Women Crush Wednesday: Aline and her Daughters

This Women Crush Wednesday, I am sticking with the Roman Period. Today let’s talk about Aline, her husband, and her daughters buried in a tomb in Hawara.


Map of where Hawara is located in the Fayum Oasis

Very little is known about Aline’s life, but based on the funerary remains, she would have been part of the elite of Hawara. Hawara is a city in the Fayum Oasis in Lower Egypt which was called Crocodilopolis in ancient Roman Egypt. A stele that was found at the head of her mummy is the only thing that told us about Aline.

“Aline, also called Tenos, daughter of Herodes, much loved, died in year 10, age 35 years, on the 7th of Mesore.”

She apparently had a second name, Tenos, and was the daughter of Herodes. She died in the 10th year of some Roman emperor’s reign, but which one is the question. Based on the stele and the hairstyle of Aline (which surprisingly is a legitimate dating technique), it could have been the 10th year of the reign of Tiberius, which is 24 A.D., or the 10th year of the Trajan, which is 107 A.D. Most scholars prefer the first date.


The tomb was found in Hawara in March 1892 by German archaeologist Richard von Kaufmann. There is contention if there was a superstructure to the tomb, but it seems to not have survived. A shaft led to a simple mud-brick-lined pit. Apparently, the tomb has been lost today, as the only description of the tomb was found in one of Kaufmann’s published lectures.

The Mummies in the Tomb

8 mummies were found in the tomb, stacked on top of each other. From top to bottom, there were three undecorated mummies, then two masked mummies, and three portrait mummies. Not all of the mummies have been preserved, but many of them are located at the Egyptian Museum, Berlin.

The only other items found in the tomb were the stele mentioned previously (ÄM 11415) and a cooking pot (ÄM 11403). Unfortunately, the stele has been lost since 1945, so the photograph is the only evidence of Aline’s name. The cooking pot however is almost completely preserved but has been glued from various sherds. It is blacked inside and out, indicating that it was used over a fire.

The three undecorated mummies have unfortunately not been studied, and their current location is not known. Although it is presumed that they were the last to be buried in the tomb, as they were found on top, their relationship to the other mummies is unclear. The ages and sexes of the mummies are not even known.

The two mummies with masks are of a man and a young woman. These mummies have “paper masks,” which are more like paper mache or plaster. These types of masks were common throughout the Greek and Roman period and were often very elaborate. These masks, like typical Egyptian coffins, were less concerned with depicting the individuals.

The mask of the man (ÄM 11414) was removed from the mummy and the mummy could not be located. This mask depicts a man wrapped in a toga, holding a small collection of pink flowers. He also wears a seal ring on his left hand. At the top of his head, the toga is painted to show lotus flowers and geometric motifs, but these may have been part of a restoration in the 1950s. The man’s eyes are inlaid with black and white stone and his eyelashes are made out of cut bronze. The man has been assumed to be the husband of Aline, but there is nothing that confirms this.

The other mummy (ÄM 12125/02) with a mask depicted a young woman, though, through CT scans, it was determined that the girl was around 7 years old. It is encased in linen bandages in a criss-cross pattern. The mask is also gilded, though the shroud and chiton are painted. She is also holding a garland of pink flowers. She is wearing hump earrings, a pearl necklace with a lunula pendant, two bracelets on the upper arms, two double-headed snake bracelets on the forearms, and an oval signet ring on her left pinkie finger. On the back of the head of the mask, there is an image of the goddess Nut in the form of a vulture. Presumably, this woman was a daughter of Aline.

The last two bodies were much smaller and found next to Aline. These have portraits rather than masks. These were extremely popular techniques, especially in the Hawara area. Many of these mummy portraits have been found, but unfortunately, many of them were removed from the mummies, which were then lost. There is contention on whether the portraits accurately portray the deceased, but it is generally agreed that they are more alike to the mummy than other Egyptian depictions.

The first child mummy (ÄM 11412) is wrapped in a rhombic pattern with small gilded stucco buttons. This girl was no more than four years old when she died. She seems to resemble her mother with curly black hair and bangs. She wears a brown tunic, a laurel wreath in her hair, hump earrings, and a gold chain with a crescent moon-shaped pendant.

The second mummy (ÄM 11413) has proven harder to examine. It was originally believed to be a boy based on the portrait, but that was contradicted based on the purple color of the tunic and the crescent-shaped necklace, both of which are typical for girls. But CT scans that were done on the body indicate that it was a boy who was about 2 and a half years old. The boy has curly dark hair with a golden leaf laurel wreath.

A shroud (ÄM 12125/01) was found on one of the girl’s mummies, but I could not figure out which mummy. It is badly damaged on the left, but it depicts multiple gods, including Anubis over a mummy on a bier.

Aline’s Portrait

When the tomb was found, the painting (ÄM 11411) was removed from the mummy and the mummy was unwrapped. Unfortunately, it has not been preserved. And the head was removed and given to Richard Virchow, who was supposed to create a facial reconstruction. According to sources, the mummy has rhombic wrappings with gilded stucco buttons, like the two other children.

The portrait was painted in tempera on linen, most likely after her death. Usually, these paintings were made before someone’s death and then hung in their house until their death. She is depicted with small black curls in a white tunic or chiton with thin lilac bands across her shoulder. She also wears large drop earrings and a golden necklace made of gilded plaster.

Aline’s husband’s mask and her portrait











Image Sources

Images of the all the pieces – Egyptian Museum, Berlin

Portrait of Aline – Wikimedia Commons (Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

Portrait of the two daughters – Wikimedia Commons (Mumienporträt wohl einer Tochter der Aline, Tempera auf Leinwand, um 24 n.Chr., gefunden in Hawara/Fayum; Ägyptisches Museum Berlin/Altes Museum, Inv.-Nr. 11412 – 11413)

Mask of her husband – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Mask of her daughter – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Bodies of her children – Wikimedia Commons (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg))

Aline and her husband – http://www.astrodoc.net/andere/berlinaegmus8.htm

Her other daughter – https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11146/mummified-girl-from-the-tomb-of-aline/#google_vignette

Map – https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/lost-labyrinth-ancient-egypt-part-3-uncovering-its-location-002039

Women Crush Wednesday: Sobekneferu

This week’s Women Crush Wednesday is a special one! She is the first woman for whom there is confirmed proof that she reigned as Pharaoh over all of Egypt. Her name is Sobekneferu and she ruled at the end of the 12th dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.


The royal titulary of Sobekneferu

Sometimes her name is written as Neferusobek, instead of Sobekneferu. That is because her name is written with the nefer sign in front of the name of the crocodile god Sobek. In the Egyptian language, even if the name of a god is at the end of a word or phrase, it must always be pronounced first out of respect for the god. Her full name means “The Beauty of Sobek.”

Sobekneferu was the daughter of Amenemhat III. She may have also been the sister of Amenemhat IV, but this claim was from Manetho’s Aegyptiaca, which is not a complete or accurate source. Amenemhat IV was the son and heir of Amenemhat III, and he apparently died without a male heir.

There has been some speculation of how she was related to Amenemhat IV by scholars. Since the majority of her monumental works associate her with Amenemhat III, scholars believe she was only the stepsister of Amenemhat IV. Sobekneferu also never adopted the title of “King’s Sister,” which further supports this theory.

Sobekneferu had an older sister named Neferuptah, who was next in line after their half-brother. Her name was enclosed in a cartouche and she had her own pyramid at Hawara. But she died at an early age, probably before she even rose to the throne. This put Sobekneferu as next in line for the throne.


Sobekneferu probably ruled for about four years, circa 1806 to 1802 B.C.E. As I said before, she is the first confirmed female ruler of ancient Egypt. Some earlier Egyptian women are known to have ruled (for example, Neithotep and Merneith of the 1st dynasty), but there is no definite proof that they ruled in their own right. According to the Turin Canon Papyrus, which is a New Kingdom primary source that lists the rulers of Egypt and their reign lengths, Sobekneferu ruled for 3 years, 10 months, and 24 days.

During her reign, she made additions to the funerary complex of Amenemhat III (her father) at Hawara. Multiple fragments of the mortuary temple are inscribed with her name, including this piece of a column which included the end of the text saying, “…monument to her for her father, forever.”

Another column was found that depicted the serekhs of Amenemhat III and Sobekneferu. A serekh is a Predynastic and Old Kingdom version of a cartouche that depicts a falcon bird. This associated the king with the god Horus. Here, the serekh of Amenemhat III is giving an ankh, the Egyptian symbol of life, to Sobekneferu, implying that she was a legitimate ruler through him. It is especially interesting because she is labeled as the female Horus.

Sobekneferu may have also built a sanctuary at Heracleopolis Magna, though she most likely added onto a previous structure of Senusret III.

Graffito from Semna

There is also a Nile graffito at the Nubian fortress of Semna that dates to her reign. It states that the Nile flood, or inundation, rose to a height of 1.83 meters in Year 3 of her reign. And finally, an inscription found in the Eastern Desert records, “Year 4, second month of the Season of the Emergence” of her reign.

Four cylinder seals have been found bearing her name and her royal titulary. They are all located at the British Museum (one being EA 16581). Cylinder seals are small cylinders that are engraved with either inscriptions or figurative scenes. These can be rolled in wet clay to create an impression, such as signing a document. Here her Horus name, Nebty name, Gold Horus name, and nomen are listed with an epithet of Sobek, Lord of Shedyt.

She died without an heir and her death concluded Egypt’s 12th dynasty and the Middle Kingdom.


Only a few of her monuments have been discovered. Many headless statues of her have been preserved.

Three statues of her were found in 1941 in Tell el-Dab’a in the Delta. They were all headless. The first depicts Sobekneferu kneeling, offering something to a god. The second and the third depict her sitting on a throne, though the second was in much better condition. In this statue, her feet are seen crushing nine arches, which represent the nine enemies of Egypt. (Click through the photos to read more about them and their surviving inscriptions.)

This fragmented statue of her is located in the Louvre (E 27135). It is made out of red sandstone and depicts the chest and waist of the Queen. There is a pendant around her neck that looks very similar to pendants carved on statues of Senusret III and Amenemhat III. Her cartouche is carved on her belt, which helps identify this fragment. This statue also shows a mix of male and female characteristics. She wears both a female sheath dress and a male kilt overtop of it. She is also clearly wearing a nemes headdress. This is not to suggest that she was pretending to male, because is always uses female suffixes on her title. This may have just been a way to pacify critics of her rule or as a desire to represent herself as a traditional pharaoh.

One statue of her head is known. It was purchased by the Egyptian Museum Berlin (no 14476) in 1899, but it was lost in WWII (it is unclear if it was stolen, destroyed, or literally lost). It is now only known from photographs and plaster casts. It was 14 cm high and made of greywacke. The face of the woman shows signs of age, which helps date it stylistically to the Late Middle Kingdom.

Recently, it has been concluded by Egyptologist Biri Fay that this head would have fit on a lower part of a royal statue discovered in the Temple of Taharqa in the Nubian fortress in Semna.

This piece is currently located at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (24.742) and is 21.4 cm tall. The chair that Sobekneferu sits on contains a sema -tawy sign. This is a motif of a lotus and a papyrus plant being tied together and it a symbol of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. This sign is typically only used with Egyptian royalty, particularly the pharaoh, so it can be presumed to depict Sobekneferu.


Now, unfortunately, even though Sobekneferu is the first confirmed female ruler, this is all we really know about her. Her reign was short and thus she probably did not have time to build a pyramid or funerary complex, as was typical of Middle Kingdom royalty.

There is some speculation that she may have planned or been buried in a pyramid complex in Mazghuna, south of Dahshur. There are the ruins of two pyramids here, both of which are of similar layout and completely uninscribed. Since the southern complex has been tentatively attributed to Amenemhat IV, the northern pyramid could have belonged to Sobekneferu. A papyrus from Harageh dating to her rule mentions a place called Sekhemneferu, which could have been the name of her pyramid.

The remains of the Northern Mazghuna Pyramid

The North Mazghuna Pyramid was either built in the late 12th or early 13th dynasty. It was unfinished and no royal inscriptions have been found. It was rediscovered in 1910 by Ernest Mackay and excavated the following year by Flinders Petrie.

Plan of the North Pyramid of Mazghuna

The superstructure of the pyramid was never started, but it was most likely intended to be larger than the Southern Mazghuna pyramid. The substructure of the pyramid, otherwise called the hypogeum, is a twisting path, changing direction six times. The entrance is on the north side of the pyramid and has a staircase leading down to a square chamber. This then leads to another staircase and the first quartzite blocking stone. These stones were intended to fend off tomb robbers, but many of these stones were not put into place, probably because construction was abandoned.

Substructure or hypogeum of the Northern Mazghuna Pyramid

After that two other chambers are connected by a passage with another blocking stone. After the third chamber, there is a stairway and an antechamber. This room leads to the burial chamber, which was partially covered by an inverted V-shaped ceiling. The chamber was entirely filled by a huge sarcophagus lid, made out of a 42-ton quartzite slab. This was never fitting into the chamber. There was another room behind the burial chamber, whose function is unknown.

All exposed quartzite had been painted with red paint and sometimes decorated with vertical black stripes. Typically pyramid complexes had a few associated buildings, including a mortuary temple, a causeway, and a valley temple, none of which were found in this case. One portion of the causeway has been discovered, but again construction may have been abandoned early on in the building process.

Though we do not know much about Sobekneferu or her burial, she is still extremely important to our understanding of Egyptian history and the role of ancient Egyptian women!



















Photo Sources

Statue at the Louvre – Wiki Commons Public Domain

Statue at Berlin – Wiki Commons (Hedwig Fecheimer)

Cylinder seal, drawn by Flinders Petrie – Wiki Commons (Flinders Petrie)

Interior of Pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (I, Bakha)

Drawing of the pyramid – Wikimedia Commons (Lespsius)

Inscription – https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt//hawara1/archive/uc14337.jpg

Plan of Pyramid – https://egyptphoto.ncf.ca/mazghuna.htm

Ruins of Pyramid -https://famouspharaohs.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-pyramid-of-sobekneferu.html

Column, inscriptions, statues – Flickr (Juan R. Lazaro)

Royal Titulary – https://mathstat.slu.edu/~bart/egyptianhtml/kings%20and%20Queens/Sobekneferu.html