Classic Court

Providing for the Dead

First Intermediate Period or Middle Kingdom, Stele of Ai and Tat, limestone and paint, about 2040 BCE. Toledo Museum of Art, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1925.520

Egyptians believed that death began a journey to the Afterlife where all of the necessities of their former life would be essential to eternal survival, including their physical body. The afterlife would be similar to daily life, and one’s social status remained the same. The modest graves of the poor and the many-chambered tombs of courtiers and kings were filled with food, drink, and personal items for use in the afterlife.As insurance, pictures, inscriptions, and models that could magically substitute for real offerings, prayers, and activities decorated the coffin and tomb. Small portrait statuettes provided alternative “bodies” in case the mummy was damaged.


Funerary Spells (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)