Statue of Nedjemu
Date: Old Kingdom, Dynasty V (c. 2500-2350 B.C.E.)
Nedjemu ("sweet one") illustrates several aspects of Egyptian funerary sculpture which
remained typical for almost 3000 years. His body indicates the use of the canon of
proportion within an eighteen-square grid. His rigid posture and the quiet expression
on his face reflect the Egyptian desire to represent the deceased in a manner appropriate
Nedjemu wears a wrap-around kilt which would have been made of unbleached linen, a
product of flax. (Cotton textiles in Egypt date no earlier than the third century
B.C.E.) He holds two small pegs in his hands, probably abbreviated scepters as symbols
of public office. His wig would have been made of human hair if he could afford it.
However, cheaper wigs of sheep or goat hair were also available. Traces of reddish-brown
paint on his legs illustrate the skin color associated most frequently with men. The
left foot strides forward, the traditional pose for male statues. This stance suggests
movement and strength.
This little statuette may have been an "off-the-shelf" purchase after Nedjemu's death.
The inscribed hieroglyphs on the base tell us that it was acquired for Nedjemu's tomb
by his son.
Inv. no.: 1987.2.1
Date: Middle Kingdom, Dynasty XII (c. 1938-1759 B.C.E.)
Material: Painted wood
Provenance: El Bersheh
Model scenes of daily life activities were popular for use in tombs during the Old
and Middle Kingdoms. They complemented the paintings of similar scenes on the walls
of the tombs. It is interesting to note, however, that the New Kingdom pursued an
interest in wall paintings and statuary with a religious, not an everyday, emphasis.
The men in the granary perform various functions. In the larger room, a man delivers
threshed grain to a kneeling man who grinds it. Another man standing in this room
packs flour in a storage container. In the smaller room, a seated supervisor watches
as a worker places flour in large storage jars. The figures are painted reddish-brown,
the traditional skin color for men in Egyptian art. Also, they wear long linen kilts.
The carving is rather crudely executed, and the long arms are out of proportion with
the rest of the body; nevertheless, the sense of action generated by the figures creates
a lively scene.
Inv. no.: 1981.1.11
Date: First Intermediate Period, Dynasty XI, reign of Mentuhotep II (c. 2008-1957
Provenance: Deir el Bahri, Mentuhotep II's mortuary temple
This loaf of bread is approximately 4000 years old. It was placed with other objects
under the foundation of Mentuhotep II's mortuary temple at Deir el Bahri in Western
Thebes. The objects placed in foundation deposits for ancient Egyptian temples were
intended to symbolically stabilize and protect the four corners and the boundary walls
of the temple, because the temple itself was believed to be a microcosm of the universe.
One reward gained from a stable universe was food in abundance. This loaf of bread
symbolizes that value.
During the bread-making process, the grinding of flour and the mixing of dough, small
stones and the ever-present sand became part of any bread which was made, whether
for offerings or for domestic use. These gritty elements wore down the enamel of the
teeth which led to abscesses. Cavities, caused today by refined sugar, were not the
culprits in tooth loss in ancient Egypt.
Inv. no.: 1981.1.14
Block Statue of Nedjem
Date: New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX, reign of Ramesses II (c. 1279-1213 B.C.E.)
Provenance: Memphis, Egypt
Nedjem ("sweet one") sits on a cushion, his body covered with a robe, his knees bent
so that they are almost level with his chin, his feet flat on the ground, and his
arms crossed over his knees. The outline of his figure suggests a block, hence the
term, "block statue." He has a small beard, full wig, and sandals. Between his legs
is a smaller figure, which represents the god Ptah-Tatenen, a form of the Memphite
god, Ptah, who was believed to be not only the creator god but also the land from
which all was created. Ptah-Tatenen wears, on top of his wig, a crown composed of
two feathers and a sun disk. He is wrapped as a mummy and holds a scepter. The hieroglyphic
inscription in sunk relief on Nedjem's back pillar tells us that he was the "King's
Scribe, Great Steward, King's Messenger to every foreign land, and Overseer of the
Granaries of the Western Border."
The statue was placed in the Temple of Ptah in ancient Memphis to represent Nedjem
for eternity. There is much evidence that lets us know that Nedjem is from Memphis.
First, and most important, an Egyptologist found records of an excavation in ancient
Memphis which took place about 1840. The discovery of this statue of Nedjem is recorded
in this report. Also, the quartzite of Nedjem's statue is a stone found particularly
in the Memphis area.
During the American Civil War, a Yankee sea captain trading in the Mediterranean docked
at Alexandria, Egypt, with a half-empty ship. He bought the statue of Nedjem, along
with some others, to serve as ballast. As the ship neared the American coast, it was
captured by Confederate forces and escorted to New Orleans, where its cargo, including
Nedjem, was taken to the Customs House. After the war, the statue was taken to Boston,
where it stayed in a garden for years. Eventually, it entered the collection of the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1975, it was sold to The University of Memphis, together
with 43 other Egyptian antiquities. Today, these artifacts form the core of the permanent
collection of the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology.
Inv. no.: 1981.1.20
Mask and Pectoral: cartonnage, painted and gilded
Coffin: wood, painted and gilded
Date: Probably Early Ptolemaic Period (305-150 B.C.E.)
Provenance: Attributed to Akhmim
Irtw-irw's name (pronounced "ear-too ear-oo") means "may the eye (of the god) be against them." In other words, may the eye
of the god protect Irtw-irw from his enemies. His mummified body reminds us of the
importance of mummification in ancient Egyptian funerary belief.
Irtw-irw's funerary mask would have been positioned directly over the face and upper
chest of his mummy after it was placed in the coffin. The mask depicts the facial
features in a traditional manner. The features are not individualized to look like
Irtw-irw, but picture him as if in the prime of life. Note that the mask is similar
to the face painted on the coffin lid.
Irtw-irw's coffin lid is decorated with many images derived from ancient Egyptian
religion. The outstanding feature of the coffin lid is the gilded face of Irtw-irw
framed by a huge, blue wig. The gilded face suggests that at death Irtw-irw became
like the sun god, whose face was gold. A brightly painted pectoral decorates Irtw-irw's
chest. Below this pectoral (broad collar or necklace) is an image of a winged goddess.
She wears a sun disk on her head and her arms extend into wings which stretch protectively
around the mummy. In her hands are feathers, symbolic of truth. The deceased had to
have his heart weighed against the feather of truth in the afterlife. If his heart
was "heavy" with misdeeds, then he was devoured by a monster named Ammit. If, however,
his heart was "as light as a feather," the deceased was permitted to enter into the
kingdom of Osiris, the ruler of the netherworld. Below the image of the goddess is
a lion bier (bed) on which the mummy is outstretched. The bier is flanked by images
of Isis and Nephthys. Isis, the wife of Osiris and goddess of magic, is on the left
and wears on her head the hieroglyph for her name, the throne symbol. Nephthys, the
sister of Isis and the protectress of coffins and canopic jars, is on the right and
wears on her head the hieroglyphs for her name. The ba (one aspect of the soul) of the deceased, shown as a human-headed bird, hovers above
the bier. Below it stand the four canopic jars which were used to hold and protect
the internal organs of the mummy. Below these are figures with feathers of truth in
their hands. At the bottom of the coffin lid, placed upside-down so that Irtw-irw
could see them, are images of Anubis, the funerary god, portrayed as a jackal. Knife-holding
guardian figures form a band around the edge of the coffin.
In 1987 Irtw-irw spent the day in the hospital while a medical team from the University
of Tennessee Medical School examined him. He spent three hours going through a C.A.T.
scan, and pathologists closely examined him. Later, an E.N.T. (ear, nose and throat)
specialist looked inside Irtw-irw's head with sophisticated equipment. This exam,
along with the C.A.T. scan, confirmed that Irtw-irw suffered from an ear infection
which ultimately invaded his brain and may have caused his death. Although we do not
know exactly when the hole on the side of his head was made, it happened in relatively
recent times. The examination also revealed that he is younger than expected. Irtw-irw
died at about 30 years of age.
Inv. no.: 1985.3.1