Table for offerings

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A small table for votive offerings displaying on its surface a back quarter of beef, four loaves of bread and two sets of strips that could be beef ribs or perhaps lettuce, according to different interpretations.

The offering table, in most cases made from stone, was placed in the chapels of tombs to be used both by the family and by funerary priests. These made offerings in these spaces of wheat, barley and dates and also poured liquids in libation rituals. This explains the runoff channel that can be seen coming from the rectangle in the centre of the piece.

In the Middle Kingdom offering tables, like this one, were developed which were made of terracotta, a not very resistant material. These were place in tombs to form part of the grave goods. This would lead us to believe that tables like this one they were solely to be placed in the grave, but not to be actually used for libations or offerings in the chapel.

The bas-reliefs found in the chapels of tombs, along with objects of this type, were mistakenly generally referred to as “decoration”. But they had one concrete purpose: to serve the deceased in the journey to, and residence in, the Other World. The help of the gods, of the family and friends was called upon so that the “ka” never lacked nourishment. So that offerings of food but also of clothing and ointments were never missing, perhaps in the case that the mortals for some reason were unable to replenish them, from the earliest times figurative versions of these supplies were created. It wasn’t good enough to paint a complete table and cover it with thousands of “good and pure things”, because these could be consumed immediately and were perishable. It was necessary to ensure that from the harvest to the storage of basic products, the rhythm of production was eternal. The “ka” let itself be tricked, and by transformative magic the painted and sculpted products were transformed into nutritive foodstuffs. A table well laid with offerings, like this one, was the ultimate aim of representation.

PARALLELS:

- Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence.

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