Magic knife (peseshkef)

Egyptian
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6
2350–2170 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Giza

Dimensions

Length: 5 cm (1 15/16 in.)

Accession Number

28.1148

Medium or Technique

Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

On View

Egypt: Old Kingdom Funerary Arts Gallery (Gallery 105B)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Religious and cult objects

Split at one end, perhaps used in the “opening of the mouth” ceremony performed on the deceased.


The peseshkef was a disntictive type of knife that was split at one end and is sometimes called a “fishtail” knife today. The knives played a crucial role in funeral ritual, although their exact function in the Old Kingdom is uncertain. In later times, they were used in the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony, which allowed the deceased to eat, drink, breathe and speak in the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom, the knives came as part of a set, along with two model jars, one dark and one light, and two dark and two light model cups.

Provenance

From Giza, tomb G 7550 B. 1928: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1928: assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: May 27, 1987)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition