Relief showing two royal figures

From Saqqara, Egypt
1st or 2nd Dynasty, 3000–2800 BC

A sculptor's trial piece?

In addition to the human figures at the right of this object, the other carvings show birds (for example, an owl) and animals (a baboon). The significance of these carvings, which might be hieroglyphs, is not clear. The two figures at the right are kings wearing the robes associated with the sed festival and the deshret, the crown of Lower Egypt (as worn by the colossal stone head of Amenhotep III, in the Museum). Two such figures together are not normal, and it is possible that this stone was actually a sort of sculptor's trial piece, on which he was experimenting with various ideas. However, given that our comprehension of early texts and pictures is minimal, this might be too simple an explanation.

On the back of the object is a grid of 1.6 cm squares incised into the stone; which might support the theory of this being a slab for artist's practice. If this is a grid for laying out a scene, it would be among the earliest known.

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More information


W.B. Emery, Great tombs of the First Dynas (London, 1958)

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


Height: 24.300 cm
Width: 39.500 cm
Thickness: 4.100 cm

Museum number

EA 67153


Gift of the Egypt Exploration Society


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