Head of King

Granite is extremely hard, but the sculptor of this statue was able to give the king’s plump face and small features a softly natural quality, perhaps suggesting the subject’s actual appearance rather than an idealized version. Originally, this fragment surmounted an oversize figure, achieving the same monumental quality as the pyramids being built at this time.

Colossal red granite head of a king in white crown. Broad features, eyes without paint stripes, no uraeus or rearing cobra on crown, no beard. At the back of the neck a line indicating the top of a cloak which suggests that the head may be from a Heb sed statue.

khufu head
Dimensions: 21 3/8 x 11 7/16 in. (54.3 x 29 cm).
Brooklyn Museum. 46.167

The tip of the crown is missing; also the end of the nose. Small chips from the right eye an upper lip; right ear weathered; minor weathering and chipping elsewhere on the surface but on the whole the preserved potion is in good condition. The break at the neck is irregular.

This head depicts a king, that much we know for certain based on the type of crown he’s wearing. It was made around the time of the Great Pyramids or a little earlier. It is possible that this dead depicts a king named Huni who ruled in the latter part of the 3rd Dynasty.

khufu head
Dimensions: 21 3/8 x 11 7/16 in. (54.3 x 29 cm).
Brooklyn Museum. 46.167

It’s made of granite, an extremely hard stone to carve. Even though we don’t know where specifically it stood, or whom exactly it represented, we can still have a sense of what its purpose would have been. A larger-than-life size statue in granite like this one likely comes from a temple or a funerary site.

Reconstruction by Catherine Christina
Reconstruction by Catherine Christina.

Is there a reason why so many noses are missing on the sculptures?

There are two reasons for the missing noses. First, noses protrude from the face of a statue, which makes them easier to fall off. Similar things happen to the hands and ears of sculptures, for example.

The second ties into ancient Egyptian beliefs and the purpose for the statues in the first place! Statues were able to house the spirits of the deceased so by ritually “killing” the statue, one could stop the process. Smashing off the nose or scratching out the name are two ways of “killing” a statue.

Head of a king
Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, c. 2613-2494 B.C.
Now in the Brooklyn Museum. 46.167