Archers

Period: Old Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 4

Reign: reign of Khufu or Khafre

Date: ca. 2551–2494 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Pyramid Complex of Amenemhat I, Core of pyramid; Original probably from Giza, MMA excavations, 1920–22

Medium: Limestone, paint

Dimensions: h. 25.4 (10 in); w. 37.5 cm (14 3/4 in)

Credit Line: Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922

Accession Number: 22.1.23

Description

This relief depicts a battle scene in which two rows of archers, one group standing, the other kneeling in front, are shown ready to fire. In the detail illustrated here, the beautifully carved head and shoulders of one archer are partially obscured by the left forearm and right hand of a second man who is drawing a bow. His fingers steady an arrow in the bowstring while his thumb and forefinger clutch two more arrows, which he can flick quickly into place.

The carving is in raised relief, a technique in which the background is carved away, leaving the decoration raised on the surface. The face of the archer has been carefully modeled and details such as the twisted bowstring and the spines on the feathers have been meticulously rendered. Only traces remain of the paint that originally enhanced nearly all Egyptian sculpture.

The fragment was discovered by the Museum's Egyptian Expedition during excavations at Lisht, a site about thirty miles south of Cairo. It had been reused in the pyramid of Amenemhat I (ca. 1991–1961 B.C.), founder of Dynasty 12. However, the style of the carving suggests that this relief originally decorated one of the Fourth Dynasty pyramid temples at Giza. The reuse of building materials is not uncommon in ancient Egypt.

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