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 Bostonthat shows him with an aquiline nose.
My ARCHAEO-Crush for September is an amazing statue of a female pharaoh at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
The delicate and feminine features of the great New Kingdom female pharaoh. (Photo by yours truly taken during a trip to the Met in 2011)
STATUE OF HATSHEPSUT SEATED Type: artefact (sculpture) Civilisation: Ancient Egypt Date: New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, joint reign Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III (circa 1479–1458 BC) ARCHAEO-Crush: Queen Hatshepsut is undoubtedly the most remarkable female pharaoh of Egyptian history. Daughter of Pharaoh Thutmosis I and wife of Thutmosis II, her half-brother, she found herself at the death of her husband the regent of a young boy king, Thutmosis III–who is both her nephew and her stepson. (Thutmosis III was the son of Thutmosis II and his second wife Isis.) At the beginning, she is not opposed to the reign of this five year old child because as the wife of the deceased king she is regent and has all the powers necessary to rule the country on the young king’s behalf. However, a few years later–with the support of powerful officials–she is crowned pharaoh, usurping her stepson/nephew’s throne. While she may appear to be the evil stepmother of fairy tales, her reign is nonetheless peaceful and prosperous. She dedicates her energies to artistic endeavours and architectural projects (her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri is one of her remarkable constructions).
The statue presented here shows Hatshepsut in the royal accoutrement of a male pharaoh wearing a kilt and the nemes headdress. Yet her delicate features are utterly feminine and graceful. There is not doubt that this is the face of a woman. I find this particular statue incredibly beautiful and delicate, even if stone sculptures in ancient Egypt tend to be very heavy and blockish. Bucket list status: Every time I’m at the Met, I go see Hatshepsut… Additional information: There are a number of statues portraying Hatshepsut in that particular gallery at the Met. However, this one (object # MMA 29.3.2) is displayed at all by herself and softly illuminated the end of the room, seated majestically.
My ARCHAEO-Crush for the month of June is a statue you will seldom see in a museum…
A boy sketches Hoa Hakananai’a, the moai at the British Museum.
HOA HAKANANAI’A, MOAI FROM EASTER ISLAND Type: artefact (stone statue) Civilisation: Polynesia, Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Date: circa 1000 CE. ARCHAEO-Crush: The moai (statues) on Easter Island are rather mysterious and I find them interesting. However, I can’t say that I know much about them. I like their imposing presence on the island landscape and their minimalist aesthetics. The statue on the photo is called Hoa Hakananai’a (which apparently means ‘hidden or stolen friend’) and is one of the smaller statues: it measures 2.42m tall and weighs about 4 tons. Imagine the size and weight of the larger moai! Hoa Hakananai’a was brought back from Rapa Nui on the HMS Topaze and was offered to the British Admiralty, who in turn offered it to Queen Victoria, who gave it to the British Museum in 1869… Bucket list status: I saw Hoa Hakananai’a at the British Museum a few years ago. I had no idea there was a moai at the BM and I spent a long while staring at it, thinking I might never have the chance to see a moai again. I go say hello each time I visit the BM; he used to be in the corner of the Millennium Court, but now he’s in the Wellcome Gallery, looking more majestic than ever. If I have the opportunity of going to Rapa Nui, I shall go see the moai… Additional information: Hoa Hakananai’a is one of the rare moai outside of Easter Island. Rapa Nui National Park is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, number 715.