Mirror of Princess Sithathoriunet

This mirror of Princess Sithathoriunet is a masterpiece of Middle Kingdom art. The mirror itself is made from silver, while the handle is of obsidian. The handle takes the form of a papyrus stem inlaid with gold ending with a double sided face of the goddess Hathor.

Through the depiction of the goddess Hathor, the mirror imparted beauty and joy to its owner. It was found among the jewelry of Princess Sithathoriunet in a special niche of her underground tomb beside the pyramid of Senusret II at Lahun.

Mirror of Princess Sithathoriunet
Mirror of Princess Sithathoriunet. Photo: Sandro Vannini

In ancient Egypt mirrors weren’t used only in everyday life, but they were also of great importance in the afterlife. The polished metal disc was associated with the sun, and the word for mirror, ankh, derived from the Egyptian word for “life”. Seeing a face reflected in the disc must have brought to mind the ka (spirit), a sort of cosmic twin that came into existence when a person was born and continued to exist after death.

So, it should come as no surprise that mirrors were placed in sarcophagi and, more in general, in the tombs in ancient Egypt. Even the handle of the mirror could be connected to a specific symbology, besides being aesthetically beautiful and functional. The papyrus-like shape, for example, served to balance the metal disc, but it was also associated with Hathor, a goddess capable of promoting the rebirth of a spirit in the afterlife.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Senusret II, ca. 1897-1878 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 44920