Only two known images exist of the talented man who built the greatest wonder of the ancient world, the famous pyramid at Giza belonging to King Khufu (2606–2583 B.C.). His name was Hemiunu (pronounced Hemi-you-knew), and he was the “overseer of all royal construction projects” under his uncle Khufu. One of his two images returned to Boston in the form of a magnificent carved limestone face in raised relief, which once adorned his tomb wall. Hemiunu’s fragment reveals a rare and superior example of Egyptian Fourth Dynasty royal “portraiture,” with a distinctive nose, a subtly modeled pocket under the eye, and full, undulating lip and chin outlines.
Hemiunu’s massive tomb was unearthed in March 1912, just beyond the Museum Expedition’s allotted portion of the great Western Cemetery at Giza, within the area designated to the German/Austrian expedition. The relief fragment, however, turned up in December 1925 in the debris southeast of the tomb, within the area formally assigned to the Boston expedition. A spectacular, life-size statue of Hemiunu found in the tomb was sent by the Egyptian authorities to the Pelizaeus-Museum, in Hildesheim, Germany, while the MFA was allowed to acquire the loose relief fragment. The relief was then lent to Hildesheim in 1982, as a comparison piece to the more complete statue. Since Hildesheim began building a new museum, the MFA relief has come “home” to Boston once again. Visit the Egyptian galleries and look the architect of the Great Pyramid in the face!