Artist: Dynasty 26, ca. 664-525 B.C.
Title: Sarcophagus of Psamtik-Seneb
Dynasty 26, ca. 664-525 B.C.
Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
What is this? What makes you say so?
What decorations do you notice?
How do you think this was made?
A sarcophagus is a protective container that often held a wooden coffin. Inside the coffin were the dried and preserved remains of the deceased. This sarcophagus was discovered in a flat-roofed tomb, or mastaba, in the East Field of the Giza pyramids. It was made to hold the body of Psamtik-Seneb. We know his name because it is written in hieroglyphs on the sarcophagus. His name translates to, “May Psamtik be healthy”. Psamtik was the pharaoh who ruled during this time, and whose name is found written within an oval frame, or cartouche. We can also read that Psamtik-Seneb was a healer. Just before his name, we see the hieroglyphs that tell us Psamtik-Seneb made cures for bites from snakes and scorpions.
Hieroglyphs were a system of writing used by the ancient Egyptians. Each sign was unique, but could be read in more than one way: either phonetically (sounds), or it could stand for a specific thing (such as a person). In looking at the writings inscribed around the outside of the sarcophagus, there are important clues that tell us how to read, as well as what is written. A prayer for good fortune in the afterlife is inscribed in hieroglyphs around the sarcophagus. The glyphs are turned to face the head of the deceased. To read, the hieroglyph must be “faced”, or read with the images directed toward the reader. Once translated the blessing reads
Recitation: It is in your embrace that Horus has come, Scorpion Charmer Psamtik-Seneb, justified. Lift yourself up, pay attention to the horizon, so that you may go forth to the sky, born in Nut and alive among the stars.