Gallery number: 24 – Ground Floor
Period: Late Period
Dynasty: 26th Dynasty, reign of Psamtek I Wahibre, (c. 664-610 BC)
Size: H 74.00 cm W 62.60 cm D/L 47.50 cm
Place of discovery: Thebes East, Karnak Temple (Ipet-Isut) Precinct of Amun, Court of the Cachette, Karnak Cachette
This statue of a seated scribe is an attempt to emulate the Old Kingdom sculptural ideals, a characteristic element of this period. Pa-di-amen-opet, son of (N)a-menkh-ast is the Chief Lector Priest and a Scribe, clearly a man of high rank. He is depicted in the regular pose of the scribes with cross-legs and a papyrus scroll placed upon his tightly stretched kilt, his left hand is holding the scroll and his right poised to write upon it. He is looking ahead, ready to receive dictation or information. The receding hairline references the Old Kingdom iconography of portraying a mature and successful official. His face serene and confident, his mouth and eyes are rendered slightly different to what was usual at the time for portraiture. His shoulders are broad and square, and the torso is indicative of the precision of modelling and polish of 26th Dynasty hard stone statues. He has well-defined muscular forearms and the lower legs and at some point, the right knee of the statue was broken off and restored. Inscriptions on the scroll provide his name and titles, while the two lines of hieroglyphic inscriptions framed between two horizontal lines around the semi-circular base bear various prayers.
Scribes held a high position in ancient Egypt, as they were closely related to the pharaoh. There are many statues of seated scribes with a papyrus roll placed on their laps, on which they recorded many important State and private documents. A scribe would record the tax collection process and harvest calculations; they accompanied soldiers in military campaigns; and providing their services, especially in editing letters and wills and reading correspondence.
High quality papyrus was not available to everyone, therefore other more readily available materials could be used. Written documents have been found on recycled papyrus, pieces of wood, pottery and limestone. They could write on both sides of an object and at other times they used an impermeable adhesive on wood panels, in order to reuse a surface. Scribes used black ink to write texts, while red ink was for dates, titles and headings to distinguish them from the rest of the text or even in corrections. They used reeds as writing implements, allowing them to vary the line thickness. Reeds were held in a palette, usually made of wood, which had depressions to hold the red and black inks.