E1726

An Egyptian Limestone Relief for the Chief Lector Priest, Old Kingdom, ca. 2686 - 2181 BC

Probably from Saqqara or Giza, showing two columns of hieroglyphs in raised relief, the left reading: “Xry Hbt Hry-tp”, meaning “Chief lector” and the partial right suggest: “sDAwty bity”, i.e. “seal bearer of the King of Lower Egypt”, a fixed title often found in combination with the title “lector priest” or “chief lector”. 

Background: In the Bible we find the story of Moses in Egypt, requesting pharaoh to let his people go. This is denied, and then follows the story of the ten plagues (Exodus 7-12) caused by God. But the text also tells us that the “magicians of pharaoh” could perform the same “tricks”. The word for “magician” that the original (Hebrew) text uses is “Hartummîm”, (an attempt by the Hebrew scribes to render Egyptian sounds using characters in their own language), and which is a phonetic reproduction of the word “Chief Lector” in Egyptian, as inscribed on this relief. 

See: Jan Quaegebeur, “On The Egyptian Equivalent Of Biblical Hartummîm”, in S. Israelit-Groll (ed.), The Bible and Christianity(Jerusalem, 1985), p. 162-172; James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 88-89; most recently Roger Forshaw, The Role of the Lector (Xry-Hbt) in Ancient Egyptian Society (PhD Thesis, Manchester University, 2013), p. 68. 

Dimensions: 11 inches x 10 1/2 inches (28 x 26.6 cm) 

Condition: Despite minor wear, intact and in excellent condition overall. 

Provenance: The John Rilling Collection, CA, acquired prior to 1970, thereafter in a Beverly Hills, CA private collection. 

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