Lidded basket containing fruit

From Egypt
Probably 18th Dynasty, 1550-1300 BC

A gift fit for the Afterlife

This small object is an example of Egyptian basketry at its finest. It is made of palm fibre, very finely put together. Some strands of black material have been inserted into the weave of the basketry, so that a small amount of patterning appears on the outside. Inside is some fruit from the dom palm tree.

A basket of this type and quality is unlikely to have come from a domestic dwelling, but rather from a tomb. Domestic baskets were essentially functional, and less finely made. High quality baskets have been found in some of the tombs in the Theban necropolis, and were probably specially made for this purpose.

The dom palm fruit inside the basket had symbolic significance in ancient Egypt. In one famous passage from the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) texts, known as the 'Late Egyptian Miscellanies', the god Thoth is identified with the dom palm, and reference is made to the water contained in its fruit. Thus the placing of dom fruit in the tomb would also be a reference to water being available to the dead person in the Afterlife.

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More information

Bibliography

Y. J.-L. Gourlay, Les sparteries de Deir el-Médi (Cairo, Institut Français d'archeologie orientale, 1981)

W. Wendrich, Who is afraid of basketry? (Leiden, 1991)

I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

Dimensions

Height: 14.000 cm
Length: 19.000 cm

Museum number

EA 5395

YCA60956

Location

Find in the collection online



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