Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Intermediate Period Stela

Figure 1 - First Intermediate Period Stela
     After the death of Pepi I of Egypt's Sixth Dynasty the country fell into a period of chaos known today as the First Intermediate Period. One of the characteristics of the art work of this period is its poor quality. Take a look at this stela which is currently in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Figure 2 - the Inscription
     The quality, or lack thereof, of the art work is immediately noticeable. The figures are poorly carved and the hieroglyphs (see figure 2) are almost illegible in places. Also, notice the figure of the couple's son (figure 3) is incised as two separate "parts" and the boy's face has no real detail showing. The multi-colored border around the edges of the stela occur on a number of other examples of stelae from this period.

Figure 3 - the Couple's Son
     The inscription above the couple is a standard "hotep di nisw" formula in which the couple hopes to receive offerings in their afterlife. The text starts out "A gift given by the King..." ("Hotep di Nisw") "... and by Anubis who is upon his hill...". The inscription goes on to ask for offerings of bread and beer and other things that the couple would find necessary or useful in the afterlife.

     I am not sure what the circular shape in front of the wife is, although it might be a mirror (??). The small figure standing just in front of the nobleman is offering to the owner of the stela. But his relationship to the deceased nobleman is unclear unless the hieroglyphs next to him can be interpreted as indicating he is the brother of the deceased. On the offering table in front of the couple, is a basket (?) containing some type of food, with two pottery containers shown below the basket.

     There is a similar steal from this period in the the Metropolitan Museum in New York as well and the next time I am there I will try to get a photo for comparison.

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