Seneb's non-story

Seneb and his family

Seneb and his family

I find Egyptian mythology so fascinating. And I realize this is because it's all just telling stories. I'm of the belief that storytelling is a way in which humans attach meaning to life and try to make sense of it all.

Apart from stories of ancient gods in the temples that depict the beliefs around life and death and the after also fall upon stories which seem random and irrelevant to the entirety of the narrative. Some of these stories will actually grab you and speak to you.

One of my favorite retellings is the story of Seneb.

At the Egyptian Museum lies a sculpture of Seneb. The sculpture was discovered in his tomb in 1926. He is depicted with his wife and children. Seneb has the facial features and shortened limbs of an individual with achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism.

The sculpture shows him sitting cross legged on a block of stone and his wife embracing him. His children are standing below him where his legs would have been....if he were of average size. This is believed to depict that his children would grow to compensate for his 'missing legs'.


Seneb was neither a God nor part of the royal family. This might explain why this seemingly uninteresting statue has captured many. Trying to understand the significance of his depiction in a hierarchical society.

Some believe that Seneb was a king's amuser in the 6th dynasty and hence he was then depicted. Part of the interest is wanting to find out why an average sized, beautiful wife would marry a dwarf. There are not enough theories or historical facts to explain Seneb's life. Other than to say he was a man born as a dwarf, with a beautiful woman who loved him dearly.

The sculpture for me is interesting because of how ordinary it is. Unlike the other statues, sculptures and paintings it depicts a normal family.....recognizable & real.

I also love it because it reinforces the story of love. Throughout history we have tried to explain people's lives as a way to see where and how they fit into the puzzle and to form context. I have no problem with that, what I do find fault with is when we try so hard to explain other's lives and thereby enhancing differences among us. "Why do they wear that?", "Why do they eat those foods?", "Why do their houses look like that?", "Why do they not do xx instead of yy?" I've found that most of the time the intention behind these questions results in judgement, upmanship and alienation. Unless you're a historian its okay to just sometimes accept that other cultures are widely different to your own........but more importantly that other cultures are under no obligation to explain their way of life to one culture (or anything for that matter) is a completely virtuous....and sometimes the answer, just as in Seneb's story, is simply.....because......