Stela of the Steward Mentuwoser, Limestone, paint

Stela of the Steward Mentuwoser

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
reign of Senwosret I, year 17
ca. 1944 B.C.
From Egypt; Probably from Northern Upper Egypt, Abydos
Limestone, paint
H. 103 cm (40 9/16 in.); W. 50.5 cm (19 7/8 in.); Th. 8.3 cm (3 1/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1912
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 110
This rectangular stone stela honors an official named Mentuwoser. Clasping a piece of folded linen in his left hand, he sits at his funeral banquet, ensuring that he will always receive food offerings and that his family will honor and remember him forever. To the right of Mentuwoser, his son summons his spirit. His daughter holds a lotus, and his father offers a covered dish of food and a jug that, given its shape, contained beer.

To show clearly each kind of food being offered, the sculptor arranged the images on top of the table vertically. The feast consists of round and conical loaves of bread, ribs and a hindquarter of beef, a squash, onions in a basket, a lotus blossom, and leeks. The low-relief carving is very fine. The background was cut away only about one-eighth of an inch. Within the firm, clear outlines, the sculptor then subtly modeled the muscles of Mentuwoser's arms and legs and the shape of his jaw and cheeks. The chair legs and the calf's head have also been carefully formed. The hieroglyphic inscriptions in sunk relief state that in the seventeenth year of his reign King Senwosret I presented the stela to Mentuwoser in appreciation of his loyal services. Mentuwoser's deeds are described at length. He was steward, granary official, and overseer of all manner of domestic animals, including pigs. He is described as a good man who looked after the poor and buried the dead. Senwosret's throne name, Kheperkare, appears within a cartouche in the middle of the top line.

The stela once stood at Abydos, the sacred pilgrimage center of the god of the underworld Osiris. Mentuwoser's image and the prayers on the stela were meant to bring him both rebirth and sustenance at the annual festivals honoring Osiris. At such festivals family members and other pilgrims would visit the commemorative chapels in which the stelae were set up, and at its end this stea's text addresses explicitly three groups of people: 1. any scribe who shall read the stela; 2. any person who shall hear the stela read aloud; 3. all people who shall approach it. It is thus suggested that, according to ancient Egyptian understanding, the written word—and its imagery—reached many more people than only just the fully literate.

Link to a blog about food in Ancient Egypt
Food and Feasts in Middle Kingdom Egypt
#3325. Stela of Mentuwoser
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Horizontal text:
rnp.t-zp 17 xr Hm n Hr.w anx-msw.t nTr nfr xpr-kA-ra anx D.t rDi.n n=k Hm(=i) ab(A) pn m Htp Di nswt Wsjr nTr aA nb AbD.w Di=f pr.t-xrw t’ Hnq.t kA.w Apd.w Ss mnx.t (j)x.t nb.(t) nfr.t wab.t anx(.t) nTr jm n kA n jmAx.y jm.j-r’-pr mnT.w-wsr ms(.w) n ab-kA.w Dd=f
Regnal year 17 during the incarnation of the Horus of living birth, the young god Kheperkare, alive forever. The possessor of Horus's incarnation has given this stela as a royal offering of Osiris, the elder god, lord of Abydos, giving an invocation offering of bread and beer, meat and poultry, linen and clothing, and every good and pure thing upon which a god lives, for the ka of the revered steward Mentuwoser, born of Abikau, who says,
Vertical lines:
jnk mA.w r jnd qrs.w m(w)t.y DD (j)x.t n sn.w
jnk sn.nw qn m pr-nswt hAb.y n mds bj(A).t
jw jr.n=i jm.j-r’ Snw.t m jp jt-mH.j
jw jr.n=i jm.j-r’ r(m)T m HA.w xA.w 3
jw jr.n=i jm.j-r’ jH.w jm.j-r’ aw.t jm.j-r’ aA.w jm.j-r’ sr.w jm.j-r’ rr.w xrp.n=i Hbs.w r pr-HD
jw jp m-a=i m pr-nswt nhm n=i dwA-nTr n=i
jnk HD Hr HA.wt wnm.t nn Ah.w n DD=i n{i}=f jw pzS=i wr n jwf n Hms.w r-gs=i
jnk mrr.y h(A).w=f sdm.j {n} n Ab.t=f ni Hbs=i Hr(=i) r m bAk.w
jnk jt n nmH sm XAr.t ni sDr z Hqr.w r dmi=i ni jsq=i z m mXn.t ni dsj=i z wsr=i r=f ni aHa=i Hr
jnk mdw r r’-a sr.w Sw.y m Dd pA.w
jnk sDm.w r wn-mAa tm {a} nma n nb DbA.w
jnk xwd nfr Spss nn h.w=i m jx.t=i nb.t
jnk nb kA.w aSA.w a(w).t nb(.t) aA.w aSA.w sr.w
jnk wr m j.t bd.t Spss m Hbs nn h.w n xDy nb
jnk nfr Ha.w wr HA.w
jr gr.t r(m)T nb.t sDm r=sn ab(A) pn n.tjw m-m-m anx(.w)
jw=sn r Dd mAa pw jw Xrd.w=sn r DD n X(r)d.w<=sn> mAa pw nn g{r}g jm
jr gr.t zXA.w nb ab(A) pn r(m)T nb.t sp(r)<.tj>=sn jr=f
mr=Tn anx msDD mw.t {m} mr=Tn xntj-jmn.tjw Hz=f Tn r rd=f Dd=tn t’ Hnq.t kA.w Apd.w Htp.w DfA.w n nb ab(A) pn
I am a caretaker of the afflicted, a burier of the dead, who gives things to him who has nothing.
I am a diligent subordinate in the king's house, who is sent on missions because of decisive character.
I have acted as granary overseer during the counting of barley;
I have acted as overseer of more than 3,000 people;
I have acted as overseer of cattle, overseer of goats, overseer of donkeys, overseer of sheep, overseer of pigs; I have directed clothing to the treasury;
account has been taken by me in the king's house, and I have been acclaimed and thanked.
I am generous with surplus of food: there is no lack for one to whom I give. I share the greater portion of meat with those who sit next to me.
I am one beloved of his kindred, to whom his family is attached. I have not hid my face from the one who is in servitude.
I am a father to the orphan, a helper of widows. No man has gone to sleep hungry in my domain; I have hindered no man from the ferry;
I have cut down no man less powerful than I; I have tolerated no slanderer.
I am one who talks according to the style of officials, free of outmoded speech.
I am a proper judge, who shows no partiality to the one who can give rewards.
I am wealthy, well supplied with fine things: there is nothing I am missing in all my things.
I am an owner of cattle, with many goats, an owner of donkeys, with many sheep.
I am rich in barley and emmer wheat, fine in clothing: there is nothing missing from all my wealth.
I am well supplied with boats and rich with vintage.

Now as for any people among the living who hear this stela,
they will have to say, "It is true," and their children will say to their children, "It is true; there is no lie in it."
And as for any scribe who shall read this stela and any people who shall approach it:
as you love life and hate death, as you want Foremost of Westerners to bless you at his terrace, you should say, "Bread and beer, meat and poultry,
offerings and provisions for the owner of this stela!"

Mentuwoser: jmAx.y jm.j-r'-pr mnT.w-wsr.w
Mentuwoser: The honored steward, Mentuwoser.

Man at upper right: jr.t.n n=f zA(=f) jm.j-r'-pr jni-jtj=f mAa xrw sanx r=f ms(.w) n nfr-sx.t
Man at upper right: Made for him by his son, who causes his name to live, the steward Intef, justified, born of Nefersekhet.

Man at lower right: jt=f sanx n=f rn=f jni-jtj=f ms(.w) n sn.t
Man at lower right: His father, whose name he has caused to live, Intef, born of Senet.

Woman: zA.t=f, DD.t ms.t n nfr-sx.t
Woman: His beloved daughter, Dedet, born of Nefersekhet.
Purchased from Dikran G.Kelekian with funds from Edward S. Harkness, 1912.

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, 182, 298-300, 330, fig. 195.

Hibbard, Howard 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper & Row, 41, fig. 72.

Dorman, Peter F., Prudence Harper, and Holly Pittman 1987. Egypt and the Ancient Near East in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 32-33.

Arnold, Dieter, Dorothea Arnold, and Peter F. Dorman 1988. The South Cemeteries of Lisht, vol. I: The Pyramid of Senwosret I, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 22. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 146, note 354, fig. 77.

Metropolitan Museum of Art 2012. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York and New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, p. 42.

Yamamoto, Kei 2015. "Stela of the Steward Mentuwoser." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 125–27, no. 60.

Oppenheim, Adela 2015. "Introduction: What Was the Middle Kingdom?." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 8.

Grajetzki, Wolfram 2015. "Middle Kingdom History: An Overview." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 306.

Yamamoto, Kei 2015. "The Art of the Stela." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 36.