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Work Cubit rod (rule) of Maya, treasurer of Tutankhamun

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Cubit rod (rule) of Maya, treasurer of Tutankhamun

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
SI

The recording of the harvest and the annual survey of agricultural land after the Nile flood, which displaced the marker stones, were two of the foundations of Egyptian bureaucracy. The unit of length was the cubit (of approximately 52.5 cm), and this is a particularly well-preserved cubit rod, which bears the name of a high official, Maya, royal treasurer under Tutankhamun and Horemheb.

A detailed measuring rod

This rule is a hardwood rod of rectangular profile, which has one beveled edge and so five longitudinal surfaces. The beveled surface offers precious information: on the left are marked the digit (here 1.86 cm) and the palm (7.47 cm), while on the right the graduations show the royal cubit of 7 palms (52.3 cm) and the common cubit of 6. The other graduations correspond to units less frequently employed. On the vertical face beneath the bevel, on the right, are fifteen digits marked with their subdivisions, ranging from halves to sixteenths, the appropriate fractions being inscribed above each. On the upper surface, each of the twenty-eight digits is coupled with the name of a god, beginning on the right with Ra.

The dedication

On the bottom surface is a hieroglyphic inscription in which Maya calls upon the priests of an unidentified temple to pronounce the formula for the distribution of offerings from the god’s table:
“Maya, the fan-bearer on the right hand of the king, royal scribe, head of the Double Treasury of the Master of the Two Lands, says: 'O pure priests, lector-priests of the temple, the gods of your cities will hear your prayers, you will prosper from your offices and enjoy a fine old age, if you pronounce my name and if you do for me as for one who enjoys the favor of his master, [for] the fan-bearer on the right hand of the king, who is at the feet of the master of the Two Lands, who has not left the side of the Good God [the king] wherever his feet have led him . . .'”
Despite bearing signs of extensive use, this cubit rod is thus a votive object, intended, in the same way as a stele or a statue, to help ensure Maya’s eternal life. Other cubit rods are known, made of stone, which were deposited as ex-votos in temples by high officials. Another, entirely gilt, found in the tomb of the architect Kha, was a gift from the king (Museo Egizio, Turin)

Maya, the king's treasurer and overseer of works

The cubit rod was also employed by architects. Among his other high offices, Maya is also several times identified as overseer of works. In a graffito on the wall of the tomb of Thutmosis IV in the Valley of the Kings, no doubt by his own hand, he says that he has restored the tomb by the king’s command. Very close to Tutankhamun, he left his name on a number of objects in the latter’s tomb. His own tomb, visited by Richard Lepsius in 1843, was forgotten then rediscovered by an Anglo-Dutch archaeological team in 1986. In the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden there is a superb life-size statue of Maya accompanied by his wife Merit.

Bibliography

Egypt’s Golden Age. The Art of living in  the New Kingdom, catalogue de l’exposition, Boston, 1982, p.  59.

Technical description

  • Cubit rod (rule) of Maya, treasurer of Tutankhamun

    New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun (1336¿1327 BC)

  • Carved and incised wood

    L. 52.3 cm; H. 2.45 cm

  • Drovetti Collection, purchased 1827

    N 1538

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Writing and scribes
    Room 6

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