Writing board

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12

Date: ca. 1981–1802 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt; Said to be from Upper Egypt, Thebes or Northern Upper Egypt, Akhmim (Khemmis, Panopolis)

Medium: Wood, gesso, paint

Dimensions: L. 43 cm (16 15/16 in); w. 19 cm (7 1/2 in)

Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1928

Accession Number: 28.9.4

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
Gessoed boards were used for writing notes or school exercises. Like the slate writing tablets of yesteryear, they could be used repeatedly, with old texts being whitewashed to provide a “clean slate” for another. This board still bears traces of earlier writing (at left). The main text is a wordy model letter that the student copied—and surely also was expected to memorize. His many spelling mistakes have been corrected in red ink by the teacher.
Purchased in Cairo from Nicolas Tano, 1928.

Hayes, William C. 1953. Scepter of Egypt I: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 294–95, fig. 194.

James, Thomas G. H. 1962. The Hekanakhte papers, and other early Middle Kingdom documents, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 19. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 98-101, pl. 30.