Tomb Relief with a Ship Scene
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The incomplete scene at the top of this fragment of a relief from a tomb shows the legs of two butchers and the massive body of the steer they are cutting up to make offerings of meat for the spirit of the tomb owner.
In the separate scene below, a sailor climbs the rigging of a billowing sail. Ancient ships traveled up the Nile (that is, south) with sails raised, because the prevailing winds came from the north. When going downstream, the crew lowered the mast and used their oars. Two crew members are partially preserved at the bottom edge. One appears to be waving at the climber and shouting the warning inscribed above him, which reads, “Look out for the rope!”
ca. 2500-2350 B.C.E.
23 3/4 x 17 5/16 in. (60.3 x 43.9 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Archaeological provenance not yet documented, reportedly from the Temple of the Dead at Sahure, Egypt but probably from Q920, Saqqara, Egypt; by 1935, acquired by A. Sambon of Paris, France; by 1935, acquired by Kalebdjian Frères, Cairo, Egypt and Paris, France; 1935, purchased from Kalebdjian Frères by the Brooklyn Museum.
Fragment of limestone raised relief from a mastaba. Subject: sailor climbing rigging of a vessel. Above, remains of register of slaughtering scene; at right incomplete column of hieroglyphs.
Condition: Preserved portion in good condition. Various minor scratches on edges and parts of the surface are pitted. Very faint traces of red and yellow paint still noticeable on background.
Tomb Relief with a Ship Scene, ca. 2500-2350 B.C.E. Limestone, 23 3/4 x 17 5/16 in. (60.3 x 43.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 35.640. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 35.640.jpg)
overall, 35.640.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2005
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Saw many ship reliefs but never one with sailors in the rigging! Is this the only example you know?
Great detail! More images of sailors in the rigging are known to scholars, but not many of them seem to have made it to museum galleries. They tend to come from kings' funerary complexes. This example is especially interesting, having come from the Old Kingdom period. I know of a few more from the Middle Kingdom. Relief carving and funerary temple decoration was at a real peak then.
Thanks. Valley of the Kings was spectacular, but they rotate open tombs and we saw no other sailors in rigging that I remember. The boat museum at Giza was fantastic as well (I build boats and am always interested in naval architecture).
Ah! The Valley of the Kings dates to the New Kingdom and later, tomb decoration had changed quite a bit by then!
You get more of the daily life scenes in the Middle Kingdom especially!