On Friday October 16, 2015, I spent half a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York studying the representations of scribes in Egyptian art, and the tools that the scribes used to practice their craft. I was guided by Assistant Curator of Egyptian Art, Niv Allon, who is also very interested in scribes in the New Kingdom and their culture.
Of special interest to me were the practice boards used by scribes for school texts, one of which contains corrections from a teacher and another text underneath the visible one which had been whitewashed over.
I was also studying the scribal palettes which held the ink and reed brushes of scribes. These usually had two depressions, one for red and one for black ink, but those used by painters might have six or eight depressions for different pigments (see left). These palettes were also found in the tombs of non-scribes, who sometimes had them made out of stone or other materials (below right) as a non-working representation of a scribe’s palette, thus a marker of cultural literacy and its attendant power.
A very famous object on display was the scribal statue of Horemheb, from before he became Pharaoh. It probably dates to the reign of Tutankhamen. Horemheb is seated as a scribe reading (or writing on) a papyrus, a pose which goes back to the Old Kingdom.