Wooden writing board and text of the Words of Khakheperresoneb

From Egypt
Early 18th Dynasty, around 1500 BC

A work of Middle Kingdom wisdom literature

The main uses of writing boards in ancient Egypt included writing practice. This board is made from wood overlaid with gesso to provide a surface for writing, which could then be easily erased when required. Fortunately, this board was not erased, since it is the major source for one of the literary texts of the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC): the Words of Khakheperresoneb.

The name of the author, Khakheperresoneb, is based on one of the royal names of King Senwosret II of the Twelfth Dynasty (about 1844-1837 BC). This suggests that the original text was composed in the late Twelfth Dynasty some two hundred years earlier than this copy. It was common for works of literature that were considered to be classics to be repeatedly copied in their entirety or in sections in the New Kingdom (about 1550-1-70 BC). The small red dots in the text are termed 'verse points' and mark the ends of lines of verse.

The text describes Khakheperresoneb's experience of the world around him, and how he can and cannot express his inner feelings at the sight of so much suffering. The poem is not intended as a factual account, but evokes a self-consciously subjective and literary view of reality; this is a common theme in Middle Kingdom literature that probably ultimately derives from laments about death and about the changing seasons.

Find in the collection online

More information


M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian literature: a, 3 vols. (University of California Press, 1973-1980)

R.B. Parkinson, The Tale of Sinuhe and other a (Oxford University Press, 1997)

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


Height: 28.500 cm
Width: 55.200 cm

Museum number

EA 5645



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore