Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Relief with Birds in the Papyrus Thicket

Period:
Middle Kingdom
Dynasty:
Dynasty 11
Reign:
late reign of Mentuhotep II
Date:
ca. 2030–2000 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Temple of Mentuhotep II, Egypt Exploration Fund excavations, 1907
Medium:
Limestone, paint
Dimensions:
H. 49 cm (19 5/16 in.); W. 107 cm (42 1/8 in.); D. 11.5 cm (4 1/2 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1906
Accession Number:
06.1231.3a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 104
The importance of the temple of King Mentuhotep II at Deir el-Bahri is second only to the one of King Djoser's step pyramid complex at Saqqara. Seen from its formal garden in front the monument had the appearance of a stepped structure with two superimposed terraces with colonnades, towered by a central cube-like "primeval hill," on top of which - as some scholars believe, others question - may have been a pyramid. The central "cube" was surrounded on all four sides by columned halls. Further west, and cut into the rock face, followed an open courtyard and then Egypt's earliest hypostyle hall. At the westernmost end of this hall a niche contained a colossal statue of the king and in front of it screen walls sheltered a small sanctuary with an altar. Reliefs in the hypostyle hall were carved in sandstone, while limestone reliefs decorated the pillared halls around the central "cube" and the upper and lower porticoes. The temple was dedicated to the cult of the deceased Mentuhotep II, the upper Egyptian solar deity Montu-Re and, in its late phase, the newly emerging god Amun-Re.

Almost all the relief decorated walls of the Mentuhotep II temple were pulled down during quarrying by late Rameside construction crews searching for reusable stone material. Many blocks, however, got smashed during these activities and thus thousands of fragments survived to be found by the excavators: first Lord Dufferin in 1859-1860, then Edouard Naville working for the British Egypt Exploration Fund in 1903-1907. This fragment must have been part of a large relief depicting the king on a hunt in the marshes (for a complete scene of this type see 30.4.48). The scene was probably placed in one of the upper colonnades of the temple.
Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Fund and.acquired by EEF from the Egyptian government in the division of finds. Donated by the EEF to the Museum in return for its support, 1906.

Oppenheim, Adela 2015. "Relief with Birds in a Papyrus Thicket." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 213–15, no. 152.

Kamrin, Janice 2015. "The Decoration of Elite Tombs: Connecting the Living and the Dead." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 31.

Oppenheim, Adela 2015. "Temples: Secluded Domains for Kings and Gods." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 271.

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