Block statue of Nefer-ka

Restoration and Remounting of the Block Statue of Nefer-ka in the Museum of Zagazig University

In 1992, during the excavations of the Tell Basta Project – then a joint venture between the Universities of Potsdam (Germany) and Zagazig (Egypt), and from 2000, the German partnership has been with the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Egypt – the upper part of the block statue of Nefer-ka was found. It is carved from brownish quartzite and was recovered from the bottom of a well of the Roman Period, which had been dug in the central part of the former temple of Bastet at Bubastis, presumably after the temple’s destruction following an earthquake. Because of its fine quality and its relatively good state of preservation this statue fragment may be ranked amongst the most important sculptural finds of the Tell Basta Project in recent years.

The statue depicts a priest of the lion-goddess Sekhmet in the reign of King Amenhotep III (ca. 1388–1350 B.C.),who was father of the famous “heretic“ King Akhenaten and father-in-law of Queen Nefertiti. Amenhotep III’s cartouche - an oval which encloses his royal prenomen (Neb-Maat-Re)- is engraved on the upper side of the statue’s body and resembles a pendant which the devoted priest wears on a cord around his neck. Originally the body of this statue was completely covered with inscriptions. Significant sections of these inscriptions are still preserved on the left side as well as on the round-topped, stela-like, back pillar.

The text on the body’s left side forms part of an autobiographical account. Nefer-ka relates how he witnessed King Amenhotep III’s personal visit to the temple of Bubastis on the occasion of the great festival of the goddess Bastet: „His Majesty wore the red crown [i.e. the crown of Lower Egypt]; he rewarded me […]; he appeared on his throne in order to celebrate the feast of Bastet […]; he had bulls sacrificed for her, 71 perfect bulls, and also perfect cakes and bread, 30 pieces  […]“

The inscriptions also contain offering formulae addressed to the divinities Sekhmet and Ptah and even Amun-Re and “Amun, the primeval-one of the Two Lands“. Amun and Amun-Re are different forms of the very god whose cult was forbidden by Akhenaten and whose names were regularly defaced on monuments. That these names remain unharmed on this statue may lead us to reconsider Akhenaten's policy of non-tolerance of gods other than the Aten. While this policy theoretically applied to all of Egypt, in practice it may not have filtered across into the region of the Nile Delta.

Another inscription, on the upper side of the statue, is very problematic and difficult to translate. No specialist in the field of Egyptian philology has so far succeeded in deciphering it beyond doubt– this is one of the rare cases in which current knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language has been strained beyond its limits.

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