Fresco with offering bearer

An al fresco mural painting from a hypogeum or tomb in the period known as the Middle Kingdom. The fragment would have been part of one of the motifs most frequently represented, showing people carrying offerings for the deceased. Specifically, a male carrying an offering is the central motif. His body is painted in dark reddish tones, and the figure is depicted following the canon of Egyptian representation: the head in profile, the body facing to the front and the left leg advanced as if the figure were walking forward. The man has a short compact wig and wears nothing more than a white kilt. He holds a bird by its wings in his hands, most probably a goose or a duck. Feet can be seen just above him that would have belonged to another person in an upper register, delimited by a horizontal black line, similarly making an offering. It was a common practice to distribute figures in horizontal registers, occupying all the vertical spaces on the walls of the tombs. These carriers of offerings walked towards the image of the owner of the tomb (depicted on a larger scale) to bring these supplies to the deceased. At the same time, bits of text could be interspersed. In this case we can find two painted hieroglyphs, which read from above to below and from right to left. They represent the beginning of a prayer which would refer to the owner of the tomb.

The Egyptians believed in the afterlife and thought that it was necessary to preserve the bodies of the deceased for this second life. They converted the corpses into mummies and afterwards kept them in sarcophagi placed in tombs. Around them was placed everything that was thought to be necessary for the deceased in the other world: clothing, food, jewellery… a rich and varied collection of grave goods.

The largest tombs were those of the pharaohs such as the pyramids or the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In the Old Kingdom, mastabas made their appearance, made up of two elements: a superstructure of a rectangular shape with inclined walls and with different chambers and chapels for worshiping and for storing provisions, and a substructure, the real funeral chamber, access to which was through a vertical shaft that later was covered over to hide the entrance and thus prevent sacking. This sort of tomb evolved over time in the following dynasties to become a more discrete structure, making it even harder for thieves to enter. Hypogea appear: tombs carved out inside a mountain. There were hidden ones and others that had entrances so that acts of worship could be carried out and offerings left for the deceased owners.

Both in the mastabas and the hypogea the walls were painted al fresco or carved with different scenes illustrating the life of the deceased. During the Old Kingdom the reliefs were carved, while in the Middle Kingdom the al fresco technique was mostly used. Some included written accounts of their life, scenes of daily life, of the owner in activities like fishing or hunting or holding feasts. In the chapel where there was a table for offerings and which was the place for direct communication with the dead, there was always a larger image of the latter accompanied by an entourage carrying offerings, either of foodstuffs or objects for everyday use. The Egyptians believed that everything that could be represented in an image could come to life, and thus if the descendants did not come to visit there always remained the provisions depicted in the reliefs.

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