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The Seated Scribe

The sculpture of the Seated Scribe is one of most important examples of ancient Egyptian art. It represents a figure of a seated scribe at work. The sculpture was discovered at Saqqaramarker in 1850 and dated to the period of 4th Dynasty, 2620-2500 BCE. It is currently part of a permanent collection of Egyptian antiquities in Louvremarker Museum in Parismarker.


This painted limestone sculpture represents a man in a seated position, presumably a scribe. The figure is dressed in a white kilt stretched to its knees. It is holding a half rolled papyrus. Perhaps the most striking part aspect of the figure is its face. Its realistic features stand in contrast to perhaps more rigid and somewhat less detailed body. Hands fingers and fingernails of the sculpture are delicately modeled. Hands are in writing position. It seems that right hand was holding a brush, now missing. The body is sturdy with broad chest. Nipples are marked with two wooden stubs.

Special attention was devoted to the eyes of the sculpture. They are modeled in rich detail out of pieces of red-veined white magnesite which were elaborately inlaid with pieces of polished truncated rock crystal. The back side of the crystal was covered with a layer of organic material which at the same time gives the color to the iris and serves as an adhesive. Two copper clips hold each eye in place. The eyebrows are marked with fine lines of dark organic paint.


The sculpture of the seated scribe was discovered in Saqqaramarker on 19 November, 1850, to the north of the Serapeum's line of sphinxes by French archeologist Auguste Mariette. Precise location remains unknown as the document describing these excavations was published posthumously and excavation journal has been lost.

The identity of the person represented remains unknown. Semicircular base of the sculpture suggests that it originally fitted in a larger piece of rock which presumably carried its name and title. This somewhat unusual pose was, it seems, reserved for members of immediate royal family, although not for king himself. The statue was dated to the period of 4th Dynasty, 2620-2500 BC, and is usually associated to the person of Pehernefer. Certain stylistic characteristics, unusual thin lips, broad chest and posture of the torso might support this theory. The dating itself remains uncertain as period of 6th dynasty has also been suggested. One additional fact in favor of the earlier date is that statue is represented in “writing” position while it seems that scribes from the period after the 5th dynasty have been portrayed mainly in “reading” position.

Technical information

The Seated Scribe

Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty (?), c. 2620-2500 BC

Saqqaramarker, north of the alley of the sphinxes, Serapeum, Egyptmarker

Painted limestone statue, inlaid eyes: rock crystal, magnesite (magnesium carbonate), copper-arsenic alloy, nipples made of wood

Height: 53.7 cm; Width: 44 cm; Depth: 35 cm


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