Figure fragment of a king - ROM2018_16217_1


Figure fragment of a king

Geography: Probably Serabit el-Khadim, Sinai, Egypt
Date: c. 2055-1650 BC
Period: Possibly reign of Senwosret III, 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
23.5 × 19 × 13 cm
Object number: 906.16.111
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This sandstone fragment shows the upper torso and head of a king wearing the (presumably cloth) nemes headdress with uraeus. The head of the divine, protective snake goddess is missing, but her well-carved body slithers across the top of the king’s head with her tail hanging down behind. The king’s large ears and heavy features suggest the Twelfth Dynasty king, Senwosret III.  Unfortunately the remaining back pillar is uninscribed.

The piece was found by Flinders Petrie at the site of the turquoise mines of Serabit el Khadim in the Sinai, where many small shrines to the goddess Hathor and to ruling kings were built by the officials in charge of mining expeditions.  During the Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt had firm control over this area, and great quantities of turquoise were extracted for pigment and jewellery.  The jewellery of this period is among the finest ever made in Egypt, or anywhere else.

In far-off places like Serabit el Khadim, an image of the ruling king served to assert Egyptian sovereignty over the area and to focus the prayers of men working there, who hoped that their king's divine powers would keep them safe and bring them home again.

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