Updated: Oct 3, 2021
This funerary model was one of a number discovered in the elaborately decorated tomb of Khety I, a nomarch of the Oryx nome during the early part of Dynasty 12, which was carved into the bedrock of the Eastern Desert cliffs in the regional necropolis at Beni Hasan. It depicts a team of men and women industriously working in a brewery and bakery and was intended to ensure that Khety would have access to the bread and beer they created in the afterlife.
The model itself is made of wood coated in plaster and painted using a palette of red-brown, black, white and pale yellow. The women are shown with paler skin in comparison to the men, a convention of Egyptian art that was well established at this time, and some of the figures still have linen garments attached. It features a number of men and women captured in the process of baking, including grinding and sifting flour, mixing dough and baking in ovens, as well as brewing activities such as mashing beer and carrying filled vessels. Grain was the staple produce of Egypt, and the base ingredient for both beer and bread production, so these two processes are often combined in one workshop complex.
Funerary models depicting food production and crafts such as this one began appearing in tombs during the First Intermediate Period and were used until the end of Dynasty 12. Along with brewing and baking, a whole host of other scenes were replicated in these models, including butchery, animal husbandry, agriculture, sailing, fishing and military scenes. They were manufactured in large numbers in specialist craft workshops and placed in the burial chamber to provide the deceased with the necessary provisions for the afterlife, replicating the magical animation of the painted scenes in offering chapels.
Khety’s tomb was one of nearly 500 examined in the Beni Hasan necropolis between 1902-1904 by a Liverpool Institute of Archaeology sponsored project under the direction of British archaeologist John Garstang. This funerary model, along with four others and a coffin from the tomb, were donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1903 by the Beni Hassan Excavation Committee. An excavator’s mark noting the original catalogue number 366 was applied to the model, but it is now referenced by its museum accession number E.71d.1903. Comparison of this model can be made with two others from the same period in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum from the Theban necropolis (accession number 20.3.12) and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston from Deir el-Bersha (accession number 21.886).