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An Egyptian Diorite Miniature Vessel, Old Kingdom, ca. 2649–2150 B.C

of conical form, the miniature vessel of conical form with flat base and partially hollowed interior.

Background:  Stone vessels were common in burials from the Predynastic period and throughout the Old Kingdom - this was the greatest period of production of stone vessels in Egyptian history. However, in the course of the Old Kingdom there was a move away from larger "real" vessels to smaller model ones, and according to the principle of magical substitution, models of objects that were required for the spirits of the dead throughout eternity would be just as effective as the larger originals, while possessing the added advantages of being cheaper and easier to manufacture. These small vessels, known from at least the 3rd Dynasty, peaked numerically in the 4th-5th Dynasties, and then declined in popularity, as pottery became increasingly prevalent.

The ritual of offering for the dead was central to the function of the tomb. Real food would be left with the burial, but this of course could not be provided in sufficient quantities to supply the dead for ever. The mere existence of the model vessels, together with depictions of some of the offerings (even if just in hieroglyphs), was enough for the continued provision of sustenance to be assured.

Dimensions:  height:  1 5/8 inches (4 cm)

Condition:  a few small chips otherwise intact and in very good condition overall.

Provenance:  Private NYC collection, ex. CT collection, ex. John N. Winnie, Jr. collection, Georgia, acquired Sotheby's NY, Dec 2001 and previously in a European private collection.

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