Statue of the dwarf Perniankhu

The dwarf Perniankhu is depicted in this statue wearing a traditional, curled wig; his face is strong and displays a quiet serenity, strength and power. His eyes are framed in black and the eyebrows are well-defined. The right hand is placed upon his right thigh and holds the sekhem-scepter, his left hand, across his chest, holds a long staff.

Perniankhu wears a white kilt with a black belt, his legs revealing deformities. His name and titles can be seen in the two vertical lines at the front of the chair, he is described as, One who delights his lord every day, the king’s dwarf, Perniankhu, of the Great Palace.

Statue of the dwarf Perniankhu
Statue of the dwarf Perniankhu

Based on the record left by their art, the ancient Egyptians documented the presence of dwarfs in almost every facet of life. Due to the hot dry climate and natural and artificial mummification, Egypt is a major source of information on achondroplasia in the old world.

The remains of dwarfs are abundant and include complete and partial skeletons. Dwarfs were employed as personal attendants, animal tenders, jewelers, and entertainers.

Several high-ranking dwarfs especially from the Old Kingdom (2700-2190 BC) achieved important status and had lavish burial places close to the pyramids. Their costly tombs in the royal cemeteries and the inscriptions on their statutes indicate their high-ranking position in Egyptian society and their close relation to the king. Some of them were Seneb, Perniankhu, Khnumhotep, and Djeder.

The little people were so highly valued that two Egyptian gods were dwarfs ⎯ Ptah, a creator god and the master architect of the universe, and Bes, the god of music and warfare. In Egyptian mythology, dwarfs were also associated with Ra, the sun god that created all life forms.

Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2613-2494 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 98944