Returned to lender The Met accepts temporary loans of art both for short-term exhibitions and for long-term display in its galleries.

The Tale of Sinuhe

New Kingdom

Not on view

This object is not part of The Met collection. It was in the Museum for a special exhibition and has been returned to the lender.

This copy of the most famous Middle Kingdom work of fiction was crammed onto two sides of a chunk of stone with only a few lines missing. Did the scribe bet he could do it? The tale relates how Sinuhe, an official attached to the royal household, becomes fearful at the time of Senwosret I’s accession and flees to Canaan, where he slays a menacing foe, raises a family, and prospers. Late in life, he returns to Egypt and is kindly received by the pharaoh, who grants Sinuhe a good and proper burial in his native land.

The Tale of Sinuhe
Translation by R. B. Parkinson, based on the 12th Dynasty version in Papyrus Berlin P 3022. For an annotated translation see The Tale of Sinuhe and Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940–1640 BC (Oxford World Classics; Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999)

The Patrician and Count,
Governor of the sovereign’s domains in the Syrian lands,
the True acquaintance of the king, whom he loves,
the Follower, Sinuhe says,
‘I was a Follower who followed his lord,
a Servant of the royal chambers
and of the Patrician lady, the greatly praised,
the Queen of Senwosret in Khnumsut,
the Princess of Amenemhat in Qanefer,
Nefru, the blessed lady.

Year 30, month 3 of Autumn, day 7:
The god ascended to his horizon;
King Sehotepibre
mounted to heaven,
and was united with the sun,
the divine flesh mingling with its creator.
The Residence was in silence,
hearts were in mourning,
the palace portal was shut,
the entourage was bowed down,
and the patricians in grief.

Now his Majesty had sent out an expedition to the land of Libya,
with his eldest son as its head,
the Perfect god Senwosret;
but now he was returning, having carried off Libyan captives,
and all sorts of cattle without number.
The courtiers of the royal retinue
sent to the western border
to inform the prince
of the affair which had happened in the audience hall.
On the road the messengers found him.
They reached him at night-fall.
Not a moment did he wait, at all;
the falcon flew off with his followers,
without informing his expedition.
Now, when the royal children
accompanying him on this expedition were sent to,
they summoned one of them.
Now, when I was standing on duty,
I heard his voice as he spoke,
as I was a little way off.
My heart collapsed, my arms spread out;
trembling fell on every limb.
I removed myself, shaking,
to seek a hiding place for myself.
I put myself between two bushes,
to avoid the path and its traveller.

I made my way southwards.
I did not plan to reach this Residence,
expecting strife to happen;
I did not think to live after him.
I crossed Lake Maaty close to the sacred sycomore.
I came to the Island of King Sneferu.
I passed a day there on the edge of a field.
When it was day again, I made an early start.
I met a man standing in my way.
He saluted me, who was afraid of him.
When it was supper-time,
I had arrived at Wild Bull Harbour.

I crossed in a rudderless barge
blown by the west wind.
I passed east of the quarry
above Lady of the Red Mountain.
I gave my feet a northwards path,
and I reached Walls of the Ruler,
made to beat back the Syrians.
I then crouched down in a bush
for fear of being seen by the watchers
on duty upon the wall.

I made my way in the night-time.
When it was dawn I had reached Peten.
I alighted at an island of the Bitter Lakes.
Thirst’s attack overtook me,
and I was scorched, my throat parched.
I said, “This is the taste of death.”
But I lifted up my heart, gathered my limbs together,
as I heard the noise of cattle lowing, caught sight of Syrians,
and a sheikh of theirs, who had once been
in Egypt, recognised me.

Then he gave me water,
while milk was boiled for me.
I went with him to his clan,
and what they did was good.
Country gave me to country.
I set out for B

The Tale of Sinuhe, Limestone, ink

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.

Recto (front)