Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing – but still not of royal rank. Each had ample means to expend upon the production of a wonderfully beautiful home for his ghost. It is toward these that the visitors direct the greater part of their attention. It should be remembered, however, that these are by no means the oldest objects discovered at Sakkâra, and the lower limit of the relics — the most modern ones unearthed - is well down in the days when Egypt had ceased to be an empire and had become merely an outlying dependency of Persia, Greece, and Rome in rapid succession. Some of the utensils dug up from the all-preserving sands have dated back to the time of the First Dynasty. Bodies have been uncovered that were apparently buried back in the unrecorded days, – buried in the characteristic doubled-up posture, — and in some cases I am told that it is even possible to assert with positiveness of just what malady they died! But it is neither with the very old nor the very young that the average explorer of Sakkâra has to do. It is mainly with such tombs as that of Tiand Ptah-hôtep, and the grand mausoleum of the bulls.

In view of the fullness with which the manifold details of these tombs are described in the guidebooks, and especially in Mrs. Quibell's illuminating brochure on the subject, it is wholly unnecessary to repeat them here. But it will be profitable to consider some of the features of the mastaba tombs thus revealed to us as a general matter, to the end that we may gain in advance an idea of the significance of what we are to see.

First of all it is important to know that in the chief room of the mastaba we are in the chapel in which the food and drink and other accessories of the ka were served. Here were spread the meats and drinks, here was offered the incense, here were prepared the toilet waters and pigments for the “double” of the departed. In short, this was the house and home of the ka, and on the rear wall — the western one, as being the wall toward the abode of souls

· was carved the faithful representation of the facade of a house such as Egypt knew, with a false door in its centre and a carved "stela," or tablet, on either side, setting forth with much detail and as an essential part of the scheme the regular menu of the ka -- so many hundred beeves, so many hundred loaves, so many pots of beer, and so on.

In the false door itself, especially in later times, it was customary to carve a representation of the deceased, either in half-length or of full stature, and in the act of advancing. But this development had not been reached, if my recollection is accurate, in the time of Ti and Ptah-hôtep. In their day it was not regarded as essential, or had not been thought of; and in their case the builders were content with representing the door toward the west and inscribing the menu of the ka with great particularity on the stela. On other walls, as is customary in most such tombs, there is to be found at least one representation of the deceased sitting at his ka meal, while the rest of the decoration has to do with the ordinary daily life of the time, as the deceased had known it while he was still extant.

It would seem that originally the false doors in the stela wall of the chapel were meant to face in the direction of the actual sepulchre where the body lay. This certainly was not the case, however, when Ti built his tomb, for the body was laid in a deep pit below quite another chamber of the mastaba, bearing no relation to the main chapel. But the serdab, or little chamber for the double, was adjacent to the main apartment in his case, and was even provided with a tiny communicating slit for the purpose of conveying incense-smoke to the image.

That actual human food was set forth in the ka chapel on stated occasions seems unquestionable, although when that was done it was presumably consumed by those present — the priests and relations of the deceased. It must have been discovered that the ka, even if it existed and were present, never consumed any of the provender; and it is entirely probable that as a result it came to be thought sufficient simply to portray the several kinds of food and drink by accurate carving on the walls, together with a statement of the quantity of each kind. Add to these a prayer carved in hieroglyphics for the maintenance and increase of the repast, and you have the ordinary stela of the period. A little imagination must have been required to spell out of the sculptured viands a satisfying and sustaining meal for the ka, but doubtless the idea could be paralleled in the notions of every child, ancient or modern, in dealing with its dolls. It is no more extraordinary that sculptured food should be thought to serve the needs of the shade than it is to find that sculptured figures, in miniature, buried in large quantities with the favored dead, should be regarded as adequate to perform manual labor and feats of arms for the departed in the hereafter, should Osiris require them. Hundreds of such “respondent statuettes” may be seen in any museum possessed of a large Egyptian collection. It seems a possible assumption, therefore, that the engraved stela set forth not only a menu for the deceased, but actual food for him as well. At least, one may hope so -- for otherwise the spirit of Ti has gon for long years unfed.

One puzzling thing about these old stelæ, a thing which the archæologists seem unable to explain to

[ocr errors]

their own satisfaction, is the representation of a table such as the carvings generally show, before which the figure of the departed is seated. The table generally bears a rank of tall blades, which in the aggregate closely resemble a steam radiator. Nobody seems able to tell with certainty what these mean. It is suggested, and it seems to me with considerable plausibility, that they may represent the flat reeds with which the table was strewn, but shown upright instead of flat because the representation of objects in perspective was not understood. Or possibly they are flat loaves of bread, such as one may still see in Egypt, shown upright for the same reason as that just advanced. At all events, the table with the tall blades was a very common feature of that period, the time of Ti, - and it was many years before the inclusion of it in the decoration was abandoned.

The other walls of the chapel and of the various corridors and other rooms were decorated, as I said before, with scenes from the daily life of the time, and commonly showed the sights with which the deceased had been most familiar when on earth. The usual arrangement of these is in long and narrow bands, or rows, running around the room, one above another. In them may be seen a great variety of interesting operations, agricultural and industrial, such as the baking of bread, the brewing of beer, the breeding

« PreviousContinue »