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False door from the Mastaba tomb of Ási-ankh, a high official, who
flourished in the reign of King åsså, about B.C. 3400. [Vestibule, South Wall, No. 53.)
It was thus called by the Arabs, because all the examples with which they were familiar, being more than half buried in sand, resembled the long low seats which are common in oriental houses. The exterior surfaces of the mastaba are not flat, for the face of each course of masonry, formed of stones laid vertically, is a little behind the one beneath it, and if these recesses were a little deeper, the external appearance of each side of the building would resemble a flight of steps. The height of the mastaba varies from 13 feet to 30 feet, the length from 26 feet to 170 feet, and the width from 20 feet to 86 feet. The plan of the mastaba is an oblong rectangle,
and the greater axis of the rectangle is usually in the direction from south to north. Mastabas were arranged in rows symmetrically on all sides of the Pyramids at Gîzah. The mastabas at Sakkârah are built of stone and brick. The entrance to the mastaba is usually on the east side. Near the north-east corner is sometimes found a series of long vertical grooves, or a "false door” (see Plate XIV), which is sometimes called the stele. Near the south-east corner is generally another opening, but larger and more carefully made ; in this is sometimes found a fine inscribed limestone false door, and sometimes a small architectural façade, in the centre of which is a door. The top of the mastaba is quite flat.
The interior of the complete mastaba consists of: 1. A chamber. 2. The Serdâb. 3. A pit. 4. A mummy-chamber. The walls of the mastaba chamber may be ornamented with sculptures or not. In it, facing the east, is a false door, which is
offerings were made. B, C.- The pit,'or shaft, Icading to the
mummy chamber. D.-A small corridor. E.-The mummy chamber.
The soul, in the form of a human
headed bird, descending the pit of the tomb to visit the mummy in the
usually inscribed. At the foot of the false door, on the bare ground, is often seen a tablet for offerings, made of granite, alabaster, limestone, etc., on which are sculptured figures of meat and drink offerings-cakes, loaves of bread, geese, a haunch of beef, vases of unguents, fruit, vegetables, flowers, etc. In many tablets for offerings small tanks, or hollows, with channels, are cut, and in these libations of wine were supposed to be poured. A large collection of such tablets for offerings of all periods, from the IVth dynasty to the Roman Period, is exhibited in the Egyptian Gallery, Bays 14 and 16. Sometimes a pair of stands for offerings, made of stone, is found by the stele ; examples of these are exhibited in Wall-case No. 200, in the Fourth Egyptian Room. In the south or north wall of the mastaba chamber is usually a narrow chamber built of large stones, partly hidden in the masonry, to which the name of Serdab 1 has been given. Sometimes the serdâb is isolated from the chamber, but usually it is connected with it by means of a rectangular passage, or slit, so narrow that the hand can be inserted in it with difficulty. Inside the serdab the statue of the deceased, which was intended to serve as a dwelling-place for the Ka, or double, was placed, and the passage was made in order to conduct to it the smoke and smell of the burning incense and offerings. The serdâb is sometimes called the “Ka-chapel,” and persons of means and position generally appointed a “ priest of the Ka" to offer up offerings morning and evening. The pit, or shaft, of the mastaba was rectangular, square, or oblong, but never round, and it varied in depth from 40 to So teet. It led to the chamber below the ground where the mummy was laid. At the bottom of the pit, on the south side, was an opening into a passage from 4. to 5 feet high; this passage led obliquely to the south-east, in the same direction as the upper chamber, and then expanded on all sides and became the sarcophagus chamber, or mummy chamber. When the dried or mummified body had been placed in the sarcophagus, and the cover of the sarcophagus had been sealed, the pit was filled with stones, mud, and sand, and the deceased was thus preserved from all ordinary chances of disturbance.
The ornamentation of the mastaba consisted of sculptured scenes of three classes : 1. Biographical. 2. Sepulchral. 3. Those referring to the cult of the dead and funerary gifts. In them we see the deceased hunting, fishing, making pleasure
Strictly speaking the serdib is a lofty, vaulted, subterranean chamber, with a large opening in the north side to admit air in the hot weather.