Nile Musings ~ Celebrating the Egyptian Arabian Horse ~ Volume 1 Number 7 July 2003

image of grey horsehead Nile Musings image of horsehead from Haremheb's tomb

A little ostracon of a pharaoh on horseback appeared right before my eyes in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Upstairs in a glass case a miniature painting on a flat chunk of limestone only about 4" wide excited me as if I'd make this archaeological discovery myself. I'm guessing this ostracon is from Theodore Davis' excavations of the tomb of Ramses VI since it was tucked among other ostraca labeled from that tomb. Ramses VI reigned for six years during the 20th Dynasty, c. 1145-1137 BC. Davis excavated in the Valley of the Kings in 1902-4 1 when Howard Carter was working for him. The tomb of Ramses VI is just above Tutankhamun's and Davis uncovered a few hints of Tut's presence.

This month's article describes the unusual man on horseback. This ostracon's theme does not appear on any known wall scenes. The artist deftly painted a miniature scene of a quality suitable to a finished wall. The figures are precisely outlined and colored.

Ancient Egyptian artists used ostraca as we'd use a scratch pad. Artists used a flake of stone or broken pottery we call an ostracon for a practice sketch or note. Studies for tomb or temple paintings are the common subjects of ostraca. Sometimes artists sketched humorous scenes similar to the satyrical themed papyri. Ostraca often provide glimpses into ordinary lifestyle minus the formulaic constraints that define official artistic works.

Archaeologist wannabees can delight researching most-ancient treasures with no digging at the Egyptian Museum where items speak for themselves, frequently without labels. Artifacts are grouped by era, tightly packed into the palatial hundred year old neo-classical style building. My awe for that museum reminds me of my earliest art history studies when I nearly camped in museums. I took classes in anthropolgy and almost chose archaeology for my major but I reasoned that digs in the desert might not provide the easiest environment for raising children. Berkeley was one of only two universities in the country offering a bachelors with an Art History major at the time, so I chose Art History.

This month's article explores the ostracon of a pharaoh on horseback.

Next month you will see a postscript to the royalty on horseback subject with an image of a post pharonic ruler on horseback.

What's new on the Nile Muse?
Royal rider

Your webscribe, Donna Hyora


  1. John Romer, Valley of the Kings, Henry Holt and Co. 1981.

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