Ka Statue of King Hor

This wooden Ka statue with rock-crystal quartz eyes was excavated in 1894 in the tomb of king Hor Awibre or Hor I that was found by a team of excavators under the direction of the archaeologist Jacques de Morgan. His tomb is located north of the pyramid complex of Amenemhat III at Dahshur.

The wooden structure is a magnificent, well-preserved masterpiece. It depicts the Ka statue of King Hor I (Awibre), which is clearly marked by the Ka hieroglyphic sign as two upraised arms topping the head.

Ka Statue of King Hor Awibre
Ka Statue of King Hor Awibre

The Ka, or guardian spirit, had to survive in the statue to keep its owner alive. Ka statues were usually carved from wood or stone and sometimes painted in the likeness of the owner to reinforce the spiritual connection and preserve the person’s memory for eternity.

Many Ka statues were placed in a purpose-built mortuary chapel or niche, which could be covered with appropriate inscriptions. Like most ancient Egyptian statuary, Ka statues display a rigid frontalism in which the body faces squarely forward in a formal way.

This statue, found within its accompanying naos, or shrine, was covered with a fine layer of painted stucco. The king is sculpted wearing a three-part long wig, leaving the ears exposed. He wears a long, curved divine beard.

What does ka symbolize?

“A living Egyptian’s body is called khet or iru, meaning “appearance.” The body is known as khat. When the khat is mummified, it becomes a sah. Mummification changes the dead person into a new body filled with magic.

Each individual has three souls, called the ka, the ba, and the akh. The ka is a person’s “life force,” which is given to a new being by Heqet after Khnum has created them on his potter’s wheel. The ka survives a person’s death, so it requires food and drink, which is why Egyptians make food offerings to the dead. The ba is an individual’s personality, what makes them unique.

Ka Statue of King Hor Awibre
Ka Statue of King Hor Awibre

The ba must leave the tomb to rejoin the person’s ka in order to become an akh. The akh is the dead person’s spirit, a ghost that can reach beyond the tomb to have both positive and negative effects on the living.

When the ka and ba are reunited with the akh the dead person becomes enduring and unchanged for all eternity.”

Living in Ancient Egypt, by Norman Bancrfoft Hunt

What was the Ka statue used for?

A ka statue is a type of ancient Egyptian statue intended to provide a resting place for the ka, or spirit, of the person after death.

The ancient Egyptians believed the ka (or life-force), along with the physical body, the name, the ba (personality or soul), and the šwt (shadow), made up the five aspects of a person. Egyptians believed that they have several types of souls or spirits.

The Ka was the most important one and the statue evidently shows the king as his Ka. The statue proper is 135 cm high. With base and ka sign on the head, it is 170 cm high. The statue is made of wood, that was once covered with a thin layer of stucco that is gone today.

The king is shown naked but there are traces on the wood, belonging to a belt. The statue might once have been adorned with a kilt. Around the neck the king bears a broad collar. The king once was holding a staff and a scepter. On the head he bears today a ka sign. That was found next to the statue within a naos.

The statue was found in the king’s tomb within a wooden naos that was lying on the back side. The statue there also on the back. The wooden naos was once partly adorned with gold foil and hieroglyphic inscriptions presenting the king’s names, but these are today lost.

Middle Kingdom, 13th Dynasty, ca. 1777-1775 BC. From the tomb of king Hor, Pyramid Complex of Amenemhat III. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 30948