Guardian Figure

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12

Reign: reign of Amenemhat II

Date: ca. 1919–1885 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht South, Mastaba of Imhotep, chamber inside the south enclosure wall, MMA excavations, 1913–14

Medium: Cedar wood, plaster, paint

Dimensions: H. 57.6 cm (22 11/16 in.); W. 11 cm (4 5/16 in.); D. 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)

Credit Line: Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1914

Accession Number: 14.3.17


The artist has endowed this wooden statuette of a guardian deity with the features of the ruling pharaoh, probably Amenemhat II. The figure wears the red crown of Lower Egypt and a divine kilt; this combination of royal and divine attributes suggests that the statuette was not meant as a representation of the living ruler. It was discovered in 1914 at the royal cemetery of Lisht during the Museum's excavation of a mud-brick enclosure wall surrounding the mastaba of Imhotep, a Dynasty 12 official. The deposit included a second, almost identical figure wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt; this statuette is now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. The two figures were probably used as part of a dramatic funerary ceremony and then ritually buried.
Amenemhat II served as coregent with his father Senwosret I and inherited a prosperous and stable kingdom. He sent expeditions south to Punt in Africa and maintained relations with Syria. He chose to build his pyramid complex at Dahshur, one of the Old Kingdom pyramid sites associated with the old capital at Memphis.