Model Female Offering Bearer - ROM2018_16362_22


Model Female Offering Bearer

Medium:Wood, carved and painted
Geography: Excavated at Deir el-Bahri, Egypt
Date: c. 2055-2004 BC
Period: Reign of Mentuhotep II, 11th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
30.5 × 10.5 × 10.5 cm
Object number: 907.18.306
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Female figures portrayed walking, steadying a basket on their head with one hand and holding an offering in the other hand, are among the most common type of ancient Egyptian model offering figures. These figures first appear in royal Old Kingdom tombs, where they represent different funerary domains established to support continued offerings on behalf of the deceased. They sometimes appear in the guise of the god of the Nile Inundation Hapy, indicating fertility and productivity.  Later offering bearers assumed normal human proportions and may be designated as "estates."  By the Middle Kingdom wooden offering bearer figures, such as this one, appear to represent servants or family members of the deceased. They can be found singly or in small groups as part of a funerary procession.

The core of this figure with the head and body is original.  She would have been standing on a wooden base which has not been preserved.  The original arms of the figure have also not been preserved, but have been restored here to indicate their original positions which are clear.  The basket on the figure's head supported by her left hand and the goose held in her right hand are contemporary pieces, which did not necessarily belong to this particular figure. The figure is made of wood covered with gesso. The skin has been painted a light yellow, the typical skin colour for women in ancient Egypt. 

The figure is tall and slender, but not well proportioned. The shoulders and arm sockets, for example, have been set at about the height of the figure's chin.The small pointed breasts are set low on the chest, about 2 cm below the level of the figure's hair. There is some modelling of the hips, especially at the back. A white sheath dress has been painted on the figure which has one strap running over her left shoulder, leaving the right breast uncovered. The dress is about knee length. The offering bearer has an oval-shaped head with black shoulder-length hair which runs straight across her back and straight across her forehead. There is space for a peg at the top of the head. The face is triangular in shape. The vertical nose projection has broken off. The eyes are not symmetrically drawn, with the left one being distinctly larger.  Each eye is outlined in black with a black pupil and white background. A horizontal black eyebrow is painted above each eye. There is no indication of the mouth.

The wooden model of a basket or box on the head of the figure was likely meant to contain bread covered by a white linen cloth. The container is bascally cubic in shape, but the base flares out at the sides and the top is slightly convex. A black horizontal line marks the top of the basket. Below this, the container has been painted a pale yellow divided by two black horizontal lines.  Three vertical lines divide the space on the front and back, while two vertical lines appear on each side.  The effect is that of a checkerboard indicating a woven basket, perhaps with strengthening ribs.

In her right hand the restored figure holds an Egyptian goose that was made in two pieces. Because of the dowel at the end of the wing and the dowel hole on the back of the body, the original arrangement of the pieces is easy to reconstruct. Geese were a favourite food among the ancient Egyptians and although wild geese could certainly be hunted in the marshes, tomb scenes from the Old and Middle Kingdoms show that the high demand for these birds was met through domestication.  Chickens came to Egypt from the Near East and are first attested in the Ramesside Period; they were not common in Egypt until the Persian and Ptolemaic Periods.

Object History: Excavated by the Egypt Exploration Society, 1905-1907
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