Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Column Fragment of Amenemhat I

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
reign of Senwosret I
ca. 1981–1952 B.C.
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Pyramid Temple of Amenemhat I, MMA excavations, 1906–07
Column: H. 33 × W. 67.3 × Diam. 74.9 cm (13 × 26 1/2 × 29 1/2 in.); Abacus: W. 79.5 × D. 79.5 cm (31 5/16 × 31 5/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1909
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 109
The upper section and part of the abacus of a thirty-two sided column found in the ruins of the funerary temple of Amenemhat I at Lisht. Flat panels on opposing sides were inscribed with the king's titulary, of which only the beginning is preserved.
In 1906-07, Lythgoe found at Lisht North at least 6 fragments of what he called "Proto-Doric" columns. Five of them disappeared more or less unrecorded. The best-preserved, a part of the upper end of a fluted column, was allocated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (visible on photo L6-7: 37).

The piece is the only fragment that provides some important measurements for the column. It originally had thirty-two flat, 7 cm wide grooves, separated on two opposite sides by a 21 cm wide text column. The abacus, which was worked from the same block, protruded 2 cm over the shaft and may have been over 20 cm high. One might assume that the top surface of the abacus had a (round?) socket for the insertion of a dowel connecting it with the architrave, but the upper part of the abacus is missing. One may assume that the column was not monolithic, but composed of several drums that tapered just enough to visually disconnect the column shaft from the abacus.*

Three surprisingly similar column pieces were excavated by Gautier at Lisht South (Gautier 1902, fig. 9. No scale is given. The pieces are lost.). Two pieces preserve the top of the text column, starting with "Horus///." The third piece seems to have been considerably larger than the other two. Gautier assumes that they were part of "propylées ornées de colonnes" in the pyramid temple of Senwosret I. Since Gautier’s observations are generally reliable, one is inclined to trust his judgment. However, it is not possible to accommodate such columns in the plan of the Senwosret I pyramid temple (Arnold 1988, foldout II). For this reason, one might be slightly suspicious about the origin of the three column pieces. Did Gautier, who worked at both sites, perhaps find them at Lisht North?

Dieter Arnold 2015

*Channeled or fluted columns were also used in the pyramid complex of Senwosret I: see Arnold 1988, p. 54, pl. 25a; Arnold 1992, p. 24, pls. 17c, 19a. The most famous examples adorn the façade of the Beni Hasan tombs: see Newberry 1983, frontispiece, pls. 3-4, 39-40; Ricke 1944, pp. 77-84.
Excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds.

Newberry, Percy E. 1893. Beni Hasan, Part I. Archaeological survey of Egypt, 1. London: Kegan Paul, Trench Trubner & Co. Ltd., cf. pls. 4-5, 22.

Gautier, Joseph Étienne and Gustave Jéquier 1902. Mémoire sur les fouilles de Licht, Mémoires publiés par les membres de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire, 6. Cairo: Imprimerie de l'Institut Français d'Archeologie Orientale.

Lythgoe, Albert M. 1907. "The Egyptian Expedition." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 7 (July), p. 116.

Ricke, Herbert 1944. Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Baukunst des Alten Reichs, Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde, 4. Zurich: Borchardt-Institut.

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, p. 174.

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: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 54, pl. 25a.

Phillips, J. Peter 2002. The Columns of Egypt. Manchester: Peartree Publishing, pp. 233–35.

Arnold, Dieter, Peter Jánosi, and Adela Oppenheim 2014. The Pyramid Complex of Amenemhat I at Lisht : The Architecture, Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, 29. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pls. 57a-b, 58a, 59.

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