Everyday Life in the Old Kingdom

1 January 2017

In the Old Kingdom, it was common to see everyday life depicted in Egyptian Art. Artists wanted to show how the Egyptians lived. Agriculture was also a large aspect in Egyptian art because agriculture made up a large part of their lives. Specifically, everyday life was important to portray in the afterlife because the dead needed to be properly prepared for the afterlife. The idea was that the function of the paintings “was to furnish the tomb with enduring pictures that limited, transcended, and re-created nature.

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The need to guarantee the survival of the dead, and to assemble in one single figure or object the fundamental elements for their magical reanimation, lies at the root of the Egyptian iconographical repertory” (Art A World History). Egyptians wished to take as much of their past life with them to the afterlife. The paintings of nature on the tomb walls recreated the world they once lived in- the world they knew. Private tombs were famous for having nature depictions like these, rather than those of Kings and Gods. A common nature scene seen in these funerary tombs are of netting fowl.

In the painting: Frieze of the Geese from the tomb of the Prince Nefermaat and his wife Itet at maydum, the artist puts a lot of detail into the depiction of the geese making it “seem to have been of considerable aesthetic interest for the artist” (Malek). Birds in paintings on the walls of tombs are usually seen as tomb offerings above or near doorways. “In general, these wild birds represent wild spiritual elements that must be trapped, caged, sometimes tamed, or offered to the neteru (gods/goddesses) in sacrifice” (http://www. gypt-tehuti. org/tombs. html). Birds also serve to fully enhance the everyday life of an Egyptian. “These agricultural scenes of peasants working in the fields stress the owner’s status and distinction in the physical world” (http://encyclopedia. jrank. org/articles/pages/122/Interpreting-Egyptian-Art. html), and act as a reminder that the owner was of high status and should be remembered well. They also provide a permanent supply of provisions for the next world.

In addition, they function symbolically to depict the passage of the seasons of the year and thus the continuation of life for the deceased spirit (http://encyclopedia. jrank. org/articles/pages/122/Interpreting-Egyptian-Art. html). The painting of Frieze of the Geese from the tomb of the Prince Nefermaat and his wife Itet at maydum does just that. It shows the life of Prince Nefermaat and the Egyptians of their time in the Old Kingdom. It also gave Nefermaat the assurance that in the afterlife there would be an abundance of food.

Nature had an important influence on the art of Ancient Egypt. In many Egyptian paintings and structures there can be found symbols of nature and natural processes. Painted on the tomb wall of Nefermaat, the geese are delicately rendered with precision. The simple yet elegant birds project a feeling of harmony with nature between the artist and subjects. In Egyptian art, the animal can be seen as a god, or merely as a source of food, but always portrayed with care and attention to the details of nature.

In this particular scene, the animals (geese) are seen as elements to illuminate the tomb with nature’s best and with the Egyptian culture to hunt the birds with nets. The painting on the tomb wall shows six gees in a field. Three are facing left and three are facing right. The geese to the left and right are bending over pecking at the ground for food, while the four in the middle have their heads tilted. The feathering and coloring of the geese is different, making each look individual, adding to the credibility of the artists’ attention to detail.

The art of Egypt reflected the Egyptians closeness to nature, both in the common and in the supernatural aspects of their lives. Hunting scenes, like the geese on Maydum, provided the entombed deceased with some elements of everyday life that Ka needed to live on happily and sustained. Those scenes also show the respect that the Egyptians had for nature herself. These animals are portrayed according to their intended purpose. Whether the purpose was supernatural or not, animals in Egypt were given much respect and attention to detail when portrayed in art.

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