Model of trussed cow or ox - ROM2018_16363_80


Model of trussed cow or ox

Medium:Wood, black, white and red paint
Geography: Probably from Deir el-Bahri, Egypt
Date: c. 2040-1650 BC
Period: 11th-13th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
16.5 × 9.3 × 5.2 cm
Object number: 910.18.18
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Ordinary people in ancient Egypt probably only ate meat at public festivals and funerals. Likely an ox was sacrificed as part of the funerary rites for wealthy individuals; the front haunch is frequently depicted as being presented to the deceased by the chief mourner.  The entire animal would have been cut up and distributed amongst the priests and others that participated in the funeral. Tombs of the elite regularly include a butchery scene which would magically provide meat for the deceased in the afterlife. Various tomb models appear already in the Old Kingdom, but wooden tomb models, such as this, are characteristic of the Middle Kingdom.

This wooden tomb model in the shape of a trussed cow or ox would originally have been part of a butchery scene which would have included a number of other wooden figures. Typically one man who would have cut the cow's throat with a flint knife is shown, along with another who collects the blood in a bowl.  The cow is depicted lying on its side with its four legs pulled toward the centre of its body; the legs alternate from top to bottom -- front, rear, front, rear.  The hooves are painted black, but there is no indication of the rope tying them together. The body is painted white with irregular black splotches throughout. The outline of the tail is carved lying across one side of the body. There is a tenon in the middle of the cow's back, presumably to anchor the cow to a wooden base.

The well-modelled head is turned at a 90% angle from the body, with the top resting on the ground. The cow has a clearly modelled snout with a slot indicating the mouth.  Rimmed almond-shaped eye sockets occur on each side of the head.  Additional wood inserts form the two small ears and two spike horns of the animal. Red paint at the neck and mouth indicate that the animal has already been killed.

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