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Collection Highlights

Model of a boat

Model of a boat
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0620

Inv.Inventory
 (Al Ashmunin storerooms) 205

where to find


In the Afterlife

Model of a boat

Category:
Tomb equipment, model boats
Date:
Ancient Egyptian period, Middle Kingdom, 11th dynasty (2055-1985 BCE)
Provenance:
Unknown (Confiscated in 1952 (Case number 253))
Material(s):
Organic material, wood
Height:
58 cm;
Width:
17 cm
Hall:
In the Afterlife


Description

A model boat that originally carried eight sailors, four of whom are missing. The boat has no sail and the sailors were equipped with oars which were fixed in the holes made in their fists. The Bow takes the shape of the head of a strange creature
 

Models

The democratization of funerary beliefs and customs in the First Intermediate Period (c.2181-2000 BC) inspired many less well-off Egyptians to create representations of their own daily environment which they believed would continue in the afterlife. Unable to afford the scenes carved and painted on the tomb walls of wealthier Egyptians, poorer individuals purchased models representing various aspects of the daily life and placed them in the tomb.

The models included figures of household servants performing cooking tasks, farm laborers tending animals and crops, and men involved in manufacturing processes. These models were believed, just like wall scenes, to magically sustain the dead in their afterlife within the tomb, providing the food, drink, clothing, shelter that would be needed for continued existence.

Boat Models

Among the most important categories were model boats, as they were believed to provide transport along the river Nile, Egypt's main artery of communication. They were found in tombs primarily in the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom, although examples are known both earlier and later. Two or more boats were usually included in the burial; at least one representing the crew sailing upstream with the prevailing winds and placed facing south, the other equipped for rowing north with the current of the river (like the one we have here) and placed with the bow facing north. The largest collection of boat models was found in the tomb of Djehuty-Nakht at Bersheh and it comprised fifty five boats.

Some of the boat models had a religious significance. According to ancient Egyptian religious beliefs, Osiris’s body was taken by a boat for burial at Abydos, his chief cult place. In their lifetime, many Egyptians either made a pilgrimage to Abydos or sent a votive stela or both. In death they also wished to be buried there, or at least that their mummy should visit this sacred town. Usually, of course, not even this was possible so a wooden model of the deceased's mummy on a boat or a representation of this journey on the tomb wall had to serve instead.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Andrews, Carol, Egyptian Mummies. London: British Museum, 1984.
  • D'Aria, Sue et al. Mummies and Magic: The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1988.
  • "Models". In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, edited by Donald B. Redford. Vol. II. New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Fleming, Stuart et al. The Egyptian Mummy Secrets and Science. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1980.
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