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Tomb stele of Hetepe and Iki

From the 16th century up until the middle of the 20th century, Western countries conquered large parts of the world. In that time, numerous ‘exotic’ objects were transported to the West: sometimes they were exchanged for something else, bought or gifted, but often they were stolen. Most objects ended up in private collections or museums, without any information about their original contexts. In order to reconstruct exactly how these ancient Egyptians’ and Mayans’ burial goods were used, archaeologists and art historians study their inscriptions and styles. They then compare those to grave goods whose context we are familiar with.
  • Date: Middle Empire, 12th-13th Dynasty
  • Location : Abydos, Egypt
  • Collection: Archaeology
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This tomb stele comes from Abydos. This was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Egypt.

Where does this tomb stele come from?

This tomb stele comes from Abydos. This was one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Egypt. The earliest Egyptian kings were buried there and there was a temple to Osiris, the god of the dead. There was an enormous necropolis along the processional way between the tomb and temple, with offering chapels where the tomb steles were located. The dead hoped that they would be able to participate in the sacrifices and mystery plays that were held each year, thus hastening their own rebirth.

What does this tomb stele depict?

The married couple Hetepe and Iki are sitting at opposite sides of a richly laden table of offerings. The text in hieroglyphics begins with formulaic dedications to Anubis and Osiris. The tablet also bears the names of Hetepe and Iki, those of their children and other family members.

How did the GUM acquire this tomb stele?

De Lescluze, a shipowner from Bruges, probably purchased it in Alexandria from the Greek antiques dealer Anastasi in about 1824. The tomb stele must have ended up in Ghent due to De Lescluze’s connections with the university.

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