Terracotta model of a house
12th Dynasty, around 1900 BC
Tomb offering with a courtyard filled with food offerings
In ancient Egypt, rich tomb owners included wooden models of servants preparing food among their burial goods. They were seen to provide sustenance for the Afterlife. The equivalent in poorer burials was the 'soul house', a model house, often with both a ground level and a roof-top courtyard. The houses were often quite crudely made and schematic, but give some idea of what the dwelling of a poorer person would have looked like.
The lower courtyard was enclosed by a wall, and had emplacements set near the house for storing water and grinding grain. The courtyard of the model acted as an offering tray and was filled with tiny models of foodstuffs, such as conical and round loaves of bread and cuts of meat. These would support the deceased in the Afterlife. This was particularly important as poor people could not rely on any real offerings being provided for them after their burial. The house was also intended to provide a home for the ka or spirit of the deceased, should the burial be destroyed.
G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)
M. Stead, Egyptian life (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)