Stone vessels. Luxury Items with Manifold Implications

Stone vessels of the Old Kingdom are luxury items that owe their beauty to skilled craftsmanship and an exquisite sense of refinement in design and decoration. The art of stone-vessel making goes back almost to the beginning of Egyptian history, and consequently, in the Third Dynasty, when King Djoser’s artisans were given the task of producing tens of thousands of stone vases for the subterranean storerooms of his Step Pyramid at Saqqara (cat. no. 5),1 they were fully equipped to meet the demand. Since the fifth millennium b.c.e., long before stone was used for building and statuary, vessels had been fashioned from hard stones; indeed, the art had reached its peak just before the reign of Djoser, during the first two dynasties,2 with the production of vessels that imitated in extremely hard and brittle stone, and with astonishing accuracy, such flimsy items as a basket made of reeds and the leaf of a lotus plant.3

Stone Materials

By the Third Dynasty, stone-vessel making had become a somewhat more conventional craft than it had been during Archaic times. The materials used were less varied than in the earlier period, when they had encompassed practically every type of hard stone available in stone-rich Egypt.4 Throughout the Old Kingdom most stone vessels were made of the white or yellowish white, sometimes even brownish, so-called Egyptian alabaster.5 This semitranslucent, beautifully veined material is actually calcite, not a true alabaster.6 Some scholars prefer to call it travertine,7 although the typical travertine does not share the distinctive translucency of Egyptian alabaster.8 True alabaster (a fine-grained granular aggregate of gypsum) was occasionally used for stone vessels in the Archaic Period but not—as far as is known—during the Old Kingdom.9 The ancient Egyptian word for Egyptian alabaster is sst (pronounced sheset by Egyptologists).10 The material occurs at many places in the limestone region of the Egyptian deserts. Quarries known to have been exploited for it by the ancient Egyptians are predominantly located in the Eastern Desert, from south of Cairo (Wadi el-Garawi) to Asyut; best known among them is the quarry of Hatnub, near Amarna.11 Although through trace-element analysis it is possible to determine from which location the material of specific stone vessels derived, such investigations have so far been undertaken on only a small number of objects.12 In addition to Egyptian alabaster, stone-vessel makers of the Old Kingdom relied on diorite, gneiss (cat. no. 99), and, above all, limestone13 with some frequency, but they rarely employed porphyry, granite, breccia, basalt, quartz crystal, and obsidian.14 Some of these materials were available to the craftsmen as refuse from sculptors’ workshops.15

The Shapes and Decoration of Stone ves sels

The stone-vessel makers of the Old Kingdom worked too much under the influence of their forebears to create a totally new set of shapes. Their contributions to the formal repertoire of Egyptian stone-vessel art were the refinement of preexisting shapes and the introduction of shapes imitating terracotta and metal prototypes (fig. 72). Since the beginning of the art form in Predynastic times, Egyptian stone-vessel shapes typically had been close to basic geometric solids.16 In the Archaic Period and the Old Kingdom, however, subtle deviations from pure geometric form became characteristic. The traditional ointment jars, for instance, had been cylindrical with straight or slightly bulging sides from the Predy-nastic Naqada I Period (about 3850-3650 b.c.e.). During the Archaic Period these vases started to become conical, a tendency that continued during the Old Kingdom,17 when, moreover, most of their walls were concave and they showed ever wider bases. In vessels of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (cat. nos. 179,180) the splayed foot was beautifully counterpoised by a broad rim.18

During the Sixth Dynasty stone-vessel making entered a new phase of creativity. Vessel shapes of that period (cat. nos. 178-180, 184) are of a variety unparalleled since the end of the Archaic Period.19 They also reveal traits that can only be called mannerist—for instance, the widely splayed bases of some cylindrical vessels (cat. nos. 179, 180)20 and the exaggeratedly lengthened proportions of jars, among which an intricately shaped collared type is especially common (fig. 72, bottom right).21

Decoration on stone vessels of the Old Kingdom is mainly confined to rope patterns and designs that imitate the nets in which Egyptians daily carried large and small containers (cat. no. 5). Other decorative elements are incised hieroglyphic inscriptions and symbolic motifs (cat. nos. 179,180,184), which are discussed below. Some delightful examples are sculpted (cat. no. 178).22 Like most high-quality stone vessels, these intriguing vases were doubtless the work of court artisans.23

The Techniques of Stone-Vessel Making

The production of stone vessels is frequently depicted in Old Kingdom wall reliefs and paintings.24 Because few workshops have been found,25 much of what is said about methods of manufacture must rely on inference from these representations and other evidence.26 The craftsman appears to have started by cutting a stone roughly into the desired shape of the vessel. This must have been done with the help of dolerite pounders (cat. no. 36) and copper chisels. Pieces discarded in an unfinished state show that the outside of the container was then fully finished and smoothed by rubbing with a hard stone. Only after the exterior shape was achieved did the craftsman start to hollow out the interior, a task accomplished, at least from the Archaic Period, with the so-called crank drill (fig. 73).27 This instrument consisted basically of a long piece of wood with a handle on top. Below the handle two heavy stones were fastened with ropes. Recent investigations by the experimental archaeologist Stocks have revealed that these stones did not provide momentum during the work process but served solely to weigh down the drill.28 The instrument often had a forked bottom that helped to fasten the drill bit. Both this fork and the handle on top of the drill were made of single naturally shaped tree branches. Some representations of the crank drill show a shaft composed of two parts that are lashed together (fig. 73). Stocks has convincingly explained that shafts of this kind must have been fashioned to facilitate replacement of the lower end of the drill when it wore down from use.29

Drill bits were made in various shapes and of many materials. There were triangular bits of flint whose points wore off through use—which accounts for the fact that discarded bits of flint found in excavations are usually crescent-shaped. There were also drill bits of diorite, quartzite, and limestone. Shapes included figure-eight forms and roughly rectangular cones with indentations in the center of both long sides into which the forked ends of the drill could be fitted.30 Tubular bits of copper may sometimes have been employed as well, especially for the initial drilling of the cavity—indeed a small groove around the bottom of the interior of a number of conical ointment vessels perhaps indicates their use.31 The drill shaft to which such copper tubes might have been fitted would, of course, have had no fork at its lower end.

Stocks has demonstrated that the crank drill was probably not turned continuously in one direction but rather was twisted forward and backward, clockwise and counterclockwise, either between the two hands that held the shaft and handle of the instrument or by one hand while the other steadied the instrument or the vessel.32 This procedure appears to assure a high degree of stability and a well-centered drilling process. Archaeological evidence reveals that the ancient Egyptian drilling technique also involved placing the vessel in a hole in the ground or other work area. Thus, in the Old Kingdom stone-vessel workshop excavated at Hierakonopolis sockets suitable for holding vessels were found in a workbench of beaten earth.33 And a wood model of early Middle Kingdom date represents in miniature a carpenter’s workshop in which a stone-vessel maker has also found a home. This artisan uses a large round white object, probably a stone with a hole in its top, as a support for the vase he is drilling.34

A difficult stage in the hollowing process must have been reached when the center cavity of a jar of broad shape was bored and the craftsman had to enlarge the interior space on all sides. Some archaeologists believe that the drill was held obliquely to widen the cavity, while others have followed Reisner, who maintained that a succession of ever larger drill bits was used.35 Certainly a number of bits of different shapes were employed to obtain the desired volume and shape of the interior. Whenever possible the artisan probably effected the final thinning of the walls by inserting his hand into the vessel and smoothing down the interior by rubbing with a hard stone (fig. 73). Sand and other suitable powdery substances were used as abrasives during all stages of the work, including the final polishing of the outer surface.36

The Function and Distribution of Stone Vessels

Stone vessels served various purposes in the life and afterlife of the ancient Egyptians. Three groups can be distinguished among the Old Kingdom vessels: cosmetic oil and ointment vases, many inscribed with the names and titles of kings (cat. nos. 178-180); imitations in stone of terracotta utilitarian vessels (cat. nos. 160, 161); and miniature vases (cat. no. 214). Imitation vases and miniature vessels will be dealt with exclusively in the relevant entries, but some general remarks about the cosmetic oil and ointment vases are called for here.

The storage of cosmetic oils and ointments was by far the most important function of stone vessels in ancient Egypt.37 Their thick stone walls helped to keep the fatty substances they held cool, and their exquisite workmanship and high quality underlined the precious nature of the contents. Cosmetic ointments were used in everyday life and also in important rituals in temples and tombs. Cult statues and cult objects (fig. 74) in temples of gods and in pyramid temples, for instance, were treated daily with cosmetic materials and reviving ointments.38 No wonder temple storerooms were filled with precious vessels containing these ingredients39 and that stone vases were left as votives in sanctuaries40 and were standard items in foundation deposits.41 Anointing and cosmetic treatment also played a role in the preparation of mummies42— which were treated with oils—and in the funerary cult43— based on the belief in the reviving effect of the oils and ointments. Thus there was a double reason for these stone receptacles to accompany the deceased into the grave. Accordingly, they appear frequently in burial sites,44 including royal ones, as evidenced by the numerous stone cosmetic vases discovered in the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Tutankhamun.45

Stone vessels were deposited not only in the tombs of later pharaohs but also in the pyramids and pyramid precincts of Old Kingdom rulers. Today, having escaped centuries of plunder by virtue of their durability, these receptacles are often the only surviving remains from the once-rich assortment of goods that accompanied a Pyramid Age king into his afterlife and served the cult of his statues in the pyramid temple. Their numbers are considerable, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of Djoser’s stone vessels mentioned above, which still rest in the underground chambers of the ruler’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, too numerous to ever be fully extracted.46

The custom of burying vast quantities of vessels inside the tombs of kings and other individuals of high status goes back to late Predynastic times and the Archaic Period.47 However, after the Third Dynasty, as subterranean space in royal tombs diminished and the size of the pyramid temples increased, vessels were deposited in greater numbers in the storerooms of the aboveground temples. Testifying to this development, hundreds of stone vessels were found in the storerooms of the valley temple of Menkaure,48 and considerable remains of vessels—mostly broken and incomplete—were excavated from the pyramid temples of Sahure, Neferirkare, and Niuserre.49 Stone vessels were, nevertheless, also deposited in the interiors of pyramids; in the pyramid of King Pepi II, for instance, precious remains of inscribed stone jars were discovered inside the passage leading to the ruler’s burial chamber (fig. 75).50

Many stone vessels found inside pyramid precincts were inscribed with the names of predecessors of the owner of the pyramid, while others can be dated on stylistic grounds to periods earlier than his own.51 Evidently, then, such stone vessels were deposited in royal pyramid complexes to make use of items left over from previous royal burials or bygone festivities.52 It is also possible that very old vessels were left in the pyramid precincts in the belief that their proven longevity ensured an eternal flow of provisions even more effectively than did contemporary objects.

Not all stone vessels of the Old Kingdom inscribed with royal names (cat. nos. 178-180,184)53 were part of the burial equipment of kings, for there have been finds of such vases in the pyramids of queens and the tombs of high officials and even in the burial sites of members of the middle class, especially in the provinces.54 These finds indicate that stone vases were customary gifts from the pharaoh to members of his family, worthy officials, and other favored individuals, a good number of whom were women.55 Such gifts may have been intended to serve as grave goods from the outset, as favored individuals were commonly recompensed with items for the tomb in the Old Kingdom.56 Or they may have been granted during the recipient’s lifetime, to find their way into the tomb later, when the proud owner died.

Stone vases were not only bestowed upon those favored by the king but also were given to him by appropriate persons. The latter especially seems to have been the custom during the Third Dynasty,57 as is suggested by several vases found in the underground galleries of the Djoser pyramid. These vessels are inscribed with the names of contemporaries of Djoser, who Helck believed had been employed in preparing the king’s funeral, an office that perhaps entitled them to make contributions to the royal burial equipment.58

Inscriptions on a number of stone vases testify to one important event during which a pharaoh might have given or received stone vessels: the Heb Sed or first Heb Sed, that is, the thirty-year jubilee of a king (fig. 51; cat. nos. 178-180).59 As various authors indicate in this catalogue, this jubilee and successive ones marked at varying intervals thereafter were more than commemorations of a prosperous and happy rule over the course of many years; they were occasions for the performance of age-old rituals believed to grant the king physical, and probably also mental, rejuvenation. Anointing and cosmetic pigment application were included in several of these rituals, as various representations reveal.60 One image (fig. 74), for instance, shows the king in the traditional Heb Sed garment applying ointment to the sacred standard of the god Wepwawet in his chapel. Does it go too far to suggest that the leftovers of the oils and cosmetics used at the Heb Sed were distributed in stone vessels to meritorious individuals and members of the royal family in order to let them partake of the beneficial effects of the rituals? And can it also be surmised that officials bestowed their gifts upon the pharaoh at the festival itself—just as a courtier of high status is shown in one tomb giving pectorals to Amenhotep III of the New Kingdom on the occasion of his third Heb Sed61—in the hope of benefiting from the magic power of the rituals enacted there?

The designs of the inscriptions incised on the stone vessels underline the significance of the gifts. The writing is invariably arranged inside a rectangular panel the top of which is formed by the hieroglyph for “sky” and whose sides are two was (dominion) scepters,62 a well-known device depicting the world.63 Royal names are inscribed within this kind of emblematic framework, albeit mostly without reference to a Heb Sed, on luxury objects, such as a box and an ivory headrest in the exhibition (cat. nos. 181,183), on the sides of the thrones of royal statues beginning in the Fourth Dynasty,64 and on architectural elements. In the pyramid temple of Sahure, for instance, the columns surrounding the central courtyard carry the image (fig. 76);65 here one of the two heads of the earth god Aker flanks either end of the baseline of the rectangle, identifying it unmistakably as a representation of the earth.66

In the rectangles on all these objects, statues, and architectural elements, the names and titles of the king are usually arranged vertically so that the hieroglyphic signs for “king of Upper and Lower Egypt” and “Horus” are located directly below the sky emblem. Parts of the inscription, moreover, often face each other (cat. no. 180), an arrangement made possible by the nature of hieroglyphic script, which can be written, and read, both right to left and left to right. As a result of this confrontation, the main images and signs tend to face toward the interior of the panel, thus transforming the inscription into a heraldic motto that proclaims the idea of kingship.67 Good wishes for eternal life, stability, and health are incorporated at the bottom of the panels, and on many stone vessels a reference to the Heb Sed or first Heb Sed appears within, under, or to the side of them (cat. no. 179).

The carefully structured royal-name panels served to propagate the idea of the central position of kingship in a stable universe that is upheld by divine powers and protection. Even more explicit in terms of this function are the designs on a number of globular jars. On one inscribed for King Unis, for instance, a Horus falcon stretches its wings, while its claws clutch shen signs of universality. From each shen sign a royal cobra extends beneath each wing, and in front of each cobra’s hood a symbol for life points toward a cartouche bearing the ruler’s name (cat. no. 123).68 As Ziegler has noted, this configuration is remarkably similar to Middle Kingdom royal jewelry designs;69 yet there are also obvious parallels between the rectangular name panels and royal jewelry motifs, especially the beautiful pectorals of the Middle Kingdom (fig. 77), New Kingdom, and Third Intermediate Period. True, most of these pectorals are framed not by the sky hieroglyph, earth emblem, and was scepters but by the cornice roof of a shrine or temple supported either by simple borders of various colors or by plants, and in one case even by columns.70 Nevertheless, the link exists, for the temples of ancient Egypt were generally considered to symbolize the world, with the roof representing the sky (with stars), the columns the plants, and the floor the earth. Also clearly underscoring the connection between the shrine-enclosed pectoral designs and the sky plus was scepter image are a mid-Twelfth Dynasty pectoral in the Metropolitan Museum without sides or top frame but showing a baseline identified as the primeval water71 (one of the earliest known of its type) and one of Tutankhamun’s many pectorals that use the device of the sky with was scepter supports.72

It is well known that pectorals played an important role in the rituals of the Heb Sed.73 Indeed, in the tomb of Kheruef, a high official of the Eighteenth Dynasty king Amenhotep III and the steward of Amenhotep’s queen, Tiy, Kheruef is depicted offering elaborate pectorals to the pharaoh on the occasion of his third Heb Sed.74 That pectorals and other jewelry of the Middle Kingdom also figured in the Heb Sed has been shown as well.75 And during the Middle Kingdom female members of the royal family wore pectorals inscribed with the king’s name and titles, which were buried with them when they died. In all these contexts strikingly close analogies can be drawn between the post-Old Kingdom pectorals and Pyramid Age stone vessels: both groups of objects served to propagate basic ideas about kingship, played parts in the Heb Sed, and involved not only male officials but also female members of the royal family, court ladies, and even women of not much more than middle-class station.76

We must assume that a king’s gifts of pectorals in the Middle and New Kingdoms and of stone vessels in the Old Kingdom made during the recipient’s lifetime were intended to strengthen the awareness of the royal ideology among the pharaoh’s associates; and it should be assumed as well that the eventual burial of these objects secured benefits not only for the recipient of the gift but also for the king himself. The presence of hundreds of stone vessels carrying the royal motto in tombs in all areas of the country (including the outlying oases in the desert) certainly broadened the magical basis that ensured the king’s eternal life and everlasting power and might even have served to procure a Heb Sed for him in the afterlife.77 This kind of magical proliferation, it appears, was thought to have worked especially well when a female burial contained the object decorated with the royal name, since the king’s rebirth was believed to be guaranteed in a particularly potent way through females (wife,, mother, court lady, indeed any woman).78

The association of stone cosmetic vases with revivifying female forces is also apparent in the delightful group of stone vessels sculpted in the shape of mother monkeys with their young (cat. no. 178). Through the monkey forms these flasks evoke aspects of fertility and motherhood linked with the rejuvenating powers of the cosmetic oils they held, the exotic provenances of some of their ingredients, and associations with certain gods. Thus myrrh, a frequently used substance, was imported from Punt, an east African country bordering the Red Sea that according to the mythology of ancient Egypt was the country of the gods79 and, in a more mundane sense, the home of monkeys.80 And in an important ancient Egyptian myth it is the god Thoth in the shape of a monkey who cajoles the goddess Hathor to come back to Egypt after her flight to the faraway south.81 Significantly, the monkey flasks also refer to kingship because the arms and bodies of most of the animals bear the names of Sixth Dynasty rulers, often accompanied by mentions of the Heb Sed (cat. no. 178a).82

Archaeological excavations have revealed additional important information about the uses of monkey vessels. Like other stone cosmetic vessels, vases in the shape of mother monkeys were found in the tombs of high officials, such as the governor of the Dakhla Oasis,83 and were buried in graves of women.84 But monkey flasks were also dedicated as votives in the sanctuaries of female deities—for instance, the sanctuary of the goddess Satet at Elephantine85 and the temple of Hathor Baalat-Gabal at Byblos, near present-day Beirut in Lebanon,86 once again underlining the strong association of the ointment vessels, kingship, and female forces. The locations of the finds at the oasis in Dakhla, in the sanctuaries at the southern border of Egypt in Elephantine, and in the foreign port of Byblos add another dimension to the picture, for the desert and foreign lands were traditionally the realm of female deities, in particular Hathor. If the king saw to it that vessels with his name were distributed to these far-flung areas, he must have done so to procure for that name and his might the greatest possible range of magical proliferation and at the same time to enlist the support of the divine mistress of all outlying regions.87

The finds of monkey vases and other Egyptian stone vessels at Byblos, moreover, offer significant evidence that religion, mythology, and magic were intricately linked with politics and the economy in Old Kingdom Egypt. Byblos was a main trading partner of Egypt during the period and as such the most important port through which valuable cedarwood was supplied for the pharaohs’ buildings and for fine carpentry work in the royal workshops—and thus a place to which Egyptians would have sent goods such as stone vessels.88 In the pyramid temple of Sahure the departure and return of an entire fleet of seagoing ships is depicted in relief.89 Although their destination is not named among the preserved fragments of the scene, that it was in Asia can be deduced from the fact that the returning ships bear Asiatics. Just such ships may well have transported stone vessels, presumably filled with precious oils and ointments, to Byblos.90 We can perhaps assume that at least some of these vases were originally gifts from the pharaohs to dignitaries of the city with whom they wished to strengthen ties. Because a number of vessels appear to be inscribed with the names of nonroyal Egyptians, it is also possible that Egyptian officials brought the vessels with them on trading missions to Byblos. These officials may have presented the vases directly to the local goddess,91 or they may have given them to their trading partners, who subsequently dedicated them to the deity.92

However the vases reached this foreign city, they were obviously cherished by the inhabitants in a special way and for considerable time. Archaeological evaluation has demonstrated that the stratum in the temple area in which the vessels were found was laid down well after the period of the Old Kingdom, during the Twelfth Dynasty (about 1991-1878 b.c.e.).93 Several possible scenarios can be deduced from this fact. If the vessels were originally dedicated to the sanctuary at the time of the Old Kingdom, they may have been kept in the temple storerooms for hundreds of years and deposited in the ground during the Twelfth Dynasty, presumably when an old temple building was demolished to make way for a new one.94 It is also possible that the vases were buried in the era of the Old Kingdom and that the debris in which they were deposited was relocated during the Twelfth Dynasty. However, if the monkey vases were initially gifts to inhabitants of Byblos, they may have remained in the families of the recipients as heirlooms until the Twelfth Dynasty, when they found their way into the temple. If that was the case, it is noteworthy that even the remote descendants of the first owners of the monkey vases were aware of a meaningful connection between the vessels and the female deity who was the temple’s mistress.

This reminds us that Old Kingdom stone vessels not only are objects of impeccable design and refined craftsmanship but also had deep significance in the culture. While we enjoy their beauty, then, it is also well worth reflecting on their close relationship to two of the most important concepts held by the ancient Egyptians: the cosmic nature of kingship and belief in the god-given powers of rejuvenation and rebirth.

Dorothea Arnold and Elena Pischikova

  1. Quibell 1934, pp. 70-75, pls. 1-4. It is estimated that there were thirty thousand in one gallery alone (Lucas and Harris 1962, p. 422). Djoser’s craftsmen produced the greatest number of these vessels, although many came from stores of earlier kings, on which see Lacau and Lauer 1959-61; Lacau and Lauer 1965; and Helck 1979, pp. 120-32.
  2. For the history of stone-vessel making, see El-Khouli 1978; Jaros-Deckert 1984b, cols. 1283-87, with earlier bibliography; and Aston 1994.
  3. Emery 1961, pls. 38a, 39a; Fischer 1972a, p. 16, figs. 21-23; Saleh and Sourouzian 1986, no. 13; Aston 1994, p. 32.
  4. Aston 1994, pp. 11-73.
  5. The primary use of alabaster in the stone-vessel making of the Old Kingdom was stressed by Junker (1929, p. 109).
  6. Klemm and Klemm 1993, pp. 199-223.
  7. Aston 1994, pp. 42-47. Other names for the material used in the Egyptological literature are aragonite, calcite, calzit alabaster, and calcareous or calcium-based rock; see Lucas and Harris 1962, pp. 59-61, 406-7; Valloggia 1986, p. 106; and Lily-quist 1995, p. 13.
  8. D. Klemm 1991, pp. 57-70.
  9. Lucas and Harris 1962, p. 413; Aston 1994, pp. 47-51. For vessels of true alabaster, see ibid., p. 50.
  10. Wörterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache, vol. 4 (1957), pp. 540-41.
  11. Klemm and Klemm 1993, pp. 200-221.
  12. Ibid., pp. 221-23.
  13. Aston 1994, pp. 13-15 (diorite), 62-64 (gneiss), 35-40 (limestone). For vessels of materials other than alabaster, see, for instance, Jequier 1933, pp. 28-30, figs. 9-11, and Jequier 1934, pp. 108-9, figs. 15, 16.
  14. For a granite vase, see Firth and Gunn 1926, p. 26, fig. 20, which is probably of Second Dynasty date. See also Reisner 1931, p. 157, fig. 34, no. 9; and Aston 1994, pp. 15-18 (granite), 18-21 (basalt), 23-26 (obsidian in vessels for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony), 53-54 (breccia), 60-61 (porphyry), 64-65 (quartz crystal in vessels for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony). For a table of stone materials used in vessels, see ibid., p. 170.
  15. Junker 1950, pp. 125-26.
  16. For a survey of the stylistic development of these vessels from Predynastic and Archaic times to the period of the Old Kingdom, see Do. Arnold 1977, col. 492. The most comprehensive and recent treatment of the subject is Aston 1994, pp. 75-140. Aston (pp. 75-78) correctly points out the numerous problems that still exist in evaluating stone-vessel shapes. For the shapes of Old Kingdom stone vessels in particular, see Junker 1929, pp. 109-12, figs. 10, 11; Reisner 1931, pp. 174-78, figs. 43, 44; Reisner 1932, pp. 61-75; Reisner and Smith 1955, pp. 90-102, figs. 134-47; and Aston 1994, pp. 102-40. Marguerite Bernard’s thesis of 1966-67 was not available to the author at this writing.
  17. Aston 1994, p. 99.
  18. Ibid., pp. 99-T00, 104-5.
  19. A typical group is the one found in the pyramid of Queen Neith, for which see Jequier 1933, p. 11, fig. 4, pp. 2.8-33, figs. 9-15; and Jequier 1934, pp. 105-13, figs. 14-19. The spouted vessel (ibid., p. 109, figs. 16, 17) is identifiable as a baby-feeding cup by analogy with a Middle Kingdom faience vessel of the same form that is decorated with child-protecting demons (Friedman 1998, p. 207, no. 67). The Old Kingdom stone version was identified as a cosmetic spoon by Vandier d’Abbadie (1972, pp. 104-5, nos 399_403; see also Minault-Gout 1992, p. III, no. 1804.
  20. Aston 1994, p. 104, no. 35; Ziegler 1997b, pp. 461, 465-66, figs. 5-13.
  21. See, for instance, Brunton 1927, p. 53, pls. 27-30, nos. 41-45, 53, 57-58, 70, 101-6. These examples possibly imitate metal vases that are depicted frequently in reliefs and paintings; see Wild 1953, pls. 53 (top register 3d item from right), 59 (top register right of center, 4th register 4th vessel from right, and in many other places); and Minault-Gout 1992, pp. 107-8, nos. 1810-12, 1876, 1880.
  22. For examples with rich relief decoration among Djoser’s stone vessels, see one in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo (JE 64872); Lauer 1934, pp. 58-59; Quibell 1934, p. 72, pl. 4; and Saleh and Sourouzian 1986, no. 19.
  23. The find of an extensive Old Kingdom stone-vessel workshop at Elephantine, where vases of local stone apparently were produced in large quantities may, however, indicate that vessel making for the royal court was not confined to Memphis; see note 25 below.
  24. El-Khouli 1978, vol. 2, p. 799, n. 3; Porter and Moss 1981, p. 905; Jaros-Deckert 1984b, cols. 1285-87.
  25. For exceptions, see Quibell 1902, pp. 17-18, 51, pl. 68, and pl. 62, nos. 3-6 (grinders). For the recently excavated workshop at Elephantine referred to in note 23 above, see Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo, forthcoming.
  26. Lucas and Harris 1962, pp. 421-28, with earlier bibliography; El-Khouli 1978, pp. 789-801; Stocks 1986, pp. 14-18.
  27. See Drenkhahn 1975, cols. 845-46; and note 26 above.
  28. Stocks 1986, p. 16.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Quibell 1902, pl. 62, nos. 3-6; El-Khouli 1978, pl. 144.
  31. Reisner 1931, p. 180. For a juxtaposition of vases thought to have been made with a tubular drill bit and those probably made with stone bits, see Reisner and Smith 1955, pp. 92-93, 135.
  32. Stocks 1986, p. 16.
  33. Quibell 1902, p. 17, pl. 68.
  34. Quibell and Hayter 1927, pp. 40-41. From above, the support looks very much like a potter’s wheel, but a side view (ibid., p. 40, ill.) shows that the object is broad and rounded in shape.
  35. Lucas and Harris 1962, p. 423.
  36. For the use of sand and emery as abrasives, see ibid., pp. 72.-74.
  37. Schoske 1990.
  38. Moret 1902, pp. 199-200; Posener-Krieger 1976, vol. 2, pp. 537-38; Martin-Pardey 1984b, cols. 367-69; C. Miiller 1984, col. 666, n. 10.
  39. Schoske 1990, pp. 10-13. For temple vases, see also E. Schott 1972, pp. 34-50.
  40. Dreyer 1986, p. 86, with earlier bibliography.
  41. Hayes 1959, p. 85, figs. 46, 47.
  42. Brier 1994, pp. 42-43, 133, 140. See also Nigel Strudwick in D’Auria, Lacovara, and Roehrig 1988, pp. 81-82, no. 12.
  43. C. Miiller 1984b; see note 38 above.
  44. Bourriau 1984, cols. 362-66.
  45. Reeves 1990, pp. 198-99.
  46. See note 1 above.
  47. For a few of the many examples, see Spencer 1993, p. 74, fig. 51; Emery 1949, pls. 4-7, 18, 38; Emery 1954, pls. 18, 19; and Emery 1958, pls. 91, 95, 118, passim.
  48. Reisner (1931, pp. 178-99) discusses vessels that are overwhelmingly of Archaic date. For fragments of earlier vases from the precincts of Fourth Dynasty kings, see Porter and Moss 1974, p. 21 (Khafre).
  49. Borchardt 1910, pp. 113-18, figs. 146-63. For Neferirkare and Niuserre, see Reisner 1.931, p. 201, n. 1.
  50. Jequier 1934, pp. 97-105; Jequier 1935, p. 160; Jequier 1936, pp. 6-8, fig. 6. Interestingly, the top right vase is an imitation in stone of a Canaanite jar. Clay versions of such jars were commonly imported at the time (Jequier 1929, p. 26, fig. 25). For another stone vase of the same type, see Valloggia 1986, vol. 1, p. 79, pl. 80, no. 1130.
  51. For Djoser’s vessels, see note 1 above; for Pepi II’s vases inscribed for Pepi I, his grandfather, and Merenre, his father, see note 50 above. An alabaster bowl fragment found in the burial chamber of Merenre appears to have a pre-Sixth Dynasty date (Labrousse 1996, p. 68, fig. 122b). A piece-by-piece study of the stone vessels found in the valley temple of Menkaure (Reisner 1931, pp. 178-201, figs. 45-60) with a determination of which are of pre-Menkaure date has not yet been undertaken. That the majority of Menkaure’s vessels and many of Sahure’s may be early is suggested by comparing them to inscribed vases from the Djoser precinct and other early complexes, which show similar shapes and materials (Aston 1994, pp. 91-132).
  52. Heick (1979, p. 124) considers the possibility that some of the Djoser vessels came from the storerooms of sanctuaries. A number of them must even have been taken from groups belonging to nonroyal persons, as evidenced by a vessel inscribed “gift from the king” found in the Djoser stores (see note 55 below).
  53. For other vases inscribed with names of Old Kingdom rulers now in museums, see, for instance, Kaiser 1967, nos. 238-41, ills.; Hayes 1953, pp. 126-28, figs. 77, 78; and Porter and Moss 1974, pp. 21, 333, 338.
  54. For queens, see Jequier 1933, pp. 30, 32, figs. 12, 15. For female members of court, the royal family, and the upper class, see Jequier 1929, p. 91, fig. 103; and British Museum 1964, p. 175 (British Museum, EA 57 322). For male officials, see Valloggia 1986, pp. 78-81, nos. 1018, 1130, 1042, 1046, pls. 80, 81; and Minault-Gout 1992, pp. 81-83, nos. 1930, 1969, 1991. For the middle class, see Fischer 1993, p. 3, no. 8, p. 7, n. 21. A grave at Badari (Brunton 1927, p. 30, pl. 26, no. 29, pl. 49, with entry in the find list: Brunton 1928, pl. 57) contained a vessel inscribed for the mother of Pepi II, Ankh-nes-pepi (see also cat. nos. 172, 184). The gender of the occupant of this grave is not known.
  55. inw hr nswt (gift from the king) is written on a stone vessel in the subterranean galleries of Djoser’s complex (Lacau and Lauer 1965, no. 5; Helck 1979, p. 126). For the considerable number of female recipients, see note 54 above, and note that among the middle-class burials cited by Fischer (1993, pp. 3, 7, n. 21), grave no. 3202 at Badari (Brunton 1927, pl. 26, no. 28, pl. 45; Brunton 1928, pl. 57) and both graves at Matmar (Brunton 1948, pls. 25 [3243], 27 [3058]) were those of women.
  56. Altenmiiller 1977, col. 837.
  57. Minault-Gout (1997, pp. 307-8) believes that the practice evolved over time, theorizing that officials gave stone vases to the king in the Third Dynasty and that the king made gifts of them to officials in later eras. This may indeed have been the general trend but is not entirely the case: a vase with the inscription “gift from the king” in Djoser’s galleries clearly indicates that rulers gave stone vessels to officials in early periods (see note 55 above). Such vessels found their last resting place in the king’s pyramid because they were returned to him on the occasion of his funeral or because they were never delivered to the intended recipients.
  58. Helck 1979, pp. 129-30. Helck correctly cites the gifts of shawabti figurines made in the name of high officials in the tomb of Tutankhamun (Reeves 1990, p. 139). The terracotta pots given by officials to their deceased counterparts at Aswan may represent an Old Kingdom parallel of a sort; see Edel 1970b, esp. pp. 85-93.
  59. Minault-Gout (1997, pp. 305-14) adds examples to the considerable number of such inscriptions that are known, for some of which see notes 50, 54, 55 above.
  60. For the painting of the eyes of cows about to be slaughtered, see Borchardt 1913, p. 56, pl. 47. For the anointing of the king himself, see Martin-Pardey 1984b, col. 368.
  61. See note 75 below.
  62. For instance, Jequier 1936, p. 7, fig. 6; Valloggia 1986, pp. 78-80, nos. 1018, 1130, pls. 64, 80; Minault-Gout 1992, pp. 81-83, nos. 1930, 1969, 1991.
  63. Westendorf 1991, pp. 427-34, with earlier bibliography.
  64. Smith 1946, p. 37, fig. 12.
  65. Borchardt 1913, pp. 45-46, fig. 48. For a column of the same type but with vertical images, see ibid., p. 64, fig. 81.
  66. For the double-headed earth god Aker, see Hornung 1975, cols. 114-15.
  67. On the confrontation of hieroglyphs, see Fischer 1977b, pp. 9-13.
  68. Ziegler 1997b, pp. 461-64, figs. 2-4, with parallels from Edfu and Byblos cited on p. 469, nn. 30, 31. A late Middle Kingdom to Second Intermediate Period example of an anhydrite vessel with sculpted vultures is reminiscent of the Old Kingdom vessels with incised falcons (Bourriau 1988, pp. 140-41, no. 142).
  69. Ziegler 1997b, p. 463.
  70. See Aldred 1971, pls. 42, 50, 140, 145 (simple borders); 92-97 (the Tutankhamun pectorals); 25, 26, 71, 80, 8 1 (plants); 100 (shrine roofs carried by columns).
  71. Ibid., pls. 37, 38. For a design with flanking signs denoting millions of years, see ibid., pl. 108.
  72. Andrews 1990, pp. 136-37, fig. 119. The base here is identified as water because the central motif is a boat. A Middle Kingdom pectoral with a sky emblem on which King Amenemhat IV presents ointment vases to the god Atum of Heliopolis is interesting (ibid., p. 91, fig. 65a on p. 89).
  73. Feucht 1967, pp. 61-77.
  74. Epigraphic Survey 1980, pp. 54-58, pl. 51.
  75. Aldred 1971, pp. 185-96. See also Morgan 1895; Morgan 1903; Brunton 1920; and Winlock 1934. For connections to the Heb Sed, see Feucht 1967, pp. 74-77.
  76. For an upper-middle-class burial with a royal-name pectoral, see, for instance, Engelbach 1915, p. 12, colorpl. 2.
  77. Feucht 1967, pp. 61-77.
  78. For beliefs about female powers of rebirth benefiting kings, see Troy 1986.
  79. Osing 1977, cols. 815-16.
  80. Fischer 1993, p. 9. On Punt as the main source for the importation of baboons and monkeys, see Naville 1898, pl. 74.
  81. Desroches Noblecourt 1995, esp. pp. 30-34.
  82. Some of these inscriptions, like those on vessels mentioned above, also provide names of nonroyal individuals, including one or two women, who received the vases as gifts (Fischer 1993, pp. 3-6).
  83. Valloggia 1980, pp. 143-51, pls. 12-18, esp. pl. 12b; Valloggia 1986, pp. 80, 116-17, pls. 29c, 61, 64, 81. For the titles of Medu-nefer, the governor of the oasis, see ibid., pp. 71-73.
  84. Brunton 1948, p. 49, pl. 27, no. 3058, pl. 34, no. 17; Fischer 1993, p. 3, fig. 2.
  85. Dreyer 1986, pp. 96, 152, no. 455, pl. 58.
  86. Montet 1928, pp. 72-75, pls. 40, 41, 45; Valloggia 1980, p. 146, with earlier bibliography; Minault-Gout 1997, p. 307.
  87. See also Minault-Gout 1997, p. 308.
  88. For Egypt’s connections with Byblos during the Old Kingdom, see Redford 1992, pp. 37-43.
  89. Borchardt 1913, pp. 25-28, 86-88, pls. 11-13. Bietak (1988, pp. 35-40) has argued that the Asiatics shown onboard these ships were not slaves but sailors employed by the Egyptians. Such sailors might have brought stone vessels back to Byblos from Egypt to present as votives.
  90. In addition to the monkey vases, the Byblos finds included cylindrical stone ointment jars with the names of Sixth Dynasty kings (Montet 1928, pp. 68-72, 74; Minault-Gout 1997, pp. 306-7) and uninscribed vessels of Sixth Dynasty date (Montet 1928, pp. 76-77).
  91. For Egyptian objects found at Byblos and inscribed for non-royal individuals, see Redford 1992, p. 42.
  92. We cannot entirely exclude the possibility that some vessels found their way to Byblos by means of tomb robbers, who were always eager to trade their spoils outside Egypt. In fact, a monkey vessel, a fragment of which is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (inv. 2657), may well have come to Mycenae in this manner. This fragment shows the left leg and back of a monkey and is made of veined Egyptian alabaster. The position of the leg differs from that of the monkey vessels under consideration here (cat. no. 178a-c) and makes it appear that the animal was seated on a low stool or other object, no trace of which remains. On the basis of this difference, Fischer (1993, p. 3, no. 15) correctly suggests that it may be of later date (New Kingdom) than the Sixth Dynasty. For Egyptian stone vessels of Old Kingdom date found at Aegean sites, see Warren 1969, pp. 110-12.
  93. For the date of deposition of the vessels, see Dunand 1939, pp. 63-64, 79-81, 84, 87, 157; Dunand 1937, pls. 205, 206; and Valloggia 1980, p. 146.
  94. Dunand 1939, pp. 82 n. 1, 156-57.