Ancient Egyptian Art and Artifacts – Virtual Tour
Our Tour of Ancient Egyptian Art includes any sculpture, architecture, paintings, ceramics, drawings on papyrus, faience, jewelry, ivories, burial artifacts, or objects produced by the civilization of ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian Art reached a high level of expression, which was uniquely stylized and symbolic and which changed remarkably little over its three thousand years of history, which spanned about 3000 BC to 30 AD.
Much of the surviving art comes from tombs, temples, and monuments, and it displays a vivid representation of the ancient Egyptian society and belief systems.
A Virtual Tour of Egyptian Art and Artifacts
- Nefertiti Bust
- Tutankhamun’s Mask
- Akhenaten and Nefertiti’s Daughters – Princess Fresco
- Narmer Palette
- Merneptah Stele
- Standing Figure of Nefertiti
- A house altar showing Akhenaten and Nefertiti with their children
- Relief Portrait of Akhenaten
- The Rosetta Stone
- The Battlefield Palette 3100 BC
- Quartzite Head of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III
- Colossal Granite Statue of Amenhotep III
- Hunters Palette
- Tomb of Nebamun
- The Temple of Dendur
- The Sphinx of Hatshepsut
- William the Faience Hippopotamus
- Shawabti of King Senkamanisken
- Younger Memnon (Ramesses II)
- Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer
- Relief of Hormin with a Weighing of the Heart
- Relief of Horemheb with Nubian Prisoners
- Akhenaten and Nefertiti
- Seated Scribe
- Sarcophagus Lid of Queen Sitdjehuti
- Stela of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Family
- Statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye
- Colossal Statues of Akhenaten
- Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus
- Book of the Dead – Papyrus of Ani and Hunefe
- Mummy of Katebet
- Scorpion Macehead
- Narmer Macehead
Highlights Tour of Egyptian Art and Artifacts
The “Nefertiti Bust” is the Neues Museum’s best-known masterpiece. Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and Egypt’s Queen during 1370 B.C.-1330 B.C.
The statue is renowned for the skill of the sculptor Thutmose, the well-preserved coloring, and the beauty of Nefertiti herself.
The bust is a painted stucco-coated limestone work, believed to have been crafted in 1345 B.C. by the sculptor Thutmose, because it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt.
It is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. As a result, Nefertiti has become one of the most famous women of the ancient world and an icon of feminine beauty.
Tutankhamun’s mask is the funerary mask of Tutankhamun, the 18th-dynasty Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned 1332–1323 BC.
It was discovered by Howard Carter in 1925 and is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This mask is one of the most well-known works of art in the world.
Tutankhamun’s burial chamber was found in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 and opened three years later.
It would be another two years before the excavation team, led by the English archaeologist Howard Carter, was able to open the massive sarcophagus containing Tutankhamun’s mummy.
The Narmer Palette is a significant Egyptian archaeological find, dating from about the 31st century BC. It contains some of the earliest hieroglyphic inscriptions ever found.
The tablet depicts the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under King Narmer and provides one of the earliest known depictions of an Egyptian king.
The Palette shows many of the ancient conventions of Ancient Egyptian art, which means that this art form must already have been formalized by the time of the Palette’s creation.
The 5,000-year-old Narmer Palette is one of the first historical document in the world.
The Merneptah Stele is famous for its inscription by the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (1213 to 1203 BC) and was discovered in 1896 at Thebes.
The text glorifies King Merneptah’s victories over the Libyans and their Sea People allies. It also describes a separate campaign in Canaan, which was then part of Egypt’s imperial possessions.
The last two lines mention a campaign in Canaan, where Merneptah says he defeated and destroyed many ethnic groups, including Israel.
The Merneptah Stele is sometimes referred to as the “Israel Stela” because a majority of scholars translate a set of hieroglyphs on the stele as “Israel.”
Standing Figure of Nefertiti
The “Standing Figure of Nefertiti” is a limestone sculpture of Queen Nefertiti, who was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and Egypt’s Queen during 1370 B.C.-1330 B.C.
The name Nefertiti means “the beautiful one has cometh forth.” As the Great Royal Wife, she was the chief consort of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten of the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.
Dating from the year 1350 BC, the 40 cm high limestone statue is one of the outstanding surviving representations of the Queen, who has a unique role in the history of Ancient Egypt.
The figure was found broken and in multiple pieces. The statue pieces were discovered in 1920 during an excavation by the German Oriental Society in the remains of the studio of Thutmose.
A house altar showing Akhenaten and Nefertiti with their children
“Akhenaten and Nefertiti with their Children” is a small house shrine stele made of limestone. Akhenaton and Nefertiti are shown with the three of their daughters.
Nefertiti was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. The body forms are depicted in relief, the overlong proportions, wide hips, thin legs, and the forwardly curved necks, are typical of the early Amarna artistic style.
Probably used as a home altar, this historic depiction provides a rare opportunity to view a scene from the private life of the king and queen. The daughters are being held and caressed by their parents in the presence of their god Aten. A
ten is in the center of the scene represented as a sun disc with sunrays ending in hands proffering ‘ank’-signs (life-signs) to the royal couple.
Relief Portrait of Akhenaten
This “Relief Portrait of Akhenaten” depicts Pharaoh Akhenaten, previously known as Amenhotep IV, who was an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty.
The ‘excessive’ style at the beginning of the Amarna period is evident with this “Relief Portrait of Akhenaten.” The thin face, heavy narrow eyelids, slanting eyes, long, hanging chin, long nose, full lips, as well as the forwardly curved neck.
All of which is characteristic of the early representations of King Akhenaton. The skin folds that run from the side of the nose to the corners of the mouth. Also, the folds on the neck are typical of the Amarna style.
The artist has expertly captured the contrast of soft forms against the sharp contours of the face.
The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is inscribed with three languages for the same decree issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC by King Ptolemy V.
The top text is in Ancient Egyptian using the hieroglyphic script, the middle passage is Ancient Egyptian Demotic script, and the bottom is in Ancient Greek.
As the decree is the same in all three versions, the Rosetta Stone provided the key to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The reason for the Ancient Greek language is that the Rosetta Stone was carved during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
The Battlefield Palette 3100 BC
This Battlefield Palette may be the earliest battle scene representation from Ancient Egypt. Created before Egypt was united as one state under one pharaoh, a regional ruler commissioned this decorated palette to increase their influence.
It was intended for display in early rituals related to power. The Battlefield Palette depicts the aftermath of a great battle.
A lion devours a prisoner and vultures attack bound individuals and corpses. In the top left, two captives are tied to ceremonial standards topped with images that may represent gods.
The Battlefield Palette has the circular defined area for the mixing of an unknown ceremonial substance. The battlefield scene was a forerunner of hieroglyphs.
Quartzite Head of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III
This Quartzite head of Amenhotep III has been carved with expert care. The eyeballs noticeably angled back from the top to the bottom lid so that they appear to look down at the viewer.
The finishing polish was deliberately varied, from a glittering smoothness on the facial surfaces to less finish on the mouth and eyes, to quite rough surfaces on the brows.
Amenhotep is shown with youthful-looking cheeks, broad, long, and somewhat narrow eyes and the lower lip, which curves up to the open corners of the mouth to produce the effect of a slight smile.
Amenhotep III was the ninth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, ruling Egypt from about 1386 to 1349 BC. His reign was a period of prosperity and artistic splendor when Egypt reached the peak of its creative and international power.
Colossal Granite Statue of Amenhotep III
This enormous red granite statue of Amenhotep III depicts the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
This massive large fragment was created in 1370 BC, was found in the temple enclosure of Mut at Karnak in Egypt. The statue is made of red granite, and only the head and an arm are known to survive.
Erected by King Amenhotep III, it is one of the many statues that he had ordered to be built in ancient Thebes (Luxor). The left arm is 3.30m long and terminates in a clenched fist, and the head is 2.90m high.
The king’s statue would have stood with both arms straight down, holding containers for papyrus documents in his hand.
The Hunters Palette or Lion Hunt Palette is a 5,000-year-old cosmetic palette that is among the few objects that feature the earliest Egyptian bas-reliefs from the late predynastic period of Naqada III.
The Hunters Palette is decorated on one side only with scenes in low relief showing iconography of lion hunting as well as the hunting of other animals such as birds, desert hares, and gazelles.
Three men carry the standards denoting different tribes or provinces, and the other men have weapons, which include the bow, spear, mace, throw-stick, and a rope used for tethering.
Two iconographic conjoined bull-forefronts adorn the upper right alongside a hieroglyphic symbol.
Tomb of Nebamun
The Tomb of Nebamun is the source of some of the most famous surviving ancient Egyptian polychrome tomb-painting scenes.
This scene depicts Nebamun standing on a small boat, fishing and fowling in the marshes of the Nile with fish shown beneath the water-line.
His wife stands behind him, portrayed on a smaller scale, and his daughter sits beneath him, holding one of his legs. Nebamun holds a throw-stick in one hand and decoy herons in the other.
His cat is shown catching three birds, and many other birds are depicted flying away after being startled from the papyrus-thicket. This Tomb-Painting is one of the most significant paintings from ancient Egypt to have survived.
Nebamun was an official scribe and grain counter at the temple complex in Thebes. His Tomb was located in the Theban Necropolis situated on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes (present-day Luxor), in Egypt.
The Temple of Dendur
The Temple of Dendur is an Ancient Egyptian temple, built in 10 B.C. by the Roman governor of Egypt. The Temple is dedicated to Isis and Osiris, as well as two deified sons of a local Nubian chieftain.
The Temple was gifted to the United States by Egypt in 1965. It was then awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967 and installed into the museum in 1978.
The gift was in recognition of the United States government’s help in saving many Nubian monuments from being submerged in the flooding of Lake Nasser through the Aswan Dam project.
Many monuments that were preserved were dismantled and moved to higher ground. The Temple of Dendur was disassembled and transported in over 660 crates to the U.S.
The Sphinx of Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut means “Foremost of Noble Ladies.” She was one of only two female pharaohs in Ancient Egyptian history, who ruled as full Pharaoh not just as a regent for a younger male relative.
She is the first significant female ruler in documented history. Born in 1507 BC, Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC.
Officially, she ruled jointly with Thutmose III, who had ascended to the throne the previous year as a child of about two years old. Hatshepsut declared herself king sometime between the ages 2 and 7 of the reign of her stepson and nephew, Thutmose III.
This seven-ton granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut has the body of a lion and a human head wearing a head-cloth and royal beard.
William the Faience Hippopotamus
This Egyptian faience hippopotamus from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt was discovered in a shaft associated with the tomb chapel of “The Steward, Senbi” at Meir, Upper Egypt, and dates from c. 1961 – 1878 B.C.
This blue statuette may have held some religious significance, as Hippopotamuses were sometimes associated with one of the forms of the god Seth.
Black paint has been used to enhance the eyes and to decorate the body with lotus flowers, buds, and leaves symbolizing its natural surroundings of the Nile.
The hippopotamus was one of the most feared animals for ancient Egyptians, and, in this case, three of its legs were purposely broken to prevent it from harming the deceased in the afterlife.
Shawabti of King Senkamanisken
The “Shawabti of King Senkamanisken” is a funerary figurine for Senkamanisken, who was a Nubian king, ruling from 640 to 620 BCE at Napata.
Napata was a city-state of ancient Nubia on the west bank of the Nile River, at the site of modern Northern Sudan. Nubia had gained control over Egypt but lost it shortly before Senkamanisken came to power.
Egyptian in style, this Shawabti shows the influence of Egyptian art and culture on Nubia at this time.
This funerary figurine shows the King wearing a wig, a crown, and a false beard. His arms are crossed, and he holds a hoe in one hand and a basket strap on the other hand.
Younger Memnon (Ramesses II)
Younger Memnon is an Ancient Egyptian statue, one of two colossal granite heads from the Ramesseum mortuary temple in Thebes. It depicts Pharaoh Ramesses II wearing the Nemes head-dress with a cobra diadem on top.
The damaged statue is one of a pair that initially flanked the Ramesseum’s doorway. The head of the other figure can be seen at the Ramesseum temple near Luxor.
The Younger Memnon was cut from a single block of two-tone granite. The eyes look down slightly; this unique feature is more exaggerated than the usual Egyptian conventions.
Also, the sculptures exploited the different colors of the stone to make the head a lighter tone compared to the remaining body structure, making this statue rather unique.
Pillar of Ramsesemperre, Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer
The Pillar of Ramsesemperre with Royal Cupbearer and Fanbearer shows the importance of these roles in the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’ court.
This pillar dates to Ramesses II or slightly later. Ramesses II is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most potent Pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire.
One famous story about one Royal Cupbearer comes from the Bible in Genesis.
According to the bible story, Joseph had earned a reputation as an interpreter of dreams. He interpreted the dreams of the Royal cupbearer and the Royal Baker while they were imprisoned on suspicion of theft.
Joseph prophesied that the cupbearer’s dream meant that he would soon be acquitted and returned to his role as Royal Cupbearer.
Relief of Hormin with a Weighing of the Heart
This “Relief of Hormin with a Weighing of the Heart” shows the Ancient Egyptian religious belief of the last judgment known as the “Weighing of the Heart.”
In this judgment, the gods weighed the actions of the deceased while alive, symbolized by the heart to decide worthiness and destiny in the after-life.
The Ancient Egyptian religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals, which were an integral part of ancient Egyptian society.
Ceremonies were efforts to gain the god’s favor and the state dedicated enormous resources to Egyptian rituals and the construction of the temples.
Relief of Horemheb with Nubian Prisoners
This Relief of Horemheb with Nubian Prisoners shows Nubian prisoners with Negroid features, tightly curled hair, and earrings, who are seated on the ground submissively as Egyptian soldiers with batons watch over them.
Depicted in sunk relief is also a scribe who is writing a report. This sculptured relief was part of a larger composition depicting foreign prisoners of war.
It also celebrated the prowess of Horemheb, the general commander of the army, who took prisoners after military campaigns.
This limestone relief with traces of painting from the Saqqara tomb of Horemheb dates to the reign of Tutankhamun. Horemheb was the commander-in-chief of the army under the sovereignty of Tutankhamun and Ay.
Akhenaten and Nefertiti
This statuette of Akhenaten and Nefertiti made of limestone and paint show the king and queen hand in hand walking forward together. They stand staring straight ahead, looking very serious.
They are clothed in fine, close-pleated linen and wear colored collars on their shoulders and upper chests.
As an official portrait, the king wears the Blue Crown, and the queen has a tall flat-topped headdress. Easily portable, this statuette would probably have been used in a house shrine for private worship.
A family would use it to pay homage to the royal couple, the sole living, earthly manifestation of the inaccessible God.
This statuette, from about 1345 BC, showing an Egyptian royal couple holding hand, is rare in Egyptian art up to this time but becomes more common from the Old Kingdom on.
This sculpture of the Seated Scribe represents a figure of an Egyptian scribe at work over 4,000 years ago. It is a painted limestone statue with the eyes inlaid with rock crystal, magnesite, copper-arsenic alloy, and nipples made of wood.
The man is dressed in a white kilt stretched to his knees, and he is holding a half-rolled papyrus. His face has realistic features, and his hands, fingers, and fingernails are all carefully modeled.
The papyrus scroll is laid out on his lap. His right hand is in the writing position. At some distant time in the past, he was holding a reed-brush that now missing.
The scribe sits in a cross-legged position that would have been his natural posture for his work. The eyes of the sculpture are modeled in detail using pieces of red-veined white magnesite.
Sarcophagus Lid of Queen Sitdjehuti
This sarcophagus lid of Queen Sitdjehuti is the upper part of her coffin, which was made of gold-plated sycamore wood and stucco. Sitdjehuti was a princess and queen of Egypt 3,500 years ago.
She was the daughter of Pharaoh Senakhtenre Ahmose and Queen Tetisheri. She was the wife of her brother Seqenenre Tao and was the mother of Princess Ahmose.
Sitdjehuti’s titles include King’s Wife, King’s Sister, and King’s Daughter. Sitdjehuti’s mummy was discovered about 1820, along with its coffin, golden mask, a heart scarab, and linens donated by her niece, Queen Ahmose-Nefertari.
The linen is inscribed with the text: “Given in the favor of the god’s wife, king’s wife and king’s mother Ahmose Nefertari may she live, so Satdjehuty.”
Stela of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Family
This Stela of Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Family is an altar image of the Pharaoh, his queen Nefertiti, and their three children. On the left sits Akhenaten on a stool.
He is handing a jewel to his eldest daughter, who stands in front of him. Nefertiti sits opposite him, on the right playing with two of their daughters on her lap.
In the upper part, in the middle of the stela is the disk of the Aten, whose rays end in hands holding the symbol of life. The hieroglyphic inscriptions are the names and titles of the people depicted.
The stela is bordered on three sides by a band of further hieroglyphs, marked with blue paint.
Statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye
This colossal statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye is a group statue of Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III, his Royal Wife Tiye, and three of their daughters.
It is the largest known Ancient Egyptian family group ever carved. The almond-shaped eyes and arched eyebrows of the figures are of typical late 18th dynasty style.
Amenhotep III wears the “nemes headdress” with the cobra, a false beard, and a kilt, and he is resting both his hands on his knees. Queen Tiye is sitting on his left, with her right arm placed around her husband’s waist.
Her height is equal to that of the pharaoh, which shows her prominent status. She wears an ankle-length, close-fitting dress and a big wig with a vulture headdress.
Colossal Statues of Akhenaten
This Statue of Akhenaten depicts the pharaoh, also known as Amenophis IV or Amenhotep IV, in a distorted representation of the human form.
Akhenaten is represented with a distorted physique not present elsewhere in the artwork of Ancient Egypt. He is portrayed with exaggerated facial features, such as a long nose, hanging chin, and thick lips.
Traditionally, pharaohs are depicted as idealistically heroic in Egyptian art. These departures from cultural norms that occur with the colossi of Akhenaten have, therefore, sparked numerous debates among scholars.
Indeed, no artist would have voluntarily produced such a fantastic image of the king without it being directed by the pharaoh himself.
Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus
The Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus, also referred to as the Obelisk of Munich was quarried in Egypt, during Roman rule to adorn the temple of Isis of the Champ de Mars, in Rome.
Made up of three red granite fragments at the combined height of 5.60m, it honors the Roman senator Titus Sextius Africanus, with its inscription in hieroglyphic text.
After the vandalism of the Champ de Mars, the obelisk was later displayed at various Italian piazzas and villas before it was sent to Paris by Napoleon.
After its restoration in Paris, it was sent to Munich, where today it has a replica on a modern base displayed outdoors in front of the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art), and the original is exhibited in the museum.
Book of the Dead – Papyrus of Ani and Hunefe
The “Book of the Dead” is an ancient Egyptian funerary manuscript written on papyrus consisting of magic spells intended to assist a dead person’s journey through the underworld, and into the afterlife.
The original Egyptian name for the text is translated as “Book of Coming Forth into the Light.” It was placed in the coffin or burial chamber of the deceased.
The texts and images in the “Book of the Dead” evolved from the writings of many priests over about 1,000 years. They were used from the beginning of the New Kingdom around 1550 BCE to around 50 BCE.
The “Book of the Dead” was part of a tradition of funerary texts, which includes the earlier texts, which were painted onto objects, not written on papyrus.
Mummy of Katebet
The “Mummy of Katebet” is that of a woman who was a Chantress of Amun. As a Chantress to a major ancient Egyptian deity, she would have sung and performed music during the rituals that were performed in the temples of Thebes in Ancient Egypt.
Her body was preserved and wrapped within layers of linen about 1320 -1280 BC. The painted cartonnage mummy-mask covering her head has a gilded face.
Katebet’s mummy-mask shows her wearing an elaborate wig and white earrings made from studs of calcite. Her wooden hands are depicted as crossed around her chest, wearing rings and jewelry.
Further down her mummy coverings is a small dark scarab beetle, which provided her magical protection when the gods judged her. A small statue in the form of a mummy, which is called a shabti, is placed further down her mummy wrappings.
Egyptian Art History
Tour of Museums with Egyptian Artifacts
- Egyptian Museum, Cairo
- The British Museum
- Neues Museum, Berlin
- Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Neues Museum, Berlin
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET, New York, USA
- Penn Museum
- The Archaeological Civic Museum of Bologna
- Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst
Egyptian Proverbs were a significant part of the ancient religion of Egypt Proverbs were held as a teaching method for a man to understand the world; thus, they were inscribed in temples and tombs of Egypt. Some of the following proverbs were found in the Temples of Luxor.
“The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is Nature.”
“Every man must act in the rhythm of his time… such is wisdom.”
” If his heart rules him, his conscience will soon take the place of the rod.”
” What you are doing does not matter so much as what you are learning from doing it. ? It is better not to know and to know that one does not know than presumptuously to attribute some random meaning to symbols.”
“Always watch and follow nature.”
“If you search for the laws of harmony, you will find knowledge.”
” A house has the character of the man who lives in it.”
“Men need images. Lacking them, they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.”
“Judge by cause, not by effect.”
“Growth in consciousness doesn’t depend on the will of the intellect or its possibilities but on the intensity of the inner urge.”
“Have the wisdom to abandon the values of a time that has passed and pick out the constituents of the future. An environment must be suited to the age and men to their environment.”
“Everyone finds himself in the world where he belongs. The essential thing is to have a fixed point from which to check its reality now and then.”
“Routine and prejudice distort vision. Each man thinks his own horizon is the limit of the world.”
“Exuberance is a good stimulus towards action, but the inner light grows in silence and concentration.”
“The body is the house of God. That is why it is said, ‘Man know yourself.'”
“A pupil may show you by his own efforts how much he deserves to learn from you.”
“All organs work together in the functioning of the whole.”
“You will free yourself when you learn to be neutral and follow the instructions of your heart without letting things perturb you.”
“For every joy, there is a price to be paid.”
“Not the greatest Master can go even one step for his disciple; in himself, he must experience each stage of developing consciousness. Therefore he will know nothing for which he is not ripe.”
Ancient Near Eastern and Ancient Egyptian Art
The Timeline of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt – World History
“Each truth you learn will be, for you, as new as if it had never been written.”
– Egyptian Proverb
Photo Credit: JOM