Tag Archives: New Kingdom

Object Biography #17: An Anonymous Gilded Mummy Mask (Acc. no. 7931)

The mask on display

The mask on display

This striking gilded cartonnage mummy mask (Acc. no. 7931) came into the Manchester Museum from the collection of William Sharpe Ogden in 1925, and reputedly derives from the Luxor area. At some point after its arrival in the Museum the mask was subject to modern reconstruction for display. The mask’s unusual appearance resulted in it being given a ‘Late Period’ or ‘Ptolemaic’ in some records.

In fact, based on the work of Aidan Dodson, the mask is likely to be one of a small number of examples from the early New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC). The feathered (or rishi) pattern is a distinctive feature of many of these, which exhibit proportionately rather small faces. A comparison may be drawn with a well-known gilded mummy mask in the British Museum (EA 29770), identified by John Taylor as belonging to Queen Sit-djehuty of the 17th Dynasty. Based on this comparison, it may be suggested that our mask belonged to a very high-status women, perhaps even a member of the royal family.

8106A common feature of such early New Kingdom masks is a projecting ‘tab’ or ‘bib’ at the bottom of the broad collar. By chance, a fragment is preserved in Manchester (Acc. no. 8106) that is a strong contender for our missing ‘tab’.  This fragment was also part of the Sharpe Ogden collection and, although the fragment bore a different sale number than the mask, a join is likely because of the pattern 7931_conservationof the edge of both mask and fragment. The mask was in poor condition when it arrived at the museum and it is conceivable that the ‘tab’ snapped off long before it arrived, being given a separate number for sale because it carried a visually appealing set of inked hieroglyphs. These spell out a standard offering formula for the ka of the deceased. Unfortunately, like several other examples of this type, it does not carry a name, almost as if it was a prefabricated piece awaiting magical personalisation (and activation) through the addition of a name. The high quality of the masks with anonymous tabs would seem to argue against an ‘off-the-peg’ arrangement – perhaps  the filling in of the name was a ritualised part of the funerary preparations and was never (properly) completed, or done in less durable pigments than those that have survived?


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MAES Study Day 21/03/15: ‘The Power Behind the Throne’ – Key Personalities in Ancient Egyptian History

CG 42127 Amenhotep son of HapuManchester Ancient Egypt Society present their annual study day:

The Power Behind the Throne: Key Personalities in Ancient Egyptian History

Dr. Campbell Price, Colin Reader and Sarah Griffiths explore who really pulled the strings in the ancient Egyptian court, from the Old Kingdom through to the end of the Late Period. Find out more about the lives and times of some of the most famous ancient Egyptian celebrities such as Imhotep and Senenmut and meet some of the lesser known powerful personalities of the Pharaonic era.

The study day will be held at the Longfield Suite, Prestwich from 9:30am to 4:30pm, Saturday 21st March. There will be a raffle for charity, book auction to raise funds for MAES and a fun photo-spotting competition.
Tea / coffee / biscuits provided morning and afternoon. You need to make your own lunch arrangements, but there are lots of places in the shopping centre to buy / eat food.

Tickets are £30 you’ll also receive a free MAES folder (while stocks last). Speak to Gillian Cook, 298 Manor Avenue, Sale, Cheshire, M33 4NB (0161 976 1165)

There is a limit on numbers so please book early! Make Cheques payable to MAES.

Preliminary programme

9:30 Tea and coffee

10:00-10:30 Campbell Price – Introduction

10:30-11:30 Colin Reader – Old Kingdom: Imhotep

11:30- 11:50 Tea and coffee

11:50-12.50 Sarah Griffiths – Middle Kingdom personalities

12:50 – 13:00 Campbell  – summary

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 14:15 Auction / raffle / competition

14:15- 14: 45 Sarah – Early New Kingdom personalities

14:45 – 15:15 Campbell – New Kingdom continued: Royal master builders

15:15 – 15:30   Tea and coffee

15:30 – 16:30 Campbell – Late Period: The Gods Wives and their Staff & Admirals of the Fleet

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Texts in Translation #15: An offering table dedicated by Queen Tiye (Acc. no. 633)

Head of Queen Tiye in Berlin

Head of Queen Tiye in Berlin

Like so many seemingly unassuming objects, this small (25 x 11 cm) black granite offering table carries an interesting back-story. It comes from the excavations of W.M. Flinders Petrie at the site of Gurob, the ‘harem’ complex used to house royal women and children in part of the New Kingdom (c. 1400-1200 BC). Manchester Museum holds many objects from Petrie’s excavations at Gurob, which is currently being reinvestigated by a joint project of the Universities of Liverpool, Copenhagen and UCL.

One of the most famous finds to have come from the site is a small ebony head of Queen Tiye, the chief wife of Amenhotep III (c. 1390-1352 BC), now in Berlin.  It is likely that the queen spent a lot of time at Gurob, and the inscription on our offering table suggests she lived here as ‘Queen Mother’ after her husband’s death.

The hieroglyphs read:

An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, Ruler of the West, that he may allow coming and going in Rosetau for the royal ka (of) the Osiris, Neb-maat-re;

An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, Ruler of Eternity, that he may give all that comes out upon his altar for the royal ka of the Osiris, Neb-maat-re;

The Great Royal Wife, she made (it) as her dedication for her ‘brother’, her beloved, the perfect god, Neb-maat-re.

Offering table. Acc. no. 633

Offering table. Acc. no. 633

Petrie noted the importance of the piece when reviewing the inscribed finds from Gurob: “The black granite altar is of special interest. Though roughly cut it seems to have belonged to a class of funerary offerings made for Amenhotep III by his celebrated queen Thii. It follows the usual formulae to Osiris, for the royal ka of Amenhotep III, down each side ; and then along the base is a line stating that ” The great royal wife Thii made her monuments of her brother, her beloved, the good god Ra-ma-neb.’ The question of the parentage of Thii is one of the most important genealogies in Egyptian history.


Petrie’s interest focussed on the use of the Egyptian term ‘sen’, which implies kinship but is often rendered ‘brother’. In fact, Tiye’s statement need not mean that she was the sister of Amenhotep III; a more general sense of kinship may be meant (the word “husband” – written with a phallus sign – may have been inappropriate), and the affectionate sentiment of wife towards her spouse is appealing.

The fact that the offering table exists at all and the reference to the king as ‘the Osiris’ implies that Amenhotep III had died when this object was made and used. The appearance of the term ‘royal ka’ (ka nesu) is also fairly uncommon, and refers to an important (semi-)divine aspect of the king’s person, which could be separated from him and objectified for worship. Although Amenhotep III promoted his own divinity to an unusual extent during his own lifetime, it seems more likely that the ‘royal ka’ mentioned here is that of the deceased king.

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Prince Khaemwaset’s signature deposits: being part of History

Alabaster block of Khaemwaset, from a Memphis foundation deposit. Acc. no. 4947

Alabaster block of Khaemwaset, from a Memphis foundation deposit. Acc. no. 4947

A guest blog post from Nicolas de Larquier, currently on an internship at the museum, discussing some objects he has been working on, and the motivations of one of ancient Egypt’s most well-known personages.

Khaemwaset was the fourth son of king Ramesses II. His name is particularly known for being considered as the first known Egyptian historian. Even if the title could be a bit excessive, it is clear that Khaemwaset had a real interest in ancient times and especially for kingship lineage. He also has been shown to be a kind of “conservator”, by reshaping the Memphite sacred landscape and restoring some Old and Middle Kingdom monuments. But of course, one should keep in mind that Khaemwaset was mostly acting in regard to Ramesses II’s desire to promote his own kingship in reference to his great predecessors. Nevertheless Khaemwaset’s historical awareness can’t be denied and he clearly had a personal way to confront the past. He also obviously wanted to leave his own mark in a way that is different to the one we are accustomed to see in Ancient Egypt.

The Manchester Museum holds a deposit from Memphis, published by Flinders Petrie in 1909, composed of three small brick-shaped plaques (in alabaster, basalt and faience) inscribed in the name of Ramesses II. On the sides of two of them, and on the back of the third one, Khaemwaset’s name and main title are inscribed too.

Here is the description of that deposit, given by Petrie in Memphis I, p. 8: “Over the region now occupied by the pond near the West Hall, there has been a building of Ramessu II, now entirely destroyed. Only the west side of its foundation is left, and in the sand bed of it a foundation deposit was found, shewn on PI. XIX. The large block of alabaster has the cartouches of Ramessu II on both of the faces, and the inscription of “the high priest of Ptah, the royal son, Kha-em-uas” on both of the edges. The lesser tablet of green glazed pottery has similar names on the faces and edges ; and the black granite tablet has the names of Ramessu on one face, and that of Khaemuas on the other face. These are some of the finest deposit blocks that are known ; they rest now at Manchester.

Plate 19 from Petrie's 'Memphis I', showing the blocks of Khaemwaset

Plate 19 from Petrie’s ‘Memphis I’, showing the blocks of Khaemwaset

In his article “Khaemwese and the Present Past: History and the Individual in Ramesside Egypt”, Steven Snape hypothesises that this deposit could be attributed to the West Hall – a structure from the Ptah enclosure in Memphis – probably built for Ramesses’ jubilees. And indeed, if we know Khaemwaset especially for having been behind the architectural reorganisation of the Memphite sacred landscape and necropolis, or for the construction of the Apis Burials at the Serapeum, one may know that he was also in charge of the five Ramesses II’s jubilees celebrated between the years 30 and 42 of his reign.

Faience plaque from the Khaemwaset foundation deposit (Acc. no. 4949)

Faience plaque from the Khaemwaset foundation deposit (Acc. no. 4949)

The inscription on the “lesser tablet of green glazed pottery” is unfortunately much more difficult to read today than when Petrie found and published it. For this, the photograph presented on pl. XIX of Memphis I is really interesting. Moreover, a parallel for this tablet can be seen at the British Museum (EA49235). The latter has no provenance known and was purchased in Cairo. It is very similar to our own example in Manchester, and should come from Memphis too, maybe from the same type of deposit, perhaps from the very same West Hall of the Ptah enclosure.

In 1907, Petrie found a deposit in South Giza composed of a lot of anonymous shabtis but also Khaemwaset ones. The majority of these items are held by the Petrie Museum in London. It is not possible to determine the exact place where the deposit was found from the Petrie’s diary but Stephane Pasquali proposes as a provenance the Ro-Setjau area, and highlights a possible relation of this deposit with the Shetayet Shrine of Sokar. Indeed, Steven Snape presents the Shetayet shrine as an important site for quasi-funerary deposition and signals that some Khaemwaset shabtis have been found in that context.

Deatil of block 4947, with Khaemwaset's titles: "Sem-priest of Ptah, King's Son, Khaemwaset, justified"

Deatil of block 4947, with Khaemwaset’s titles: “Sem-priest of Ptah, King’s Son, Khaemwaset, justified”

But the point here is to question the value of the Khaemwaset’s deposits. Are they classical, canonical votive deposits or do they serve an extra purpose? There is a close relationship between Khaemwaset and Ro-Setjau as can be seen in his proper titles; we also know that he ordered there, as a personal project, the construction of a building, the Hill-Shrine, that could be seen from Memphis. It seems obvious that the historical awareness of Khaemwaset makes him work in three parallel ways : first of all he may have really wanted to restore monuments from ancient times, but always to create a link between his father’s kingship and the glorious kings of the Old Kingdom, and after this he had probably wanted to make his own name enter the History. For this, we could wonder if his deposits are not like a kind of a signature, as well as the ‘labels’ he inscribed on the pyramids and other monuments and statues. Indeed, Khaemwaset shabtis were also found during the Serapeum excavations when his tomb still waited to be discovered. Those shabtis could come from quasi-funerary deposits. They could also be just votive, but in a place where the Khaemwaset mark is so strong for having being the designer of it, one could certainly think that there is more to understand…

This may be the same for the deposit held in Manchester. Why did Khaemwaset inscribe his name on the edges and back of those tablets? Certainly to share with his father the benefits of such an offering but why not also to claim his part of the monument’s creation?

Nicolas de Larquier is a Student Curator from the French National Institute for Cultural Heritage (INP) currently working at the Manchester Museum.

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Texts in translation #12: The stela of the God’s Wife, Princess Isis (Acc. no. 1781)

G2.07_Guide_IsisThis finely wrought limestone slab likely once formed the upper part (the curved ‘lunette’) of a larger stela commemorating the daughter of King Ramesses VI (c. 1143-1136 BC), a princess named Iset – or Isis. The stela was excavated by Flinders Petrie at the site of Coptos.

Central text

The Osiris, King, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re Mery-Amun, Son of Re, Ramesses, Heka-Iunu, Father of the God’s Wife of Amun, The Divine Adoratrice Isis.

Above the figure of Re-Horakhty (on the left):

Re-Horakhty, by whose shining all is illuminated, Great God, Ruler of Eternity.

Above the scene of the princess shaking a sistrum and censing:

I play the sistrum before your fair face, gold is in front of you. May you allow [me] to see the sunrise, the Osiris, the Hereditary Princess, great of favours, the God’s Wife of Amun, the King’s Daughter, the God’s Adoratrice Isis, true of voice.

Behind the princess:

Her mother, the Great Royal Wife, whom he loves, the Lady of the Two Lands, Nub-khesbed, true of voice.

Above the figure of Osiris (on the right):

Osiris, who awakens complete, Lord of the Sacred Land, Great God, Chief of Silence

Above the scene of the princess pouring liquid over a table of offerings:

Making a libation to Osiris, Lord of Eternity. May you allow me to receive offerings that go out upon your offering tables, consisting of everything good and pure for the Osiris, the God’s Wife of Amun, the King’s Daughter, Lady of the Two Lands, the Divine Adoratrice, Isis, true of voice.

Behind the princess:

Her father, the king, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re Mery-Amun, Son of Re, Ramesses, Heka-Iunu […].

Isis stela line

The scene makes an important religious statement, showing two deities as different aspects of the sun god – representing both night (Osiris) and day (Re-Horakhty). As is typical of many such scenes, the text captions and reinforces what is depicted in figural scenes. Isis performs rituals with a rattle, or sistrum, burns incense and pours libations. These were important aspects of the role of the ‘God’s Wife’, as chief ritualist who entertained the god. In some sense, the ‘God’s Wife’ (or ‘God’s Adoratice’ or ‘God’s Hand’) was a sexual companion for the god Amun.

This position was an important religious and political one, because the princess was a representative of her father the king at Karnak – when the Pharaoh was largely based in the Delta at this period. From recent excavations of chapels at Dra Abu el-Naga on the West Bank at Thebes, it seems the office of God’s Wife and of High Priest were closely linked at this time.

The stela’s inscription is important in making explicit the parentage of Isis, which has been used by Egyptologists to help build a picture of royal family relationships in the Twentieth Dynasty.

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Object biography #15: A previously unidentified statue of Senenmut (Acc. no. 4624)


Acc. no. 4624. Photos copyright Manchester Museum

Our fragment (Acc. no. 4624) came to the Manchester Museum from the excavations of Edouard Naville at the site of Deir el-Bahri between 1894 and 1907. A more precise provenance for the piece or when exactly it entered the collection is not known. The fragment is 48.5cm high and 31cm wide, made of indurated limestone, and depicts the lower portion of a seated figure at about half lifesize. It is badly damaged but still carries hieroglyphic text on the sides of the seat, base and over the knees. Interestingly, the seat retains an artisan’s red ink guidelines for the inscription. Traces remain of blue pigment within individual hieroglyphic signs, implying that the statue was not, however, left unfinished.

Left_blogJPEGThe identity of the individual represented is recorded in our catalogue – based on hieroglyphs on the base – as ‘the priest of Amun, Userhat’ and the piece is there dated to the Middle Kingdom. I had often wondered who this mysterious priest Userhat was. Because the favour formula only begins to appear on elite statues at the end of the Middle Kingdom, I speculated if this was one of the first examples of it. And given that the formula usually only appeared on sculptures of the very high elite at this time, I wondered why a simple ‘priest of Amun’ had been so favoured.

I thought no more about the fragment until the visit last Autumn of Prof. Rainer Hannig, of the University of Marburg. During a very genial and informative discussion with Rainer, I pointed the piece out and – almost as an afterthought – he noted that the hieroglyphs identifying the owner (Hm-nTr n imn wsr-hAt) could be read as a single title: ‘the priest of Amun-Userhat (a name of the sacred barque of Amun at Karnak)’, a title known to be held by only one person: Senenmut – high official under Queen Hatshepsut and one of the most well-known individuals from ancient Egypt.

Right_blogJPEGIt was with considerable anticipation that I checked the other titles on the statue (‘nobleman’, ‘governor’, and the slightly more unusual ‘overseer of the priests of Montu in Armant’) and found that each was attested for Senenmut. Knowing that the statue was from Deir el-Bahri, the site of Hatshepsut’s famous mortuary temple, I became really rather excited. On closer inspection of the statue itself, it was apparent that the lap of the figure seemed to rise somewhat before the mid-thigh break and no hands were visible. Could it be that this was a broken example of Senenmut in his innovative pose with Hatshepsut’s daughter, Neferure, bound within his cloak on his lap? Perhaps most revealing of all, upon close examination of the remains of the favour formula which had first attracted my attention I noticed that the statue was given as favour not by a ‘king’ at all – but by a ‘god’s wife’. There is only one

Detail of favour formula. The tops of the 'Hmt nTr' signs can just be made out.

Detail of favour formula. The tops of the ‘Hmt nTr‘ signs can just be made out.

example known to me of this variant of the favour formula, and that statue (Cairo CG 42117) belongs to Senenmut. Whether this ‘god’s wife’ is Hatshepsut herself or her daughter is unclear.

Six more statues of the total of 25 known for Senenmut carry the statement that they were ‘given as favour of the king’. In the inscriptions of another (CG 42214), Senenmut makes the following unusual – and somewhat touching – appeal to Queen Hatshepsut, explaining perhaps why he possessed so many statues:

Grant that there be commanded for this your humble servant the causing that there be made for me many statues of every kind of precious hard stone for the temple of Amun in Karnak and for every place wherein the majesty of this god proceeds, as [was done] for every favoured one of the past; then they shall be in the following of the statues of Your Majesty in this temple.

Senenmut hoped that by dedicating a range of sculptures – many of them innovative in their motifs, and set up in different locations – he would increase the chances of his memory lasting for eternity. Others, it seems, had different ideas. There is evidence that some – though not all – of Senenmut’s images were maliciously attacked. Perhaps this was carried out by those with a unknown person grudge against Senenmut? Perhaps by those who thought his relationship with the Queen inappropriate? Or perhaps by those that hated Hatshepsut herself? Perhaps even by later people for whom the very idea of a female pharaoh was anathema? Whatever the motivation, maybe this is the reason that the Manchester fragment is so badly damaged.

Senenmut’s life has inspired more scholarly and popular writing than almost any other non-royal from Pharaonic times. I am quite sure that this bashed-up fragment, which has lain unrecognised in Manchester for over a century, represents the twenty-sixth attested statue for Senenmut. Information from its texts and archaeological context may well add important details to the Senenmut story, illustrating that exciting new finds await discovery in even the most supposedly well-known collections.

See further:

– Delvaux, L. 2008. Donné en récompense de la part du roi‖ (djw m Hswt nt xr nsw), Unpublished PhD dissertation: Strasbourg.

– Dorman, P. 1988. The Monuments of Senenmut: Problems in Historical Methodology, London.

– Meyer, C. 1982. Senenmut: Eine prosopographische Untersuchung, Hamburg.

– Price, C. 2011. Materiality, Archaism and Formula: The Conceptualisation of the Non-Royal Statue during the Egyptian Late Period (c. 750-30 BC), Unpublished PhD dissertation: Liverpool.

A full publication of the Manchester fragment is currently in preparation.


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Temples, Gold and Border Security: Nubia and Egypt in the New Kingdom

Sesebi. Photo: Anna Garnett

Sesebi. Photo: Anna Garnett

In the last of her guest blogs, British Museum Future Curator trainee Anna Garnett describes material from the New Kingdom site of Sesebi

This week I recorded two lectures for Manchester University’s Online Diploma course in Egyptology, organised by Dr. Joyce Tyldesley. To complement the course structure, and to draw upon my own experiences, I gave an introduction to New Kingdom Nubia (the northernmost part of modern Northern Sudan) focussing on the site of Sesebi.

The Nile Valley, stretching from Egypt into Sudan, was a vital trade link and corridor of exotic materials, people and ideas throughout the pharaonic period. During the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BC) the Egyptian pharaohs pushed further and further into Nubia with military campaigns, in order to bring the area under Egyptian control and therefore have power over the Nubian resources, which significantly included gold mines. During this time, the administration of Nubia was placed under the control of an important official known as the ‘Viceroy of Kush’, or the ‘King’s Son of Kush’; a title which emphasises their close relationship to the king. The Viceroy also supervised the tribute coming into Egypt.

Acc. no. 9456. Scarab of Ramesses II from Sesebi.

Acc. no. 9456. Scarab of Ramesses II from Sesebi.

The region of Upper (southern) Nubia was known to the Egyptians as ‘Kush’; an area which the New Kingdom Egyptians recognised as ‘Vile Kush’. Egyptian pharaohs established a large and complex system of fortifications and patrols in the area as a very visible message of domination to the local Nubian population. These fortifications often included temples and domestic architecture, and are known as ‘temple-towns’. One such example is the ‘temple-town’ of Sesebi, on the west bank of the Nile in the region of the Second Nile Cataract.

This site was constructed mainly during the Amarna Period during the reign of Akhenaten (c. 1350-1334 BC) and is currently being investigated by a team directed by Dr. Kate Spence (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Pamela Rose (Austrian Archaeological Institute). A temple dedicated to Amun-Re, Mut and Khonsu, domestic housing and storage facilities were built within an impressive

Acc. no. 9469. Sherd with potmark depicting the Memphite creator god Ptah. From Sesebi

Acc. no. 9469. Sherd with potmark depicting the Memphite creator god Ptah. From Sesebi

buttressed mudbrick fortification wall enclosing an area of approximately 270 x 200m. The modern site of Sesebi is characterised by the three remaining standing sandstone columns which preserve oval name-rings containing the names of Egypt’s conquered enemies. Close comparisons can be made between the layout of Sesebi and the contemporary royal centre at Amarna in Egypt.

The temple area was excavated by a team from the Egypt Exploration Society directed by A. M. Blackman and H. W. Fairman from 1936-8. Manchester Museum was a donor to those excavations and as a result received a selection of excavated objects for their collection. These

Acc. no. 9454. Faience bracelet from Sesebi
Acc. no. 9454. Faience bracelet from Sesebi

objects include faience jewellery (e.g. Acc. No. 9454), pottery sherds (e.g. Acc. No. 9469), faience moulds (e.g. Acc. No. 9468) and also a scarab of Ramesses II (Acc. No. 9456), an object which illustrates later activity at the site during the 19th Dynasty. Ongoing fieldwork and study of these so-called ‘temple-towns’, which also included such sites as Soleb, Sedeinga, Amara West and Sai, is beginning to reveal the intricacies of the New Kingdom occupation of those sites and indeed the complex relationship between the settled Egyptians and the local Nubian population at these key strategic locations.

Anna finishes her traineeship at Manchester Museum at the end of 2013 and will be returning to the Sudan for fieldwork in early 2014. Visit Anna’s blog here.


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