Stela of Queen Sakhmakh
335-315 BC
Material: Granite; Gebel Barkal, Great Temple of Amun (B 551)
Collection: Khartoum, Sudan National Museum 1853

Description: On the pediment of this round-topped stela is a winged sun disk over a five-column inscription containing an offering formula. The main body of the stela is designed as a chapel; a polished strip imitates the torus molding, and slightly sunk horizontal strips represent pilasters. A winged sun disk takes the place of the cavetto cornice below the upper "torus" and is repeated above it. The whole is crowned by a frieze of uraei, as in divine shrines. A cult scene is incised in the more deeply sunk central panel. On the right stands a queen wearing a long robe and two tall feathers on her head. She holds a sistrum, apparently lion-headed, in one raised hand and pours a libation with the other. In front of her is enthroned the god Osiris, an atef-crown on his head and crook and flail in his hands. Behind him stands the goddess Isis with an ankh-sign in her left hand and her right hand raised in salutation. The scene is surmounted by incised captions similar to those on the"pilasters." Beneath the scene, on a polished raised panel, is a five-line inscription with an offering formula.

The stela has the usual form, with rounded top and winged sun disk, but the design of the surface as a chapel, imitating the back wall of a Meroitic funerary chapel, is without parallel and betrays a lively artistic imagination.

Sakhmakh was a wife of King Nastasen. He was buried in Pyramid Nuri 15, and a large stela for him was erected in the Great Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal. Since it would be unreasonable to imagine that Sakhmakh's stela, which, considering the subject represented, must have belonged to her tomb, was hauled from Nuri across the river to Gebel Barkal about ten miles away merely to be reused as building material, we must assume that Sakhmakh, unlike her spouse, was buried not at Nuri but in one of the pyramids of the period at Gebel Barkal. The form of the hieroglyphs is so similar on both stelae that one suspects they were carved by the same stonemason.


Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, Steffen Wenig, Brooklyn Museum, p. 73 (1978)

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