Egyptian art and culture

The art of the ancient Egyptians was (for the most part) never meant to be seen by the living—it was meant to benefit the dead in the afterlife.

A beginner's guide to ancient Egypt

Who were the ancient Egyptians? What did they believe? What did their art mean to them and what materials did they use to make it? We don't know everything about this culture, but we have learned quite a bit.
Ancient Egypt, an introduction
Egyptian Art
Materials & Techniques

Predynastic and Old Kingdom

While today we consider the Greco-Roman period to be in the distant past, it should be noted that Cleopatra VII's reign (which ended in 30 B.C.E.) is closer to our own time than it was to that of the construction of the pyramids of Giza. It took humans nearly 4000 years to build something--anything--taller than the Great Pyramids. Contrast that span to the modern era; we get excited when a sports record lasts longer than a decade.
Palette of King Narmer
Palette of Narmer (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Old Kingdom: The Great Pyramids of Giza
Old Kingdom: Pyramid of Khufu
Old Kingdom: Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Sphinx
Old Kingdom: Pyramid of Menkaure
King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and queen
The Great Pyramids at Giza (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Old Kingdom: Seated Scribe
The Seated Scribe​, c. 2620-2500 B.C.E., c. 4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom, painted limestone with rock crystal, magnesite, and copper/arsenic inlay for the eyes and wood for the nipples, found in Saqqara (Musée du Louvre, Paris). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom

Learn about the ruler Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Queen Tiye as well as some of the most extraordinary paintings from all of Egyptian culture found in the tomb-chapel of Nebamun.
Hippopotamus
Met curator Isabel Stünkel on precaution in Hippopotamus dating from Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, c. 1961–1878 B.C.E. This well-formed statuette of a hippopotamus (popularly called "William") demonstrates the Egyptian artist's appreciation for the natural world. It was molded in faience, a ceramic material made of ground quartz. Beneath the blue-green glaze, the body was painted with the outlines of river plants, symbolizing the marshes in which the animal lived. The seemingly benign appearance that this figurine presents is deceptive. To the ancient Egyptians, the hippopotamus was one of the most dangerous animals in their world. The huge creatures were a hazard for small fishing boats and other rivercraft. The beast might also be encountered on the waterways in the journey to the afterlife. As such, the hippopotamus was a force of nature that needed to be propitiated and controlled, both in this life and the next. This example was one of a pair found in a shaft associated with the tomb chapel of the steward Senbi II at Meir, an Upper Egyptian site about thirty miles south of modern Asyut. Three of its legs have been restored because they were purposely broken to prevent the creature from harming the deceased. The hippo was part of Senbi's burial equipment, which included a canopic box (also in the Metropolitan Museum), a coffin, and numerous models of boats and food production. View this work on metmuseum.org. Are you an educator? Here's a related lesson plan. For additional educator resources from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit Find an Educator Resource.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and Large Kneeling Statue, New Kingdom, Egypt
Mortuary Temple and Large Kneeling Statue of Hatshepsut, c. 1479-58 B.C.E., New Kingdom, Egypt. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Temple of Amun-Re and the Hypostyle Hall, Karnak
Essay by Dr. Elizabeth Cummins
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (UNESCO/TBS)
Thebes, the city of the god Amon, was the capital of Egypt during the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. With the temples and palaces at Karnak and Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Thebes is a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.
The tomb-chapel of Nebamun
Paintings from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun
A bottle and a toy: Objects from daily life
Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Three Daughters
House Altar depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Three of their Daughters, limestone, New Kingdom, Amarna period, 18th dynasty, c.1350 BCE (Ägyptisches Museum/Neues Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)
Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Three Daughters (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Portrait head of Queen Tiye with a crown of two feathers
A conversation between Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker in front of Portrait Head of Queen Tiye with a Crown of Two Feathers, c. 1355 B.C.E., Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, New Kingdom, Egypt, yew wood, lapis lazuli, silver, gold, faience, 22.5 cm high (Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection at the Neues Museum, Berlin)
Thutmose, Bust of Nefertiti
Thutmose, Model Bust of Queen Nefertiti, c. 1340 BCE, limestone and plaster, New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, Amarna Period (Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection/Neues Museum, Berlin)
Thutmose Bust of Nefertiti (quiz)
Test your knowledge.
Tutankhamun’s tomb (innermost coffin and death mask)
Essay by Dr. Elizabeth Cummins
Head of Tutankhamun from the Amarna Period of Egypt’s New Kingdom
Met curator Nicholas Reeves on fragmented history in Head of Tutankhamun from the Amarna Period of Egypt’s New Kingdom, c. 1336–1327 B.C.E. This head is a fragment from a statue group that represented the god Amun seated on a throne with the young king Tutankhamun standing or kneeling in front of him. The king's figure was considerably smaller than that of the god, indicating his subordinate status in the presence of the deity. All that remains of Amun is his right hand, which touches the back of the king's crown in a gesture that signifies Tutankhamun's investiture as king. During coronation rituals, various types of crowns were put on the king's head. The type represented here—probably a leather helmet with metal disks sewn onto it—was generally painted blue, and is commonly called the "blue crown." The ancient name was khepresh. Statue groups showing a king together with gods had been created since the Old Kingdom, and formal groups relating to the pharaoh's coronation were dedicated at Karnak by Hatshepsut and other rulers of Dynasty 18. The Metropolitan's head of Tutankhamun with the hand of Amun is special because of the intimacy with which the subject is treated. The face of the king expresses a touching youthful earnestness, and the hand of the god is raised toward his crown with gentle care. View this work on metmuseum.org.  Are you an educator? Here's a related lesson plan. For additional educator resources from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, visit Find an Educator Resource.
Last Judgement of Hunefer, from his tomb
Hunefer's Judgement in the presence of Osiris, Book of the Dead, 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom, c. 1275 B.C.E., papyrus, Thebes, Egypt (British Museum). 
Ancient Egyptian papyrus in the Book of the Dead Exhibition
Preparing pieces of papyrus ready for display in the exhibition Journey through the afterlife: ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. © Trustees of the British Museum
Last Judgement of Hunefer (quiz)
Test your knowledge.