Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The standard Egyptian headrest—the equivalent of the modern pillow—consisted of a curved neck support atop a pillar on an oblong base. When a head rested on a support, the combination of round and curved forms resembled the morning sun rising between two peaks, which is also the hieroglyph for “horizon.” Thus the sleeper was connected to the sunrise, a potent symbol of resurrection. Some modern Africans, particularly in Mali and Kenya, still sleep on headrests identical in design to ancient Egyptian examples.
ca. 1818-1700 B.C.E.
late Dynasty 12 to early Dynasty 13
9 x 9 3/8 x 4 7/16 in. (22.8 x 23.8 x 11.2 cm) (show scale)
Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund
Wooden headrest in three parts with octagonal pillar inscribed in two columns with name and titles of Ht (Khet).
Condition: One side of base has large gap; pillar badly split, rest chipped at one end. The headrest seems to be a re-used piece as the surfaces now containing inscriptions have very obviously been cut down, presumably to efface an earlier inscription.
Inscribed Headrest, ca. 1818-1700 B.C.E. Wood, 9 x 9 3/8 x 4 7/16 in. (22.8 x 23.8 x 11.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 14.650. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.14.650_NegA_print_bw.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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I always find it funny that these were used as pillows. When did soft pillows become standard?
These headrests would have had some kind of cushioning on the wood that has not survived, so this type of pillow is not as far off from a "modern" pillow as you might think. They're not as uncomfortable as they look!