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Egyptian Stela Fragment  

Penn Museum - Joy of Museums - Egyptian Stela Fragment

This “Egyptian Stela Fragment” is a Stele that depicts a seated couple, sculpted in sunken relief. It shows a Wife and Husband with the small figure of a servant holding a jar and offering a drink of beer to husband with Hieroglyphic text above.

The Hieroglyphic inscription above the seated figures unfortunately does not preserve the name of the male, but it records his title as “Royal Chamberlain of the Great House”. The name and title of the wife is “Redu-ihu.

Sunk or sunken relief as opposed to low relief, is a sculpture style mainly seen in the art of Ancient Egypt where it is common. The image is made by cutting the relief sculpture itself into a flat surface.

 Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children

A  more complete example of sunk-relief. The background has not been removed, merely that in the immediate vicinity of the sculpted form. Strong shadows are needed to define the image.

The figure itself is in low relief, but set within a sunken area shaped round the image, so that the relief never rises beyond the original flat surface. This method minimizes the work removing the background, while allowing normal relief modelling.


Essential Facts:

  • Title:                 Egyptian Stela Fragment
  • Culture:           Egyptian – Old Kingdom
  • Provenience:  Egypt, Dendereh, Cemetery
  • Period:             Old Kingdom, Sixth Dynasty – Seventh Dynasty
  • Date Made:     2350 – 2130 BC
  • Find date:       1898
  • Materials:        Limestone
  • Dimensions:   H: 30.5; W: 28.5; D: 10.5
  • Museum:         Penn Museum


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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Unknownmyself (Gerbil from de.wikipedia) (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons