Gallery 19: Case 23
Death and burial in the Old and Middle Kingdoms
By 3500 BC, the Egyptians had developed the concept of preparing a corpse for burial, with clear evidence of the use of linen wrappings by the beginning of Dynasty 1 (around 3030 BC).
In the Old Kingdom (2707-2170 BC) it became important to transform the body into a special form, a sah. This was a perfect, eternal image of the dead person, eventually represented by a body wrapped in white linen, with a mask covering the head. In a very few cases, bodies were dismembered but this practice ceased by the end of the period.
At the same time the Egyptians began to build substantial tombs, including offering chapels decorated with scenes to ensure the continued existence of the dead in the afterlife. Burials often included statues of the deceased where their ka-spirits could receive offerings.
Tombs cut out of the rock developed in the Old Kingdom, becoming very popular during the Middle Kingdom (2046-1793 BC). Figures of offering bearers and other wooden models were often included in burials at this time, as well as shabtis, figures which would carry out work for the dead in the afterlife.