Fitzwilliam Museum,
Ostrakon of an unshaven stone mason
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
13.5x15 cm.
Red and black line drawing
Ramesside period, 1200-1153 BC
The drawing of the head and the upper arms of a stone mason
leaning forward while working. The man's head is bald, his
beard is stippled and his mouth is open. Possibly, he is meant to
be singing, while at work or he is gasping for air inside a dusty
tomb. He is endowed with an overly large ear and bulbous nose.
He is gripping the tools of his trade, the copper chisel in his
left hand and the wooden mallet in his right hand. The subject
of this ostrakon is unique, unparalleled in the official art of
On the reverse of the ostrakon scribe Imyshe, son of
Nebnefer, makes an offering to the snake goddess Meretseger.
The page was last modified on February 27th 2018
1.The museum's own labels
2. Brunner, Emma : Egyptian artists' sketches : figured ostraka from the
Gayer-Anderson collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Leiden : Netherlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut le Istanbul, 1979.
3.Images of Fitzwilliam Museum objects and any text by the Fitzwilliam
Museum reproduced on this site are ©The Fitzwilliam Museum and are subject
to The Fitzwilliam Museum's Website Copyright Terms and Conditions which can
be read at
Ostrakon of a man driving a bull
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
15x12 cm.
New Kingdom
Possibly from Deir el-Medina
The body of the man is painted red, the wig,
his kilt grey and the stick in his left hand
black. The bull is being driven in front of the
man. The animal is outlined in black and
painted red with black markings - composed
of patterns of dots, stripes and solid patches
of colour. The scene is beautifully drawn. It
is one of the finest examples of its kind.
Ostrakon of a bull
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge E.GA.4297.1943.
8x7 cm.
Black line drawing
New Kingdom
Drawing in black of a bull, walking towards right. The
motif is common in Egyptian art and this example is the
product of a stylistic tradition already hundreds of
years old. Such bulls are to be found among the wall
reliefs of paintings in almost every tomb, in scenes of
agriculture, cattle breeding, among processions of
offering bearers, or in funerals. Although this drawing
is simple, it is a skilled artist's study. Faint correction
lines can be detected in several places: along the
shoulder, the back and the croup.
Ostraka of monkeys
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
E.GA.4292.1943. E.GA.4293.1943.
11x9.75 cm (left), 8.5x13 cm (right)
Late 18th dynasty - early 19th dynasty, 1350-1250 BC
Black line drawing, with red, yellow and grey paint
Two monkeys wearing belts or ribbons are shown on the two flakes below. It is not possible to establish
whether the author/s of these drawings tried to represent their beloved pets or whether the drawings
reflect a narrative but they do not look like preliminary drawings for walls in tombs. The presence of the
girdles tied around their wastes indicate they are domestic pets (Houlihan,1996,210). In the scene on the
left the monkey climbs a trunk of dom palm tree to pick some of its ripe nuts and turns its head to look
over his shoulder. He is sketchily painted, his face is human and he wears a tiered male wig. His human
aspect might refer to the mischievous behaviour of a child.
In the scene on the right, a monkey runs on all four looking over his shoulder at a person walking behind him
holding a stick. The person is only partly preserved. The drawing displays more detail than the previous one.
Ostrakon showing a war chariot
speeding over rocky ground

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
15x8.5 cm.
Black and red outlines with black
and red paint
New Kingdom
Ostrakon of a woman riding on a stallion
11.3x7.5 cm.
Black and red line drawing with red paint.
19th dynasty
The drawing shows a nude rider, possibly a
woman, riding towards right on a stallion. The
ground-line slopes upwards. The horse has a
short upright mane, and wears a bridle. The
woman holds a stick or staff in her left hand.
She wears an amulet on a long string around her
The black outline has been laid over preliminary
red lines. Both bodies have been painted red.
Figures on horseback are not common but do occur
in ancient Egyptian art. A similar scene on an
ostrakon in Berlin was identified as Astarte, the
Syrian goddess of love and war. It is possible
this ostrakon depicts the same topic.
Ostrakon of a cat
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
9x11 cm
Red line drawing
New Kingdom
This piece carries the drawing of a
seated cat facing towards the right.
The 1st sketch as well as the final
drawing were both made in red paint.
This simple portrait was probably a
practice piece.
Drawing of an unkept man carrying bags on
a stick, possibly a yoke
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge E.106.1949.
13.9x9.8 cm.
Late dynasty XIX - 3rd Intermediate
Period, 1295-1069 BC
On this pot-sherd a field worker is
depicted with baskets or bags yoked over
his far shoulder. The man is shown balding,
with hunched shoulders, thin limbs and a
walking stick in his free hand.
Drawing of a lion's head
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
13.5x10 cm.
Pink pottery
Red and black line drawing
Ramesside Period
This motif of a lion's head looking to the
left occurs 3 times on the inner and outer
surfaces of this fragment from a flat
pottery plate. On the inside (pictured) is a
large scale study of the head of a lion with
a closed mouth, executed in black paint with
quick, broad strokes. Underneath this
drawing, in red, is the vigorous sketch of
the rearing head of a lion about to charge,
with open jaws and outstretched tongue as
of an attacking animal. The drawings are
work of a master artist.
Drawing of a seated Seth-animal
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge E.GA.4300.1943.
9.5x8 cm.
Black line drawing over red outline
New Kingdom
Possibly from Deir el-Medina.
This small ostracon shows a hieroglyph in the
form of the seated Seth-animal, looking towards
Along the right broken edge, part of the outline
of a cartouche is visible, which may once have
contained the name of one of the ramesside
kings. On the upper broken edge are traces of
some vertical red lines.
Drawing of a jackal
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
10x11 cm.
Red and black line drawing, with black paint
Ramesside Period
On this fragment there is a scene showing
a jackal wearing a robe and carrying a
sceptre. Below is a captive calf/goat.
Drawing of an owl
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
9.5x14.5 cm.
Red and black line drawing
Ramesside Period, about 1305-1080 B.C.
This well preserved ostrakon bears a detailed
drawing of the upper half of the hieroglyphic
sign "m", an owl.
The initial outline was made in red, and
overlaid in black. The arrangement and form
of the different feathers has been skilfully
and precisely reproduced. Although the head is
turned full face, the neck, right wing, and
left leg (which is just hinted at) are shown in
a side view. The drawing may be classified as
a study of a model hieroglyph.
Large ostrakon
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.E.GA.4298.1943.
42x27 cm.
Black line drawing recto and verso
From Thebes, possibly from Deir el-Medina
According to inscription, 19th dynasty
A number of themes seem to have been used to explore by the artist of this ostrakon. The most
prominent design is of a shrine doorway represented in the centre. To the left of the door, the
figure of the standing donor is represented. He is an official, which is denoted by the staff of
office he holds in his left hand. Above him there is a drawing of a head of the god Ptah with a
cap and beard. On the right side of the door there is a line of hieroglyphic text, which reads  
"Conquer the people of the Nine Bows" (a symbolic designation of enemies of Egypt). The whole
drawing is an example of the finest workmanship, and must have been produced as a design for a
door which the owner had commissioned with this sketch.
Shabti of Sennedjem
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge E.9.1887.
Limestone with pigment
Height 21.5 cm.
From Deir el-Medina, Tomb 1 of Sennedjem
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, reign of Seti I,
1294-1279 BC
The shabti holds a broad bladed hoe against his
right shoulder and a hoe with pointed blade against
his left shoulder. A basket for seeds is depicted on
his back, slung by a rope over his right shoulder.
The text invokes the shabti as a servant, literally
"hearer of the call", to act on behalf of Sennedjem
if required at any of the works which are done in
the necropolis.
Back to top
All the ostraka described below come from the collection formed by R.G. Gayer-Anderson
(1881-1945). He lived in Egypt between 1906 and 1942 as an army medical officer, a senior civil
servant and a private collector. In 1942 he left his Cairo house called Beit el-Kreatlia, to the
Egyptian Government as a museum of Islamic art. He moved to Lavenham, England, to one of the
best preserved of the Suffolk wool towns. Together with his twin brother, he restored Little Hall,
a 14th century house built by a family of clothiers. They filled the house with a variety of art and
artefacts collected during their extensive travels.  
Little Hall, the Tudor house of
Gayer-Andersons' at Lavenham
The material is mostly limestone, there are 2 terracotta shreds and 1 grey stone.
The ostraka below are all painted, but the museum collection contains also examples of figures carved
in relief - rather products of sculpture than of drawing.
The ostraka are drawn in black and/or red ink, but yellow and grey pigments also appear.
The exact provenance of the collection is not known. They are dated on the evidence of stylistic
criteria or names present in inscriptions. They can be assigned to the 18th-20th dynasties. Most
pieces are considered to come from Deir el-Medina.

Images of Fitzwilliam Museum objects and any text by the Fitzwilliam Museum reproduced on this site
are ©The Fitzwilliam Museum and are subject to The Fitzwilliam Museum's Website Copyright Terms
and Conditions which can be read at
The British Museum also received
some artefacts form the collection.
The Gayer-Anderson' cat
British Museum
Late Period, about 664-332 BC.
Gayer-Anderson donated part of the collection of
Egyptian antiquities to Fitzwilliam Museum in
Cambridge. The artefacts arrived between 1943
and 1949.
Altogether the Fitzwilliam Museum obtained 46
pieces of ostraka. 15 of these have sketches on
both verso and recto, so the number of
representations is 61. Majority - 54 - are images
of figures, only 4 carry text.
The Nine Bows
This is an ancient term that collectively referred to the enemies of Ancient Egypt. The name could
originate from their use of bows and arrows in warfare or because of their ritual of physically
"breaking the bows" of defeated foes as a metaphor for military defeat - but the original reason is
not known. The actual enemies that this refers to were a matter of choice that reflected the current
contact with neighbours and their relations with them - but the selection generally included Asiatics,
Sand Dwellers and Nubians.

The Nine Bows were often represented as a number of arrows (not always nine) and this design was
used to decorate some royal furniture and thrones. On monuments the Nine Bows could also be
represented as rows of bound captives. The Nine Bows, surmounted with a Jackal, was also the 'seal'
of the Valley of the Kings.
Photography by Lenka Peacock, all images reproduced with the
kind permission of the Fitzwilliam Museum,
Back to