Updated: Jun 21, 2022
Object Type: Penitential stela
Date: c. 1279-1213 BC
Period: 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II
Findspot: Deir el-Medina, Egypt
Dimensions: H. 48.0 cm x W. 33.0 cm x D. 3.5 cm
Inventory number: Cat 1592 (Turin N 50046)
Current location: Muzeo Egizio, Turin (Sala 6, Vetrina 8)
Print Reference: DP60A
My reproduction of an illustration from a stone stela praising the healing power of the god Iah-Thoth, who is shown as an ibis-headed man, riding on the solar barque through the night sky. The god is being presented with a wadjet, or Eye of Horus, by the baboon-form of Thoth, which represents the healing power and protection of the god.
The illustration sits in a lunette above the hieroglyphic text, which was dedicated to the deceased spirit of Neferrenpet, a sculptor from the workman’s village, Dier el-Medina, in c. 1279-1213 BC. It describes Thoth as holding life and health as objects in his hands which he can pass to the dedicator of the stela, Neferrenpet in the same way that any other object may be passed from one to another.
The ibis-headed god Thoth (also known as Djehuty) is shown in his form of Iah-Thoth, or the God of the New Moon, indicated by the lunar disk on his head. As early as the Old Kingdom, Thoth was worshipped as a god of the moon along with Iah and Khonsu, and he was thought to embody the moon's dynamic nature. As this is a funerary stela, Iah-Thoth is shown in the white shroud of underworld deities and the hieroglyphs below describe him as “the merciful one”.
The Barque of a Million Years
Iah-Thoth is sitting on a boat made from papyrus with a net draped over one end and an elaborate prow taking the shape of the renpet hieroglyph meaning ‘year’ at the other. This hieroglyph takes the form of a notched palm frond, which was used by Thoth to count and record the years and is a visual clue to the name of the boat “the barque of a million years”. This is the vessel which the gods travel across the heavens at night in and ferry the souls to the afterlife, and it is floating on a blue pet hieroglyph, meaning “sky”.
The Baboon and the Eye of Horus
In the Old Kingdom the baboon became associated with Thoth as the god of writing and patron of the scribal arts. They featured in many of the myths surrounding the underworld, appearing as guardians to gates, protectors of organs and witnesses to the soul’s final judgement. Here the baboon represents another form of Thoth, associated with his powers for healing by the wadjet, or Eye of Horus symbol, he holds. This image is based on the myth of the destruction of one of the falcon-headed god Horus's eyes by the god Seth and its restoration by the god Thoth. It symbolised good health, restoration, and the ongoing victory of stability over the forces of chaos.
Neferrenpet, son of Piay, was a 'sculptor in the Place of Truth' at Deir el-Medina during the reign of Ramessess II. He was buried in TT 336 with his wife Huynofret and their tomb contains depictions of them receiving offerings from their wider family, including their sons Piay, Huy, Pashedu, Nefermenu, and daughter Tabaki. This stela, which was not from the tomb but would have been placed in a rock-cut shrine, was dedicated to Neferrenpet, his wife and his other daughter, Werel.
For more information see Who's Who at Deir el-Medina by Benedict Davies (1999, p.183).
The vertical columns of hieroglyphs go from left to right and should be read from top to bottom. The following translation comes from J.M. Galan's Seeing darkness (1999):
Praising to Iah-Thoth, kissing the ground for the merciful one.
I praise him up to heaven:
“I exalt your gentleness,
(so that) you may be merciful to me and
I may see your mercy,
I may witness the greatness of your [mercy],
You cause that I see the darkness that you create.
Enlighten me, (so that) I may see you.
Health and life are in your hand,
And is alive by what you give to him.”
For the Ka of the [sculptor] of Deir el-Medina,
[Nefer]renpet – justified, well in peace –
His beloved sister, mistress of the house, Huynefret – justified,
And her daughter Werel, for her lord.
Davies, B. G. (1999). Who's who at Deir el-Medina: a prosopographic study of the royal workmen's community. Leiden, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten.
Galan, J. M. (1999). Seeing darkness. Chronique d'Egypte, 74(147), 18–30.
Potter, D.M. (2016). Linguistic Understanding of Divine Interaction in Ramesside Egypt. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.
Tosi, Mario, Roccati, (1972). Stele e altre epigrafi di Deir el Medina: n. 50001 - n. 50262 (Catalogo del Museo Eg. di Torino - Serie II. - Collezioni 1), Torino, pp. 80-81, tav. p. 280
“Catalogue de la collect. d'antiq. de mons. le chev. Drovetti, a 1822”, in Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (a cura di), Documenti inediti per servire alla storia dei Musei d'Italia, vol. 3, Firenze - Roma 1880, p. 226, n. 63
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