Relief of the Goddess Seshat

In this relief, the goddess Seshat, depicted in a leopard skin, goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and is credited with inventing writing. She also became identified as the goddess of accounting, architecture, astronomy, astrology, building, mathematics, and surveying.

In ancient Egypt, the levels of literacy were rather low, less than 1%. Although there were some areas, such as Deir el-Medina in the New Kingdom, individuals who could read and write were highly valued. With these skills, the goddess Seshat was praised, who is the senior goddess of writing, ‘foremost in the library’.

Relief of the Goddess Seshat
Relief of the Goddess Seshat

Writing was considered by the ancient Egyptians to be a divine gift connected to certain entities who were believed to be the originators of this science.

Seshat was the deity whose priests oversaw the library in which scrolls of the most important knowledge were assembled and spells were preserved. She is credited for the invention of writing and also is seen as the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. Due to her attributes many saw her as governess of architecture and surveying.

Her emblem which emanates from a headband is a seven-pointed star or rosette above which is a bow-like symbol and wears a long panther-skin robe. She holds a notched palm branch (the sign for ‘years’) which becomes a tadpole (the number 100,000) sitting on the symbol for eternity.

Seshat was a very important goddess due to the fact that she assists the kings in a ceremony called ‘stretching the cord’ where it is the measuring out the ground plan of temple.

In the Old Kingdom, the goddess has the responsibility of recording herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys seized as treasure by King Sahur of the 5th Dynasty from Libyan tribes.

This becomes canon; In the 12th Dynasty in the temple of Senusret I she is seen recording names of foreign captives.

In the New Kingdom she records the royal jubilees, which she commemorates on the leaves of the persea tree with her branch turned tadpole, which illustrates an infinity of kingship.

Detail from the walls of the Double Temple of Sobek and Haroeris, dates to the Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC. Kom Ombo.