This small (18.5 cms high) slate(?) stela was once in the possession of a Mr R. G. Stannard, before entering the collection of Sir Henry Wellcome and subsequently being transferred to the Manchester Museum. The upper part of the stela shows a winged sun-disc, under which two rams face each other. The ram was an animal sacred to the god Amun-Re, as made explicit in the hieroglyphs above each of them. Four lines of inscription are below, which contain an ‘offering formula’ – the most common text found on ancient Egyptian monuments.
The formula was a list of goods that the deceased would require in the afterlife, which – by being listed – are magical substitutes for the goods themselves. The aspect of the deceased believed to consume the offerings was the ka – the spirit of sustenance and life-force that came into existence at birth, and was envisioned as an invisible twin.
All offerings to the gods were in principal made by the king. Temple walls only ever show the king performing rituals, rather than the priests who would in practice have carried them out. Clearly, the gods did not eat the provisions placed in front of their statues, but rather absorbed the spiritual essence of them. This meant that the foodstuffs could then be offered to deceased persons and ultimately passed on to the priests who performed rituals, as payment.
This short text is slightly damaged in places and contains a number of variations on the standard offering formula, for which it is difficult to find exact parallels. This is a common problem in Egyptology, so here is my own tentative translation:
An offering which the king gives to Amun-Re, Lord of the Sky, that he may give his daily favours, and the good life, for his ka. Noble Ptah, lord of life and dominion, causes provisions to be brought in therefrom for the ka of the goldsmith Peniwemiteru.
“Daily favours” seems likely refer to a regular supply of food offerings. H. R. Hall, who published the piece in 1908, read the words aqw m rxyt im=f on line 3 as “entrance among the rekhyt-people who are with him”. Ken Griffin, who is completing a doctoral thesis on the rekhyt, thinks this unlikely, and I am inclined to agree that this seems out of context. Instead, a reference to offerings would be expected here and so the word mrxw, a rather uncommon term meaning “provisions” or “offerings”, seems to make more sense. The name of the owner, Peniwemiteru, means ‘He of Island-in-the-River’ – a place near Gebelein in Upper Egypt.
Any alternative readings would be most welcome!