The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt

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Amenhotep, son of Hapu, as a scribe Amenhotep, son of Hapu, as a scribe
Eighteenth Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III, 1390-1352 BC
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

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BETSY BRYAN: This statue actually represents one of the great professions in ancient Egypt. That of the scribe.

DAVID O'CONNOR: Amenhotep son of Hapu was one of the chief officials of pharaoh Amenhotep III. He's seated with his legs crossed, his kilt stretched tightly in front of him. He has a scroll of papyrus unrolling on his lap, and his hand is in the position for writing.

He looks rather modest. But this is really a kind of reverse snobbery, because this is one of the highest and most prestigious way that ancient Egyptian officials could be depicted.

ALAN SHESTACK: In a society where few could read and write, scribes were revered for their literacy. As organizers and record keepers, they often rose quickly to positions of great responsibility.

DO: The inscription on the base, easily seen by the person who approaches one of these statues, tells that visitor that Amenhotep son of Hapu is here, embodied in the statue, and can act to intercede between the visitor and the gods.

The writing on the scroll on Amenhotep's lap, however, is oriented towards Amenhotep--it's for him to read. This describes his achievements and records the fact that the king has allowed this statue of him to be set up in a temple.

AS: Incidentally, a scribe actually taking notes would have used the cursive form of Egyptian writing, called Hieratic. For monuments, Egyptians used hieroglyphs, understood as the language of the gods.