Updated: Jan 10
Object Type: Votive stela
Date: c. 747-656 BC
Period: Dynasty 25, Third Intermediate Period
Findspot: Abydos, Egypt (suggested)
Dimensions: Height 30 cm
Material: Creamy-white stone, possibly limestone
Current location: Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
Inventory number: H506
Print Reference: DP63A
My reproduction stone stela from Abydos made in c. 747-656 BC which enabled votive offerings to be given to the deceased spirit of a woman called Inamun Nayesnebu.
Inamun stands beneath the text wearing a fine linen dress and her natural hair fastened with a band. Before her is an offering table laden with bread, fowl, oxen and lotus flowers, upon which she is pouring a libation from a small bottle. The offerings are being given to the mummified human-headed god Osiris, who holds a flail and a sceptre and is wearing his distinctive plumed headdress. Spreading its protective wings over all beneath it is a winged sun disc with two uraei cobras, representing royal and divine power.
The nine columns of hieroglyphic text on the stela give a variant of the popular offering formula, intended to provide ongoing gifts of food, drink and luxury items to Inamun in the afterlife. The text also ensures that the names of her parents would be honoured, and tells us that her father was Ankhefenamun, who served as the “Wardrobe Master of Min” and her mother was Payestjauemdunun. Ankhefenamun’s job title tells us he worked within a cult temple or shine dedicated to the ancient fertility god Min, and that his role may have been to oversee the clothing used to ritually dress the cult statue. Unfortunately, nothing more is known about the three people named on the stela and no other objects attributed to them have been found.
The stela was gifted to the Bristol Institution (the forerunner of the Museum and Art Gallery) by Miss Goldney in 1885, along with several other objects. There was no information recorded about where it was found or how it was acquired, so the dating of the piece to Dynasty 25 was done based on style by Professor John Barns of Oxford University.
The attribution of it to Abydos is based purely on it being dedicated to Osiris, whose cult centre was based there, and its general similarity to other pieces from the same site. Votive stele were often placed at Abydos, even if the person was buried elsewhere. Inamun’s father’s title as the ‘Wardrobe Master of Min’ could instead suggest an alternative affiliation with Akhmim, the principal cult centre of Min. Excavations began at Akhmim in 1884 and many items ‘strayed’ into private hands, which would fit in with the date of acquisition by the museum.
The following translation was created by Professor Aidan Dodson, Honorary Professor of Egyptology at the University of Bristol:
Speech of Osiris, Chief of Justice, lord of Abydos, that he may give food offerings to the ka. A royal gift to Osiris that he may give unguent, alabaster, clothing, bread and beer, oxen and fowl for the Osiris Inamennayesneb, the daughter of the beloved of the god, the Wardrobe Master of Min, Ankhefenamun; her mother Payestjauemdunun.
Columns 1-3 are read from right to left, starting with the top of column 3:
1. Speech of Osiris, Chief of Justice,
2. Lord of Abydos,
3. that he may give food offerings to the ka.
Columns 4-9 are read from left to right, starting with the top of column 4:
4. A royal gift to Osiris that he may give
5. unguent, alabaster, clothing, bread and beer, oxen and fowl
6. for the Osiris Inamennayesneb,
7. the daughter of the beloved of the god, the Wardrobe Master of Min,
8. Ankhefenamun; her mother
Below is a selection of stele dating from Dynasty 25 which have similar design elements to the Stela of Inaemun:
With thanks to Lisa Graves from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Professor Aidan Dodson from the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology at the University of Bristol for supplying additional information on the stela for this article.