Ripe barley

Period: New Kingdom, Amarna Period

Dynasty: Dynasty 18

Reign: reign of Akhenaten

Date: ca. 1353–1336 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt; Probably from Middle Egypt, Hermopolis (Ashmunein; Khemenu); Probably originally from Amarna (Akhetaten)

Medium: Limestone, paint

Dimensions: H. 23 cm (9 1/16 in); W. 52 cm (20 1/2 in); Th. approx. 4 cm.

Credit Line: Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1985

Accession Number: 1985.328.24


Scenes of nature and depictions of animals and plants were always a feature of Egyptian art but assumed special significance during the Amarna period because the solar deity, Aten, was also very much a creator god. This depiction of barley emphasizes the ripeness of the swollen seeds and adds an atmospheric touch by showing the stalks and ears bent and the awns mingled under a gentle breeze. The harvest of grain, a common motif in the traditional decoration of Egyptian nonroyal tombs, took on a ritual connotation in the royal sphere of temple reliefs. During a feast in honor of the fertility god Min—an event that was closely connected with the pharaoh's coronation and its commemorations in later years—the king cut a sheaf of grain with a sickle and presented it to the deity. This detail of a grain field may have been part of such a scene.