Sunday, August 08, 2010

Photo for Today - Wife of Sheikh el Beled, Cairo

"The wife of Sheikh el Beled"

Sheikh el Beled means, roughly, "head of the village." The story is that
when the statues were excavated from a tomb, under the direction of Mariette,
local workers fell back in surprise because the male figure closely
resembled their own village headman. In fact that statue represents the figure
of a chief lector priest known as Ka-aper. This is his wife.

Saqqara, Mastaba C8, near the Pyramid of Userkaf
5th Dynasty (although Barta puts it in the second half of the 4th Dynasty)
Cairo Museum

With my thanks to Jon Bodsworth

The following description of the mastaba is from Saqqara Mastabas, Part I by Margaret Murray, 1904
Digitized for and available free of charge from Etana, with my thanks.

The tomb of the "Sheikh-el-Beled" (MAR., Mast. C 8) is a huge mud-brick mastaba to which is added a small outer chamber, also in brick. The walls of the chamber on the east and south are greatly ruined, but the west wall is in good condition, and against it stands a magnificent red granite stele formed of a single block. The grand proportions, the fine workmanship, and the simplicity of style, all point to its being of the great period of art at the beginning of the IVth Dynasty. The only inscription is a single band of incised hieroglyphs, large and boldly cut, which go across the band of the stele (PL. 111, 5).

6. The statue of the Sheikh-el-Beled was found in the recess to the south, and about the centre of the chamber was found also a circular alabaster table of offerings with the name Akhet-hetep-her. Mariette figures a disk with the same inscription, but states it to be of limestone. The drawing of this table of offerings has been sorted into the dossier of the very interesting and elaborate tomb of Akhet-hetep-her (D 60). The one which is in the Cairo Museum, and which I have copied (PL. 111, 4), is of alabaster, and I conclude that it was really found with the wooden statue, and that the copy of it has been misplaced in the &fastabas.

It is impossible to say whether the name of the Sheikh-el-Beled is to be found on the stelk or on the table of offerings. The only piece of evidence is negative, and that is that the owner of the stele had only one title, " Chief Kheri-he6 priest," and it is only natural to suppose that he would have been represented in the distinctive costume of his office, but the Sheikh-el-Beled is clothed in the ordinary dress of the time, holding a staff of office in his hand, which would well accord with his position as "Judge belonging to Nekheb."

It is not generally known that the head of the statue was coloured when found, hut it was sent to the Paris Exhibition in 1867,,and there a mould was taken from it without either the permission or knowledge of the authorities. The wet material used for the mould removed all the colour, and dimmed the brilliancy of the eyes, apparently by "oxydizing the bronze rims." There is a letter extant from Mariette deploring and lamenting the amount of damage inflicted on this unique work of art. (WALLONV, ie de Mariette, Appendix xiii, Institut de France.)

The beautiful wooden statue of the so-called wife of the Sheikh-el-Beled was found, Reis Rubi told me, in the doorway leading northward out of thetomb. Unfortunately nothing more, was discovered, for the tomb must have been plundered anciently.

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