Scribe statue CG 36

Artefact Details

Gallery number: 42 – Ground Floor

Period: Old Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 5 (ca. 2465-2323 BC)

Size: Height 51 cm

Place of discovery: Saqqara

Material: Painted Limestone; Eyes: Rock Crystal, Calcite, Copper

During the Old Kingdom officials often commissioned statues for their tombs depicting themselves as scribes. Only a small percentage of the population was literate and therefore the ability to read and write opened up possibilities for economic and social advancement. Individuals desired to retain their status in the afterlife and so they were careful to include images in their tombs that reflected their status and their abilities. The standard scribal pose includes the legs crossed beneath a partially spread roll of papyrus. The right hand is positioned to hold a reed pen. Those who were literate possessed the power to make something exist by putting it into writing or by repeating written words. Repetition of the offering lists in a tomb would magically supply the deceased with all that they desired.

This exceptionally beautiful scribe statue is uninscribed; the name of the subject, therefore, remains unknown. This piece is skillfully sculpted. The facial features are well modeled and, unlike most stone statues, the arms are freed from the torso. The right hand would have been holding a reed pen, while the left holds the papyrus roll.

This iconic statue is currently the logo of the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University and has also inspired the logo of the Cairo International Book Fair.