Art in Egypt, 2 beautiful artifacts in Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian art

Here we are going to talk about 2 beautiful artifacts belong to art in Egypt.

The first artifact: The Altar.

The second artifact: the burial chamber of Deshri.

Egyptian art: the Altar

Arts of ancient Egypt
Egyptian art: the altar in the Egyptian Museum

Two altars were found in a tomb at Saqqara near the Step pyramid of Zoser. Found by Mariette in 1860. They date back to the end of the 2nd dynasty, beginning of the 3rd dynasty.

Both were made out of alabaster, which was brought from Hatnoub, 18 km the southeast of El-Amarna El-Menya governorate.

The function of the Altar

They were used either as:

  • Slaughtering tables for birds and small sacrificial animals.
  • Libation tables as Mariette have originally suggested.
  • Small embalming tables used during the process of mummification to embalm the viscera (the internal organs) of the deceased.

Ancient Egypt art: the description

Art in Egypt
The altar

These two altars are made in the shape of lions, one on either side. The tray formed by the bodies of the lions is sloping slightly towards a bowl of small basin formed by the curling of the tails of the two lions.

This basin was supposed to collect any liquid that would be introduced on the altars (whether the libations or the blood resulting from slaughtering or the like).

The significance of lions in ancient Egypt

  • Since lions used to live in the desert, they came to be considered as the guardians of the eastern and the western horizons, the places of sunrise and sunset, symbolic of the past and future.
  • Since the sun was born every day and died each evening so lions were connected with death and rebirth, that’s why they were normally portrayed on funerary elements such as funerary beds and embalming tables.

Egypt art facts: burial chamber of Deshry

Ancient Egypt art
Egyptian art: the burial chamber of Deshri

The burial chamber is the location where the sarcophagus of the deceased is placed inside some of the tombs or mastabas.

It is normally decorated with inscriptions and scenes thought to help the deceased in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptian thought that death is an intermediate stage between the first life and the second life or the afterlife.

They also believed that each person needs food and drink in the afterlife just like he enjoyed them in his first life. First, they used to place food and drink in the tomb for the deceased to enjoy after his death.

The one who was responsible for providing these offerings to the deceased was the son or the priest.

The fact that the nourishment remained untouched never troubled their minds, as they thought that the spirit of the deceased came and enjoyed the intangible contents of the food.

However, due to the distant location of the tombs in the desert away from his towns or cities, this daily task became unreasonable to be carried out.

Thus the idea emerged to list the offerings on the walls of the burial chamber of the deceased accompanied by a formula known as the “Hetepdinsew” (htp di nsw formula), which when recited would magically transform the scenes on the walls to real nourishment for the deceased to enjoy in the afterlife.

It was called the htp di nsw (meaning may the king be kind and give…) formula.

The next part of the formula (htp di inpw…) is addressed to the god of the necropolis “Anubis”, as he was responsible for the protection and the well-being of the dead.

Art of ancient Egypt: the description

Egypt art
The burial chamber of Deshri

This burial chamber belongs to a nobleman called Deshri, who lived in the 5th dynasty, old kingdom. It is made of painted limestone.

The burial chamber was decorated from inside with different scenes of offerings on all side. They were represented arranged in registers.

The objects which were painted could be divided into two categories:

  1. Liquid offerings.
  2. Solid offerings

The left-hand side wall is painted with offerings represented in three registers. Each register has different kinds of offerings loaded on offering tables.

In the 1st register, there is a depiction of 3 jars, which may have contained water, beer, wine, or milk.

These jars are followed with an offering table, which has a representation of goose, head of a cow, cabbage, and bread.

At the end of this register, there is an offering table with a representation of onion, ribs of meat, and the left leg of an ox. All the offerings here on this wall have their materialistic meaning as well as their abstract meaning:

Concerning the materialistic meaning, the ancient Egyptian believed that when his Ka read the magical formula or the Hetepdinesw formula, all these offerings would turn into real and the ka would survive on then.

The right side wall is decorated with scenes in two registers that show the beauty of Egypt art. The most important of an object are:

1- The seven sacred jars which are placed on the 5th and the 6th offering tables in the 1st register.

Those jars contain the sacred oils that were used in the purification and the mummification of the deceased.

2- On the next offering table there are two collars.

They used to be painted inside the tomb or to be buried among the most important funerary objects, may be for religious reasons or they had some kind of magical power. This wall ends with a representation of a false door.

Among a lot of artifacts, these two artifacts consider as of the finest artifacts from the history of art in Egypt.