Now You See It, Now You Don’t: A Hieratic Scrawl on the Ka Nefer Nefer Mask

I recently found this picture from a 1952 article in the Illustrated London News. There’s a two page spread on the discovery of the Tomb of Sekhemkhet by M. Zakaria Goneim, and a picture of one of my favorite funerary ensembles, that of Lady Ka Nefer Nefer!

This picture really illustrates something I’ve brought up on the wiki, and something that I’ve seen mentioned once in the literature, though I can’t remember where.

In the 1952 picture, Ka Nefer Nefer’s mask has something scrawled on the hand. On the following picture taken by myself at the Saint Louis Art Museum, circa 2010, it does not. You can see that the inscription has been rubbed out.

 In Goneim’s official publication of the excavation, he translates the hieratic inscription on the hand as “Neferu”. Goneim thought that Neferu was the lady’s nickname, and his transcription of the name into hieroglyphs is shown at left. (Goneim, 1957, pp27)


The shabtis bear her full name, Ka Nefer Nefer, and the amulets are inscribed for Neferu. This hieratic scrawl on the hand was the only place where the mask itself was inscribed for her.

…and now it’s gone.


“The Discovery of a New Step Pyramid: A Third Dynasty Find at Sakkara.” The Illustrated London News 7 June 1952: 980-81. Print.
Goneim, M. Zakaria, Service des Antiquites de L’Egypte. Horus Sekhem-khet – The Unfinished Step Pyramid At Saqqara, Volume 1. Excavations at Saqqara. Imprimerie de L’Institut Francais D’Archeologie Orientale. Cairo. 1957. pp 25,26 pp 113,115, Plates LXVII-A, LXVIII


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4 Responses to Now You See It, Now You Don’t: A Hieratic Scrawl on the Ka Nefer Nefer Mask

  1. Jennifer Grotpeter says:

    I don’t remember ever seeing the rest of the ensemble at SLAM- but I visit Ka Nefer Nefer every time I am at the museum. Would simple handling and light exposure over the years have obliterated the inscription, or is something more nefarious, such as the controversy over her ownership, at work here?

    • KMJohnston says:

      The rest of the ensemble, as far as I know, is still in the magazine in Saqqarah. I’m not sure what happened to the inscription. I can’t imagine that erasing it might make the piece any less identifiable. Maybe its destruction was natural, or maybe someone was just dumb and didn’t recognize it as hieratic and “cleaned it off.” Sounds silly, but stuff like that happens.

  2. I came here hunting something else, but this inspired me regardless. Enlightening stuff!

  3. KMJohnston says:


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