"Reserve head" of Nofer

Old Kingdom, Dyn. 4, reigns of Khufu to Khafra
2551–2494 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Giza, tomb G 2110


Height: 27.1 cm (10 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

George D. and Margo Behrakis Gallery (Gallery 207)


The Ancient World



We may not know exactly what Nofer looked like, but we can be sure that he had a large aquiline nose. This aspect is featured prominently on the north doorjamb from his chapel as well as on the reserve head found at the bottom of the tomb’s shaft. The scale with which Nofer is represented on the walls - three times bigger than other figures - and the fourteen different offices enumerated there demonstrate that he was a prominent official in Dynasty 4. Among his titles, both real and honorary, were overseer of the treasury, overseer of the king’s regalia, overseer of the arsenal, secretary of all the secrets of the king, estate manager, and royal scribe.

While Nofer’s relief is idealized, his reserve head offers a much more portraitlike representation of how he must have looked, with a somewhat elongated face, high cheekbones, and a square chin, in addition to his prominent nose. The rough cutting of the nose, ears, and hairline suggest that in this case, finer detailing might have been executed in plaster. Alternatively, it may represent intentional damage inflicted for reasons that remain unknown.

George Reisner was not the first to enter Nofer’s tomb in modern times when he excavated it in 1905. August Mariette, the first director of antiquities, found the tomb in 1857, and in the following year he presented the other (southern) doorjamb of the tomb chapel to the viceroy of Egypt, who, in turn, presented it to Prince Napoleon of France. From there it entered another French collection before it was purchased by the Louvre in 1868. Other relief-decorated blocks were plundered from the tomb prior to the MFA excavations and are currently in Rome, Copenhagen, and Birmingham (England).


From Giza, tomb G 2110. 1905-6: excavated by the Harvard University-Museun of Fine Arts Expedition; 1906: assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: November 8, 1906)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition