Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Cast of an architrave with the name of Khafre

Artist:
Ron Street
Artist:
Wayne Moseley
Period:
Old Kingdom (original)
Dynasty:
Dynasty 4
Reign:
reign of Khafre
Date:
ca. 2520–2494 B.C. (original)
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Fiberglass-reinforced epoxy resin, paint
Accession Number:
N.A.1999.4.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 103
This is a cast of a red-granite architrave made for King Khafre in the Fourth Dynasty, probably for the court of his pyramid temple at Giza.

The court was surrounded by a series of doorways and wide piers. This architrave would have bridged two piers so that the horizontal cartouche of Khafre surmounted a doorway. The cartouche reads, "The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khafre, son of Re." Flanking crowned falcons are the topmost elements of the king's vertically
oriented Horus name, which continued onto the pier below. At the outer edges may be seen traces of the wings of flying falcons, which appeared at either side of statues of the king inset into the piers.

More than five hundred years later, the architrave was reused in the entrance corridor of the pyramid of Amenemhat I (Dynasty 12, ca. 1970 B.C.) at Lisht; and
probably on that occasion its inscription was deliberately damaged. The original architrave remains there, so deep within the structure that it cannot be removed.
History
The red-granite architrave was originally made for King Khafre (Chephren) in the Fourth Dynasty, perhaps for the court of his pyramid temple at Giza or a similar building. This court was surrounded by a series of doorways and wide piers. Piers and architraves were inscribed with the royal titulary in sunk hieroglyphs. The inscriptions start on the architrave and continue downward onto the pillars. The cartouche reads, "The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khafre, son of Re." Flanking crowned falcons are the topmost elements of the king’s vertically oriented Horus name, which continued onto the pier below. At the outer edges may be seen traces of the wings of flying falcons, which appeared at either side of statues of the king inset into the piers. Two falcons wearing the double crown and two cobras in front of them are facing the cartouche. They formed the upper part of the vertically written Horus name of the king. The text would have continued on the piers that supported the architrave. At the very end of the block the rear parts of two flying falcons with outstretched wings are depicted facing outward. These images continued on the adjacent blocks, forming a pattern of emblems and cartouches. From these observations, Herbert Ricke drew a reconstruction convincingly combining the block with architectural features of the court of the Khafre pyramid temple.

Peter Janosi noticed features that seem to indicate that Khafre dismantled the original setting and reused the blocks in a second, slightly different context. While the cartouche and the emblems of the Horus names are deeply cut into the stone (8 mm), the flying falcons are only rendered in shallow incised lines. The difference in the carving technique is so striking that one might think the flying falcons were added later to the decoration. The inscription and the emblems were deliberately mutilated, but the form of mutilation is remarkable. Each sign, the cartouche and the emblems were ‘carefully’ hacked around their edges with small and shallow cuts. None of the signs and images was completely effaced, in some parts the outlines were not touched at all (see especially the outlines of the cartouche), and, consequently, all of the signs remain clearly visible. This form of cutting was certainly not meant to destroy the images and erase the name of the king – in that case, heavy blows with a broad tool would have done a better job of eradicating the inscription. On the other hand, it is noteworthy to see that the chiseling was also extended to areas where no relief is present at all though as to create a rough surface on the stone. This is particularly visible on the right side between the ureaus, the standing image of the falcon and the wing of the flying falcon, in the lower right corner of the cartouche, beneath the f-sign, and the area surrounding the s3 Ra-title. It should be also noted that while the flying falcon on the right was covered with small chisel marks the counterpart on the left was left untouched. As already remarked, these deliberate mutilations probably were not meant to destroy the emblems and the king’s name. In consequence and in order to explain these deliberate mutilations, it cannot be excluded that the block was already re-used before ending up in the construction of the entrance corridor. In support of this assumption the different form of relief carving also should be taken as an indication that the architraves had lost their original context and were re-used in another building.

More than five hundred years later, the Khafre temple was disassembled and the granite architraves used as wall blocks for the entrance corridor of the pyramid of Amenemhat I (Dynasty 12, ca. 1970 B.C.) at Lisht. One can estimate that ca. 20 of these four-meter-blocks are used in the sidewalls of the 40.5 m long passage. The front of the architraves, originally inscribed with the Khafre’s name, were turned around to hide this embarrassing fact. Maspero and the old Expedition saw the main block already at the lower end of the west side of the passage.

In 1991, the new expedition extracted some backing stones and forced its way into the gap in order to reach the block’s upper end, which was not documented before. A second architrave with a corresponding inscription is visible further up the corridor. Its inscription is upside down and can only be partially viewed (but not traced) through a "window" between the backing stones. The small, visible section reads: "…[the king of Upper and] Lower Egypt Khafre…" A third –probably much defaced- granite block of the same kind with the inscription "…the king of Upper and Lower Egypt..." was seen by the old Expedition "at the lower end of the plunderers’ passage."
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The King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khafre, son of Re
Maspero, Gaston Premier rapport à l’institut égyptien sur les fouilles exécutées en Égypte de 1881 à 1885, Bibliothèque égyptologique I: Études de mythologie et d’archéologie égyptiennes, 1. Paris, pp. 148f.

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