Calcite headrest

From Egypt
Old Kingdom, around 2350 BC

Delicately carved headrest for use in the Afterlife

Egyptian headrests were the same basic shape throughout their long history. They were often made of wood, but could also be made of stone, like this example. However, it is likely that most stone headrests were made solely for use in the Afterlife and were not intended for everyday use. These were placed close to the head of the mummy within the tomb, either on top of the coffin, or within it. In this context they were supposed to protect the head from being severed from the body after death - quite a real threat, as tomb-robbers often destroyed the mummy in their search for amulets and jewellery.

The decoration of this headrest is quite austere, as was often the case with objects of Old Kingdom date (about 2613-2160 BC). The form of the headrest is quite simple, with decorative fluting on the sides of the shaft. The surface of the stone is smoothed, but not highly polished. Headrests of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) were more elaborate: for example in the shape of a folding stool and decorated with the head of the god Bes. Figures of Bes also appeared on more conventionally-shaped headrests, adding further protection for the head.

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Height: 19.700 cm
Length: 17.200 cm
Width: 7.600 cm

Museum number

EA 29913



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