[Music strums on authentic Greek lyre]
Female Narrator: We’re looking at a larger than life-size stone bust of a young pharaoh with an elaborate, curling hairstyle and traditional headdress, called a nemes. The bust depicts one of the Greek kings of Egypt, called the Ptolemys after Alexander the Great’s General Ptolemy, who became ruler of Egypt after Alexander’s death. The fact that he’s depicted as an Egyptian pharaoh was common practice: Egypt’s Greek rulers routinely had themselves memorialized as pharaohs in order to legitimize their authority.
The sculpture is a fascinating blend of Greek and Egyptian features. It’s carved in Egyptian style, with the figure facing forward in a static pose. The figure looks every bit like a pharaoh, except for his round eyes and the fringe of hair above his brow, which are clues that he was, in fact, Greek.
There are no individual features that tell us which Ptolemaic ruler this sculpture portrays – if the bust had an inscription, it’s been lost. Scholars piece together clues, such as the side lock, a youthful hairstyle, which might link this figure to similar images that depict Ptolemy the Fifth, but it could also signal an association with the priests of Memphis, Egypt. That means he could be Ptolemy the Eighth, who was crowned pharaoh at Memphis.