Stela of a Sistrum Player


Stela of a Sistrum Player  [ edit ]

Funerary stelae, much like modern tomb stones, were focal points for the veneration of the deceased. Since family members and other visitors would not see the coffins after interment, mourners could address their prayers and requests to the stela outside the tomb. This funerary stela is dedicated to the woman Muthetepet, a musician in the service of the god Min, the primary deity of Akhmim. In the lunette, Muthetepet--who wears a dress, cape, and a floral headdress--stands before an offering table and raises her arms in adoration of Osiris, god of the dead, followed by his son, Horus, his sister-wife Isis, and his sister Nephthys. Although the gods are not labeled, their regalia and attributes serve, like a hieroglyphic annotation, to identify each divinity. For example, the double crown of Horus is the same crown worn by the Graeco- Roman terracottas of Harpocrates (Horus-the-child).

Above the devotional scene hovers a winged sun disk that simultaneously represents the solar deity and the sky, the round wings tracing the curvature of the celestial dome. As on similar stelae of the Late Period, the wings of the disk are asymmetric: the left wing hangs ever so slightly lower than the right one. This subtle difference mirrors the solar cycle: the sun rises in the East (right) in the morning, but when evening arrives it descends into the West and the Netherworld (left), the domain of Osiris.

Although little remains of the city and temples of ancient Akhmim, many Late Period stelae, coffins, and other funerary objects from its ravaged cemeteries can be found in museums around the world, enabling one to reconstruct the family trees of the local clergy. Since the stela of Muthetepet provides extensive genealogical data, one may reasonably suggest connections to other documents: a stela in the British Museum (EA 1141) belongs to Muthetepet's sister, while a similar monument in Chicago (Field Museum 31267) appears to mention her daughter.


H. 64.3 cm; W. 37.2 cm




Yale Art Gallery

Accession Number


Scott, Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale, pp. 156-158, No. 89.

Herman De Meulenaere, Luc Limme, Jan Quaegebeur, Die spat ägyptischen Totenstelen: Index et Addenda (Glückstadt: Augustin, 1985), p. 83.