Model, "Soul House" - ROM2016_15146_22


Model, "Soul House"

Medium:Ceramic (earthenware), hand-moulded
Geography: Deir Rifa, Egypt
Date: c. 2160-1795 BC
Period: 9th-12th Dynasty, 1st Intermediate Period to Middle Kingdom
38.1 x 29.7 cm
Object number: 909.80.566
Not on view

This crudely made ceramic model is a combination of an offering table and a house with a courtyard.  Numerous examples of this type of artefact were uncovered at the site of Deir Rifa by W.M. Flinders Petrie, who identified them as “soul houses.” Petrie traced the evolution of the so-called "soul house" from a simple ceramic offering tray to more elaborate versions which include a domestic structure with a forecourt unto which food offerings are modelled.  So the models seem to have had a dual purpose: 1) they provided representations of food offerings for the deceased and 2) they acted as a symbolic home for the deceased’s spirit or soul.

The offering tray of this example is roughly rectangular in shape with two central grooves to receive libations.  Each wall of the courtyard terminates at the front in a circular turret which was meant to contain an inserted stick. At the back of the courtyard is a small flat-roofed house with a large rectangular door.  It is topped by a small parapet on the roof to which a turning staircase leads on the right side. On the right side of the courtyard there is a modelled waterstand with the remains of two jars on a table set against the wall of the courtyard. On the left side of the courtyard there are modelled two chairs, one with a back and one without, and a bull’s head (bucranium). In the courtyard are a number of roughly modelled offerings: two bull’s forelegs are placed in front of the house, a set of ribs is placed in front of the bucranium, and in the right foreground are what look like four vegetable bunches.

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