Relief from a throne base

New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Ay
1327–1323 B.C.

Object Place: Egypt, probably from Medinet Habu


Height x width: 45.5 x 36.5 cm (17 15/16 x 14 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 210)


The Ancient World



One of the classic symbolic motifs from ancient Egypt is the “unification of the two lands,” in which the gods of the two halves of the country tie the heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt - the sedge of the south and the papyrus of the north - around the hieroglyph for “unite,” a tall narrow sign representing the lungs and windpipe of a mammal. Paunchy, androgynous, and with pendulous breasts, these figures are the embodiment of the bounty made possible by the Nile’s annual flood. Because the scene symbolized the unity brought about under the king’s rule, it was often used to decorate the base of his throne.

This handsome fragment of sunk relief once adorned the base of the throne of a colossal seated statue of King Ay, who ruled briefly as Tutankhamen’s successor. The figure depicted here is Lower Egypt, identified by the clump of papyrus (the lower part of the hieroglyph for Lower Egypt) on top of the head, and the upside-down papyrus umbel by the right arm. Its counterpart, with the personification of Upper Egypt, was excavated by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Ay’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu, Thebes. Left unfinished at his death, Ay’s mortuary temple and its statuary were taken over and completed by King Horemheb.


Probably from Medinet Habu. By 1914: Edward W. Forbes collection; 1914: lent to the MFA by Edward W. Forbes, August 10, 1914; 1950: given to the MFA by Edward W. Forbes.
(Accession Date: January 1, 1950)

Credit Line

Gift of Edward W. Forbes