabric, and the discreet indication of the pubic triangle reveal the subject’s femininity, which is attested primarily through the accessories: the long wig and dress and the many rows of bracelets, eleven on the left wrist and twelve on the right.1
The broad, flat face with high forehead is framed by an opulent tripartite wig. Parted down the center of the crown, the hair falls in three great masses of parallel striated locks, each ending in tiers that give the illusion that the hair is cut in three different layers. The view from above reveals a part ending in a small round depression, which divides the hair into three sections. a wide band of green cosmetic extends under the eyes, which are wide open; the upper part of each eye is bordered by a slight pouch highlighted in black. The eyelid is indicated by a fold; the fine eyebrows molded in relief taper to a point at the temples. The tip of the nose has been restored.
There is a broad, well-marked groove between nose and lips; the upper lip of the small mouth, clearly outlined, its median line curving slightly downward, is somewhat fuller than the lower lip. Like Sepa’s, the face is expressionless.
Although the contours of the body are not pronounced, the clavicle has been carefully individualized with a V-shaped ridge in the middle. The modeling is extremely rudimentary on the flat arms and hands, but the nails are delicately sculpted. The left-profile view reveals an elegant silhouette that contrasts with the frontal view in its slenderness, displaying the flat belly and the curves of the thigh. The back is treated with even more restraint: the head seems to sink under the weight of the wig, whose dark and imposing mass contrasts with the body and makes it seem more svelte.
The inscriptions, which stand out in relief on top of the pedestal, give the subject’s title and name: “Royal Acquaintance, Nesa.” As with the statues of Sepa, the inscription stands out in relief in a rectangular frame, since the surface of the stone has been carved away around it. The hieroglyphs are rather roughly shaped, with very few details. CZ
1. During the Fourth Dynasty, the representation of multiple bracelets came to an end. Their presence thus constitutes a criterion for dating an artwork. The tomb of Queen Hetep-heres I, wife of Snefru, has yielded a rich set of bracelets (cat. nos. 31, 32).
Provenance: Probably North Saqqara; Mimaut collection; purchased 1837
Bibliography: Capart 1904, p. 257, fig. 183; Weill 1908, pp. 259-60, pl. 5; Steindorff 1923, p. 316, pl. 176; Boreux 1932, vol. 1, pp. 228-29, pl. 30; Desroches Noblecourt 1941; Smith 1946, pl. 4c; Pijoán 1950, p. 128; Shoukry 1951, pp. 58-59, fig- 9; Vandier 1951, p. 3; Wolf 1957, p. 131, fig. 97; Vandier 1958, pp. 41, 63, fig. 664; Fischer 1963, p. 32, n. 15; Vandier 1970, p. 10; Vandier 1974, p. 161, n. 2; Vandersleyen 1975a, pp. 218, 219, fig. 119b; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 21, 24; Hart 1991, p. 98; De Putter and Karls-hausen 1992, p. 65; Vogelsang-Eastwood 1993, p. 113; Manniche 1994, pp. 45-46; Ziegler 1995b, pp. 167-69, pl. 63c,d,g; Eaton-Krauss and Loeben 1997, pp. 83-87; Ziegler 1997a, pp. 112-15, no. 31, with earlier bibliography
Third Dynasty, reign of Djoser
Gray porphyroid granite
H. 62.5 cm (24 5/8 in.); w. 20.5 cm (8 1/8 in.); d. 32.5 cm (12 7/8 in.); h., seat 24 cm (9 1/2 in.), including 6 cm (2 3/8 in.) base
Musee du Louvre, Paris N 40 (=A 39)
Although the place where this statue was found is not known, Ankh can be identified as the high official whose name appears in a tomb at Beit Khallaf, not far from Abydos,1 where an impression of the seal of King Djoser was also found. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden houses two statues that are probably of the same individual (see cat. no. 15).The style of this statue is characteristic of the Third Dynasty. Ankh is shown sitting on a backless cubic seat that is decorated on three sides in imitation of the kind of stool with bentwood supports that was in use during the Third Dynasty. Dressed in a plain kilt with the end of a belt emerging from the waist, the figure has a stocky body that conforms to the cubic block of stone from which it was cut. Ankh’s shoulders are very high, and his head is larger than lifesize. The pose with hands clasped on the lap is very rare in Egyptian art. Tilted slightly up, the round face is framed by a tripartite wig of medium length that conceals the ears. The locks that frame the subject’s face fall in parallel rows from a central part. The hair does not follow the contours of the back of the head but hangs straight, and the ends are cut at an angle. The eyes are flush with the head; the upper eyelid is emphasized by a slight fold ending at the outside corner, but no emphasis is given to the internal canthus. The eyebrows are thin and arched, and each is indicated by a ridge. The short, broad nose is unusually narrow at the base. The line of the full mouth is very schematic, especially the upper lip, which is not notched. The roundness of the face with its indefinite contours is accentuated by the carefully indicated depression under each eye and the puffiness around the eyelids, the heavy cheeks, the round chin, and the fatty neck. The torso is flat, with very high pectorals that are subtly accentuated; the nipples are executed in relief. No muscle structure is evident in the arms. The very flat hands—the right one placed on the palm of the left—are roughly outlined, and the thumbnail is indicated by a flattened tip. The heavy legs are close together and have thick ankles. The ridge of the tibia is pronounced, and the massive knees have been rendered as geometric shapes, with the patella emphasized by a chevron. Except for the toenails the feet are free of anatomical details, and these are summarily indicated by depressions. There is no support behind the figure, making it easy to see the back, which is divided by a vertical furrow and lacks indication of the shoulder blades.
Certain details were added after the statue was polished, including the rare shenu necklace, which resembles one found on a relief from King Snefru’s time,2 the bracelet adorning the right wrist, and the inscription on the knees: “Stolist (priest) of Horus, medjeh ames, Ankh.” Like the inscriptions on the statues of Sepa and Nesa (cat. nos. 11-13), these are arranged to be read from the side, from the front to the back of the statue on the right leg, and from back to front on the left. CZ
- Garstang 1903, pp. 15-16.
- Tomb of Iy-nefer, Dahshur, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, CG 57121.
Provenance: Beit Khallaf?; Salt collection; purchased 1826.
Bibliography: Weill 1908, p. 181, n. 1; Spiegelberg 1918, p. 109; Keimer 1931, pp. 176-79; Boreux 1939a, pl. 1; Wolf 1957, pp. 49, 131, fig. 93; Vandier 1958, pp. 64, 126, fig. 661; Kanawaty 1985, p. 38, pl. 1a; Helck 1987, pp. 241-42; Kanawaty 1990, p. 268; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 21, 23; Seipel 1992, pp. 88, 89, no. 10; Tietz 1995, p. 103; Ziegler 1995b, pp. 172-73, pl. 64; Eaton-Krauss 1997, pp. 7-21; Ziegler 1997a, pp. 79-82, no. 22; Baud 1998, p. 76
Third Dynasty, reign of Djoser
H. 79 cm (31 1/8 in.)
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden AST 18, D93
Although this statue of Ankh is slightly larger than the one in the Louvre (cat. no. 14), in several respects the two works are very similar: there is the same flat, round face framed by a tripartite wig of medium length, the same bentwood stool, the same high quality of workmanship, even the same granitic look to the stone. But the treatment of the face is not the same. Whereas the eyebrows of the Louvre statue are more arched and more prominent, in the Leiden statue the philtrum is more pronounced and the modeling is less vigorous. And, although Ankh’s pose here—with his right hand on his knee and left hand on his chest—is more conventional than the very unusual pose of the Louvre statue, the accessories to his costume are unique in the whole of Old Kingdom statuary.Here Ankh wears two feline pelts. The first is pulled over his left shoulder, and one paw hangs over his left knee. The second, lying on top of the first, covers his right shoulder, with one paw and the tail hanging on either side of his legs. Together, the two pelts form a V-neckline. The semicircular toggle pins depicted on Ankh’s shoulders are regularly associated with a feline-pelt garment on reliefs.1 Before the Fifth Dynasty this costume was apparently related to the royal cult and royal ceremonies, but in the famous Palette of Narmer in the Louvre, the king’s sandal bearer is wearing the same type of pelt. The unusual feature here is that the toggle pins placed on the figure’s chest like a coat of arms serve as a frame for the carved hieroglyphs that mention his name and titles. To his right they read “Ankh,” and to his left, “high official, attendant to [the city of] Nekhen.”
In the corpus of Third Dynasty statuary, then, these two statues of Ankh are distinguished by some very original characteristics. Should these features be seen as the mark of a specific function? According to a recently proposed hypothesis, the two statues of Ankh were housed not in a tomb but in a temple, so that they could continue to participate actively in the cult of a god or pharaoh.2 CZ
- For example, a relief of Prince Iy-nefer in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, CG 57T21.
- Eaton-Krauss 1997, pp. 12-13.
Provenance: Beit Khallaf?; Anastasi collection; purchased 1829.
Bibliography: Leemans 1840, pt. 2, no. 93, pl. 20; Wiedemann 1898, pp. 269-73; Capart 1902, pl. 3; Boeser, Holwerda, and Holwerda 1905, pp. 10-11; Weill 1908, p. 181, n. 1; Keimer 1931, pp. 176-79; Vandier 1952b, p. 984, fig. 660; Vandier 1958, p. 64; Helck 1987, pp. 241-42; Tietz 1995, p. 103; Eaton-Krauss 1997, pp. 7-21; Schneider 1997
H. 83 cm (32 3/4 in.)
Soprintendenza al Museo delle Anitchità Egizie, Turin C 3065
Sculptures of women from the Third Dynasty are rare. Best known are the painted limestone statue of Nesa (cat. no. 13) and the Lady of Brussels (Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, E 752). This statue of Redjief is distinguished from both of these works by the subject’s seated pose1 and by the medium, a hard, dark stone commonly used during the same period for statues of men, which are much more numerous.2The princess is sitting on a blocklike seat with decoration on four sides that evokes the bentwood chairs of the Archaic Period; the low back against which she leans is ordinarily reserved for sovereigns. Her feet together, she rests her right forearm on her thigh and holds her left arm, bent at a right angle, against her chest. Her sheath dress with a wide V-neck reveals a stocky body with very broad shoulders and chest; thick waist, hips, and ankles; and short feet. As in the statue of Nesa, the subject’s natural curves are flattened and the rigidity of her pose is accentuated. Redjief’s femininity is conveyed primarily by her costume: the long wig and dress and the bracelets adorning both forearms. Her head is set deep into her shoulders. Her face, broad and flat with a high forehead, is framed by an opulent tripartite wig characteristic of the Third Dynasty;3 parted on the crown, the masses of hair fall outward and down in parallel striated locks that end in tiers, giving the wig a three-layered look. The upper part of the large eyelids is rimmed. The fine, raised eyebrows narrow to points at the temples. The mouth is large and wide. The precise treatment of the resolute face, highlighted by the polish on the dark stone, gives the piece a severity that makes it resemble more closely the statue of Pharaoh Djoser than that of Lady Nesa.
Inscriptions, which stand out in raised relief on the top front of the pedestal, give the title and name of the figure: “true daughter of the king, Redjief.” This is the oldest surviving example of an inscribed statue depicting a woman from the Egyptian royal family. The rank of its owner explains the high quality of the sculpture and, no doubt, the form of the seat as well. CZ
- An Archaic Period statue, popularly titled Lady of Naples, that depicts a figure in the same attitude (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 1076), actually represents a man.
- Eaton-Krauss 1998, pp. 209-25.
- See Cherpion 1998, pp. 97-142.
Provenance: Unknown; Drovetti collection.
Bibliography: Seipel 1992, p. 86, no. 9; Cherpion 1998, pp. 103 n. 25, 134, fig. 14; Donadoni Roveri and Tiradritti 1998, p. 259, no. 238; Eaton-Krauss 1998, p. 210; Fay 1998, pp. 159-60, 170-71, no. 1, figs. 1, 2; Sourouzian 1998, pp. 322, 346, fig. 37
H. 86 cm (33 7/8 in.); w. 41 cm (16 1/8 in.)
Egyptian Museum, Cairo CG 1430
This panel is one of a group of six in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Five were found by Auguste Mariette and transported to the museum in 1866. The sixth was discovered by James E. Quibell in 1912. All are from the mastaba of Hesi-re, a high official of King Djoser, whose titles included Greatest of the King’s Scribes, Chief of the Tens of Upper Egypt, and Chief of Dentists. His mastaba, located north of the funerary complex of Djoser at Saqqara, was built primarily of unbaked brick. Hesi-re’s offering chapel takes the form of a long corridor and includes, on one side, very unusual paintings depicting funerary furnishings (among them vases, chests, and games) and, on the other, eleven niches. A carved wood panel was fitted into the back of each of these niches. Five have disappeared; the other six depict Hesi-re seated or standing, wearing different hairstyles and costumes but always with the royal scribe’s insignia (a palette with two compartments for ink, a long pen case, and a small bag), indicating the importance of his position at a time when the corps of scribes was still small. The lower part of the present panel is badly damaged and incomplete. A large crack mars the upper section.
Sculpted in low relief, Hesi-re is seen standing with his right arm at his side; in his left hand, held up at chest level, is a staff. The scribe’s palette is placed on his right shoulder. He is wearing a short, round wig with straight locks at the crown and rows of curls below. His nose is slightly hooked, and he has a mustache. The rest of the panel’s surface is covered with hieroglyphs. The upper section gives Hesi-re’s name and titles; below, in front of him, an offering formula enumerates the food and drink the deceased will need in the afterlife (bread, beer, beef, fowl, and other essentials), accompanied by the sign for “one thousand,” which is intended to multiply them magically.
Because it can be precisely dated, and because the proportions of the figure are elegant and its details and expression realistic, the panel is considered one of the most important reliefs from the Old Kingdom. SL-T
Provenance: Saqqara, mastaba of Hesi-re (Mariette mastaba A3), Mariette excavation, 1866.
Bibliography: Quibell 1913, p. 40, pl. 30; Borchardt 1937, p. no, pl. 27; Capart 1937, pl. 407; Pijoan 1945, fig. no; Porter and Moss 1978, p. 439; Saleh and Sourouzian 1987, no. 21 (for comparison)
Late Third Dynasty
Fine-grained limestone with faint remains of paint
H. 184 cm (72 1/2 in.); w. 83 cm (32 3/4 in.); d. 18 cm (7 1/8 in.)
Musée du Louvre, Paris B 1
This beautiful relief decorated a door recess that provided access to a mortuary chapel. The block is sculpted on two perpendicular faces, and the narrower one simply bears the titles of the deceased. The main face still has traces of red and black paint. The owner of the tomb, Aa-akhti, is depicted on foot, walking out of the chapel, a long staff in one hand and a sekhem scepter in the other. He is wearing a short wig with curls distributed in even rows.1 His long tunic is of an unusual type; it leaves the left shoulder bare and is decorated with a pleated pane) in the front, adorned with a large knot.The figure may appear odd to modern eyes because it combines different perspectives: the profile face with a frontal eye; the frontal shoulders twisting into a profile view of hips and legs; the inner profile of the foot with an arch and a single toe. In short, the image does not reproduce reality but, by using conventions that were established very early, recapitulates the most characteristic aspects of the individual represented. It is these conventions, linked to the purpose of the artwork in question— the image must be effective and recognizable so that it can magically replace the human model—that give Egyptian relief its inimitable originality.
The columns of hieroglyphs above the figure complement the representation and identify the important dignitary. His name is given, and Royal Governor and Chief Architect to the King are among the numerous titles he bears.
Although the location of Aa-akhti’s tomb is unknown, there are strong reasons to believe it was situated in the necropolis of North Saqqara, since two of its blocks were reused in the modern village of Abusir, which is north of the site. An effort has been made to rebuild the Archaic Period-style cruciform chapel from the fragments dispersed among several museums.2 The lower part of a statue of the same individual, also in the Archaic Period style, is in the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin (14277). Aa-akhti bears the title Priest of the Temple of Nebka and thus could not have lived before the reign of this sovereign. His monuments are usually dated to the Third Dynasty. This relief is one of the finest of the period. With its large masses clearly set off from the background and the vigor with which the silhouette stands out, it contrasts with the stelae of Djoser. The particular sharpness of the outlines and the terseness of the style are manifest even in the large, closely spaced hieroglyphs, each made with an incisive stroke. CZ
- With high and tapering crown; see Cherpion 1989, pp. 55-56, criteria 28, 30.
- Louvre, Paris, B1, B2; Ägyptisches Museum, Universität Leipzig, 2897; Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin, 1141, 1142, 15302, 15303 (Smith 1942, pp. 518-20).
Provenance: North Saqqara; Mimaut collection; purchased 1837
Bibliography: Weill 1908, pp. 262-73; Capart 1914b, pp. 27, 28, pl. 14; Boreux 1932, vol. 1, pp. 238, 239; Encyclopédie photographique 1935, pp. 8, 9; Reisner 1936, pp. 206, 282, 364; Capart 1942, pl. 422; Smith 1942, pp. 518-20; Smith 1946, pp. 149-51, pl. 35; Jelinkova 1950, pp. 335, 339-40; Vandier 1951, p. 11; De Wit 1956, pp. 94-95; Wolf 1957, p. 203, fig. 171; Smith 1958, pp. 36, 37; Kaplony 1963, pp. 450 n. 672, 467; Smith 1971, p. 16; Goedecken 1976, pp. 128-30; Martin-Pardey 1976, p. 235; Leclant et al. 1978, p. 284, fig. 288; Porter and Moss 1978, p. 500; Strudwick 1985, p. 217; Chevereau 1987, p. 36, no. 184; Harpur 1987, p. 272, no. 336; Ziegler 1990b, pp. 96-100, no. 14, with earlier bibliography; Fischer 1992, p. 143; Bietak 1996, p. 198, n. 12; Sourouzian 1998, pp. 323, 347, fig. 40
Third Dynasty, reign of Sekhemkhet
a. Diam. 7.5 cm (3 in.); w. 1.4 cm (1/2 in.)
b. Diam. 5.6 cm (2 1/4 in.); d. 1.1 cm (1/8 in.)
c. Diam. 7.3 cm (2 7/8 in.); d. 1.6 cm (5/8 in.)
Egyptian Museum, Cairo JE 92655-53, 92655-56, 92655-70
Sekhemkhet, King Djoser’s successor, undertook the construction at Saqqara of a vast funerary complex similar to that of his predecessor. Excavations conducted inside Sekhemkhet’s uncompleted step pyramid at that site led to the discovery of a very fine group of jewelry. Among the items found in the shaft leading to the funerary chamber were a small, shell-shaped gold box and a bracelet made up of 388 gold beads arranged in ten rows and held together by five bead spacers, as well as many other beads of gold, faience (sometimes covered with gold), and carnelian scattered on the ground. Twenty-one bracelets—closed gold-leaf hoops, their edges curled slightly inward and most formed into a beautiful, regular shape— complete the group. The large number of bracelets found can be explained by the fact that Egyptians of the time liked to wear several bracelets piled up on the forearms (see cat. no. 13).Perhaps originally housed in a chest that had disintegrated by the time of discovery, this jewelry is the only extant group from the Third Dynasty and must have belonged to a woman from the royal family. It is tempting to compare these pieces to the set from the early Fourth Dynasty belonging to Queen Hetep-heres I, which also includes several bracelets (cat. nos. 31, 32) and similarly attests to the virtuosity of artisans at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. PR
Provenance: Saqqara, pyramid of Sekhemkhet, Egyptian Antiquities Service excavation
Bibliography: Ghoneim 1957,pp. 13-14, pls. 31-34
Diam. 4.7-5.1 cm (1 7/8 in.)
Trustees of the British Museum, London EA 68316, 68317, 68318
Their small size suggests that these bracelets, reconstructed from fragments found in the ruins of a Third Dynasty mastaba, probably belonged to a child. Simple, regular hoops, flat on the inside and slightly rounded on the outside, they resemble the thin ivory or stone bracelets worn in earlier periods. In the Old Kingdom such bracelets were worn, alone or in combination, on one or both arms. Altogether comparable examples dating from the Fourth Dynasty have been found at Mostagedda, in the tomb of a child buried with three ivory bracelets on the right arm and four on the left.1
Ivory hoops were common in the Old Kingdom,2 but bracelets were also made of bone,3 tortoiseshell,4 horn,5 calcite,6 and metal (for examples of the last, see cat. nos. 19, 166). PR.
- Mostagedda, tomb 282.1; see Brunton 1937, p. 96, pl. 63.
- For other examples, see Brunton 1948, tombs 800 and 817, p. 32 (Sixth Dynasty); and Reis-ner 1932, tombs N 579, N 760, pis. 39d,e.
- Brunton 1948, pl. 35.25, tomb 865 (Sixth Dynasty).
- Petrie 1901 a, p. 38, cemetery N, tomb N 19 (Sixth Dynasty).
- Brunton 1937, tombs 243, 3540, pp. 97, 98 (Fifth Dynasty), tombs 677, 10002, p. 99 (Sixth Dynasty).
- Valloggia 1986, vol. 2, pl. 72, inv. no. 11 28 (Sixth Dynasty).
Provenance: Saqqara, Egypt Exploration Society excavation
Bibliography: Spencer 1980, p. 77, no. 566, pl. 62; Andrews 1981, p. 38