What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Collection online

Additional options
Production date to

Or search by



  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Polychrome glazed composition tile: this expressive tile is of a captive Libyan chief. Portrayed with uplifted face and one arm bound by a rope, he wears ornamented chest-straps and a loin-cloth, the simple costume of an overlord of the ancient Libyan, or Tjehenu, tribe. His tattoos and pierced ear reflect current Libyan fashion. The surface of his body is modelled in relief, with moulded pieces like the face added separately. The tile has been reconstructed from three pieces.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 31 centimetres
    • Width: 9.1 centimetres
    • Length: 2.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Such tiles from Tell el-Yahudiya display a greater variety of pose, scale, and detail than their counterparts from Medinet Habu, and include some of Egypt's most accomplished works from this final era of polychrome glazed composition.

    Another Libyan chief of this type appears on the glazed composition throne dais of Ramses II with the same pale skin, bright free-flowing hair, bare chest with crossed straps, and phallus sheath, a depiction contrasting sharply with the garb of most of the contemporary Meshwesh/Libu tribes and chiefs. It is possible that Ramses III chose this image to continue his pattern of imitating works by his famous predecessor.

    Unlike some of the other foreigners shown on the tiles, the Libyan tribes were a real threat to the Egyptians in the period of Ramses III, and much wall space at Ramses Ill's temple at Medinet Habu depicts battles involving this group. While prisoner tiles are usually emblematic - lacking specific titles or place names - a chief of this type comes to life ar Medinet Habu as a semi-legendary individual named Meshesher, shown with his father Keper.

    Representations on the base of the window of appearance where the king appeared before the public often show prisoners in the stance on this tile, with feet raised off the ground. The prisoner tiles from Tell el-Yahudiya were probably positioned in the same way as those at Medinet Habu, where the architectural context is well preserved, that is, set into the wall at the base of an area where the king appeared before the public.

    S. Quirke and J. Spencer, 'British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt', (London, 1992), p. 181, fig. 141;
    G. Robins, ‘The Art of Ancient Egypt’ (London, 1997), p. 16, fig. 4.


  • Bibliography

    • Friedman 1998 54 bibliographic details
    • Shaw & Nicholson 1995 p308 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    2011 Jul–Sept, Newcastle, Great North Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2012 Oct–Jan, Dorchester, Dorset County Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2012 Feb–June, Leeds City Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2012 Jul-Oct, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2012 Nov– Feb 2013, Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2013 Mar–Aug, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery , Pharaoh: King of Egypt
    2015 onwards, International touring exhibition TBC, Pharaoh: King of Egypt, PROMISED

  • Condition

    fair - repaired from three fragments

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


Polychrome glazed composition tile depicting a Libyan prisoner wearing ornamented chest-straps and a loin-cloth; three fragments re-joined.

Polychrome glazed composition tile depicting a Libyan prisoner wearing ornamented chest-straps and a loin-cloth; three fragments re-joined.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: YCA51884

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help