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Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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West wall of the chapel of Nikauhor and Sekhemhathor

Period:
Old Kingdom
Dynasty:
Dynasty 5
Reign:
reign of Userkaf–Niuserre
Date:
ca. 2465–2389 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Saqqara, Cemetery north of Djoser complex, Tomb QS 915, west wall
Medium:
Limestone, paint
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1908
Accession Number:
08.201.2a–g
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 103
Nikauhor was a judge and a priest of Userkaf's sun temple and mortuary cult. His wife, Sekhemhathor, was a priestess of Hathor and Neith. The false door niche on the left, flanked by figures of Nikauhor, belongs to him; that on the right, flanked by figures of the couple, belongs to his wife. Nikauhor's offering stela is missing, and that of Sekhemhathor-which originally was placed above her false door-has been displaced to the left because of the height of the wall.

Nikauhor's single figures in particular are very finely carved; his mature, austere features are characteristic of Fifth Dynasty style as opposed to that of the Fourth. The relief flanking his wife's false door is flatter and less modeled.

The intervening expanse of wall shows, from the bottom, a painted dado, the slaughter of cattle, the presentation of offerings, and a game of senet being played alongside a group of musicians. Such scenes sometimes have recognizably allegorical meanings: the passage through the afterworld was, for instance, likened to a game of senet. White outlines among and over the figures of the uppermost preserved register are traces of chair legs and the leg of a large seated figure, which belonged to an erased scene.

The mastaba of Nikauhor, like those of Raemkai and Perneb, was located in a cemetery north of the Djoser complex.
#3255. Nikauhor Chapel Wall
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Location

The mastaba of Nikauhor belongs to the group of mastabas outside the northern enclosure wall of the Djoser complex, which was excavated in 1907/08 by Quibell. He writes: "The west wall has been sold to the Metropolitan Museum of New York. The three other walls, which must suffer a good deal each time they are exposed to the air, were copied before they were again filled." Quibell published modest line drawings of this wall decoration (Quibell 1909, pl. 62-66).

The exact location of the mastaba has not beem established. However, one can conclude from Quibell’s numbering system that S 915 lay somewhere to the east of the Shepsesre mastaba (see 13.183.3, the Tomb of Perneb).
Date
Nikauhor was a judge and a priest of Userkaf's sun temple and the royal mortuary cult in the nearby king’s pyramid. His wife, Sekhemhathor, was a priestess of Hathor and Neith. Nikauhor may have been a contemporary of Userkaf but a date down to Niuserre or even later has been suggested.
Description
No documentation of the tomb exists but it seems to have consisted of a north-south oriented chapel with two false doors in the long wall of the west side. According to the Museum's plan the chapel was 5.15 m long and 1.12 m wide. The entrance to the chapel was from the east. The west wall was of good quality limestone and decorated with fine relief. The other three walls were of local, "marly" limestone. One can assume that the mastaba core consisted of brick and that only the chapel was cased with limestone.

The chapel's west wall, now in the Metropolitan Museum has two recessed false doors, which divide the wall into 5 sections. The false door niche on viewer left, flanked by figures of Nikauhor, belongs to the tomb owner; the false door on the right, flanked by figures of the couple, belongs to his wife.

Originally, as typical in tomb decoration, a slab stela was placed above each false door. Nikauhor's slab stela is missing. That of Sekhemhathor, which was originally placed above her false door, has been displaced to the left in the Museum’s display because of the height of the wall. The first display in the Museum included a reconstructed door drum above the left false door.

The wall space between the false doors is decorated with three registers of activities. The top register includes the playing of the senet-game, and musicians singing and playing the harp and the flute. A procession of offering bearers marches in the middle register and butchers slaughter cattle in the lower register.

The two spaces at the ends of the wall each contains three registers with offering bearers.

White outlines among and over the figures of the uppermost preserved register include traces of chair legs and the leg of a large seated figure, which belonged to an erased scene.

Dieter Arnold 2015
From left to right:

(A) Left section:
The two figures in the upper register are identified as:
n.j-anx-ptH, Niankhptah
spr-nfr, Sepernefer

(B) False Door:

1. Top, Left side:
[zAb-sHD-]zXA.ww smAa-wDa-mdw
...[Hm-nTr-raw]-m-nxn-raw
...Hr.j-zStA
...[jmAx.w] xr nTr aA ra nb
...jr.j-jx.t-nswt n.j-kA.w-Hr.w

[Juridical inspector] of scribes who makes the judgment right,
...[Priest of Re] in Nekhenre (The Sun Temple of Userkaf)
...privy to the secrets
...revered before the great god every day
...custodian of the king's property Nikauhor



2. Top, Right side:
...Hr.j-sStA
...Hm-nTr-[raw]-m-nxn-raw
...mrr.w-n-nb=f
...[jmAx.w] xr nTr=f
...jr.j-jx.t-nswt n.j-kA.w-Hr.w

...privy to the secrets
...[Priest of Re] in Nekhenre (The Sun Temple of Userkaf)
...beloved of his lord
...revered before his god
...custodian of the king's property Nikauhor

3. Figure on the left:
zA=f sms.w zAb-zXA.w wab-nswt kA-nfr
His elder son, the senior scribe, wab-priest of the king, Kanefer

4. Figure on the right:
zA=f sms.w zAb-zXA.w wab-nswt kA.w-Hr.w
His elder son, the senior scribe, wab-priest of the king, Kauher

(C) Middle section, woman seated in front of an offering table

1. Above the figure:
jr.jt-jx.t-nswt Hm.t-nTr jmAx.wt xr nTr sxm-Hw.t-Hr.w
Custodian of the king's property, Divine Priestess, revered before god, Sekhemhathor

2. Below the table:
xA t' xA Hnq.t xA kA.w xA Apd.w Ss
A thousand of bread, a thousand of beer, a thousand of bulls, a thousand of fowls, alabaster

3. Daugther's figure on the left:
jr.(jt)-x.t-nswt zA.t ...Custodian of the royal property, the daughter...

4. Daughter's figure on the right:
jr.(jt)-x.t-nswt Htp-Hr-s...Custodian of the royal property, the daughter, Hetepheres...

(D) Three registers:

1. Upper Register (men playing musical instruments and games):

a. left pair (men playing the senet board game):


jT.t m zn.t
Taking from the Senet

jr (j)x.t sn.nw
Do (some)thing, (my) friend

mk (j)x.t sn.nw
Here's (some)thing, (my) friend

b. second pair from the left (men with harp):

sqr m b(n).t
Playing (literally: striking) the harp

Hs.t n b(n).t
singing with the harp


c. third pair (men with flute)

zbA m mA.t
Playing (literally: blowing into) the flute

Hs.t n mA.t
Singing with the flute

d. fourth pair (men with clarinet)

zbA m mm.t
Playing (literally: blowing into) the clarinet (or a similar musicial instrument)

Hs.t sn-nTr
Singing the Sen-Netjer song*

* note: for the sen-netjer song, see Altenmüller 1978 and Buchberger 1995


2. Middle Register:

sHD-Hm(.w)-kA nfr-Hr-n-ptH, Inspector of (funerary) priests, Neferherenptah
Hm-kA ...(funerary) priest....
Hm-kA n.j-k(A).w-Hr.w, (Funerary) priest, Nik(a)uhor
wdp.w....,the attendant...
wdp.w dns, the attendant, Denes
wdp.w b[j].w, the attendant, Biu
...
af.tj... the brewer...

3. Lower Register:

pD ds
Sharpen the knife!

jT r=k
Take!

sxp.t stp.t
Bringing the choicest (parts)

(E) Right False Door:

1. On the drum above the niche:
sxm-Hw.t-Hr.w
Sekhemhathor

2. On the left:

[zAb-]sHD-zXA.ww Hm-nTr-mAa.t
Hm-nTr-[raw]-m-nxn-raw
(n.j-)kA.w-Hr.w

[Juridical] inspector of scribes, Priest of Maat
Priest [of Re] in Nekhenre (The Sun Temple of Userkaf)
privy to the secrets, (Ni)kauhor

Hm.t=f mr.t=f jr.jt-jx.t-nswt Hm(.t)-nTr-Hw.t-Hr.w-nb(.t)-nh.t
Hm(.t)-nTr-nj.t-wp.tjt-wA.wt mH.tjt-jnb
jmAx(.yt) xr h(j)=s sxm-Hw.t-Hr.w

His beloved wife, custodian of the king's property, priestess of Hathor, mistress of the sycamore
Priestess of Neith opener of ways who is north of the wall
revered before her husband, Sekhemhathor


3. On the right:

zAb-sHD-zXA.ww Hm-nTr-mAa.t
wab-nswt Hm-nTr-Wsr-kA=f Hr.j-sStA
(n.j-)kA.w-Hr.w

Juridical inspector of scribes, Priest of Maat
wab-priest of the king, priest of Userkaf, privy to the secrets
(Ni)kAuher


Hm.t=f mr.t=f jr.jt-jx.t-nswt Hm(.t)-nTr-Hw.t-Hr.w-nb(.t)-nh.t
Hm(.t)-nTr-nj.t-wp.tjt-wA.wt mH.tjt-jnb sxm-Hw.t-Hr.w

His beloved wife, custodian of the king's property, priestess of Hathor, mistress of the sycamore
Priestess of Neith opener of ways who is north of the wall Sekhemhathor

Niv Allon, 2017
Purchased from the Egyptian Government, 1908.

Quibell, James E. 1909. Excavations at Saqqara 1907-1908, 3. Cairo: Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire, pl. 66[2].

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part I: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 102-103, figs. 58-59.

Baer, Klaus 1960. Rank and Title in the Old Kingdom. University of Chicago Press, p. 89, no. 245.

Russmann, Edna R. 1983. Egyptian Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 6 no. 5.

Dorman, Peter F., Prudence Harper, and Holly Pittman 1987. Egypt and the Ancient Near East in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 15–16.

Harpur, Yvonne 1987. Decoration of Egyptian Tombs in the Old Kingdom: Studies in Orientation and Scene Content, Studies in Egyptology, London, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 274, no. 435; p. 275, no. 456.

Cherpion, Nadine 1989. Mastabas et Hypogées d'Ancien Empire: la Problème de la Datation. Brussels: Connaissance de l'Egypte ancienne, pp. 47, 51, 70.

Baud, Michel 1997. "Aux pieds de Djoser: Les mastabas entre fossé et enceinte de la partie nord du complex funèraire." In Études sur l'Ancien Empire et la nécropole de Saqqâra dédiées à Jean-Philippe Lauer, p. 77.

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