Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Sarcophagus of Harkhebit

Late Period, Saite
Dynasty 26
595–526 BC
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Saqqara, Tomb of Harkhebit
H. 256.5 (101 in); w. 127 (50 in) at shoulders; th. (of lid and base together) 132.1 cm (52 in)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1907
Accession Number:
07.229.1a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 123
Horkhebit was a "Royal Seal Bearer, Sole Companion, Chief Priest of the Shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt, and Overseer of the Cabinet" in early Dynasty 26. His tomb was a great shaft over sixty feet deep sunk into the desert and solid limestone bedrock in the Late Period cemetery that covers most of the area east of the Djoser complex at Saqqara. In a huge plain chamber at the bottom of the shaft, a rectangular rock core was left standing and hollowed out to house this anthropoid sarcophagus. When the tomb was excavated by the Egyptian government in 1902, the sarcophagus contained the remains of a badly decomposed gilded cedar coffin, and a mummy that wore a mask of gilded silver, gold finger and toe stalls, and numerous small amulets. Other canopic and shabti equipment accompanied the burial. The finds went to the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, while this sarcophagus was purchased from the Egyptian government by the Metropolitan Museum.

The sarcophagus is one of a group with plump, squarish broad faces, smooth unarticulated bodies, and slightly protruding feet that originate in the Memphite area and date, when their dates can be closely ascertained, to the time from the reign of Psamtik II (ca. 595–589 B.C.) through the reign of Amasis (570-526 BC). Several of them may have been produced by the same workshop; this one bears a strong resemblance to one in Leiden datable by his name to the reign of Amasis. Technically the sarcophagus is one of the masterpieces of late Egyptian hard-stone carving. The interiors of the extraordinarily rendered sunk-relief hieroglyphs and figures were left rough and may have been intended to be painted, perhaps in green. The long text on the lid comes from the Book of the Dead.

Box (same text on both sides, except for the ending)

Revered before Ptah-Sokar, royal sealbearer, sole companion, chief overseer of the national shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt, chamberlain Harkhebit, justified, possessor of reverence, son of the god’s scribe Padi-Hor (left), born of Ta-senet-en-Hor (right).

Lid, upper left

Recitation: I will be the protection of the burial of the Osiris chamberlain Harkhebit, justified. Figures: Hapi, Qebeh-senuf, He Who is Under his Moringa Tree, Anubis.

Lid, lower left

Recitation by Nephthys: (2) I have encircled my brother, Osiris chamberlain (3) Harkhebit. Your flesh will not be bent.

Lid, upper right

Recitation: I will be the protection of the burial of the Osiris chamberlain Harkhebit, justified. Figures: Imseti, Dua-mutef, He Who Sees his Father, Farsighted Horus.

Lid, lower right

Recitation by Isis: (2) Osiris chamberlain Harkhebit, (3) I am your sister Isis. I will be your protection.

Text in the center (Spell 72 of the Book of the Dead)

Recitation by the Osiris chamberlain Harkhebit: Hail to you, lords of order, free (2) of disorder, who are alive forever, to the limits of eternity! You should reveal the world to me, since I am effective (3) in what you do, I am in control of your magic, I am recognized as you are. You should save (4) me from the aggressive crocodile in this doubly-ordered land. You should give me my mouth that I might speak (5) with it.

Offerings will be given to me in your presence, because I know you, I know (6) your names. I know the name of that great god to whose nose you give sustenance: Tekemu (7) is his name; he opens the region below the eastern horizon of the sky; he opens the region below the western horizon (8) of the sky. I depart when he departs, I proceed when he proceeds, and vice-versa. You will not remove me from your starry path. The Rebel will not gain control (9) of me. I will not be rejected at your gate. You will not close your doors on me.

My bread is in Pe; (10) my beer is in Dep. I have taken possession of the temple that my father Atum gave me. He established (11) for me an earthly house, with barley and emmer in it without number, and festival is made in it for me by my son (12) of my body. May you give me invocation offerings of bread and beer, cattle and fowl, alabaster and clothing, incense and oil, every good and pure thing on which a god lives.

I will be set forever (13) in any form I desire. I go downstream to the Field of Reeds, I go upstream to the Field of Offering. I am the Double Lion.

James P. Allen 2004
Excavated at Saqqara by the Service des Antiquités de l'Egypte, 1902. Purchased from the Egyptian Government, 1907.

Lythgoe, Albert M. 1907. "Recent Egyptian Acquisitions." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 12 (December), pp. 193–194, fig. 1.

Arnold, Dieter 1997. "The Late Period Tombs of Hor-khebit, Wennefer and Wereshnefer at Saqqara." In Études sur l'Ancien Empire et la nécropole de Saqqâra dédiées à Jean-Philippe Lauer, pp. 31–3; 40–3, figs. 1–5.

Jansen-Winkeln, Karl 2014. Inschriften der Spätzeit, Teil IV: Die 26. Dynastie, 2 vols.. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, pp. 908-909.

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