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Stela of Senebef and Ita

Unknown1850 BC - 1750 BC

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

During the Middle Kingdom, Abydos in Upper Egypt - regarded as the place where Osiris, the fertility deity and later the ruler of the dead, was buried - was an important pilgrimage centre.One of the early royal tombs from the First Dynasty in Umm al-Qaab, located just outside Abydos, was identified as the god’s tomb. From the Middle Kingdom onwards there were regular processions from the temple of Osiris to the tomb of Osiris in Umm el-Qaab. During the 12th and 13th Dynasty, numerous chapels containing several stelae as well as statues and offering tables were erected along this processional route. These chapels are cenotaphs, erected to allow their owners to attend symbolically the celebrations of the Osiris mysteries. This rectangular stela for Senebef, originally inserted into a wall, was probably also once part of such a cenotaph. The niche at the centre of the semi-circular pediment features a female mummy. This is the patron’s mother who was called Meri. She is flanked by depictions of various funerary offerings. The stele of Senebef is dominated by a large central “ankh” set in a rectangular window. The Ancient Egyptian word “ankh” translates as “life”. The two mummy-shaped figures flanking it depict the patron, Senebef, and Ipta. Below them are incised depictions of a man seated on a chair. The space between the niches and the window featuring the “ankh” is covered with inscriptions. They mention, among other things, the route taken by the processions that formed part of the Osiris mysteries. This shows that the stela originated in Abydos where it was placed in one of the cenotaphs lining the processional route. © Regina Hölzl, Meisterwerke der Ägyptisch-Orientalischen Sammlung, Wien 2007.

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