• Hella Radwan

Ka-aper or Sheikh el-balad

This wonderful statue from the early 5th dynasty of the Old Kingdom represents a chief lector priest called Ka-aper. The lector priest - 'Xry-Hb' in ancient Egyptian, literally meaning ‘he who carries the festival (papyrus) roll’ - was responsible for the correct recital of spells and hymns during temple rituals and official ceremonies. Another title of Ka-aper was army scribe of the King, which might refer to a military campaign he was part of during his life.


The statue was discovered in 1860 by Auguste Mariette at Northern Saqqara at the mastaba tomb C8, west of the pyramid of Userkaf. The 112 cm tall statue is carved of sycamore wood. Sycamore was a sacred tree, under the protection of the goddess Hathor, one of whose titles was 'nbt nht' - Lady of the Sycamore. Trees are scarce in Egypt and sycamore was the only native tree of useful size and sturdiness.


The statue's eyes are most wonderful, inlaid with white quartz, rock crystal and resin and surrounded by a copper frame. His round face and stomach indicates prosperity. The long kilt he wears is one that nobles perhaps wore in their homes, as opposite to the semi-pleated kilts worn while at the office.


He originally held two scepters in his hands, these were lost. Some of the parts have been replaced: the staff in his left hand, the left leg and foot and the right leg. The arms were made separately and fixed to the body with tenons.


When the Egyptian workmen who unearthed the statue first saw it, it reminded them of their village mayor, hence the statue's common name: Sheikh el-balad - village chief.

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