Funerary stela of Neferher and his wife Senet - ROM2018_16242_13


Funerary stela of Neferher and his wife Senet

Geography: Possibly Luxor or Armant, Egypt
Date: c. 2181-2040 BC
Period: 1st Intermediate Period
29 × 29.7 × 3.4 cm
Object number: 957.124
Credit Line: Gift of a Friend of the Museum
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

 This stela is a very good example of the work of provincial artists during the First Intermediate Period and early 11th Dynasty. Neferher, the man, leads his little family.  In his lower hand he carries a club, so he may have been a soldier.  His forward hand holds a staff as a sign of his status.  In front of him float various items of offerings: a leg of beef, beefheart, ribs, and head; a trussed duck;  jars of wine and water; and a small offering table with the traditional bread and beer, with the head of a gazelle for good measure. His name can mean ‘handsome-of-face’ and is a traditional epithet of the god Ptah.

Senet, the wife, holds her husband’s hand affectionately, Meat offerings float in the space between them, and a large waterlily, symbol of sweetness and beauty as well as rebirth, floats before her legs.  Her name could be read as ‘the second one’ or ‘sister.’

The final character is a small boy, Montuhotep, who grasps his mother’s hand as he drifts in the space behind her.  Though Senet and Neferher are dressed in linen kilts and wear jewellery, the little boy is naked but for his necklace. His name honours the war god, Montu, and suggests the stele was carved in Upper Egypt, either at Armant or Thebes.

Although the composition lacks elegance and symmetry, husband and wife do share a ground-line.  Across the top of the stele in an almost straight line is the usual offering formula: “A gift which the king gives (consisting of) bread, beer, beef, fowl, and travertine jars (of ointment) for the ka of the revered one, Nefer-Her; (and) the voice-offerings of bread and beer, beef and fowl for the revered one, his wife, whom he loves, Senet.” Their son’s name is carved above his head.

Such simple stele honour the love and commitment of these ancient peoples to each other, and attest their faith in a future life together.  

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