Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Round-topped limestone stela of Neferabu: inscribed on both sides in shallow sunk relief. The front is divided into two registers; on the upper Ptah, in his usual mummy form, sits on a block throne in a booth adorned with a garland of flower petals. Before Ptah is a table heaped with bread and plant offerings. At the top are four ears, a pair of raised arms, and two eyes, designed to assure the attention of the god and a successful response to the prayer. The lower register displays an image of the donor kneeling with raised arms, praying to the god; the text of the prayer is inscribed in front of the figure in eight vertical columns. The text continues on the back with ten vertical lines of inscriptions.


  • Authority

  • Culture/period

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 39 centimetres
    • Width: 28 centimetres
    • Weight: 7.3 kilograms
    • Depth: 5 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Translation

        Beginning of the declaration of the powers of Ptah, he who is South of his Wall, by the servant in the Place of Truth in Western Thebes, Neferabu, deceased. He says: I am a man who swore falsely to Ptah, Lord of Truth, and he caused me to see darkness in the daytime. I shall speak of his powers to those who do not know him and to those who know him, to small and to great people. Beware of Ptah, Lord of Truth, behold he does not overlook the deed of any person. Refrain from pronouncing the name of Ptah falsely. Behold he who pronounces it falsely; he shall be cast down. He caused me to be like the dogs of the street, I being under his control; he caused men and gods to stigmatize me like a man who has become an abomination to his lord. Ptah, Lord of Truth, was just toward me when he made an example of me. Be merciful to me, look toward me when you are merciful. [Said] by the Hearer of Summons in the Place of Truth in Western Thebes, Neferabu, deceased before the Great God.
      • Inscription Comment

        In relief in ten vertical columns.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Translation

        Praying to Ptah, Lord of Truth, King of the Two Lands, Youthful of face, who is on his Great Throne, the Unique God who is in the Ennead, he who is beloved as the King of the Two Lands, that he might give life, prosperity and health, cleverness, praise, and love and that my eyes may see Amun throughout the course of every day, as is done for a righteous man who places Amun in his heart. [Said] by the servant in the Place of Truth, Neferabu, deceased.
      • Inscription Comment

        In relief in eight vertical lines.
  • Curator's comments

    This stela is an example of a large class of votive objects placed by pious Egyptians in temples and tombs. Its purpose was to remedy a particular misfortune incurred by the supplicant, in this case blindness, which is referred to twice in the text. Invoking the name of the god falsely was apparently a crime of considerable gravity in view of its frequent mention in stelae of this type. It is interesting to note that "confessions of sin" first appear in the Ramesside Period, when they reflect contemporary notions of personal piety . The comparison of the man with stray dogs in the street is strengthened by the intentional pun between the words 'iway' ("dog") and 'iwayt' ("wrongdoing"). The same individual dedicated another stela, now in Turin, in which he prays to the goddess of the Western Mountain for a cure for his condition.

    Neferabet is the owner of TT5; this stela may have come from this tomb or perhaps one of the shrines at Deir el-Medina. There are a number of other stelae and objects from this tomb in the British Museum--see discussions in T. G. H James, 'Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae etc. in the British Museum' Part 9 (London, 1970), 34-7.

    The stela is said to have been found in a tomb at Thebes in 1818 (Hawkins, Tablets...Belmore, pl. VII). Vandier (MIFAO 69) thinks, probably correctly, that this is just the standard sort of attribution for a stela dug up clandestinely. It is more likely a votive stela from a sanctuary. Bierbrier ('The tomb-builders of the pharaohs' (Cairo, 1989), 97) thinks it most likely came from the Ptah sanctuary on the route from Deir el-Medina to the Valley of the Queens.

    K. A. Kitchen, 'Ramesside inscriptions : translated & annotated Translations Vol.3, Ramesses II, his contemporaries' (Oxford, 2000), p771; B. Porter & R. Moss, 'Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings' I (Part 2) (Oxford, 1964), p.728 M. Lichtheim, 'Ancient Egyptian Literature' Vol. 2 (Berkeley, 1976), p.109-110;
    B. Gunn, “The Religion of the Poor in Ancient Egypt”, in ‘Journal of Egyptian Archaeology’ 3 (1916), p. 88;
    J. Vandier, “La Tombe de Nerfer-abou”, in ‘Mémoires publiés de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale’ (Cairo, 1935), p. 49, pl. 26.
    E. Frood, Biographical Texts from Ramessid Egypt (Atlanta SBL 2007), no. 46a.


  • Bibliography

    • Museum of Fine Arts Boston 1982 414 bibliographic details
    • James 1970 pl.31 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    1982 Feb-May, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Egypt's Golden Age
    1982 Jul-Sep, Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Egypt's Golden Age
    1982/3 Oct-Jan, Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery, Egypt's Golden Age
    1983 Sep-Dec, Memphis, Art Gallery of Memphis, A Divine Tour of Ancient Egypt
    1998/9 Oct-Jun, South Carolina, The Charleston Museum, Queens & Commoners of the New Kingdom
    2001 26 Jun-23 Sep, Birmingham Gas Hall, Egypt Revealed
    2006-2007 6 Oct-18 Feb, Tokyo, National Museum of Nature and Science, Mummy: The Inside Story
    2007 17 Mar-17 Jun, Kobe City Museum, Mummy: The Inside Story

  • Condition

    fair (cracked, cleaned and repaired)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • BS.589 (Birch Slip Number)
Round-topped limestone stela of Neferabu.

Round-topped limestone stela of Neferabu.

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