Akhet Logo

Ancient Egyptian burials often included carved wooden figures to serve the deceased in the afterlife. Typically these figures were depicted performing tasks which were thought to be required. These tasks included brewing, baking, farming and butchery.

The figure shown here is the Ka of the lady Mertetes, from the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The Ka was an important part of the deceased and when someone died it was thought that it lived on and still required sustenance. For this reason offerings were left for the ka which it consumed magically.

It was thought that the reunion of the Ka and the Ba in the underworld transformed the deceased into an Akh, one of the blessed dead.

In models such as these, and indeed in tomb paintings in general, the women are typically portrayed as being lighter skinned than the men, although it is fairly easy to guess which gender Mertetes was.

These models are particularly interesting as they give us an insight into exactly how the Ancient Egyptians worked and how their products were manufactured.

A great deal of information has been obtained from model granaries and butcher shops. These can show the production methods which were used, and also the labour force required. The models can also show which tasks were carried out by the Men, and what was considered woman's work.

This scene shows two women hard at work, In the background slaughter men and butchers are working on an unfortunate looking cow.

Another area where a great deal of information has been left in the form of models is the Egyptians skill as boat builders. Mertetes' model boat is fairly typical of the examples found in many of the tombs of middle ranking Egyptians. Some tombs, including Tutankhamun's contained several boats of different types. These can range from large cargo boats down to small pleasure and fishing craft.

All objects photographed here are from the collection of the National Museums of Scotland.
Thanks to the N.M.S. Department of History and Applied Art for information concerning the objects.