This seated granite statue depicts Metjen, an official and scribe sometime around the Third/Fourth Dynasties of Egypt . The statue was made around 2600 BCE in Egypt. The Egyptians placed statues like this one in tombs as “a resting place for [the spirit].” ["Egyptian Art and Architecture", 1] The Metjen statue is currently located in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, Germany .
Standing 47 cm in height, this statue was cut from red granite. The makers of the statue were seemingly trained in a “system of apprenticeship,” as “consistent local and period styles could not have existed” without one [Strudwick, Helen 2010, II]. The Old Kingdom was the “first intensive period” for use of sculpture, and the “seated pose” is first seen in the 4th Dynasty, providing consistency with the date of creation. [Strudwick, Helen 2010, IX]
Granite was a common material used for sculptures in Ancient Egypt. The granite was obtained from Egyptian quarries, and was found in naturally occurring blocks known as 'woolsacks.' It was seemingly abundant as “incomplete or discarded examples of all these objects can be found in the quarries.” [Strudwick, Helen 2010, VII] Since discarded sculptures of the material are readily found, this suggests that the materials used in the making of the statue were not rare.
Local Historical ContextEdit
The statue of Metjen was created in Egypt sometime during the late 3rd-early 4th Dynasty. The main pharaoh of Egypt during the early 3rd dynasty was Djoser (or Zoser). During this time period, art and architecture were on the rise, as pharaohs during the time were known “for their pyramids of extraordinary magnitude in the Giza plateau.” Djoser was known for the construction of a step pyramid for himself during his reign. Djoser’s Step Pyramid stood 204 ft in height with six unequal steps, and had fourteen gates, thirteen of which were false to keep out intruders. [Ladouceur 2014] This pyramid was known as one of “the earliest important stone buildings in Egypt” and a “great technological innovation in the use of stone architecture.” [“Djoser” 2014] Pharaohs in the 4th dynasty were also known for pyramids built during their reign, most famously the Great Pyramid at Giza . [“Egypt” 2014, 1]
Religious significance is seen both in the building and use of the pyramids as tombs as well as the placement of these types of statues in the tombs. For example, Djoser’s step pyramid contained “a mortuary complex in which the spirit of the king could dwell…” [Ladouceur 2014] Djoser also built a funerary complex at Ṣaqqārah , which is where the statue of Metjen was found, as well as “a large number of limestone buildings intended to represent shrines used for royal rituals” around the Step Pyramid. [“Djoser” 2014] Djoser even viewed his future tomb of the Step Pyramid “…as a colossal staircase by which his transfigured body might climb up into the sky and join the sun god Ra.” [Shey 2014]
This statue was made for Metjen, a scribe during the reign of Djoser. It was created as a posthumous gift to Metjen, as it was placed in his tomb as a spiritual token. Djoser similarly had a sculpture in his tomb “in which his [spiritual double] could reside and receive offerings…” [Ladouceur 2014] This further illustrates the use of statues and sculptures in the tombs of ancient Egyptians as spiritual ties to the afterlife.
This statue is significant in the large scheme of history because it provides insight into the importance of religion, burial, and the afterlife to the ancient Egyptians. It was very common for Egyptians to place sculptures and other tokens in the tomb when an important figure died, so this artifact isn’t necessarily rare. The closest similarity this object has to other cultures would be to the Chinese forms of tomb artifacts, the best example being the Qin dynasty tomb holding a terra-cotta army of some 1,300 life-size statues that “were intended to guard the emperor in the afterlife.” ["Terra-cotta army of Xi’an.” 2014] Although they may not be similar in appearance, this shows that these objects were similar in function as both the Egyptian statues and Chinese soldiers provided a spiritual service in the afterlife.
"Djoser." Encyclopædia Britannica (September 2014): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
"Egyptian Art and Architecture." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2014): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
"Egypt." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2014): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
Ladouceur, David J. 2014. "Old Kingdom Period in Egypt." Salem Press EncyclopediaResearch Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
Shey, H. J. "Zoser." Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (January 2014): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2015).
Strudwick, Helen M. et al. "Egypt, ancient." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press (2010): I-XXII. accessed April 19, 2015, http://www.oxfordartonline.com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/subscriber/article/grove/art/T025075pg7.
"Terra-cotta army of Xi'an." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia (2014): 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, EBSCOhost (accessed April 19, 2015).