N. Reeves, 'A newly discovered royal diadem of the Second Intermediate Period', Minerva, vol. 14 no. 2, March/April 1996, p. 47-8.
N. and H. Strudwick, Thebes in Egypt, London, 1999, p. 123.
A. Grimm and S. Schoske, Im Zeichen des Mondes: Ägypten zu Beginn des Neuen Reiches (= Schriften aus der Ägyptischen Sammlung, Band 7), Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich, 1999, p. 7, 96.
N. Reeves, Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries, London, 2000, p. 27-8.
Egyptian royal jewellery is exceedingly rare. There is only one other surviving Egyptian silver diadem, in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden (inv. no. AO 11a-1). The Leiden example dates to the 17th Dynasty, and was found at Thebes in the 1820s; it is associated with the tomb of Nubkheperre Intef. The Leiden diadem and the present lot show many similarities, not only in material, but also in design and manufacture, and each was most likely made for a royal personage. The double uraei suggest that this diadem was the property of an Egyptian queen. The motif is seen in the early 18th Dynasty Theban tomb of Tetiky, where it is worn by Ahmose-Nefertari; it also occurs in images of Amenhotep III’s queen, Tiye, Akhenaten’s consort, Nefertiti, and Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II. The present lot, predating these known examples, demonstrates that this tradition was already established in the Second Intermediate Period.
Nick Reeves has suggested a connection between the present lot and the queen Mentuhotep, Great Royal Wife of the ephemeral 16th Dynasty ruler Sekhemre-Sementawy Djehuty. Her tomb is the only burial of a queen of this period to have been uncovered; it was discovered at the southern end of Dra Abu’l-Naga near Deir el-Bahari in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and was possibly undisturbed before this. Its contents were dispersed, with the queen's canopic chest with cosmetic contents finding its way to Berlin between 1822 and 1825, via the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Passalacqua; it is now on display at the A¨gyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung (inv. nos AM1176-1182, and 1175).
Silver was restricted to the highest echelons of Egyptian society. Due to the lack of any abundant local source, it was both rarer and more costly, and thus held in higher esteem, than gold. Commodities lists, which largely predate the Middle Kingdom, rank silver objects above those of gold, in testament to its relative importance. It is assumed that all silver was sourced from trade, booty or tribute; there are no contemporary references documenting local supplies, as opposed to the evidence for gold mining, which is frequently referred to in the historic record. It is possible that some silver, known as nebw hedj or 'white gold', originated from small deposits of silver-rich gold ore extracted alongside gold; however it is more likely that the silver used for this extraordinary royal diadem was sourced from beyond the boundaries of the Egyptian world, from the spoils of war or commerce. For a discussion of silver sources in ancient Egypt, cf. N. H. Gale and Z. A. Stos-Gale, 'Ancient Egyptian Silver', The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 67, 1981, pp. 103-115.