If so, was it done for historical record, or tradition? Any details on this appreciated. Do we have any instances of artifacts depicting past Pharaohs or events that occurred before they were created?

  • Sorry but this question does not make sense. I assume you mean 'Were'' not 'where' but even so the Egyptian kingdom lasted a long time. Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom as well as the intermediate periods all with very different customs and habits so a bit more detail and precision would help. Aug 1, 2017 at 15:15
  • Yes I know the Egyptian kingdoms but my specific question is do we have any signs or evidence of a pharaoh being depicted in Egyptian records, art, or religious artifacts after their death? Aug 1, 2017 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


Yes, but it is unusual, particularly for inscriptions on monuments or in tombs.

To understand why, we need to understand something of Ancient Egyptian art. The key fact to bear in mind is that most Ancient Egyptian art and carved inscriptions were never intended to be seen. They were designed to benefit a divine or deceased recipient.

[If you can get hold of a copy, Principles of Egyptian Art by Heinrich Schäfer is probably one of the best texts that I know on the subject.]

When the acts of a Pharaoh were recorded, it was to emphasise his glory, to show that he had done all the things expected of him, and that (under his rule) everything in the world was as it should be. This last point cannot be understated. The concept of "rightness", that everything in the world was as it should be, was even personified as the goddess Maat. The phrase "all according to Maat" is one that recurs often in Egyptian texts.

Often, when a Pharaoh died, his successor simply appropriated their building projects, replacing their predecessor's name with their own. It was actually far from unusual for a Pharaoh to re-appropriate statues or inscriptions of earlier rulers. This helped "raise their profile" and ensure that the gods knew they were doing a good job as Pharaoh. Perhaps just as important, it also helped ensure that their name lived on after their death.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, the monument was completed by the Pharaoh's heir (in this case his son, Rameses II). Rameses not only left his father's name in place, but added further inscriptions praising his life. Of course, he included himself in the inscriptions (extensively - and particularly in the second courtyard), noting how he had completed the work on his father's temple as a dutiful son should - all according to Maat.

It is a little less uncommon to find references to deceased (oten long-deceased) Pharaohs in text written on papyrus. The Pharaoh Khufu appears in a number of later stories, for example those in the Westcar Papyrus. These are mostly of the genre known as "wisdom literature". The Westcar Papyrus is written in Middle Egyptian and probably dates to the Second Intermediate Period, perhaps some 800 years after Khufu's death. Another example of a text written after a Pharaoh was dead is the Instructions of Amenemhat. In this case, the text actually purports to be advice given by the deceased Pharaoh himself to his son Senusret I.

As a rule, we can usually tell when the Pharaoh (or indeed anyone else, for that matter) referred to in a text is dead, since they will be given the salutation "justified" (Maat Kheru).

  • Sources would improve this answer. That said, it is a very good answer since it provides the context to understand. I'd like to see it extended to address the difference between those Pharoah who are expunged from the historical record and their names obliterated, and those Pharoah whose existence was tolerated as historical artifacts.
    – MCW
    Aug 2, 2017 at 0:29
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace I was just looking to add some additional online sources. I wasn't sure about including Pharaohs who were expunged from the historical record (e.g. Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, Hatshepsut etc.). I don't think that's what the OP was asking about. Aug 2, 2017 at 1:05
  • Good answer. It may also be worth noting that sometimes Pharaoh's were removed after their death. Akhenaten comes to mind as almost all records of him were expunged after his death and the restitution of the old religion. I think also the method of carving was changed to make this more difficult. Instead of relief carving with the carving standing out the images and hieroglyphs were inset. Aug 2, 2017 at 11:02
  • @PurplePilot Yes, although it's also worth noting that, in the case of Akhenaten, they didn't deface the god's name. The "Aten" part is still visible on the blocks found inside the pylons at Luxor Aug 2, 2017 at 11:07

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