Statue of Hemiunu

Work has kept me away from An Archaeologist’s Diary more than I ever thought it would so far this year… and December is not going to be any different! So today’s  ARCHAEO-Crush is for October, November and December… and it was inspired by one of the men whose accomplishments were presented in my Egyptology Seminar last weekend.

Civilisation: Ancient Egypt
Date: Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4 (circa 2613-2494 B.C.E.)

ARCHAEO-Crush: This Old Kingdom statue is remarkable in a number of ways, First of all, the physique of the man depicted here is more than stunning in its appearance.  He is stocky and fleshy in a manner seldom seen in Egyptian art, which normally depicts men as eternally youthful, slim and with well-defined muscles… which is not the case with Hemiunu.  Was the man really this corpulent and he wanted to be represented in a realistic manner? Or was his massive physique synonymous with wealth and accomplishment, indicating his important status in the Egyptian government and society?
Both hypotheses are possible because Hemiunu was indeed a very important man in ancient Egypt.  The colourful inscription on the base of his statue gives us numerous titles and offices. Among other titles, Hemiunu was of royal blood (the son of either Snefru or Nefermaat), the vizier (prime minister) during the reign of King Khufu, a priest and the overseer of all the construction works of the king.  As the latter, he was in charge of all the architectural projects initiated by the king for whom he worked.  And he worked of King Khufu…. and you know what that means, right?  Hemiunu was likely the man in charge of the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza! Not too shabby an accomplishment, that!

Bucket list status: The first time I saw this statue with my own eyes was at the Royal Ontario Museum when the statue was part of the Egyptian Art during the Age of the Pyramids exhibition. The Hildesheim Museum, where Hemiunu normally resides, was under renovation and it travelled to Toronto.  I have since been to Hildesheim to him again… he’s always so impressive.

Additional information: When Hermann Junker discovered the statue in Hemiunu’s mastaba at Giza, the head had already suffered some damage. The nose was smashed and the eyes had been gauged out.  The face of the statue was restored in the early 20th century based on Hermiunu’s features as seen from a relief from the MFA Boston that shows him with an aquiline nose.

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5 thoughts on “Statue of Hemiunu

  1. And was he the person who, according to Reisner’s theory (at least as described by Barbara Mertz) “reburied” Queen Hetepheres without actually telling King Khufu that his mother’s coffin was empty???

  2. Caroline, this was interesting. I’ve never seen or heard of this person or the statue. As usual, you are a source of little known information. I am so sorry to have missed your seminar.
    Irene Lejman

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