String figure with beaded hair

First Intermediate Period 2160-2055 BCE, Textile, glass, H. 8 cm, W. 3 cm, D. 2 cm (ECM.1843-2010)

This charming figure is made of fine thread knotted into bundles and wrapped around bunches of thicker string. The body is wrapped in sections, with separate bundles of thread used for the legs, arms, torso, and head. The central string bunches protrude slightly at the hands and feet of the figure.

The “hair” is made of loops of fine thread emerging from neat knots at the head, with each loop consisting of two strands of thread strung with about ten tiny seed beads of blue glass. The translucent beads are dark turquoise in colour and would have been made by winding very thin glass around a slender rod.

The figure comes from a small tomb in the necropolis of Beni Hasan, near the modern city of Minya in Middle Egypt. The tomb, BH 420, lies on the site’s “lower terrace,” the sloping hillside below a group of famous tombs belonging to the noblemen who governed the region during the Middle Kingdom. The tombs of the lower terrace are said to make up the “middle class” cemetery for the area around Beni Hasan, but the exact nature of the social connection between the occupants of the lower terrace tombs and the provincial nomarchs buried higher up the hill is difficult to determine, as the lower terrace was in use before the construction of the nobles’ tombs. There are nearly 900 tombs 2 on the lower terrace, with the earliest dating to the Old Kingdom.

Inspired by this object, I wanted to recreate the string figure with beaded hair in graphite.

More Information on the string figure and other Ancient Egyptian artefacts from the Myers Collection (Museum of Antiquities) can be found in the online exhibition Ancient Beings – Exploring over 3,000 of Ancient Egyptian culture through 32 objects (ancient-beings.com).


Referenced from:

Swaney, M. and Moroney, M. (Eds.), Selections from the Eton College Myers Collection, The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, April-August 2016

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