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Granite statue of Ankhwa, the ship-builder


Height: 65.500 cm

Acquired in 1835 at the sale of the Salt Collection

EA 171

Ancient Egypt and Sudan


    Granite statue of Ankhwa, the ship-builder

    Possibly from Saqqara, Egypt
    3rd Dynasty, around 2650 BC

    Egyptian sculpture is often thought to consist only of massive and regal statues of the kings of Egypt. However, there exist also more intimate images, so-called 'private' sculptures, made to be placed in the tombs of non-royal officials. The earliest date to the Third Dynasty (about 2686-2613 BC).

    In this statue a ship-builder named Ankhwa is shown holding an adze, a woodworking tool indicative of his trade. An inscription carved on the figure's kilt gives his name and titles. One of these titles ranks Ankhwa as a royal acquaintance. The quality of Ankhwa's statue reflects this status and this statue was probably made in a royal workshop.

    The style of private sculptures closely follows the conventions set by royal sculpture. It was static, frontally posed, and with idealized features. Before the Fourth Dynasty (about 2613-2494 BC), sculpture 'in the round' is rare, but this example from Third Dynasty is outstanding. The style is typical of this date: the slightly squat figure, the protruding face, and the curve of the back more pronounced than in 'classic' later Egyptian sculpture, although these features are partly the result of the hard granite chosen for the statue.

    A.J. Spencer, Early Egypt, The rise of civil (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)

    E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

    A.J. Spencer, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)

    S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)