What is this
This a "block" style statue. It shows a man crouched and wrapped in a cloak, which left a lot of space to engrave the inscriptions.
This statue is of a Priest who was named Ay. He lived during the reign of the famous King Tut!
Why was this shape so popular?
One of the main advantages of a block statue for ancient Egyptians was the amount of space available for inscriptions, due to the simplified, cloaked, seated form. This type of statue allows the subject to eternally sit and watch a procession, and otherwise be religiously active.
How do you know that this depicts Ay?
Easy! All of the symbols you see inscribed on this statue are hieroglyphic writing. Included in the inscription is this man's name, Ay.
What tools were used to make this?
Limestone is a relatively soft stone. The ancient Egyptians cut the shapes with copper and bronze chisels and wooden mallets. They would have smoothed the surface of a sculpture like this by using sand as an abrasive.
Limestone is the material. It was very commonly used in ancient Egypt. Limestone comes in a wide variety of qualities. This particularly milky and smooth type likely originates near Thebes.
What’s the purpose of this art work?
What do you think its purpose might be? What about the way it looks gives you a clue about what this statue was for?
Does the statue define non-royalty? And non-worth?
What about the statue suggest non-worth and non-royalty?
The way he’s sitting.
I can see why you might think that! It is important to remember that simply having a statue made of you in stone was expensive so the statue's mere existence suggests a degree of wealth.
You're right though, that this statue is meant to portray a non-royal individual. The fact that he is seated on the ground and, even more so, his hairstyle show that.
Why does he have writing on him if the portrait depicts a non royal individual?
Writing was extremely important in ancient Egyptian art for both royal and non-royal individuals. It was the writing, more than the face, that identified the individual.
In this case, the inscription identifies this man as a priest named Ay who earned the title "Second Prophet of Amun and High Priest of the Goddess Mut at Thebes." It also describes his lineage and addresses the gods to grant him offerings.
Was there a concept of good vs bad handwriting in Egyptian times?
Most of the writing you'll see on these statues was originally sketched by trained scribes and then carved by skilled artisans, so it's pretty standardized across the board. Writing was a skill that people trained in and especially when you see hieroglyphs on objects like these, it's all "good." It is entirely possible that “bad” or “sloppy” handwriting may appear on in more utilitarian records or notes recorded on papyrus.
What is the term that describes the kind of pictorial writing found on these statues?
In general, the writing on the pieces you'll see in the galleries can all be referred to as Egyptian hieroglyphs or simply hieroglyphs, the writing system used in ancient Egypt.