To the right of the Introductory Gallery, the Museum's world-famous "Bird Lady" (circa 3500 B.C.E.) beckons visitors into the small gallery behind her, which contains objects from Egypt's Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods (circa 4400–2675 B.C.E.). Variously shaped stone palettes that were used to grind pigments for eyepaint, large stone bowls, ivory figurines, tiny faience frogs, a massive lion head, and rows of impossibly small animals carved on the handle of a ceremonial knife all reveal the extraordinary level of craftsmanship achieved during this formative period of Egyptian civilization.
In the large gallery beyond, visitors encounter the head of a king and a huge stone sarcophagus, both dating to the Old Kingdom (circa 2675–2170 B.C.E.). Other works of note include a kneeling statuette of the late Old Kingdom king Pepy I and a small alabaster figure of his grandson Pepy II—who came to the throne as a young child—seated on his mother's lap. Three wooden tomb statues commissioned by a man named Metjetji show him at different stages of his life; other statues depict officials with their families.
The center of this gallery is devoted to material from the Middle Kingdom (circa 2008–1630 B.C.E.). This section includes the Museum's famous head of a royal female, once part of a sphinx; reliefs from the tomb walls of the queen of Montuhotep II, as well as the little wooden coffin of one of his minor wives; blue faience hippos and other characteristic animals; and vessels and other objects imported from or influenced by the Minoan and Near Eastern cultures that had contact with Egypt during this period.
Statues and reliefs at the end of the gallery illustrate the rise of the New Kingdom (circa 1539–1075 B.C.E.), marked by the beginning of Dynasty 18. The chronological galleries continue in the galleries on the opposite side of the introductory space.
Next: Later Egypt