This is the inscribed end of a funerary cone, made of clay, containing a very interesting scene and four columns of text. In the upper register the solar barque is depicted in which the sun god traversed the sky. In the middle of the barque we see the cabin of the god; to the right of it is the rudder of the boat with a rope tied to it, or possibly a cobra snake; to the left of the cabin is a hieroglyph reading Smsw, which is a symbol for the followers, or entourage, of the sun god (a group consisting of many major gods, sometimes depicted in full in funerary scenes; when the space to depict them all was lacking they were often replaced by this hieroglyph).
Below this scene we see two depictions of the same woman, kneeling down and with her arms raised in adoration for the sun god; an unguent cone is visible on her head. The inscription identifies her: "The Osiris, the true king's acquaintance, his beloved, Mutirdis justified" (right half) and "The Osiris, the chief of the followers of Divine Adoratrice, Mutirdis justified" (left half).
The ancient Egyptians knew several titles for high ranking priestesses. The highest one, God's Wife of Amun, was reserved for royal women, usually the mother or the daughter of a king. The title Divine Adoratrice was given to a priestess ranking slightly below the God's Wife; possibly she also acted as a deputy or stand in for the God's Wife.
Mutirdis lived in the 26th dynasty, in the time of Nitocris, the Divine Adoratrice of Amun, and her father Psamtek I. Other cones for the same person (De Garis Davies nos. 48, 387 and 608) inform us that her father was called Pahebu (or Pahebdjehuty); for her mother there are two names, Shepesasetenpermes and Shemetsenef.
The cone once adorned the tomb of Mutirdis (TT410 = Theban Tomb 410), a well known monument on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, in an area called Asasif, near Deir el-Bahari.
Funerary cones were placed in rows over the entrance of a tomb chapel, creating a decorative frieze. They were inserted into the wall, so that only the short end was visible. The oldest known examples date to the 11th Dynasty. From the New Kingdom onward the short end was inscribed (stamped) with titles and name of the owner of the tomb; sometimes a short prayer was added.
The function and meaning of these cones is still debated and there are many hypotheses. One of the most frequently encountered suggestions is that they imitate the ends of the poles that formed the roof of ancient Egyptian houses or offering chapels. An overview of the hypotheses can be found here.
Norman de Garis Davies – Miles Frederick Laming Macadam, A Corpus of Inscribed Egyptian Funerary Cones (Oxford, 1957), no. 603;
Gary Dibley - Bron Lipkin, A Compendium of Egyptian Funerary Cones (2009);
Kento Zenihiro, The Complete Funerary Cones (2009);
José Lull, "Un cono funerario de la dinastía XXVI procedente de TT 410 (El-Asasif, Tebas Oeste)", SAGVNTVM: Papeles del Laboratorio de Arqueología de Valencia, Vol. 37 (2005), p. 167-169;
Jan Assmann, Das Grab der Mutirdis (Archäologische Veröffentlichungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo, 13; Grabung im Asasif, 6) (Mainz am Rhein, 1977);
For the name Mutirdis see Hermann Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen (3 volumes, Glückstadt - Hamburg, 1935-1976), Volume I, 147, 10; II, 359.
26th dynasty, ca. 650 to 550 B.C.
Diameter 9.0 cm maximum, length 6.8 cm. maximum.
Ex collection of Dr. Ulrich Müller, Switzerland, acquired between 1968 and 1978.
Fragment as shown; a major part of the "tail", which was originally inserted into the wall, was later broken off; wear to the scene and hieroglyphs but still readable.