H: 118, W: 36 1/4, D: 3 1/2 in (299.72 x92.7 x8.89 cm)
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Snefru, ca. 2430 BCE
Medum, tomb of Nefermaat and Itet, BSAE 1909-10, OIM 9002
Photo ©Joan Ann Lansberry, 2010
(From museum info card):|
"Writing had great potency in ancient Egypt. The association between the written reference to a personal name and the person's existence was so strong that to erase someone's name was to effectively destroy that person. This fragment from the tomb of the courtier Nefermaat and his wife Itet is decorated with hieroglyphs that are deeply carved in the limestone. The recesses were inlaid with brightly colored paste (largely restored here). The text in front of Nefermaat claims that 'He is one who made his signs in writing that cannot be erased' and hence that it was impossible to deface his or his wife's name.
"In other texts, Nefermaat claimed to have invented this technique which was rarely used again, probably because it was so laborious.
"Nefermaat is shown at the top of the relief and his wife Itet in the middle register. Two of their sons stand behind Itet, and four others appear in the lowest register. All six boys hold their finger to their mouth, a conventional pose indicating that they are young."
(From _Ancient Egypt: Treasures of the Oriental Institute_, by Emily Teeter):