This small statuette of an official dates from the late Middle Kingdom (c. 1780-1700 BC). It was found amidst debris in a shaft tomb (no. 606) in Cemetery E at Haraga, close to Lahun. The statue would originally have been set into a brick-built structure belonging to one of the nearby tombs.
During the Middle Kingdom, greater surface areas of non-royal statues were covered with inscriptions than ever before. Here, the text extends from the front of the robe/cloak, across the lap and over the knees.
The text begins by associating Shesmu-hotep with Anubis – an important local god at Lahun in the Middle Kingdom – proclaiming the official to be: “Favoured by Anubis, Lord of Life.” It then goes on to give a standard list of provisions for the man’s spirit in the afterlife: “An offering which the King gives (and a) voice offering (consisting of) bread, beer, beef and fowl, alabaster, fine linen, and cool water for the Ka-spirit of the Overseer of […], Shesmu-hotep, justified.” Variants in the writing of this formulaic expression show the statue to belong to the late Middle Kingdom.
Shesmu-hotep’s title is not clearly written, but has been read by others ‘overseer of the palace’. The god Shesmu was worshipped in the Faiyum area, and associated with the winepress, perfumed oils and slaughter in the underworld. The deity is rarely attested in names, with only one other example known of a ‘Shesmu-hotep’.