The public galleries of the
British Museum, London
Stele of Penbuy
From Deir el-Medina
19th dynasty
British museum EA 1466
This round-topped stele consists of two registers with
representations in shallow sunk relief accompanied by inscribed
hieroglyphic texts. In the upper register Ptah, the god
associated with craftsmen, is seated on his throne inside a
shrine on the left. To his right lies an altar heaped with food
offerings. Behind the shrine there are four ears and another
three ears are shown above it.
In the lower register the guardian of the tomb Penbuy kneels
on the right with his arms raised in an attitude of worship. On
the left a large
ka-sign is depicted. A text, often columns of
varying length, contains a prayer to the
ka of Ptah by Penbuy.
This stele is very well preserved apart from some damage to
the lower left edge, and most of the colour is intact. The
background is yellow and the border shows traces of blue.
The page was last modified on April 21st 2013
The text on this page was compiled by Lenka Peacock using the sources listed below.
Photography by Lenka Peacock. All photographs © of the Trustees of the British Museum.

1. Strudwick, Nigel: The British Museum masterpieces of ancient Egypt. London : The British Museum Press, 2006.
2. Taylor, John H.: Death and afterlife in ancient Egypt
London : British Museum Press, 2001.
3. Pharaoh's workers : the villagers of Deir el-Medina / edited by Leonard H. Lesko
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1994
4. Shaw, Ian, Nicholson, Paul: British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
5. McDowell, A.G.: Village life in ancient Egypt : laundry lists and love songs
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1999.
6. Janssen, Rosalind: Growing old disgracefully at Deir el-Medina In Ancient Egypt, December 2004/January 2005, pp. 39-44.
7. Janssen, Rosalind: The old women of Deir el-Medina: Paper delivered at the Institute, 8 December 2006. In Buried
history: The journal of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, 2006, Vol. 42, p. 3-10.
8. Janssen, Rosalind and Janssen, Jac. J.: Growing up and getting old in ancient Egypt
London : Golden House Publications, 2007.
9. James, T.G.H.: Pharaoh's people : scenes from life in Imperial Egypt
New York : Tauris Parke, 2003.
10. Bierbrier, Morris : The tomb-builders of the pharaohs
Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1982.
11. Davies, Benedict G.: Who's who at Deir el-Medina : a prosopographic study of the royal workmen's community
Leiden : Nederlands Instituut voor Her Nabije Oosten, 1999
12. Strudwick, Nigel and Helen: Thebes in Egypt : a guide to the tombs and temples of ancient Luxor
London : British Museum Press, 1999.
13. Weeks, Kent R.: The treasures of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings
Cercelli : White Star Publishers, 2005
14. Houlihan, Patrick F.: Wit & humour in ancient Egypt
London : The Rubicon Press, 2001.
15. Keith, Jean Lewis: Anthropoid Busts of Deir el Medineh and Other Sites and Collections : Analyses, Catalogue,
Appendices / with contributions by Sylvie Donnat, Anna K. Stevens, Nicola Harrington
Le Caire : Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, 2011
16. Museum's website at
17. The British Museum's gallery labels
18. The British Museum's web site
Stele depicting a deceased person
British Museum EA 372
19th dynasty, about 1295-1186 BC
From Deir el-Medina
Painted limestone
Pennub and Khamuy, who are
described as "able spirits of Ra".
Stele dedicated to "the Osiris, the able spirit of Ra"
19th dynasty, about 1295-1186 BC
British Museum EA 359
From Deir el-Medina
Painted limestone
The seated persons - Pennub and Khamuy - who are described as
"able spirits of Ra" sit on their chairs facing each other holding
lotus flowers in their hands.
Sarcophabus of Ankhnesneferibre
British Museum EA 32
26th dynasty, about 530 BC
From Thebes. Found by the French expedition in the rock tomb above Deir el-Medina in 1832.  
Ankhnesneferibre was the last "God's Wife of Amun" or "divine adoratrice of Amun" before the Persian
conquest of 525 BC. She was a daughter of Psamtek II (595-589 BC). Although the sarcophagus was
found in so called "tombs of Saite princesses" at Deir el-Medina, Ankhnesneferibre and several other
women with the same title had tomb chapels at Medinet Habu, in front of the Ramesses III's temple.
The sarcophagus was reused in Roman times by Amenhotep Pamontu, a priest of the late Ptolemaic or
early Roman period, whose brother Montuzaf was buried elsewhere in the necropolis. Amenhotep Pamontu
added the inscription around the upper edge of the sarcophagus base. He also added his own name in the
princess's cartouches and changed the pronouns in the text. The lid shows the princess clasping the royal
crook and flail, symbolising her powerful position in Thebes. The office of divine adoratrice became a focus
of power and influence during the Late period.
The inscriptions represent a variety of religious texts. They include parts from the Pyramid Texts, the
Book of the Dead, several mythological texts, recitations from funeral rites, magical texts, a hymn to
the sun, and hourly rituals for a vigil over the deceased, as well as offering formulas. The combination is
unparalleled elsewhere.  
Length : 259 cm
Wenenkhu's stele
British Museum EA 1248
Probably from Deir el-Medina
The stele is showing Wenenkhu and
Penpakhenty worshipping the sun
god. The sun god is represented as
a falcon-headed mummiform
figure, seated in the solar barque.
Height: 35.3 cm
Width: 23.5 cm
Hieratic ostrakon
British Museum EA 41541
From Deir el-Medina
20th dynasty, about 1160 BC
This poem is a rare example of a literary work by
a known individual. It was probably circulated
among the village literati as well as being used as
a copying exercise for Amennakht's apprentices.
Red points mark the ends of lines of verse.
"Beginning of the educational instruction, saying
for the path of life, made by the scribe
Amen-nakhte (for) his assistance Hor-Min. He
says: You are a man who listens to words so as to
separate good from bad; Pay attention and hear
my words, do not disregard what I say!"
(Translation from McDowell,1999,139)
Height: 20.5 cm
Lenght: 16 cm
Acquired in 1905.
Ostrakon bearing an attendance record of workmen
British Museum EA 5634
From Deir el-Medina
19th Dynasty, year 40 of Ramesses II, about 1239 BC
Black and red ink
This large ostrakon bears hieratic writing on both sides. At the top of the first side the date is given
as "year 40". As the handwriting was determined to be of the Ramesside Period, this must refer to
the fortieth year of Ramesses II's reign, about 1239 BC. From the contents it is clear that the list
is a summary of workmen's absences from their duties. 280 days of that year are registered. Only
about 70 of these days seem to have been full working days. Aside from holidays and other
non-working periods, by Year 40 of Ramesses's reign the royal tomb would have been mostly finished,
and it is possible that men were taken off onto other projects, for example, to the tombs of queens in
the Valley of the Queens.
A list of forty names is arranged in columns of hieratic script on the right-hand part of each side. To
the left there are dates written in black in a horizontal line. The reasons for absences are written
above the dates in red ink. They are varied and give us a fascinating insight into some aspects of life
in ancient Egypt. Illness figures prominently; a couple of examples of illnesses of the eyes are
mentioned. There is another example of a man absent after being stung by a scorpion. One workman
functioned as a doctor and was often away attending on others. Absences due to deaths of relatives
are recorded, as are also references to purification rituals surrounding childbirth. A workman was
absent bandaging (less likely mummifying) his colleague Hormose. Frequently a day missed is down to a
man 'being with his boss'; other sources show that workmen did frequently do work for their
superiors. Occasionally a man is away 'building his house', or at 'his festival', and there are examples
of drinking, in particular 'drinking with Khonsu'. There is mention of a Khenherkhepshef, who is also
alluded to as 'the scribe' in several places. Many of these persons mentioned here are known from
other documents of this period.
It is thought that on a day-to-day basis the scribes of the tomb would write daily notes on small
flakes of stones and then compile more formal accounts for the administrative records, the result of
which would have been this large ostrakon (Strudwick,2006,206).
Height: 38.5 cm
Width: 33 cm

The complete translation of the ostrakon can be found
Shabti of Khenherkhepshef
British Museum EA 33940
From Deir el-Medina
Shabti figures of the New Kingdom (about 1550-1070 BC) were often made of stone, with paint used to
give the servant figures a lifelike appearance. This shabti is a particularly fine example. The heavy wig,
with gold bands at the ends, rests over an elaborate and colourful collar. The red-brown colour of the face
indicates that the figure is male. Ancient Egyptian women were usually depicted with paler skin, implying
that they did not have to go out and work in the harsh sunlight.
The white colour on the shabti's arms and
lower body shows that the figure is
mummified, identifying it with the god
Osiris, who is also shown with his arms
crossed over his chest. While the god holds
the crook and flail symbolizing kingship,
this shabti holds two hoes, symbolising
agricultural labour. Shabti figures were
intended to work on behalf of the deceased
in the Afterlife. A spell was supposed to
activate them. Here the shabti spell is
skilfully painted in horizontal lines of black
hieroglyphs around the figure. The
hieroglyphic text begins with
Khenherkhepshef's name and title, 'Scribe
in the Place of Truth' (the royal necropolis).
Height: 29.3 cm
Width: 8.7 cm
Depth: 5.3 cm
Headrest of Khenherkhepshef
British Museum EA 63783
From Deir el-Medina
19th Dynasty, around 1225 BC
The limestone funerary headrest is
decorated with figures of Bes. The
god's terrifying appearance and
the snakes and a spear that he is
waving were intended to drive
away night demons.
Height: 18.8 cm
Width: 23 cm
Depth: 9.7 cm
Hieratic papyrus
British Museum EA 10731
19th dynasty, about 1200 BC
From Deir el-Medina
A charm written in
Khenherkhepshef's distinctive
cursive hand. The sheet was folded
and worn suspended around the
neck. The text is a spell against a
demon called Sehaqeq whose
are in his head, whose tongue is in
his buttocks.
Fragment of wall painting from the
tomb of Kynebu:
the deified ruler Amenhotep I
British Museum EA 37993
20th dynasty, about 1129-1126 BC
Painted plaster
Height: 44 cm
Fragment of wall painting from the
tomb of Kynebu: the deified Queen
British Museum EA 37994
20th dynasty, about 1129-1126 BC
Painted plaster
Fragments of papyrus
British Museum EA 10016.2.
Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC.
Probably from Deir el-Medina.
Height: 8.3 cm
Width: 52.8 cm
This ostrakon is difficult to interpret as it is in a
fragmentary state. The figure depicted on the right is male
and is engaged in sexual intercourse with the figure on the
left, who is probably a woman, but could also be a male.
The male is penetrating her from behind, (s)he is bending
and turning her/his head towards him. The caption in front
of them records their speech, but is also incomplete: "Calm
is the desire of my skin!"
This kind of drawing, portraying ancient Egyptian erotic
activities, appears only in unofficial sources - on papyri,
figured ostraka and graffiti. Rather than attempting to
interpret them as glimpses of sexual behaviour and daily life
practices, Patrick Houlihan explains them as clearly satirical
in intent (Houlihan,2001,124,130-131).
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Amennakht, son of Ipuy, was "Scribe of the Royal Tomb" from 1168 BC for thirty years.
He was the copyist of legal and administrative texts from Deir el-Medina, including the
will of Naunakhte, the widow of Khenherkhepshef. He seems to be the author of five
surviving poems, including a lyrical poem about the neighbouring city of Thebes.
Amennakht's votive stele
British Museum EA 374
20th dynasty, about 1160 BC
From Deir el-Medina
The stele records Amennakht's prayer to the local
Meretseger, to remove an affliction
"Praises for your spirit, Meretseger, Mistress of the
West, by the scribe of the Place of Truth (st-maat),
Amennakht true-of-voice; he says: 'Be praised in
peace, O Lady of the West, Mistress who turns
herself to grace! You made me see darkness in the day
I shall declare Your power to other people. Be gracious
to me in your grace!'"
(Translation from the Museum label)
Height: 20.6 cm
Width: 14.3 cm
The meaning of dreams is a subject that fascinated the ancient Egyptians. This hieratic papyrus
probably dates to the early reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). On each page of the papyrus a
vertical column of hieratic signs begins with a line:
'if a man sees himself in a dream'; each
horizontal line describes a dream, followed by the diagnosis 'good' or 'bad', then followed by the
interpretation of the dream. For example,
'if a man sees himself in a dream looking out of a window,
good; it means the hearing of his cry'
. Or, 'if a man sees himself in a dream with his bed catching
fire, bad; it means driving away his wife'.
The text first lists good dreams, and then bad ones. The
word 'bad' is always written in red, which was considered the colour of ill omen. The papyrus had
several owners before it was deposited in the Deir el-Medina's necropolis. It cannot be established
who the original owner was, but it passed into the hands of the scribe
On the other side of the papyrus, the
scribe copied a poem about the Battle of
Kadesh, which took place in the reign of
Ramesses II (about 1285 BC). The
Dream Book passed to Khaemamen,
Khenherkhepshef's wife's second
husband, and then to his son Amennakht
(both added their name to the papyrus).
The Dream Book was part of an archive,
including a wide variety of literary,
magical and documentary material, which
passed down through the family for more
than a century. It was discovered
sometime in early 20th century most
probably within the Western cemetery,
but the exact spot find or the place of
Khenherkhepshef's tomb, have both
been lost ever since.
Height: 34.50 cm
Gift of Mrs. Chester Beatty
Hieratic ostrakon
British Museum EA 5633
20th dynasty, around 1100 BC
From Deir el-Medina
Black ink with several red lines
Fragment of a limestone ostrakon with
the text on both recto (18 lines) and
verso (16 lines) containing a record of
goods purchased by a lady Webkhet.
The recto text is written within red lines.
Anthropoid busts
77 examples of anthropoid or ancestral busts have been revealed during excavations
at Deir el-Medina, further 11 busts are attributed to the site by their owners or dealers or can be connected
to Deir el-Medina on stylistic grounds, and 3 more busts that were in the Luxor and Cairo antiquities markets
in 1934-1935 (probably originating from Bernard Bruyère's excavations) that are now lost (Keith,2011,8-9).
The busts generally do not bear inscriptions, only 5 bear signs. Typically small, they measure from 10
to 25 cm in height and are made of limestone or sandstone. We can assume that most were originally
painted as remains of pigment on some are evident. The gender of the most of the busts is open to
question (Janssen,2007,187).
The figures are referred to as 'ancestor busts'. It is thought that they were placed in the small shrine areas
which seemed to form part of
private homes, and played a part in the private devotions of the family. Five
busts were found in houses at Deir el-Medina, where they could have been placed in wall niches in the first and
second rooms. The wall niches are comparable in size, so this seems probable. Rather than representing anyone
in particular, the busts anonymous nature suggests that they represent all the ancestors whom the family might
wish to commemorate. Another theory is that they represent "the able spirit" of those, who had been
authoritative in life, by inference, the older members of the community. In troubled times people turned to
them for help, i.e. to a parent still remembered, not to an ancestor of long ago. Some of these must have been
older women.
Similar objects have been found at fourteen other sites from the central Delta to the Third Cataract. They
were found in or near houses as well as in tombs and temples. Whether the context was domestic or religious
we cannot be sure, but it is understood that for the worshiper the ancestor busts conjured up memories of a
deceased relative.
Stele with inset anthropoid bust
British Museum EA 270
19th dynasty, about 1295-1186 BC
Probably from Deir el-Medina
This unique and unfortunately considerably damaged stele
incorporates two miniature ancestral busts above a scene
showing the dedicator worshiping another bust.
The busts shown in the upper part of the monument were once
coated with a layer of plaster, most of which is now lost.
Some colour remains to show the left bust's face was painted
red while the face of the bust on the right was yellow. Blue
and black can also be detected around the busts. The
background was painted yellow (Keith,2011,324).
The lower register was left unfinished. Vertical lines and
preliminary sketches are visible, but the surface was not fully
worked. The figures are not painted, but were probably
intended to be. 5 or 6 columns of the text are mostly illegible.
Nicola Harrington suggests a portion of the inscription might
read "...the revered one...of the Mistress of the House,
Mut... ...justified" and concludes that the stele's purpose
might have been to a woman's address to all ancestors rather
than a specific individual (Keith,2011,325).
Anthropoid bust
British Museum EA 73988
19th dynasty, 1295-1186 BC
Provenance unknown
Anthropoid bust
British Museum EA 61083
Said to be from Thebes, Egypt
19th or 20th Dynasty, 1300-1150 BC
Painted limestone
Features are carefully modelled, face, wig and
wsh collar
(a "broad" collar, a form of necklace) are painted.
Height: 24.5 cm
Width: 15.5 cm
Thickness: 9 cm
Over 50 stelae from Deir el-Medina testify to the
existence of household cults devoted to deceased relatives
who had become
akhu (Lesko,1994,112). The spirits could
be dangerous if offended, and the offerings to the
were both propitiatory and reverential.
Aprentice scribe's copy of Kemyt
Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC
Possibly from Deir el-Medina
British Museum EA 5640
The work named
Kemyt (The Compendium), an Egyptian word meaning "what completes, completion",
or "what is completed", is mentioned in the 12th dynasty's (circa 1950 BC) The Satire of
Trades, so it must be older than that, suggesting Kemyt was a standard text in the 12th
dynasty. The greetings in Kemyt, found at the beginning of a letter it contains, are characteristic
of formal letters dated to the 11th dynasty (circa 2000 BC), where the origin can be derived.
The surviving copies are written in vertical columns divided by spacing lines, in red paint, rather
than in horizontal lines written from right to left, which was the norm during the New Kingdom
(James,2003,147-148). The appearance of the signs used is old fashioned, characteristic of
early Middle Kingdom period. Why have more ostraka with portions of Kemyt survived than those
bearing parts of any other literary text? There might be several reasons for that: the text of
Kemyt is not particularly interesting (it is a model letter), so perhaps it was in its simplicity and
in its lack of difficulties for the young scribe that it could have been used for scribal beginners.
It could have been used as the first reader from which the student learned to handle the hieratic
script both in reading and writing. Thanks to its standard formulae and expressions the exercise
was easy to learn and hard to forget making the work ideal for instructional purposes.
The signs on this limestone ostrakon are rather clumsily written. The opening greeting, known to
thousands of ancient schoolboys, reads:  
Your state is like living
a million times!
May Montu lord of Thebes act for you,
Even as this servant desires!
May Ptah South of his Wall sweeten
your heart with (life), very (much)!
(translation from the museum label)
Objects originating from the location of Deir el-Medina displayed in the past
or still on display in the public galleries of the British Museum
One of the forms, deceased ancestors were commemorated
through, were small stelae. These were usually round-topped or
pointed. Some of them bore the figures of deceased individuals,
identified as revered ancestors by the epithet
"the able spirit of Ra". The
akh-spirits were the blessed dead,
those who had attained a seat in the sun-bark of the god Ra.
Their magical powers protected them from the dangers of the
afterlife. They could also use them for or against the dead and
the living. To become an
akh (plural akhu) one had to know the
magic spells, perform funerary rites and have the gods,
especially Ra, intervene on one's behalf.
Fragment of a stele of Neferabu
19th dynasty
From Deir el-Medina
British Museum EA 1754
Acquired in Luxor
Height: 17.5 centimetres
Length: 52 centimetres
Location: Gallery 63/11
Neferabu  was a worker from Deir el-Medina, active in the necropolis at some point during the first
half of the 19th dynasty. His activity can definitely be pinned down to years 36 and 40 of Ramesses II.
Neferabu's title was "The servant in the Place of Truth". The stele below may have come from his tomb
TT5 or perhaps from one of the shrines at Deir el-Medina. The relief shows the sons and relations of
the deceased and the draftsman Pabaki, the draftsman Pashedu and the scribe Ipu, carrying assorted
funerary goods to place in his tomb. These include various boxes and stools.
The tomb of Neferabu (TT5) offers an excellent platform on which we can try to construct his family
tree. Neferabu was apparently the son of "The servant in the Place of Truth" Nefferonpet and Mahi.
Despite the fact that Amenmose is referred to as the "father" of Neferabu in TT5, it can be shown
that he was in fact the father of Neferabu's wife Ta-Isis (or Isis).
There are a number of other stelae and objects from this tomb in the British Museum.
The stele below is in good but incomplete condition. In literature it is always cited together with
stele 150 (as BM 150+1754). Published by Kitchen in Rammesside Inscriptions, Vol 3, p. 774, Part of
154. Also published in The BM hieroglyphic texts from Egyptian stelae etc., edited by T. G. H. James,
Part 9: Plate XXX
Registration number: 1931,0613.11
The cult of Amenhotep I
From the 18th dynasty onwards, the main focus of religious worship of the population of Deir el-Medina was the
cult of Amenhotep I, particularly in the form of "Lord of the village", together with his mother Ahmose-Nefertari.
Jaroslav Černý pointed out, that at Deir el-Medina existed several forms of
this cult corresponding to the statues, each of which had a particular name, housed in the various sanctuaries
established there (Černý,1927,182).
Amenhotep I Djeserkare (1525-1504 BC) was the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. He was probably still very
young when he came to the throne, so it is likely that his mother, queen Ahmose-Nefertari (c.1570-1505 BC)
served as regent for the first part of his reign. They are jointly credited with the foundation of Deir el-Medina,
where they consequently enjoyed personal religious cults until the late Ramesside Period.
Apart from the modest temple dedicated primarily to the couple, they were secondary honourands in the chapels of
other gods as well.
The deified king had many feasts during the year at which his statue was carried in procession by the
wab priests.
These activities were acts of piety towards the divinised mother and son and were consistently and exclusively
performed by the workmen of the village (Ventura 1986, p. 63). The feasts were fairly regular events and were
usually part of religious festivals connected with the cult. One festival involved the carrying of Amenhotep I's
statue into the Valley of the Kings, another may have been associated with the anniversary of his death. The
deified king was called upon to resolve disputes, particularly the ones involving properties. In these oracles, the
image of the god, Amenhotep I, responded positively or negatively to questions put to him. Since the priests of this
particular cult came from the workmen themselves, the response would be some form of consensus between the
priests who were carrying the divine image. The god's oracular pronouncements, however they were made, had
great weight, and his processions were a high point in Deir el-Medina's life.  
The textual and representational evidence associated with their cult at Deir el-Medina may be seen in cult
statues, votive stelae, libation basins, paintings and inscriptions in tombs and on ostraka. More than fifty of the
Theban tombs of private individuals include inscriptions mentioning Ahmose-Nefertari's name.
Below are samples of representations of the deified couple. They originate from Deir el-Medina and are now parts
of the British museum collection.
A Letter from Tjaroy's son
British Museum EA 10284
20th dynasty, 1071 BC
From Thebes
In this letter Tjaroy's son Butehamun expresses his concern
for his father to the Priest of Hathor and
Troop-Commander Shedsuhor, who was with him on an
expedition to Nubia.

"Indeed you are good, and my father belongs to you. Be a
pilot for the Scribe of the (Royal) Tomb Tjaroy! You know he
is a man who has no courage(?) of his own at all, since he
has never before made such journeys as now. Help him in the
boat. Look after (him) with vigilance at evening as well,
while he is in your hands, since you are journeying [...]. Now
a man is wretched(?) when he has become troubled, when he
has never before seen the face of fear (i.e. of a crocodile).
Now your people are alive; no harm has come to them. I am
writing to let you know."
(Translation from accessed on
The remains of Butehamun's house
inside the temple enclosure of
Medinet Habu
Tjaroy, the great-grand-son of Amennakhte, was "Scribe  of the Royal Tomb" from 1091 BC. During
his lifetime the villagers moved to the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu. Tjaroy is known from
his letters and had a reputation for jokes. He went on many state missions, including one to the south,
accompanying army supplies. Many letters mention his anxieties for his family, including his son
Butehamun, whose house survives.
Letter from Tjaroy
British Museum EA 10326
20th dynasty, 1071 BC
From Thebes
Tjaroy writes to his son Butehamun from Nubia -
"the wilds
where I am abandoned in this far-off land"
- about various
family matters. He reassures them that he is doing quite
"with my boss and he does not neglect me". He also
answers his son's question about some documents which had
been caught in a rain storm.
The hieroglyphs are painted black and the lines
between the columns are red. The hands and
face of Ptah are green, his cap is blue, and his
body is white. His beard and the outline of his
eye are black, and his collars are yellow edged
in red. The shrine is yellow edged in red with
blue dots. The ears are black, blue and red.
The food offerings are painted in a variety of
colours. The human figure and the
ka-sign are
red, and Penbuy's wig and features are black.
His collars are blue and green, while his skirt is
white with red pleats.
Height: 38.5 cm
Width: 27 cm
Comic erotic scene
British Museum EA 50714.
Ramesside Period, 1295-1069 BC.
Possibly from Deir el-Medina
Black ink
Fragments of a painted satirical papyrus show comic representations of a range of animals mirroring
behaviour of common people. The usual roles of humans in their everyday life are turned upside down.
This particular portion of the papyrus pictured above is not very well preserved and it is not known
whether the fragments are mounted in their original order (Houlihan,2001,66). From the right a
hippopotamus assisted by another animal is brewing beer in a large pottery vat. Next to them a lady
mouse is being tended to by a pair of servants - a mouse and a cat. She sits on a chair holding a big
flower. In front of her a table full of offerings is positioned. Behind the mouse servant there is a lion
seated on a chair either sieving flour of brewing beer (Houlihan,2001,67). Next to him a cat and another
animal are carrying a large basket hanging from a pole they carry on their shoulders. On the left side of
the papyrus, a missing animal was holding a crook or a sickle, perhaps performing agricultural activities
together with the beast in front of it.
Behind the headrest in the photo
on the left the photograph shows
the front of the papyrus described
Papyrus giving a list of dreams and
their interpretations
British Museum EA 10683, Papyrus
Chester Beatty 3
From Deir el-Medina
19th Dynasty, around 1275 BC