Cartouche of Senusret I

Bas relief depicts the royal cartouche of Senusret I (Kheperkare, The Ka of Re is created). The cartouche is nothing more than the elongated shape of the circular sign “shen”, which was most probably the symbol of the solar disk.

It was exclusively used for the name of the king, protecting him and functioning almost as a magical barrier. In ancient Egypt, amulets in the form of cartouches had the same function: used both for the living and for the deceased, they ensured their eternal protection.

Bas relief depicts the royal cartouche of Senusret I
Cartouche of Senusret I

A cartouche is the nameplate or seal that was used by ancient Egyptian royalty as a powerful amulet of protection for all eternity. The oval shape is encircled by a rope, tied in a knot at the bottom, and symbolized ‘all that the sun encompasses’.

The earliest examples of cartouches date back to the 2nd Dynasty of Egypt. Their common usage started under king Sneferu during the 4th Dynasty. The ancient Egyptian word for cartouche was shenu.

Fun fact: When Napoleon was in Egypt in the 1800’s the French soldiers thought that the shenu symbol looked like a paper powder cartridge, and referred to them as ‘cartouches’ the french word for cartridges.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Senusret I, ca. 1971-1926 BC. The White Chapel of Senusret I, Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor.