Painted wooden statue of an official

From Egypt
Late Old Kingdom, around 2250 BC

A place for the ka

Figures such as this were placed in the tomb as a substitute body for the spirit to inhabit. While the mummified body remained concealed from view in the burial chamber, the disembodied ka-spirit could enter the chapel to receive offerings of food and drink. The ka, however, required a physical form in which to reside in order to be nourished. The statue fulfilled this need, and could also act as a reserve body for eternity in case the mummy should decompose or be destroyed.

Tomb statues like this one were not intended to be likenesses of the dead person. Most were strongly idealized but could be identified by the ka-spirit from the inscribed name of the deceased.

The identity of the person represented here is unknown. The statue is of a young man dressed in a short curled wig and a simple linen kilt. He grasps a staff in his outstretched left hand and his left leg is placed forward of the body, as in walking. This is the characteristic posture of male standing figures. The rather stiff, formal pose and the somewhat elongated bodily proportions are artistic conventions characteristic of the work of provincial artists of the late Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) and First Intermediate Period (2160-2040 BC). This figure may then have come from the tomb of a local official or administrator.

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Height: 61.500 cm (max.)

Museum number

EA 55261



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