Object JE 30948 is the beautiful wooden ka-statue of 13th Dynasty pharaoh, Hor I, which dates to the Middle Kingdom and now resides in the Cairo Museum.
Ka-statues, often marked by the ka hieroglyph (two upraised arms) on the top of the head of the statue, were designed to provide a ‘resting place’ for the ka, or life-force, which had to survive in the statue to ensure that the deceased would live on in the afterlife. Ka statues were also often used as a type of memorial for the deceased in absentia. At Abydos, hundreds of ka-statues were left in order to enable the dead to participate in the yearly festivals which commemorated the resurrection of Osiris.
The ka-statue of Hor I was found within its naos, or shrine, and was covered with a fine layer of painted stucco. Many ka-statues were placed in a purpose-built mortuary chapel or niche which were sometimes inscribed. The statue of Hor I was attached to a piece of wood which could be removed from the naos.
Ka statues were often painted in the likeness of the owner to enhance the ‘spiritual connection’ and to ensure that the memory of the deceased was preserved. The king is wears a tripartite wig, leaving his ears exposed. He is adorned with the divine beard. The eyes, inlaid with rock crystal and quartz, give an extremely life-like appearance to the face. This particular statue once held a sceptre in its right hand and a staff in its left hand.
Ka-statues were ‘brought to life’ by priests in the ceremonial ritual called the ‘Opening of the Mouth’, in which the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears could be touched with ritual implements giving the statue the power of breath, sight, smell, and hearing, respectively.
Hor I is only believed to have reigned for a short period, perhaps just seven months, and so he did not have a pyramid as was the custom of the time. Instead, he was buried in a shaft tomb at Dahshur, next to the pyramid of Amenemhat III. The ka-statue was found in the tomb, along with Hor’s partly gilded wooden coffin, some jewellery, the canopic box with the canopic jars, two inscribed stelae and several other objects. The statue is one of the most accomplished wooden statues to survive from antiquity. This particular statue is extremely well-preserved.
Bibliography and further reading:
The Global Egyptian Museum – JE 30948: http://www.globalegyptianmuseum.org/record.aspx?id=14835.
Dodson, A. & Hilton, D. 2004. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson.
Robins, G. (2000). The Art of Ancient Egypt. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.