I'm wondering about the hole in the queen's forehead. It looks like something of the same material was inlaid but broke off?
Over her wig the Queen wears a headdress that shows a vulture's outspread wings, the vulture's head would have been made in stone or metal. If you look closely at the top of the head of Pepy's mother, you can see the depiction of the vulture wings.
Do you have any information on the Statuette of Queen Ankhnes-Meryre II and her son Pepy II? Do you know why the child is portrayed as a king?
He became king at the age of 6, and according to different Egyptologists he ruled for between 70-88 years. Many scholars believe that it was his long reign which led to destabilization in Egypt and deep social unrest. His mother acted as regent during his younger years, meaning that she took on the responsibilities of the Pharaoh until he matured. You'll see that this is an incredibly unusual and creative portrayal of the two figures because it gives both his mother and him the ability to be seen from the front, it kind of equalizes their shared role as ruler. Pepy II wears the nemes headdress with the uraeus cobra, showing him as king, but his small size shows that he is still a child. Under Pepy II's feet is inscribed: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Pepy II, beloved of the god Khnum, given all life, like Re, forever." and under Ankhnes-meryre's feet is written, "Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the god's daughter, the revered one, beloved of Khnum, Meryre-anhknes."
Also, his grandfather, Pepy I, is shown in a very similar sculpture right next to this one.
Why did he become king so young? And why are they both looking straight ahead?
His father died, and his older half-brother reigned, but then he died, too. So Pepy II began to reign at a young age, but his mother was "regent," the adult appointed to reign in his place until he grew up.
What is the hole in the mothers head?
The queen wears a headdress decorated with the pattern of a vulture with outspread wings. Originally, the vulture's head would have been attached at that point. It may have even been made of gold!
Do the eyes mean anything?
The eyes are somewhat large and exaggerated, which was a stylistic trait of art in this era.
And is there anything I need to know about the writing on the foot piece?
Yes, that inscription at Pepy's feet reads: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Pepy II, beloved of the god Khnum, given all life, like Re, forever." At Ankhnesmeryre's feet it read: "Mother of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, daughter of the god, revered one, beloved of Khnum, Ankhnesmeryre"
My kids want to know: What did female pharaohs wear?
That's a great question, and the answer is actually almost exactly the same things that male pharaohs wore!
The Ancient Egyptians had a sort of complicated understanding of who could be a pharaoh. Traditionally, only a man could be the pharaoh, but a woman dressed like a man was accepted as a pharaoh too. She wasn't hiding her identity though. She was making sure she did all the right things that would make her a good pharaoh in the eyes of the Ancient Egyptians, which meant acting just like any male pharaoh.
The sculpture you sent us a photo of shows a pharaoh as a young boy sitting in his mother's lap. She was a Queen, but was in charge of Egypt until her son was old enough to rule. Queens wore different clothes than pharaohs. The dress that this queen has on is typical of what queens would wear.
I'm wondering, in this statue, on the head of the queen, the small hole in the forehead; do you know if that would have been for a uraeus? It looks like the right place but I can't see the ornamentation itself.
Close! Ankhnes-meryre II wears a vulture headdress and that hole is for the vulture's head that was likely made of metal (gold, or bronze). The vulture was a protective animal in the ancient Egyptian belief system and was associated with maternal and protective goddesses.
Oh, interesting! Were they often made out of metal and added later like that?
I'm not sure, but whenever you see a hole like that, you'll know that's what it was for!
Did Pepy's father die?
Yes, his father was Pepy I and he died when Pepy II was a little boy which is why he became king so young.
That's a statue of King Pepy II sitting in his mother's lap. Her name is Ankhnes-meryre II and served as the regent for Pepy II because he became king when he was very young, about 6 years old!
Scaled down adult body vs. Child body and scale. Why the difference?
Child body and scale
That's a great question! A big reason for the difference is that at the time the sculpture of Ankhnes-meryre and Pepy II was made, Pepy II was already the king. Sobeknakht could be seen as nursing a future king, but he was not the king yet. Pepy II ascended to the throne at a very young age and therefore the previous queen (his mother) served as his regent, until he reached adulthood. Basically, it's a much more formalized statue whereas the figurine of Sobeknakht is more about her in the act of nursing. You may notice that Ankhnes-meryre and Pepy are depicted at a 90 degree angle to one another so you can view each figure frontally.
I see, that makes sense. They're more static, not in action, in an idealized pose. Thank you!
Tell me more.
This is a statuette of Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and her Son, Pepy II. Pepy is shown seated in the lap of his mother. The two are positioned at a 90 degree angle to one another so that each figure can be viewed from the front, separately.
Because the Queen is the largest in the composition it implies that she is the most important figure which makes sense because she was regent to her son, Pepy, who became king at a very early age. Her headdress also ties her to the goddess Isis, mother to Horus, god of the living pharaoh.
Is this statue from after the king's death?
This statue was made during the reign of Pepy II who is the young king sculpted here. So it was after the death of his father, Merenre.
The two figures are situated at a right angle to one another so that each one can be viewed clearly from the front, depending on where you are standing.
This was done because the child was already the king and had to be shown appropriately.
Does the statue portray their likeness or is it more of a stylized portrayal?
As with many ancient Egyptian images especially from this very early period, are definitely stylized and idealized faces and bodies.
Was the statue originally painted?
That is always an important question to ask when looking an ancient sculpture. In this case, I do not believe so. A few details may have been painted on, but that's probably it.
Is there a reason why they used this specific material and did not paint over it?
This type of stone, called Egyptian alabaster or calcite alabaster, is relatively easy to carve which made it popular as well as the way that like shines through it a bit.
Is the mother wearing something on her head? What is the dot on her forehead?
The mother is indeed wearing wig and over it the queenly headdress of a vulture with outspread wings. The little dot on her forehead is where a vulture's head, made of metal or stone, would have been inserted.
So is this detail on the mother's head the leg of the vulture?
Yes exactly! The body of the bird and its tail with it's two feet on either side. The vulture's claw is clutching the hieroglyph shen which also has to do with protection.
What is the kid wearing?
Pepy is wearing what's called the "nemes" headdress with a uraeus cobra. This coupled with his short "shendyt-kilt" were the traditional trappings of the Egyptian pharaoh.
Is the mother also wearing the kilt or is it a dress?
The mother is wearing a long, tight-fitting dress typical of images of women from ancient Egypt.
How come her son is sitting facing to the left side? If he was as important and had as much power as the queen, why isn't he facing the same direction his mother is so everyone can see both the mother's face and the son's face at once?
They're actually arranged at 90 degrees to one another because they are both so important. Ankhnes-meryre II is larger indicating that she is both older and holds the true power during this early period of her son's reign. Pepy II is oriented in a such a way that he can also, separately, be viewed from the front, almost as if it is a discreet composition.
The mother-and-child composition, meanwhile, was common (you can even find other statues nearby that use the same form). However, the fact that they can be viewed equally well, (for instance his face is not blocking hers from view) and the way Pepy II is dressed in the King's nemes headdress indicates his future as a full fledged king!
Where was this originally placed?
We don't know exactly where the statue was placed or made, unfortunately. Some Egyptologists guess, based on references in the hieroglyphs to the god Khnum, that the statuette is from Elephantine, where the primary cult of Khnum existed.
These dark blobs on the back of her seat. Is it the stone?
The dark blobs on the back of the seat are probably the result of pollutants staining the stone. Alabaster is a porous stone, and this statuette is rather old!
How was this piece acquired by the museum?
This statuette was acquired by the museum in 1939 from another collector.
We aren't sure where the statue itself was made but the hieroglyphs reference the god Khnum which suggests that it may be from Elephantine, where the cult of Khnum was prominent.
What does B.C.E. mean?
B.C.E. stands for Before Common Era and refers to the same years as B.C. or Before Christ. Many scholars have adopted B.C.E. and C.E. (Common Era instead of A.D. or Anno Domini meaning “in the year of our Lord”) as a less Christian-specific way to refer to dates.
It also important to note the years B.C.E. are counted backwards from 0. We are currently in 2018 C.E., for instance, which can also be called 2018 A.D., whereas this Statuette of Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and her Son, Pepy II is from around 2194 B.C.E., so a little over 4,000 years ago!
How come many statues have one hand in a fist and the other flat?
The flat hand is easy to explain, ancient Egyptians like depicting hands in this way because it gives you a very complete picture of the hand, you can see all of the fingers.
As far as the fist: We believe that it is meant to look like he is holding something, but we don't know what it is. The ancient Egyptians did not describe this pose in any writing that has survived.
Some theories are that he is meant to look like he is holding a staff or scepter which would have been too delicate to include, it may be an amulet, a rolled-up prayer, or even some type of seal.
Is there any info on who commissioned this statue and why?
We aren't certain, but some guesses include Ankhnes-meryre II during her time as regent (Pepy II's childhood), Pepy II as an adult paying tribute to his mother, or priests of the god Khnum for the cult center at Elephantine.
The way that Pepy II is portrayed as an adult communicates that he is the king, but his small size in comparison to his mother indicates that she is actually the most important person in this composition. We know what Pepy II became came at a very young age and she did serve as regent, ruling Egypt until he was of age.
The inscription on the statue itself doesn't indicate who commissioned it, but it does mention the god Khnum which may lend a clue to its function. Khnum was a creator-god especially related to the creative force of the Nile and its floods. Therefore, his major cult site was at Elephantine, the region of the first cataract or first set of rapids which was sort of believed be a source of the life-giving flood.
At what age did Pepy II become king and how old did he live? And did he have any children?
He was between 70-100 years old when he died. He took the throne at age 6 and was the longest reigning ruler in ancient Egyptian history, and one of the longest reigning rulers of all time.
He likely had multiple children, but we only know the name of one son, Nemptyemsaf, who succeeded Pepy II to throne as Nemptyemsaf II.