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Headrest of Shemai

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
This headrest—the Egyptian version of a pillow—was found in the tomb of a man named Shemai. Headrests were believed to have magical powers that protected the head from evil spirits. The inscription on this example invokes Osiris, god of the afterworld, suggesting that Shemai had it made specifically for his tomb.
MEDIUM Alabaster, pigment
  • Place Excavated: Deir el Nawahid, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 2288–2170 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 6
    PERIOD Old Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 7 5/8 in. (19.4 cm) base: 6 3/16 × 2 3/4 in. (15.7 × 7 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Alabaster headrest made in three parts with fluted column. Inscribed in two lines and one column for the Village headman and Courtier sm3.1 (? or sm3), inscription incised and inlaid in malachite. Condition: One chip (recent) on rim of headpiece. Much inlay lost from inscription. The three sections were glued together by Kofler.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
    CAPTION Headrest of Shemai, ca. 2288–2170 B.C.E. Alabaster, pigment, 7 5/8 in. (19.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 59.3. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 59.3_front_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 59.3_front_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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