Satnem and Lady Ibentina: a charming couple from the “Place de Vérité”


Or, Deir Medina / The Place of Truth.

This time, my post is not about kings and pharaohs or Gods and Goddess. It is just about some normal Egyptian people.

Today we open the ‘window’ to show and meet some inhabitants of ‘Deir Medina’, who if they managed to achieve that ‘eternity’ so longed for.

On this occasion, It will refer to two main characters, components called ‘servants’ of the ‘Place of Truth’, presumably: a marriage.
And separated ‘in fact’ by distance for 84 years.

Today, after navigating and meeting them for the first time, it could be nice to ‘rescue’ them from anonymity and alleviate the loneliness and absence they suffer from each other.

A bit of contemporary history: Bernard Bruyere, French archaeologist, after the I ‘G.M. He obtained the title of official, authorized and resident archaeologist of the Deir Medina site, taking that privilege from the previous Italian delegation, at that time fascist and losing.
During the work corresponding to the 1934/5 campaign, Bruyere discovered in the ‘necropolis of the East’, the corresponding well up to the access to the tomb of our protagonists (Tt 1379).

And soon, the excavation brought the tombstones/stelae of their names back to light (I don’t know where they are exposed). After the removal of the dumped rubble, access to the hollow of its only burial chamber soon appeared.

I have not read – the ‘source’ does not allude to this specific fact, but yes, little or much of the interior remained intact. The tomb would most certainly be looted some time in ancient times.
But at least the statuettes of their deceased owners remained together, in the same place of rest and eternity.

Bernard Bruyere describes his reflections as follows:

“As in most of the other deceased in the ‘East’ necropolis, the statuettes do not bear any title that indicates their status / social position; without a doubt, their office must have been quite modest if we look at the simple and scarce funerary furnishings and to the rough and rustic aspect of the tomb.

More here.

Now let stay a bit longer to read more about this beloved pair, with a wonderful description by Marie Grillot.

On the right, Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), craftsman of the “Place de Vérité”, on the left Dame Ibentina (Cairo Museum – JE 63646A / B), his wife.
Wooden statues dating from the 18th dynasty discovered in the 1379 tomb of the eastern cemetery of Deir el-Medineh
by Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the excavations of 1934 – 1935
In the background, restitution of Deir el-Medineh by Jean-Claude Golvin

Satnem and his wife “Lady Ibentina” lived, in the New Kingdom, in the village, which was then called Set Maât (the “Place of Truth” – the current Deir el-Medineh). Founded at the beginning of the XVIIIth dynasty under the reign of Thutmose Iᵉʳ, then extended and enlarged several times, especially during the reigns of Thutmose III and the first Ramessids, it housed the craftsmen who worked in the digging and decoration of the mansions of eternity. The Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and even more distant necropolises.

Surrounded by high walls, it extends in a desert valley at the foot of the Theban mountain. We know that it “sheltered between 40 to 120 households” which lived in stone houses covered with a roof of palm leaves.

“Set Maât her imenty Ouaset” – the “Place of Truth in the West of Thebes” of antiquity
is today the village of Deir el-Medineh

The community, which also had places of worship as well as its own necropolis. Occupied the site for nearly 500 years.

The village was “rediscovered” in the 19th century: it saw a “parade” of many ‘researchers’ then Egyptologists: Bernardino Drovetti, Henry Salt, Karl Richard Lepsius, Auguste Mariette, Gaston Maspero… Ernesto Schiaparelli undertook excavations there in 1905, then German Georg Christian Julius Möller. The site concession will then be definitively awarded to Ifao in 1917; for thirty years, from 1922 to 1951, Bernard Bruyère will methodically explore the site and make wonderful discoveries.

It was during the 1934-1935 excavation mission that he unearthed the tomb of Satnem and Ibentina in the eastern cemetery. Modest, composed simply: “of a square well and a small vault summarily arranged in the rock”. It will be referenced under the No ° 1379.

It is the only one that contained the statuettes of the two deceased, specifies the Egyptologist who recounts the discovery: “The statuette of a man was placed standing on one of the chairs of the furniture and faced the entrance to the vault. It was enveloped in bands under which a necklace of a thread of small round pale blue and white pearls was twisted around the neck. The statuette of a woman, similarly wrapped in strips of fine linen and the collar adorned with a similar necklace, whose thread, broken, had slipped at her feet, was locked in a wooden chest placed upright on the floor of the vault to the right of the chair, and supporting the other statue. She was also looking towards the entrance, through the slit in the lid of her box as through the slit of an Old Kingdom Mastaba Serdab.

The image of SATNEM, which shows us the statuette recovered by Bruyere, reflects the common characteristics of pharaonic art from the 18th ‘dynasty, before the next’ Amarnic ‘art

The anatomical dimensions, the rigid posture of the arms, the disposition of the big hands, the cut of the waist, the forward left foot, his marked manly torso.
And, above all, the long, elegant skirt and that cropped, round and elaborate wig (closer to a ‘mortarboard’) does not hide the earlobe and, therefore, subtracts unnecessary length from the braids, alleviating the heat they produced. SATNEM’s jovial-looking face, half-smile, and stylish eye makeup keep his gaze open and expectant on an indefinite high point.

Statue of Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), craftsman of the “Place de Vérité” – wood – XVIIIth dynastyDiscovery, along with that of his wife Dame Ibentina, in tomb 1379 in the eastern cemetery of Deir el-Medinehby Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the 1934 – 1935 excavations – Photo © Musée du Louvre / G. Poncet

43 cm high, the statue of Satnem is carved from jujube wood – or sycamore, according to the sources – and rests on a rectangular acacia base. “It is completely painted in red, and the details are enhanced with black and white.”

Satnem is represented as standing: “in the conventional attitude reserved for men: the left foot in front, the arms by the side of the body”. He is simply dressed in a long loincloth with a flat front, tied under the navel.

Slim, flowing, almost slender, his youthful appearance is further accentuated by his very special hairstyle: “rounded and overflowing on the sides”. It is a “short square,” braided into regular locks covering part of the forehead and leaving the earlobe clear.

Statue of Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), craftsman of the “Place de Vérité” – wood – XVIIIth dynasty
Discovery, with that of his wife Dame Ibentina (Cairo Museum – JE 63646A / B)
in tomb 1379 of the East cemetery of Deir el-Medineh
by Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the excavations of 1934 – 1935
tombe de khâemouaset QV44 – vallée des reineslouqsor west bank

His face is very slightly lifted as if he was looking upwards … This attitude gives him an interrogative, almost curious air, underlined by his large painted eyes, expressive and surrounded by a very dark and very stretched line of makeup. Her nose and mouth are nicely rendered, and her neck is adorned with a lovely necklace of earthenware beads.

This statue gives off a real presence and almost exudes an expectation, a hope …

What was Satnem’s function within the community? We do not know, unfortunately … “Like all the other deceased of the cemetery of the East, Satnem does not bear any title which could inform us about his social condition, undoubtedly quite modest if one relates to the invoice sufficiently rustic furniture from the tomb “…

The statue of Lady Ibentina, his wife, is carved in sycamore wood. “It was once entirely stuccoed and painted”.

Statue of Lady Ibentina (Cairo Museum – JE 63646A / B) – wood – 18th dynastyDiscovery, along with that of her husband Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), in tomb 1379 of the eastern cemetery of Deir el-Medinehby Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the excavations of 1934 – 1935

Ibentina is shown standing, wearing a close-fitting dress that stops at mid-calf. She is slim, petite, charming, exquisite, just like her husband. We cannot help thinking that if the statuettes reflect their “earthly” image, they must have formed a very pretty couple …

Her face, fine and delicate, is framed by a: “tripartite wig, formed of braids held by two ribbons”. Her eyes are made up, are large and stretched, her nose is fine and her mouth well defined.

Her right arm hangs at the side of the body while the left is bent at waist height. The pearl necklace, which was hanging from her neck, has slipped and is partly rolled up on the left forearm; she wears: “on the wrist of each arm a large bracelet imitating gold bracelets and enamel plaques”.

“Ibentin, standing, wears a tight dress almost to the ankles.

With a slim figure, charming physiognomy, flirtatious of perfect silhouette, like her husband. “It is inevitable to imagine that, if these statuettes reflect the” earthly “image of her, Ibentin and Satnem formed a very nice couple.”

“Ibentin’s face, very defined and delicate, is framed by a” tripartite wig, with braids tied by two ribbons. “
Her eyes are so wide, big and made up, her nose and mouth very subtly outlined. “

Statue of Lady Ibentina (Cairo Museum – JE 63646A / B) – wood – 18th dynastyDiscovery, along with that of her husband Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), in tomb 1379 of the eastern cemetery of Deir el-Medinehby Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the excavations of 1934 – 1935

“The hair, the pupils and the ring of the bracelets are painted black. The enamel of the bracelets is red, and the cornea of the eyes is white. All the rest of the face, body and coat are pale yellow”, specifies Bernard Bruyère.

On the wooden base of the statuette, it is inscribed: “a formula of offerings to Osiris, lord of Abydos and Busiris”.

Lady Ibentina is like “sheltered” in “a naos with a removable cover”: “The sycamore crate which contains the statuette of a woman, was specially made for this purpose. It is hollowed out in a single block”.

Satnem (Louvre – E 14319), craftsman of the “Place de Vérité” and Dame Ibentina (Cairo Museum – JE 63646A / B) – wood – XVIIIth dynasty
Statues discovered, in the 1379 tomb of the East cemetery of Deir el-Medineh, by Bernard Bruyère (IFAO) during the excavations of 1934 – 1935

During the sharing of the excavations – which took place in 1934 – the spouses united during their lifetime and bound by their statuettes for what was to be their eternity were unfortunately separated …

Dame Ibentina remained in Egypt: she was recorded in the Journal des Entrées of the Cairo Museum under the reference JE 63646A / B. But Satnem left for Paris. He is now at the Louvre (E 14319), where he represents, through his charming presence, the artisans of the Place de Vérité.

Marie Grillot


FIFAO 15 Bruyère, Bernard – The East Necropolis (1937)
Pharaoh’s artists, Deir el Medineh and the Valley of the Kings, Louvre, 2002
A Century of French Excavations in Egypt 1880-1980 – Cairo School (IFAO) – Louvre Museum, 1981
Official catalog Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Mohamed Saleh, Hourig Sourouzian, Verlag Philippe von Zabern, 1997
Treasures of Egypt – The Wonders of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Francesco Tiradritti
The treasures of ancient Egypt at the Cairo museum, National Geographic
” The tombs of Deir el-Medineh ” (Osirisnet)
Statue of Satnem (Louvre museum)
Dame Ibentina (Egyptian Museum in Cairo)

9 thoughts on “Satnem and Lady Ibentina: a charming couple from the “Place de Vérité”

  1. A truly fascinating read Aladin! Thank you so much for sharing more of Marie Grillot’s Egyptian explorations. Those wooden statue’s of Satnem and Lady Ibentina are amazing … such incredible art! Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you dear Deborah, nice to hear from you. Actually, these last days I want to write to you per Email and look for how is it with you, though was not sure if I disturb your solitude 🤗😉 have a beautiful Sunday and thanks again ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for thinking of me Aladin. 🥰 I’m still busy with work and deep in grieving. Looking forward to August and taking the whole month off work and hopefully will find time to buy a new laptop by then as being a writer and sharing a computer is not fun! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    Interesting to see “ordinary” people, not gods, goddesses, or pharaohs and their more modest tombs. I saw small clay statues of Egyptian couples in the Egyptian collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I wish I’d taken photos. Thanks for pulling all this information together.

    Liked by 1 person

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