Ka-aper, the Sheikh el Beled

We continue to explore some of the exhibits in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. It is believed that Ka-aper served during the beginning of the 5th dynasty of the Old Kingdom, probably during the reign of Pharaoh Userkaf, (c. 2475-2467 BC). His statue was discovered in 1860 in a mastaba at Sakkara, near the pyramid of Pharaoh Userkaf. “Userkaf, whose reign lasted for only seven years, may have come to the throne as an old man” (Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, p. 109). This life size statue, made of sycamore, is said to be the most celebrated statue of the Old Kingdom.

Ka-aper’s role was that of chief lector-priest, in charge of reciting prayers for the deceased in temples and funerary chapels.

Originally the statue was covered with painted plaster, some traces of which remain. The eyes were made of alabaster, crystal, and black stone and ringed with copper. The facial features are considered to be in the veristic artistic school rather than the idealistic.

Ka-aper, the Sheikh el Beled. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

One interesting note about the name, Sheikh el Beled: Upon its discovery the workers (under the oversight of the French archaeologist Auguste Mariette) saw a remarkable resemblance to the mayor of their village, translated in Arabic as “Sheikh al-Balad,” which means “chief of the village.” The name stuck!

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