12th Dynasty Limestone Wall Panel inscribed with an elite official’s autobiography

SKU X.0375
Circa

1991 BC to 1783 BC

Dimensions

47″ (119.4cm) high x 9″ (22.9cm) wide

Medium

Limestone

Origin

Egypt

Gallery Location

UK


 

Sculpted in classically-designed sunken hieroglyphs, this single column of inscription, oriented to the left, contains a partial string of titles belonging to the cursus honorum of a highly placed official in pharaoh’s court. The inscription as preserved may be translated as, “.,..the oldest official of [pharaoh’s] senut-palace, the one who is over particular offerings, the one who presides over the secrets…”

The exact nature of a senut-palace remains enigmatic, but was ostensibly the administrative branch of the bureaucracy in which senior officials exercised their duty and in which the owner of this inscription served as “the eldest statesman.” The owner was also in charge of special offerings, which, although not specifically enumerated, comprised both victuals and other products. And finally, this owner was charged with rituals, the practice of which were kept secret and hidden from the uninitiated. From these titles and from the style of the sculpting of the signs and their shapes, one can confidently date this panel to Dynasty XII and suggest that it once adorned the tomb of an elite official.

This rectangular panel is beautiful in its own right and serves to point up some often over-looked aspects of ancient Egypt’s culture during Dynasty XII of the Middle Kingdom. It was during this period that the classics of ancient Egyptian literature, such at The Tale of Sinuhe and The Shipwrecked Sailor to name but two, were composed. These classics were used in later periods, particularly during the time of the New Kingdom, as teaching aids for learning the Egyptian language in much the same way that Caesar’s De Bello Gallico has been used for the teaching of Latin. Moreover, the style and form of the individual hieroglyphs used during Dynasty XII became models for the “penmanship” of Egyptians scribes of later periods. As a result the hieroglyphs on this panel represent examples of the very best writing from Egypt’s classical period. The signs on this panel can be admired in much the same way that connoisseurs admire Arabic written in Kufic and the calligraphic style of Oriental suibokuga.

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