Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom

9780812245677: Hardback
Release Date: 26th December 2013

106 illus.

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 288

University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.

Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom

The Archaeology of Female Burials

With detailed illustrations and archival images, Egyptologist Wolfram Grajetzki describes and compares the opulent tombs of eminent and royal women from the late Middle Kingdom, shedding new light on how the gendered and social identities of these women were viewed in the court and preserved in the grave.

Hardback / £66.00

During the late Middle Kingdom (about 1850-1700 B.C.E.), ancient Egyptian women of high standing were interred with lavish ornamentation and carefully gathered possessions. Buried near the pyramids of kings, women with royal connections or great wealth and status were surrounded by fine pottery and vessels for sacred oils, bedecked with gold and precious stones, and honored with royal insignia and marks of Osiris. Their funerary possessions include jewelry imported from other ancient lands and gold-handled daggers and claspless jewelry made only to be worn in the tomb.

Extensively illustrated with archival images and the author's own drawings, Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom describes and compares the opulent tombs of eminent and royal women. In addition to the ornaments, many of which are considered masterpieces of Middle Kingdom craft, Egyptologist Wolfram Grajetzki examines the numerous grave goods, artifacts of daily life, and markers of social status that were also placed in tombs, presenting a more complete picture of funerary customs in this period. By considering celebrated examples of female burials together for the first time, Tomb Treasures of the Late Middle Kingdom sheds new light on the role and status of women in the royal court and explores how the gendered identity of those women was preserved in the grave.

Chapter 1. Court Type Burials
Chapter 2. Other Burials of Women
Chapter 3. Types of Jewelry in Late Middle Kingdom Burials
Chapter 4. The Development of Egyptian Burial Customs
Chapter 5. The King and the Women Buried Around Him

Appendix. The Royal Women of the Twelfth Dynasty
Egyptian Tombs and Excavation Reports


The late Middle Kingdom in ancient Egypt, c. 1850 to 1700 BCE, is exceptionally rich in undisturbed burials of women. These tombs are often lavishly equipped with jewelry of the highest quality. Much of this jewelry has been regularly depicted in books on ancient Egypt. The burials are not often discussed as a whole, however; the other object types found in them are frequently barely mentioned. In this book my aim is to fill this gap. In the first part I provide a description and synthesis of the latest research on several of the most important late Middle Kingdom burials belonging to women. In the second part I give an overall view of late Middle Kingdom burial customs, again with the main focus on burials of women. An advantage of studying female burials is that in them certain trends in burial customs are particularly visible, such as concentration on the social identity of the tomb owner and "Osirification" (discussed in Chapter 4) in the "court type burials." The technology of jewelry production, already covered by several other expert studies, is not the subject of the book.

Studies of ancient Egyptian burial customs often concentrate on inscribed objects of the funerary industry. These include coffins, canopic jars, shabti figures, funerary papyri, and amulets. Especially from the Ramesside Period onward, these are certainly the most important items placed in the burial chambers, next to or on the deceased. Looking at the whole of Egyptian history and across all social classes, however, the picture is different. A wide range of uninscribed objects was placed in the tomb, including many items that had already been used in daily life, such as pottery vessels, cosmetic items, tools, and jewelry. Taken together, these latter types of burial goods constitute by far the highest proportion of items placed in burials, while purpose-made funerary objects were restricted to certain periods and to higher social levels. Few of the objects that appear in general books on Egyptian funerary customs, such as coffins, canopic jars, and mummy masks, were found in the tombs discussed in this book. Mummification was not yet fully developed in the Middle Kingdom, and all the women described in this book were found as skeletons.

Particularly in more popular works, it is often stated that ancient Egyptian women had special rights compared to women from other ancient cultures. This impression may date back to the late nineteenth century, when most Egyptologists had undergone a broad classical education. They compared Egyptian women with those of classical antiquity and of European societies in their own time, where women indeed had few rights. In contrast, on many monuments Egyptian women appear next to their husbands and almost equal in size, while texts reveal that in court cases women and men had identical rights. Despite this, however, there is no doubt that ancient Egypt in the late Middle Kingdom, the period covered by this book, was a fully patriarchal society. Among the three hundred rulers during some three thousand years of ancient Egyptian history up to about 300 BCE, there were only a few female rulers with the full royal titulary (Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Neferneferuaton, and Tawesret). There are several cases where a king's mother ruled for her son in his infancy. This too has been taken as evidence that women had special power in ancient Egypt. Such instances of maternal coregency prove almost the opposite, however: a mother ruling for her son is typical of a patriarchal society, where the mother often plays an important part in family life. In religion too the dominant role of men is visible. Indeed, in the burial equipment of the Middle Kingdom and later, women were identified with the male underworld god Osiris. It was only in the Ptolemaic Period that they were identified with a female deity.

What remains true is that women in ancient Egypt had the same legal rights in court cases as men. There were some women with a certain amount of economic power, and women were fully present in the public sphere, not hidden away in the house as in classical Athens, for example. The Egyptian evidence can be compared with that for women in Mesopotamia, where there were also a few female rulers and where there was even a female poet at the end of the third millennium BCE (something ancient Egypt cannot offer, as no named poets are known for certain there).

The Late Middle Kingdom

After the First Intermediate Period, when Egypt was divided into two political units, the country was reunited around 2000 BCE under the Eleventh Dynasty king Mentuhotep II. This marks the beginning of the period Egyptologists call the Middle Kingdom. Until the end of the Eleventh Dynasty the royal cemeteries of the ruling family and its court were at Thebes, in the south of the country. Here the king built a huge mortuary temple with the tombs of the courtiers around it, including those of the royal women and the highest officials. Mentuhotep II reorganized the administration of the country, launched a building project renovating many temples in Upper Egypt, and began military campaigns against Egypt's neighbors.

At the beginning of the ensuing Twelfth Dynasty, around 1975 BCE, a new residence was founded: Itjtawy, ("seizer of the two lands") in the north of the country, about sixty kilometers south of modern Cairo at the border of Upper and Lower Egypt, in a region the Egyptians considered to be the middle point of their country. Near this capital, at a place today called Lisht, were built the pyramids of the first two kings of the new dynasty, Amenemhat I and Senusret I. Around these pyramids a huge cemetery developed where the national ruling class of the early Twelfth Dynasty was buried. Amenemhat II, the third king of the dynasty, chose Dahshur as the new site for his pyramid, but Lisht remained an important cemetery till the end of the Middle Kingdom in the late Thirteenth Dynasty.

The Eleventh Dynasty and the first part of the Twelfth Dynasty constitute the most decentralized period of ancient Egyptian history. Certainly, in all periods people of wealth lived not only in the royal residence but also in important towns, and there were temples and tombs all over the country. In the first half of the Middle Kingdom, however, there were many wealthy and powerful local governors in different parts of Egypt who were able to quarry huge rock-cut tombs decorated with paintings and reliefs. The burial chambers of these monumental tombs have most often been found looted, but the few remains in them show that these regional governors were buried with a rich array of objects, most of them from the local workshops of a funerary industry. In this period, tombs were often equipped with wooden models showing carpenters, potters, ships, servants, and the production of food. Coffins were decorated on the inside with long religious texts known as Coffin Texts.

In about the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty, after the reign of Senusret II, major changes in the political landscape of ancient Egypt are visible. These mark the beginning of the late Middle Kingdom. First of all, the large provincial tombs of governors disappeared, and there were no longer cemeteries for the local ruling classes who worked for them. People were still buried in the provinces, and there are still some quite rich tombs of people not belonging to the local government. The early Middle Kingdom governor tombs are a most important source for coffins with religious texts. As a result of the disappearance of local governor court cemeteries, decorated coffins are much rarer in the late Middle Kingdom and seem to be restricted to just a few cemeteries, most of them in one way or another connected to the royal court. The wooden models so typical of the early Middle Kingdom also disappeared in the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty. Evidently this reflects a shift in religious beliefs. The wooden models seem to indicate that a major concern of the deceased was to secure the eternal food supply and the supply of material goods. With the disappearance of these wooden models, other aspects clearly became more important for the eternal afterlife.

In the late Middle Kingdom, local governors are still attested, for example on seals and temple statues, but it seems that they had diminished resources. The wealth of the country was now concentrated at a few places connected with royal activities. One was the region between Memphis and the Fayum. It was here that the royal pyramids were built, and most likely the royal residence, and here also were the burials of the highest court officials. In the Fayum several temples were erected, the most famous being a complex next to the pyramid of Amenemhat III at Hawara, known in later periods as the "labyrinth." Another focal point was Abydos. This was the center of the cult of the underworld god Osiris. Here, king Senusret III built a huge tomb where he may have been buried, although he also had a pyramid in the north at Dahshur. Statues and stelae of officials were placed in the temple of Osiris. In the cemeteries next to the town, officials erected small chapels equipped with stelae and statues. These officials wanted to be, at least symbolically, close to the offerings made to Osiris. The third center of the late Middle Kingdom was Thebes. Here there was a royal palace, where it seems the kings spent a considerable amount of time. Officials followed the king, and there is good evidence for a flourishing late Middle Kingdom cemetery in Thebes. Although most tombs were found heavily looted, the available evidence indicates many richly equipped burials.

Preserved from the late Twelfth Dynasty are a large number of undisturbed burials of royal women, buried close to the pyramids of the kings. These burials were especially well equipped with jewelry of the finest quality. They also included a set of royal insignia identifying the deceased with Osiris. The late Middle Kingdom was without question the classical period of Egyptian gold work. The pectorals and other items found are of the highest aesthetic and technical quality. Such workmanship reaches a high point under Senusret II and his successor Senusret III, while under Amenemhat III a decline is already detectable. Although some of these burials were close to the pyramid of Amenemhat II and to those of Senusret II at Dahshur and Lahun, it seems that all these women were buried after Senusret II and therefore belong to the late Middle Kingdom.

After the Twelfth Dynasty with its long reigns, the Thirteenth Dynasty, by contrast, had many short-reigning kings. In terms of culture, there is no visible break. Few royal pyramids of this period have been excavated, which might be one reason there are so few comparable royal "jewelry tombs." From the Thirteenth Dynasty, however, at least one burial of a royal woman is known, showing the same pattern of burial goods as for the royal and high-status women of the Twelfth Dynasty.

In addition to these burials of royal and high-status women, excavators have found and recorded several other burials of women from all around the country, which are also richly equipped with jewelry, though often with few other burial items. For comparison, these tombs are also discussed in this book. In terms of jewelry there are some similarities to the tombs of the princesses in the royal cemeteries. The rest of the tomb equipment, however, is often very different and even quite limited. Without the presence of jewelry many of the tombs would in fact appear rather poor. Nevertheless, the burials of these women, who did not belong to the royal court, attest to a wider spread of wealth in the late Middle Kingdom.

Burial Goods: An Overview

In many cultures around the world people were buried with objects. These range from single items to the richly equipped tombs of the Egyptian New Kingdom or the similarly richly equipped burials in many periods of Chinese history. Burial goods are not found in all cultures. This is especially true for the modern (Western) world, where burial goods are not common at all, although the Christian and the Islamic faiths teach belief in an afterlife. Nevertheless, some kind of burial arrangement is found even in Christianity and in the Islamic world. In a medieval Islamic cemetery in southern Egypt personal adornments were still sporadically present, and the deceased were sometimes found wrapped in a decorated sheet of linen. In Europe people are placed in a coffin or urn and wrapped in a shroud or some other type of garment; even priests are buried in their official garments. It is said that the actor Bela Lugosi, who gained fame playing Dracula, was buried in his iconic Dracula cape. Today, flowers are typical grave goods often presented by family members and friends of the deceased and placed on the coffin.

Grave goods generally had the function of providing the deceased with some kind of support for the afterlife, but in some cultures or contexts they had almost the opposite purpose, being put there to prevent the dead from coming back. To complicate matters, objects in graves are sometimes not grave goods at all. It is reported that the few objects sometimes placed in graves of the Nankanse people in Ghana belong to living people working at the funeral whose souls are thought to get trapped in the grave. To avoid death, an item belonging to each of these people is placed in the burial.

In general terms there are two types of burial goods. There are the objects of a funerary industry, and there are the objects taken from daily life. A subgroup of the objects of a funerary industry are those used in rituals performed in funerary rites and afterward placed in the tomb chamber. It is evident that there are overlaps between these groups. Coffins are most likely always specially prepared for a tomb, though in ancient Egypt deceased children were often placed in boxes or vessels, objects perhaps already used in daily life.

The following discussion tries to collect some of the most common reasons for placing burial goods in graves. There are certainly overlaps between the categories mentioned. A servant figure placed in the burial of an official might have had the function of providing physical help so that the deceased was not forced to work in the afterlife. Such a figure, however, might also confirm the social status of the deceased, emphasizing that he or she was an owner of servants and an estate.

Containers for the Body

Containers for the body of the deceased are the most common burial goods, found in most cultures around the world. In Egyptian burials these are boxes, pottery vessels, coffins, and in a wider sense mummy masks and perhaps also the burial chamber in general. In Egypt there developed for high-status burials the custom of a nest of coffins, one inside another, something also often found in China, where burial customs were elaborate and perhaps comparable to those of Egypt. In Egypt there also developed the custom of placing masks over the face of the deceased, something again attested in Han Dynasty China, although the Chinese "masks" are actually protective shields placed over the head. Indeed, masks for the deceased are quite widely known all over the world. Metal burial masks are attested in South America. Gold masks appear in Parthian Mesopotamia, but they are also known from the Black Sea and Sidon. Other containers for bodily remains are urns, common in cultures where the body of the deceased was burned, and ossuaries, boxes into which only the bones of the deceased were placed.

Equipment for the Journey into the Afterlife

Burial equipment for the journey into the afterlife implies a belief in another world to or though which the deceased travels. As most cultures have a belief in an underworld, equipping the deceased with objects important for a journey is common in many cultures. It is well attested in the Hellenistic world, where the deceased was buried with an obol for Charon, the ferryman to the underworld. Similar ideas are known from China, where the deceased were dressed comfortably for the journey. Furthermore, they received rice to feed dangerous dogs that were believed to attack the travelers on their way, and staffs for beating them off. Certain Mesopotamian cuneiform texts clearly state that burial goods were provisions for the deceased's journey. These included footwear, a belt, water, and some food.

In most cultures mainly known from archaeology, however, written sources are absent, and the reasons objects were placed in tombs remain guesswork. Equipping the deceased for the journey into the next world is often given as an explanation for burial goods, although hard evidence is lacking. For burials in Bahrain, vessels placed in the burial were explained in this way. Lamps found in tombs are sometimes explained as providing light for the journey into the dark underworld, which in many cultures was indeed situated underground, although that is only one possible explanation for lamps in burials.

The same explanations have been proposed for some late Middle Kingdom burials. It has been observed that many of the burial goods in tombs of this period might be objects of daily life that would especially be needed for a journey. These include gaming boards for leisure, food supplies, and writing equipment, including papyri.

Participating in Special Events in the Underworld

Pottery vessels in burials belong to the most common burial goods from all cultures and often seem to indicate a need to supply food. This might be either food required for the journey or a general symbolic food supply for all eternity. Tableware found in graves in Bahrain has been explained as important for the deceased so that he or she could join the afterlife banquet. Underworld banquets are part of the underworld beliefs of the Greeks and Etruscans. The same explanation is given for tableware found in an early Iron Age cemetery on Crete: "Offerings seem to express a respect for the good things of life—banqueting."

The Tomb as a House for the Afterlife

During the First and Second Dynasties the whole tomb was seen as the "house of the afterlife." We find furniture and a vast quantity of pottery storage vessels for the eternal food supply. This concept appears again in tombs of the Eighteenth Dynasty. It appears also in other cultures, for example in the case of certain Etruscan tombs whose architecture seems to copy contemporary houses very closely. In many cultures it is common for urns or ossuaries to have the shape of a house, most likely also reflecting the idea of the tomb as a house for the afterlife. Examples include ossuaries of the Ghassulian culture in Palestine dating from the fourth millennium BCE.

Helping Hands

In many cultures a sacrifice for the burial of an important member of society is attested. There are various possible reasons for this custom. One might be practical. Persons of high status wanted to have their servants in the afterlife so that they would not have to work. In Egypt this is found as early as the First Dynasty, when people of slightly lower status were buried around their masters. Burial goods indicate that they were often craftsmen. Whether they were actually sacrificed is still under discussion. It appears, however, that the subsidiary tombs around the tomb of the First Dynasty king Semerkhet were integrated with the king's tomb as one unit, which seems to indicate the servants were buried at the same time as the king and were most likely killed for the royal burial. The same idea can be found in several other cultures. In the Nubian Kerma culture (around 2000 to 1550 BCE) hundreds of people were placed next to deceased kings. The same practice appears again in the Ballana culture in Lower Nubia (around 400 to 600 CE), where again servants were buried with their masters. In China during the Shang Dynasty (about 1550 to 1050 BCE) people were also buried next to kings and high officials, including royal women. Later Chinese sources refer to this practice as "following in death." The same is found at Ur in Mesopotamia, where in the burials of high-ranking persons other people were also buried, and were most likely killed for that purpose.

In most of these societies the custom of killing people for the burial of a high-ranking person or king disappeared quite early on. In China and Egypt the idea lived on, but instead of real people, model figures were placed in the tomb. In China, terracotta, wooden, or straw figures were placed in many tombs. The terracotta army of about seven thousand life-size soldiers for the emperor Qin Shihuangdi (259-210 BCE) is the most famous example. On a smaller scale these figures were common in many periods of Chinese history as burial goods. They often depict soldiers, but sometimes also officials or musicians. They represent the court of a high official or a king. In this respect they have a focus different from that of the Egyptian figures. Scenes of production are rather rare, but soldiers and officials appear. They might confirm the social status of a higher official by their wanting to be buried with his court. In Old Kingdom Egypt there were stone statues of single individuals shown working. At the end of the Old Kingdom they were replaced by wooden figures, which are often shown in groups. These figures are still attested for the Middle Kingdom but disappear in the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty.

At the end of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom shabti figures appear. Originally these seem to represent the deceased, but in the Thirteenth Dynasty a spell was placed on them which reveals that they were helpers in the underworld and acted as stand-ins for the deceased when work had to be done. Shabti figures are recorded in only a few tombs of the late Middle Kingdom and do not appear in any of the tombs discussed in this book.

Leftovers from Rituals

For Egyptian and other cultures, it is very likely that rituals were performed at tombs and for the deceased. Objects used in these rituals could be deposited with the burial. It is often hard to decide which objects placed in tombs belong to this category. Objects for certain rituals might have been placed in a tomb not because they were used in actual rituals but rather because the ritual should be performed with a view to all eternity. In this case the object could be something specially made for the tomb. There are indeed objects, however, where the indications are that they were really used in burials. In some tomb shafts of the Old Kingdom copper dishes were found, perhaps used in a ritual and then just thrown into the shaft after it was performed. For Second Intermediate Period burials at Thebes it has been observed that the pottery shows signs of use in rituals. In the court type burials of late Middle Kingdom princesses many staves and weapons were found (discussed in Chapter 1). Several of these were broken when discovered, as if they had been used in rituals and then placed in the tombs.

Objects from and for rituals have been found in many burials around the world but evidently vary with different burial customs. In the Bronze Age Aegean and on Cyprus burial equipment included specific vessel types—alabastra and stirrup jars. These might have been used in rituals and were for anointing the body and perhaps even garments.


Guardians were figures or burial goods protecting the tomb as a whole against living people, especially tomb robbers. Guardian figures are well attested for Chinese tombs, in some of which figures of monsters protecting the tomb have been found. Another famous example from China is the army of terracotta soldiers found next to the tomb of China's "first" emperor. Perhaps surprisingly, guardians in Egyptian burials are hard to identify with certainty. In the tomb of Tutankhamun two life-size statues depicting the king were found. They are often labeled "guardian statues," but their real function remains unknown. The same is true of figures of Anubis, the jackal god, the most famous of which was again found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. These Anubis figures are sometimes also labeled "guardians." There is no hard evidence, however, that they are guardians. In Egyptian texts Anubis is often connected with burials, but not as a guardian. The safety of Egyptian tombs was not secured by any "magical" objects or figures. Safety was mainly a question of the tomb architecture and sometimes of certain spells placed in the tomb. Perhaps the four magical bricks with their spells belong to this category, though the related texts in the Book of the Dead (chapter 151) indicate that they were used in rituals at the mummification or burial. The four magical bricks were found mainly in New Kingdom tombs and are inscribed with a short protective spell.


A wide range of objects was placed in Egyptian burials for protecting the deceased against evil spirits. Many of the objects for protection can be classified as amulets. Two types can be distinguished: amulets already used in daily life, and amulets especially made for the tomb. To the first category belong fish pendants, lion claws, and perhaps even shell girdles, to name only amulets discussed in this book (Chapter 3). Amulets mainly made for the tomb are especially common in the Ramesside Period and later.

Personal Objects

Even in societies where it was not common to place grave goods in burials, it could happen that very personal items were still placed in them, such as pieces of jewelry always worn by the person in life. By personal objects I mean not only objects belonging personally to somebody but also those items with which the owner has a special tie, such as an heirloom or a gift from a beloved family member or friend. In cultures and periods when it was the custom to place objects from daily life in tombs, these objects are almost impossible to identify, as they are too similar to the other burial goods. The dividing line between personal objects and objects confirming social status or gender identity is very narrow. This is best seen in cases where personal jewelry is placed in the tombs discussed. Are these just social markers, or were at least some of them also selected because they might have been a favorite piece of jewelry of the deceased? Personal items are easier to identify in cultures and periods when most of the objects placed in the burial are of a funerary character and suddenly a more personal item appears. In ancient Egypt that might include certain objects in the Third Intermediate Period tombs at Tanis. In the Third Intermediate Period almost all objects placed in the tomb were made for the burial, such as the coffins, shabtis, and canopic jars. In the royal tombs at Tanis, however, and in the tombs of the highest officials buried there too, some objects from daily life were found, such as weapons and golden vessels. Are these to be seen as personal objects?

The idea of having a personal, beloved item is well expressed in one of the tales in the Westcar Papyrus. Several girls are rowing a boat for the king. One of them loses her fish pendant, and so she stops rowing. The king is confused and asks her why she is not rowing. She tells him that she has lost her pendant. The king offers to replace it with another one, but she refuses. She wants her own pendant and not just a replacement, saying: "I love my object more than its copy."

Preserving Social Identity

Preserving social identity seems to be one of the most important aspects of equipping the deceased and is found in many cultures around the world. Social and gender identity was an important part of the self-identity of a person and also important for the person's place in society. Social identity could comprise several aspects, notably the place of a person in the social hierarchy, the gender of a person, and his or her profession.

It has been shown that Egyptian burial equipment rarely contains objects related to the profession of the deceased. Most objects placed in burials can be explained in other ways. The profession of the deceased is not visible in the tomb equipment. This is in contrast to several other cultures. Provincial Roman graves often contained objects related to the profession of the deceased. There are burials of dentists with their instruments, others with potter's tools. In the burial of a painter were found a set of small vessels still containing paint. Other Roman burials contained different tools perhaps also relating to the deceased's profession. Weapons in tombs of Celtic men might indicate that they were soldiers but might also relate to their social status in a "warrior society."

Funerary Objects for Passages into a New Form of Life

Death is seen in many cultures as the critical passage from one form of life to another. To secure an uncomplicated transition, rituals were performed. In ancient Egypt these are the rituals around mummification, as well as the Opening of the Mouth ritual, which had the function of bringing back to life not only statues but also the mummy. Objects connected to these rituals might be placed in the tomb. In late Old Kingdom burial equipment a set of instruments for the Opening of the Mouth ceremony is sometimes included.

There were also other rituals. In late Old Kingdom burials, pottery ensembles were often found that appear again on stelae of the same period showing the stela owner being served food. This might be a ritual ensuring the eternal food supply. The ritual of placing these vessels in the tomb was performed with a view to all eternity, guaranteeing the food supply of the deceased.

Communication with the Dead

Especially in some burials of the First Intermediate Period letters were found written on pottery vessels placed in the burial chamber. They contain messages from family members to the deceased.

Other Aspects of Burial

Funerary Objects

In this book, funerary objects are those objects that were mainly produced for the tomb or at least for related rituals. The most important object, and one still used today, is the coffin. It is also clear that other burial goods were made solely for the tomb. These include canopic jars, wooden models of food production, and certain vessels used in rituals, but also the funerary jewelry discussed in Chapter 3. It seems evident that model vessels were not used in daily life, although it might be argued that they were utilized in temples for votive offerings and are therefore not exclusively funerary. For other pottery the line between daily life and funerary is often hard to draw. Stephan Seidlmayer noticed that in Old Kingdom burials on Elephantine most items placed in the tomb were taken directly from life; only the pottery was specially made for the tomb. The forms of pottery vessels placed in the burials were identical to those used in daily life, however, and these pottery vessels were also fully functional. They might therefore be better classified as daily life objects, but newly produced for a burial. For amulets it is often hard to decide to which category they belonged. Many First Intermediate Period burials often of modest size contained amulets, which it seems were worn in daily life as protection against evil spirits. Amulets found in New Kingdom and Late Period tombs are often regarded as specially made for burial. Again, this is not proven, and it might be argued that at least some of these amulets had already been worn in daily life. Another complicated case is jewelry made for the tomb. Mace and Winlock observed for the burial of Senebtisi that several of the personal adornments placed on her body were much too flimsy to have been used in real life (discussed in Chapter 3. Some of them did not even have proper clasps (Chapter 1). There are, however, other roughly contemporary court type burials where it seems that "real" personal adornments were placed on the body.


A subgroup of objects of the funerary industry consists of models. Already in the Predynastic Period models were placed in Egyptian tombs. Most often they simply replaced more expensive objects, but they were also smaller though still fully functioning versions of bigger objects. Object types where models are attested include the personal adornments found in many of the tombs discussed and the miniature pottery found in several of them. Models of bigger or expensive objects are known from the Old Kingdom, become less common in the Middle Kingdom, and then regain popularity in the New Kingdom. Of particular note here are painted models of stone vessels and small solid wooden models from the New Kingdom.

Models placed in burials are also known from many other cultures. Chinese models of servants have already been mentioned, but there are also models of houses and other items. In the Middle Bronze Age Sappali culture (part of the Bactrian-Margiana culture in Central Asia) metal models of tools, weapons, household articles, and toiletry objects were placed in graves. Models of weapons also appear in Iron Age burials of men in Italy, where it has been noted that real weapons appear too, more often spears than swords, perhaps because placing weapons in male tombs was seen as important but spears were less costly than swords. This observation might confirm the impression that models are often a cheaper version of a more expensive original object.

Wolfram Grajetzki is Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology of University College London and author of several books, most recently Court Officials of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom.

"A wonderful work. . . . Wolfram Grajetzki provides a fascinating glimpse of female burials and funerary culture of the late Middle Kingdom."—Danijela Stefanovi, University of Belgrade