Sekhmet (Sakhmet) is one of the oldest known Egyptian deities. Her name is derived from the Egyptian word “Sekhem” (which means “power” or “might”) and is often translated as the “Powerful One” or “She who is Powerful”. She is depicted as a lion-headed woman, sometimes with the addition of a sun disc on her head. [x]
While some might better recognize Imhotep as the possessed mummy from the Hollywood blockbusters The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, he was, in fact, one of the most renowned figures in Egyptian history for much more admirable feats.
An astoundingly talented man, Imhotep was the master builder for King Djoser, and built the famous stepped pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara (photo 2). Dating to before 2600 BCE, this pyramid is one of the first monumental stone buildings in the history of mankind. Certainly a milestone in the evolution of architecture, it is viewed as a forerunner to the more typical smooth-faced pyramids built during the great ‘age of the pyramids’ in the 4th Dynasty. He is also the first artist to have their name recorded anywhere in the world.
Imhotep has also variously been recognized as a poet, scribe, astrologer, vizier and as an influential doctor. He also served as the high priest of Re, and as the pharaoh’s official seal bearer. Following his death, Imhotep was deified by the Egyptians as the son of the god Ptah.
“In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs; in medicine and architecture; this remarkable figure of Djoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten.” -Egyptologist James Henry Breasted.
Images used: Seated Imhotep, bronze, dates between 664 and 332 BC and was found in Mitrahina, Egypt. Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, 54.402. The photo of the pyramid of Djoser is by Olaf Tausch.
Just as a quick side note, consider the time span between the life of Imhotep who lived during the reign of Djoser (2630-2611 BCE) and the age of the shown statuette. This would be like us making artworks of a person who lived over 2000 years ago, not something that would typically be done unless that person was perceived to have been particularly remarkable and important to our history.
ii. bastet, the egyptian goddess of cats and also associated with the home, fire and family. she was thought to be the personification of the soul of isis. she possessed the uraeus, the all-seeing eye of ra, which was used as an instrument for his vengeance. she was believed to be either the daughter of the sun god ra, or the daughter of the air god, amun. she was one of the most well-loved goddesses in egypt and was worshipped primarily in lower egypt. she was referred to by many titles, including ‘lady of the east’ due to her protective nature, the ‘female devourer’, because of the meaning of her name, and ‘the tearer’, as a result of her destructive second nature. she is represented either as a woman with a lion or a domestic cat for her head.
Sakhmet, whose name means “the powerful one,” was a warlike, bloodthirsty goddess. She was usually portrayed as a slender woman with the head of a lioness. As the daughter of the sun-god Re, Sakhmet waged war against both the enemies of the sun-god and the enemies of the king, who was the “physical son of Re.” This head of Sakhmet shows the goddess wearing both the solar disk and the uraeus, the fire-spitting cobra that symbolized kingship (the head of the uraeus is broken off).