Meet Princess Nefertiabet, blessed with a name that means 'Beautiful One of the East'.
Egypt peaked early.
By the 4th Dynasty – 4,600 years ago – the Great Pyramids had already been raised, the Great Sphinx stood majestically, and Egypt’s distinctive artistic style was carved in stone – literally.
And, judging by this stela, Princess Nefertiabet was already one of the most beautiful women Egypt would ever see.
Nefertiabet lived - in this life and the next - in the shadow of her famous brother. She was probably the sister of King Khufu, and was buried in a large mastaba tomb (G 1225), west of her brother's Great Pyramid at Giza.
Embedded in one of the walls of her mastaba was a stela which shows the princess seated before a lavish funerary feast that ensured her afterlife was perpetually well-catered for.
On her stela (E 15591), now in the Louvre, Nefertiabet wears a priestly panther-skin dress which was less about fashion, and more about demonstrating her piety and worthiness of an eternity with the gods.
The panther skin dress suggests that Nefertiabet was a priestess of Seshat, goddess of writing and knowledge. She would have accompanied her husband, Prince Wepemnefret, who bore the title 'Priest of Seshat', in their daily veneration of the goddess.
Photo courtesy of Hans Ollermann.