Cartouche Plaque



A green glazed faience openwork plaque in the form of three cartouches, with plumed discs on the top. The two outer cartouches contain a ribbed leaf pattern and the central cartouche contains hieroglyphs in raised relief. The loop at the back is broken off. The glaze has erroded in most places and surface dirt in places. Plaques in the form of cartouches surmounted by feathers are typical to Meroitic material culture. They seem to derive from a form of Egyptian jewellery – finger-rings with massive cartouche bezels –that existed in the Third Intermediate Period and the Late Period. However, the cartouches contain hieroglyphs or simple decorative filling rather than the names of pharaohs or gods. The excavator, John Garstang, described them as having the appearance of a stamp or a seal, with a ‘tie-hole’ at the back, but being too fragile for practical use, and suggested that they may have been labels tied to funerary urns (1914: 4). More recently Genevieve Pierrat-Bonnefois has interpreted these plumed cartouche plaques as ‘wall decoration’, provided with a large ring at the back for fixing to a wall (2010: 118-120). Considering they appear to have evolved from jewellery it is highly likely they were worn as an ornament; similar plumed cartouche plaques can be seen as a shoulder ornament attached to clothing in Meroitic art.