Model of a transport boat
Middle Kingdom, late Dynasty 11 – early Dynasty
Findspot: Egypt, Deir el-Bersha, Tomb 10, shaft A (Djehutynakht)
Length x width x height: 120 x 40 x 44 cm (47 1/4 x 15 3/4 x 17 5/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)
While late Old Kingdom tombs had included limestone statuettes of people engaged in chores such as food preparation, a new development occurred during the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom. Now, models made of wood, a less costly material, were manufactured in large numbers and placed in the burial chamber to furnish provisions for the deceased in the afterlife. In symbolically providing for the tomb owner’s needs, the models functioned in much the same way as painted scenes of these activities did on the walls of tomb chapels.
The tomb of Djehutynakht contained what may be the largest collection of wooden models ever discovered in Egypt. Toward the end of Dynasty 12 a change occurred in Egyptian burial customs for reasons that remain unclear. Although model boats continued to be placed in tombs, the scenes of crafts and food production disappeared permanently from the repertoire of funerary offerings. At approximately the same time, early versions of shawabtys, mummiform figurines intended to serve on behalf of the deceased in the afterlife, began to become more common in burials.
Along with a collection of wooden models representing scenes of daily life, Djehutynakht equipped his tomb with a fleet of more than fifty-five model boats, the largest collection known from a single Egyptian tomb. Several types of craft are represented, including funerary vessels, boats for traveling, ships for troop or freight transport, hunting and fishing boats, and kitchen boats of the sort that would have accompanied a Middle Kingdom official and his entourage on voyages up and down the Nile. Although they vary in size and quality, all of Djehutynakht’s boat models are constructed in the same fashion, with the hull carved from a single piece of wood, while the cabins, masts, other fittings, and crews were made separately and attached with pegs.
This model depicts a rapid troop transport vessel powered by eight pairs of rowers like one that would have accompanied Djehutynakt on his expeditions on the Nile. Between the rowers on the model at the far left are small-scale versions of a long cowhide quiver of spears and a pair of shields. This boat was also equipped with a mast, which, on the real vessel, would have been taken down while the sails were not in use and placed in crutches at the center of the ship. The forked posts in the center of the model represent these crutches.
From Deir el-Bersha, tomb 10, shaft A (tomb of Djehutynakht). May 1915: excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Egypt. (Accession Date: March 1, 1921)
Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition