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Variable of the Day, Ancient Egypt: Personified emblems

egyptian art personified djed pillar Ramses III

Tomb of Ramses III (KV 11)

NOTE: Personified emblems, often the ankh, djed pillar, and was scepter, appear first in the Predynastic period (such as on labels of king Narmer) and continue to be used throughout Egyptian history.  Usually, these emblems with arms follow the king and hold sunshades or khu fans (see for example the battle scenes of Seti I at Karnak, plate 3), or human arms are added to animal figures representing royal powers.  In the above example from the tomb of Ramses III, the djed pillar (signifying stability) grasps two was scepters (‘dominion’) and has ankhs dangling from its arms.  This complex icon stands on the neb basket, which is the sign for “all” or “lord”–taken together, the cryptogram reads “All dominion and life are in the grasp of stability (i.e. Ramses who has become Osiris)”.  The king’s ka (his symbolic double) is also usually granted human arms–see the Seti I reliefs, plate 35 for an example.

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The Art of Counting is dedicated to the memory of Margery Meilleur, who first taught me to view history through the eyes of the images we create.