« PreviousContinue »
the ka also must be given the support which it received in life, an elaborate menu was provided for its use, set forth as a rule on a "stela," or tablet, in the wall of the tomb. If possible, an endowment sufficient to insure the upkeep of this provender was made by the decedent, and a corps of priests detailed to attend to the service of the ka. On stated days the survivors of the family must celebrate a feast in the tomb-chapel – which was never the tomb-chamber itself, and might even be located at a considerable distance from the actual body; and this feast amounted in fact to taking a meal with the departed shade, or with his ka, and constituted an act of pious worship whereby the living also might acquire merit. Unquestionably this sufficed to keep alive many a service which would otherwise lapse, for it was well to have friends at the court of Osiris when one came to die and have the soul weighed against the ostrich feather of truth!
The great and first commandment, then, was not only so to live that one might hope to be justified, but also to provide during life an abode which might with some justice claim to be eternal. One must have the body preserved as carefully as possible from all decay. And lest human care for this end be inadequate, a “double” must be laid to rest close by the corpse. The more durable the statue, the better. And
it is not surprising to find that the most obdurate stones were employed for this purpose, although the best material of all, considered purely as a means of making an exact replica, was wood. There are few more admirable sculptures in the world from the standpoint of one requiring pure realism than the “ double” of the so-called “Shekh el Beled,” now in the museum at Cairo, and few are better preserved. Its wood is apparently as perfect now as when it was carved. Its aspect is that of a living overseer, abroad in his plantations. Its eyes are astonishingly lifelike, and its close resemblance to the persistent type of Egyptian gave it the name which it has come to bear
- an involuntary tribute of the bystanders, who dug it out of the sand, to its resemblance to their own village chief!
The skill which the ancient sculptors acquired in the working of refractory materials is revealed by one other statue in the same room of the museum with the Shekh el Beled, — the diorite image of Khephrên, builder of the Second Pyramid. Strictly, I suppose, this is not the same sort of ka statue, but it was found in a temple of the king, of which more will be said later; and it may easily have been meant as an alternative body, failing any other, when the ka should seek once more to resume its old abode. In any case its excellence is sufficient to make it a
worthy fellow of the wooden Shekh on the score of naturalness, despite the hardness of the black stone of which it is made.
The form of the tomb itself may profitably be spoken of here, although it must recur again and again as we go on. If it was necessary to embalm the body as no other people have been able to do it, and necessary also to supply a lifelike substitute in case the art of the body's balmer should fail, it was also highly important that the tomb itself should be enduring. Several different forms are still extant, but in every case it is painfully apparent that the care of the builders has been in vain if it was hoped to prevent desecration. Naturally the first graves must have been in the sand — and, indeed, many pre-dynastic tombs have been discovered within recent years which reveal the efficacy of this form of burial. Bodies in that remote day were mummified — even before Menes and the following dynasties -- and were buried with the legs doubled up under the chin. The heaping-up of the drifting sands over the graves then doubtless led to the idea of a raised structure, which preserved the general form of the sand-dune, but made it permanent by adding a low retaining-wall sloping gently inward toward the top. From this sprang the common “mastaba" tomb, so-called because of its resemblance to the mastaba, or bench, found before