Ancient Sekhemka statue

Shameful sell-off of ancient Sekhemka statue makes museum a pariah

(Read the article on one page)

A 4,400-year-old Egyptian statue will be sold by Northampton Museum in England, the Council has decided. The Council is auctioning off the historic Egyptian statue of Sekhemka in order to help pay for the £14m expansion of the museum and art gallery. The shameful sell-off has caused outrage among town historians, Egyptologists, and many citizens of Northampton, who have argued that the sale is unethical and will lead to the museum losing its accreditation with the Museums Association. But these views have been ignored by the council, despite extensive petitioning and many heartfelt pleas. Plans to sell the ancient artifact for between £4m and £6m at Christie’s Auction House in London will go ahead on 10 th July.

The statue of Sekhemka was made in about 2400 BC and shows two seated figures with the clarity, seriousness and grace that makes Egyptian art so powerful. Sekhemka was a man of some importance. He is named in an inscription on the plinth of his statue as “Inspector of Scribes in the House of Largesse, one revered before the Great God”.  The figure was worked from limestone, mined from the quarries at Tura in Lower Egypt, and had two purposes – to ensure the physical appearance of the dead person and to ensure, by naming them, the offerings to be made for his survival in the afterlife. Sekhemka is shown holding a roll of papyrus on which are listed these offerings. These include bread, beer, wine, perfume, cedar oil and linen clothing.

Sekhemka holds a papyrus listing his offerings

Sekhemka holds a papyrus listing his offerings. Credit: Sekhemka Action Group

At Sekhemka’s feet is a woman on a much smaller scale, who is thought to be Sit-merit, the wife of Sekhemka. Her body was originally painted with a dark blue dress, little trace of which remains apart from on her chest. Sit-merit wears a full wig, as was usual for people of high status in ancient Egypt. The small size of the wife emphasises the importance of Sekhemka as the owner of the tomb statue, which was increasingly a practice of the later Old Kingdom.

The full statue of Sekhemka

The full statue of Sekhemka. Credit: Sekhemka Action Group

It is thought the statue was acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, during a trip to Egypt in 1850 – a time in which the search for antiquities in Egypt gained pace. The necropolis or burial city at Saqqara near Cairo is the site of many tombs and one of these is believed to have belong to Sekhemka.

Talks have been in process for some time with Lord Northampton, whose family donated the statute to the town more than a hundred years ago, leading to the final agreement that Lord Northampton will receive 45 per cent of the sale price and the borough council will get 55 per cent.

During a last ditch and unsuccessful motion to prevent the sale earlier this week at a Northampton Borough Council meeting, the vote leader of the authority Councillor David Mackintosh proudly told the chamber: “We are looking forward to selling the statue and looking at how best to invest the money in the cultural future of this town.”

But what about the cultural future of the country and indeed the world?  It is well known that the private sale of antiquities encourages looting, smuggling and corruption, and the council’s sell-off of the priceless Egyptian treasure contributes to this dark world of dealing.  Overall, the sale reflects a decline in intellectual ambition, cultural seriousness and global consciousness and councils must learn now that selling great art and historical treasures is no way to build for the future.

Featured image: The statue of Sekhemka. Photo source: Northampton Chronicle

By April Holloway


angieblackmon's picture

i feel sad that they are selling it. i wish there was something different they could do to raise the money they need. i also hope whoever buys it will allow it to be on display somewhere and that it doesn't go in a private collection never to be seen again. 

love, light and blessings


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The two lozenges found at the Bronze Age burial site Bush Barrow
Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England is famous throughout the world and it remains today a place of extreme reverence. The monument is constructed from huge megalithic stones, some standing, some stacked upon one another and all many millennia old. The stones circle is world renown and it is an iconic image.

Myths & Legends

Golden Age By Juan Carlos Barquet
The myth and folklore of ancient cultures speak of a vast cycle of time with alternating dark and golden ages; Plato called it the Great Year. Most of us were taught that this cycle was just a myth and the golden age, just a fairytale. Giorgio de Santillana, former professor of the history of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, tells us this idea of a cycle went far beyond Greece and India. In their landmark work, Hamlet’s Mill

Human Origins

Ancient Places

Odysseus at the court of Alcinous
The mythological Alcinous and his kingdom have remained one of the most mysterious and elusive topics of ancient Greek literature. Not much is known of this foreign monarch, or at least not much has survived the test of time. Details of the ruler and his kingdom survive only in the journeys of both Odysseus and Jason, but do those details reflect a now perverted form of reality?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article