The Egyptians valued learning and literacy above all other skills, including physical strength and military prowess. Egyptian men who mastered reading and writing were frequently represented as scribes: sitting cross-legged with inscribed papyrus rolls in their laps. Some examples, such as this one, show the subject with his head gently inclined as if reading the papyrus.
So-called scribe statues were first produced in Dynasty 4 (circa 2625–2500 B.C.). Originally only princes were permitted to appear in this form, but as access to schooling increased over time, scribe statues became relatively common. The subject of this sculpture, a man named Amunhotep, held several priestly and administrative offices.
Pale cream-colored limestone squatting statue of Amenhotep, son of Nebiry. Amenhotep is represented with a papyrus scroll unrolled in his lap, and with his head gently inclined as if he were reading. His legs are crossed in the attitude of a scribe. He wears a heavy striated wig, and a kilt. The eyebrows are plastic, but not overly long and extended. They parallel the curvature of the eyelids, and dip towards the root of the nose. The eyeballs are convex, and bulge slightly. The upper eyelid rims are plastic and are contoured by a neatly incised line. The upper lip is straight. The lower lid droops, and there are deep depressions at the corners of the mouth. The folds of the skin on the stomach are indicated. Condition: Nose missing; left eye damaged; small plaster repair at left shoulder.