Limestone relief from a tomb
Possibly from Giza,
6th Dynasty, around 2300 BC
By the time of the Fifth Dynasty (about 2494-2345 BC) and the Sixth Dynasty (about 2345-2181 BC), the designers of tomb offering-chapels had developed a wide range of scenes to decorate the walls. In addition to providing an artistic substitute for the provisions offered in the chapel, these scenes help to commemorate and project the personality of the tomb owner into the next world. They range from the standard and most important offering scenes, through to more unusual ones such as those on this relief.
The decoration is divided into three registers, all quite different. At the top are representations of boat-builders, while at the bottom are harvesting scenes at the left and fishing at the right. The central register is by far the most unusual. At the left are musicians and some boys with sticks, one of whom wears a unique lion mask; at the right seem to be a group of boys wrestling under a shelter. The boy with the mask may perhaps represent a forerunner to the lion-maned Bes, Egyptian god of fertility and many other basic human concerns. It is not clear exactly what he is doing; the scene has been interpreted as a harvest rite, a protective rite, or perhaps a rite which took place at the onset of puberty.
G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)
H.R. Hall, 'Head of a monarch of the Tuthmosid house, in the British Museum', Journal of Egyptian Archaeol-9, 13 (1927), pp.133-4
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)