Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Old Kingdom Sarcophagus

     At the end of the Pre-Dynastic Period, Egypt was unified by a Pharaoh of Upper Egypt (possibly Narmer) and royalty began distinguishing themselves from the "average" Egyptian. Their mastabas tombs in the first two dynasties became larger than the burial places of the average persons, who were usually buried in simple graves with a few pots, some jewelry and, once in a while, a wooden coffin or bed (examples of both can be seen in the Old Kingdom galleries of the Metropolitan Museum). In the early third Dynasty Djoser and his architect Imhotep built a step pyramid that was, at the time, the largest stone building erected in human history.

     In the Fourth Dynasty this trend continued as Khufu, Khafra and Menkara built the great pyramids. But other members the royal family also began showing their wealth. They were often buried in large mastabas in the shadow of the king's pyramid.
     Pictured here is the sarcophagus of a prince or his wife which is currently in the Brooklyn Museum. It was carved from an incredibly heavy granite block and is decorated with a pattern of niches that imitate the front of a major building complex. The lid, which was carved from a separate block of granite, has four holes drilled in it to allow ropes to be used to lower the lid onto the body of the sarcophagus after the body was laid to rest in it.

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