Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Relief fragment with king Khufu's cattle

Old Kingdom
Dynasty 4
reign of Khufu
ca. 2551–2528 B.C.
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Pyramid Temple of Amenemhat I, MMA excavations, 1920–22
h. 46 cm (18 1/8 in); w. 137.5 cm (54 1/8 in) Estimated weight: 290 lbs. (131.5 kg.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922
Accession Number:
22.1.3a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 103
These cattle with long, lyre-shaped horns are probably offerings for the funerary cult of Khufu. Such cattle were kept in herds that grazed in open grasslands in the Nile Delta or at the desert margin. The inscriptions over their backs mention the pharaoh's name but are otherwise difficult to translate; they seem to refer to outlying or foreign lands.

The austere but very sensitive style of relief carving and the gently rounded outlines, which let the figures blend beautifully with the background, are typical of Khufu's reign.
Elaborate names are written above the animals on the Lisht block, a feature that is unique in known representations of this type. The names are difficult to translate, and scholars have offered tentative translations, one of which reads them as:
Tfrrw xwfw
Khufu's one of Tjeferer (the territory from which lapis lazuli was brought)
pXr.w HA.w nb.w n Hrw-nb
The surrounding territories serve the Golden Horus (i.e. the king)
wHm.w HA.w tA.w n xwfw
The surroudning lands report to Khufu
Bibliography: Goedicke, Hans 2002. The perimeter of geographical awareness in the Fourth Dynasty and the significance of HAw-nbwt in the Pyramid Texts. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 30, 121-36.
Niv Allon 2016
Excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds.

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