Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6, reign of Neferkara Pepy II
Findspot: Egypt, Giza, Tomb of Impy, G 2381 A
Height x diameter: 1.5 x 6.2 cm (9/16 x 2 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Out on Loan
On display at Houston Museum of Natural Science, TX, May 17, 2013 – June 30, 2018
“Almost like a doll’s house,” is how George Reisner described the confusion of miniature dishes, jars, and tables of copper that had spilled out of a decayed wooden box in Impy’s tomb. Pictured here is one of the nearly forty metal vessels found in the burial chamber beside his coffin. Too small to have been used in daily life, they were made especially for the tomb, where it was thought that they would magically function like their full-size prototypes. Some of the jars and dishes were meant to hold offerings of food and drink for the deceased to enjoy in the afterlife. In fact, skeletal remains of beef, goose, duck, and other offerings were found beside them.
The table was made in the form of the hetep hieroglyph, the Egyptian word for “offering,” that took the shape of an oblong loaf of bread placed upright on a mat. Other vessels were intended to hold the sacred oils and unguents that guaranteed rebirth. A basin and ewer for ritual washing and an incense burner rounded out the assortment.
The use of copper in Egypt dates back to early Predynastic times. Minor amounts were found in the Eastern Desert, but the majority came from mines in Sinai. Impy’s vessels are ninety-nine percent pure copper, thanks to their smelting process. Metalsmiths melted prepared ingots and then cast or cold-hammered them into the desired shapes. Rivets were used to join different pieces.
Impy was the son of the royal architect Nekhebu. When Reisner discovered his tomb, it was unplundered, perhaps thanks to the 7.6 meters (25 feet) of stone slabs that blocked the burial shaft. A large cedar coffin contained the mummy, which had been adorned with a gold and faience broadcollar, copper bracelet, and gilded belt.
From Giza, G 2381 A (tomb of Impy). 1913: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1913: assigned to the MFA by the Egyptian government.
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition