King's Son of his Body, Ra-Hotep and King's Acquaintance Nofret

It was 1871, when Auguste Mariette excavated the mastaba tomb of Ra-Hotep and Nofret in Meidum. Meidum, ancient d¯d snfrw (“Sneferu endures”), is an archaeological site on the west bank of the Nile, in the Fayyum depression and it is the southernmost royal necropolis of the Old Kingdom.


The map of Meidum.


Here we find a 4th dynasty pyramid, flanked on its northern and western sides by mastaba tombs of private individuals. The north cemetery dates to the early 4th dynasty and includes the mastaba of Ra-Hotep and Nofret - Mastaba 6 (M6).

Artist's rendition of Meidum, the mastaba tombs seen to the north of the pyramid.

The outside of the mastaba is decorated with the “serek”: the ‘palace façade’ motif. Inside the mastaba there are tomb chapels for Rahotep and his wife on the western side. A false door in the shrine of Rahotep gives his titles as “King's Son” and “Priest of Heliopolis” and the walls are decorated with scenes of the prince hunting and fishing.

The most famous artefacts discovered in the mastaba tomb of Ra-Hotep and Nofret are this pair of painted limestone statues. The figures are seated on square-cut chairs, Ra-Hotep's chair is slightly wider than Nofret's.

Ra-Hotep's right arm is folded across his chest, while his left arm is resting on the left leg. Both his hands are clenched. He is depicted with his own short black hair and has a thin moustache. He is wearing a short white kilt, tied under his belly by a bold knot. Around his neck there is a thin chain with a heart-shaped amulet.

Nofret places both of her hands over her chest. She is wearing a heavy shoulder length wig, encircled by a diadem ornamented with floral motifs. Part of her natural hair is visible at the front. She is enveloped in a long mantle under which appear the halters of her tight fitting dress. Around her neck is a usekh necklace with strings of beads of alternating colours: light and dark blue, and red, ending in a row of blue pendants.

The large eyes are inlaid with quartz and rock crystal: legend has it that when the workmen's torchlights reflected in the eyes of the statues they got scared, the eyes are so life-like.

The difference in the skin colour of the two figures follows the usual Egyptian practice in depicting males and females. Male figures are always ochre (sometimes almost red) while females are painted a pale yellow.

Ra-Hotep was likely the son of king Sneferu and step-brother of king Khufu. His statue showed the following titles:

Left side

1 - King's Son of his Body, Ra-Hotep

2 - General of the Army Expedition

3 - Supervisor/Overseer of the Works

Right side

1 - King's Son of his Body, Ra-Hotep

2 - Elder of the Chamber, Unique one of the Shepenty(?),

3 - Great Prophet (Priest) of Heliopolis, unique one of festival, craftsman of the Ames sceptre


Nofret's statue is saying (on both sides): King's Acquaintance Nofret.

The statues can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


Statues of prince Rahotep and princess Nofret, Egypt, engraving from "A Thousand Miles Up the Nile" by Amelia Edwards, illustration from the magazine The Graphic, volume XV, no 375, February 3, 1877.

#Rahotep #Nofret #Meidum #mastaba #OldKingdom #Egyptology #AncientEgypt

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