Plaque of a King in the Red Crown
This head of a king in the “red” crown, along with a second plaque bearing an inscription, was purchased in 1911. Based on their style, both plaques were dated originally to Dynasty 3 or early 4 (ca. 2500 B.C.). However, by the 1980s, questions raised about this dating led to doubts about their authenticity, and they were taken off view.
In 2012, a French mission to the Delta site of Tanis unearthed a series of reliefs attributed to the late Third Intermediate Period (Eighth Century B.C.). Deliberately referencing the past, these reliefs bear a remarkable resemblance to the art of Dynasty 3. Claus Jurman, now at the University of Vienna, has linked The Met’s plaques convincingly to these Tanis reliefs. They are most likely sculptors’ models, copied directly from Dynasty 3 examples to guide the artists of the later royal court.
Lion with the names of Pharaoh Necho II
This lion with cartouches of Necho II on its shoulders displays features unexpected in Egypt at this time. The curled mane and half-open mouth point specifically to the Syro-Hittite region as the place of its creation. Even the small fringe of hair hanging from the front end of the ears has precursors in that area, suggesting this region should be looked to for the source of this feature in later Achaemenid art.
The lion speaks with remarkable immediacy of a moment in Egyptian and Near Eastern history. Between 609 and 605 Necho's Egyptian troops were in the Syro-Hittite area, residing in Carchemish and fighting at Harran alongside remnants of the Assyrian forces resisting Nebuchadrezzar’s Neo-Babylonians.
The lion lay partially atop another figure that is missing, but, given the origins indicated by its style, was most likely a prey animal. The figure might have ornamented the lid of a box.
Drink and Be Merry!
On the occasion of the Museum’s 150th anniversary, the small exhibition Drink and Be Merry! (2019-21) explored ways in which the ancient Egyptians celebrated. A selection of facsimiles, copied from tombs of the New Kingdom (ca. 1550–1070 B.C.), highlighted key components of festivals, such as processions and banquets accompanied by music and dance.
Interestingly, the consumption of food is not a central motif in banquet scenes, but they frequently feature alcohol and the written exhortation, “Drink and make a happy day!” In addition to social drinking, Egyptians sometimes consumed alcohol excessively, notably in rites of drunkenness performed during certain religious festivals.