Oval lidded basket of figs and dates

From Egypt
18th Dynasty, 1550-1295 BC

A sweet treat for the next life

In ancient Egypt baskets were cheap and relatively easy to produce. They were woven from palm leaves or strips of papyrus. This example is quite crudely made, using coarse materials binding the frame in a basic spiral design.

Baskets were commonly placed in tombs, with items of jewellery or, like this example, food offerings. Those found in tombs had probably previously been used as basic household containers. A basket of tools mistakenly left in a Theban tomb by one of the workmen shows that they were also used as toolboxes. Just like the plastic bags and boxes of today, they could be made in many different shapes and sizes.

The fruits of the sycomore fig (Ficus sycomorus) and the date palm were important in the Egyptian diet; they were considered a delicacy because of their high sugar content. Scenes on tomb walls show figs and dates being harvested and they are also shown on offering tables. These fruits were just as irresistible to baboons as to humans. An artist's sketch shows one baboon eating figs taken from a basket.

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More information


J.H. Taylor, Death and Afterlife in ancient (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)


Museum number

EA 5396



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