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Archaeology and IcooographY'

Ix!I and 'prt bread moulds and "Speisetiscbszene" development

in the Old Kingdom
Miroslav BW
During the last few years there has been quite a strong tendency in Egyptology towards
studies dealing primarily either with mental constructs' or with the material culture of
the ancient Egyptians'. The main point of this article is (0 ilustrate an example of
possible interconnections between these (wo different levels of culture. Two aspects of
this interconnection will be discussed below in some detail. namely the development of
the pottery bread forms termed bell and rprl in Egypt during the Old Kingdom (ca 2575-
2134 Be) and iconographic representations of bread loaves in scenes of a funerary
repast in reliefs and paintings in tombs on the cemeteries at Meidum. Saqqara. Abusir
and Giza of that time. First I examine the occurrence and development of two pottery
types, I then analyse representations of Lbe offerings of breadloaves. Finally, ( discuss
interrelationship between these two cultural components giving special attention to the
Peircean lheory of signs (semiotics). An attempt will be made to outline its symbolism
and development in time, for this could playa very important role in distinguishing the
degree of the mutual interconnection between material culture and religion: in this case
the set of beliefs about the afterlife.
During the Old Kingdom !WO main pottery types were used for baking of bread in
Egypt. The most common fonn, especially during !.be first half of the period. was the
b{lJ (Figure la and 3) which is archaeologically traceable at least back to the beginning
of the first dynasty (ca 3100 Be). The oldest exemples are very wide and rough, with
a width related 10 their height approximately in the ratio of about 5:2 and with almost

For important comments and discussion on prdimiDaIy drafts of this article 11m indebted to Prof.
H. Altenm01Jer. Hamburg: Prof. J. Blines. Oxford: Dr. L Blret Prague; Dr. V.G. C a l l e ~ .
Sydney; Prof. H. Baltimore:: Dr. E. Nc:ustupnj. Prague and Prof. M_ Verner. Prague.
E. Hornung, Geist der Pharaonc:nzeit, 1993.
-: Do. Arnold. J. Bourriau, eds. An Introduction to Ancient Egypuin Pottery. SDAIK 11. 1993.
22 M. Barta AK22
vertical sides]. The typical, Old Kingdom shape emerges and gradually comes to pre-
dominate from the beginning of the 3
dynas'ty. This stage is well-documented by
' ; - - ~ - - - J (
Figure 1: Example of a bread mould bd3 (a) and aD rprt form (b). SIb Dynasty (1 :5).
finds from Bet Khallif", Naga ed-Der, Meidum
and el-Kab
During the 4
and 5""
Dynasty it is possible to trace the subsequent, relatively subtle changes in their shape
which, however, had no influence on their basic fonn. For instance, we may note the use
of wide open rims in the second half of the 4t)1 dynasty, and the increase height toward
the end of the 5
dynasty8'. The development of these bread fonns bas principally been
dealt with by H. Jacquet-Gordon

The second type of vessel used for baking of bread was represented by the Cprt forms
(Figure Ib and 2). These can be described as shallow plates with low (in most cases
vertical) walls and rounded bases. Sporadic finds can be dated as early as the 2
_ 4
dynasties - Saqqara
, el-I\ab
, Qau and Badari
, MaMsna and Bet KhallM
and Giza

G.A. Reisner, A Provincial Cemetery of the Pyramid Age. Naga ed-DfT. Part ill.. 1932, 220. H.
Jacquet-Gordon, A Tentative Typology of Egyptian "Bread Moulds, in Do. Arnold, ed. Studien zur
a!tagy[ltischen Keramik, 1981,11-12.
4 Oarstang, Mah1sna and Bet KhalHif, 1902, PI. XXX,I?' idem, The 'Third Egyptian Dynasty at
Reqaqnah and Bet KhaJJat', 1904, PI. XIII, 2-4.
S Reisner, Naga ed-Der, 1932.84, Fig. 36,2-3.
, A. el-Khouli, Meidum. A.C.E. Reports 3, 1991, PI. 49 13.
1 Quibell, EI-J(ab, 1898. Pl. XII, 35.
6 Reisner op.cit., 85, Fig. 36, 6-7.
9 Jacquet-Gordon, op.cit., 11-24.
10 QuibeU, Archaic Mastabas. PI. XXXIX.
II QuibeU, o[l.cit., ,PL. XII. 39. [pn. 12-14 5. S. 23J
Arcbaeology and Jconography
Their dominance is to be placed as far as
to !he Sib and 6
dynasties when in some
cases they even pTe ail 0 er the b(JI
The pivotal fact of their massive
production just in the SU, and 6
(next to bg3 foons) is one which will be
commented upon in the ensuing discussion.
Figwe 2: Scene of bread baking ill "pre moulds
. tb I b f V1. ":ka I S The next step in the argument is to e -
10 e om 0 ALIen.. a aqqara.
Early 6" dynasty amine whether or not there is a possibility
of cenain link be een the pottery in wbich bread as baked during the Old Kingdom,
and scenes sho ing the offering of bread loa es. Bread, together ith beer as from
I.he beginning of Egyptian history. an internal part of tomb scenes portraying the fune.raJ
repast of the deceased. The tomb owner is usually depicted sitting on a with
animal legs in front of which is a table on which the loaves of bread are placed
left ann is t.ouching the loaves on tho table. Offering bearers present many provisions
consisting of food and drink, together with various tools and other more valuable items
are presented to the tomb owner who is shown surrounded by his wife and other family
members OD mODwnents of the Later Old Kingdom. The emphasis laid upon the pro-
visions of food and drinks was to ensure sufficieol equipment for the deceased during
the afterlife17. Their role was considered so important that hieroglyphs of mammals
occurring in the texts of the Old 'ngdom the Pyramid Texts and inscriptions in the
underground chambers from the Sill and 6 dynasty tombs) who might (on a purely
ymbolic level eat depicted food pro isions, were either left ou or ttuncated
During the Old Kingdom the intemal composition of the scene of the funerary repast
became increasingly complex and tram the 3
dynasty onward was supplemented by a
list of the offerings presented to the deceased person.
From the 3
dynasty this scene
U Brunlon, Qau and Harlari rr. PL Vl, I and I
I Garstang, Mahisna and Bet KhaUif, PI. xxx.
14 Reisner, cerinus, 223. Reisner, Giza II, 88.
I M. Barta. ymam na1e-za z pyramidoveho komplexu panovnika Raneferefa (pottery from the
Pyramid Temple of Raneferef ~ d its 101erpretation).I. Text. ADissertation, Praha 1994,17. Fig. 5th Dynasty pyramid temple of Raneferef at Abusir.
16 C. Aldred, i n ~ D, 853-857. 866870; P. Kaplony, in: L VI, 711-7L2; Martin, in: L V.
1128-1133; Smith, HESPOK; Vandier, Manuel, 81-106.
)l Heick, Wirtscbaftsgeschichte, 57-94.
II Edel, Altiig. Gramm. 31-36.
Ie C. Aldred, in: LA, 856, 866-877.
~ ~ VJ] ~
nl L ~ \l
Figure 3' Balcing of bread in pre-heated b(il moulds (on the left and right side. of the figure).
omb of Ti. Saqqara, mid-SIll dynasty
Archaeology and Jconography
The form and height of the bread loaves changed continuously. Their multiformity
became also an internal part of the faJsedoor. which was set up in the west waU of the
tomb's offering chapel
based on the material from Louvre has been summarised by
Chr. Ziegler
, Their tentative deveJopment in time was worked out by N.Cberpion
is, for the sake of intended analysis, briefly summarised here:
Stage I
The loaves have the typical bdJ shape. This phase is to be dated to the 4" dynasty,
exceptionally to the beginning of the 5" dynasty.
Stage if
Transitional stage between stage i and iii. 4'" and 5
dynasty down to and including lIle
reign of the king Newoscrrc.
Stage iii
In height the bread loaves reach from the knees to the shouJders of the seated recipient
of offerings. The loaves are plain on both sides, wilh slightly tapering upper ends.
Exceptionally, some examples of this form appear in the 4" dynasty, but their majority
dale to the beginning of the 6 dynasty - reigns of Teli and Pepi l
Stage ;v
Transition from Slages I-iv to the shape of the reed leaves. Reigns ofNewosc:m:, 'scsi,
Unas and Teti.
Stage v
Reed leaves. These representations occur during the reigns of Newoserre and Jsesi, and
dominate in the 6
Stage vi
Probably due to stylistic simplification, only the outside contours of reed leaves appear.
Reigns of Pepi I., Mercnre and Pepi n.
The weak point in this more or less diachronic division of the iconography of bread
loaves are two omissions: it does not include the earliest scenes of the funerary repast,.
and the author docs not try to explain wby these changes took place. The reason for
:0 S. Die tgyprlsche SCheintiir. Morpbologisdte Stlldien zut EntwickhDtg und Bedeucmg der
Hauplkuhstelle in den Privatgrlbem des Ahen Reiches., 1981; W Gundlach, iD: LA V. Oi.
Arnold. Lexikon dec i,gypbschen Baukunst, 1994, 226.
11 Ch. Ziegju, Catalogue de sttles et reliefs egypuens de rAncieD Empire et de la Premiere Pmode.
Intermedaire., 1990,
n N. Cherpion. Mambas et Hypogees d'Ancien Empire. Le Probleme de la Oalluon, 1989,42-49.
M. B6rta
SAK 22
these omissions is probably to be found in the nlithcr formal division of the individual
scenes, an approach which precludes any fuMer searching for the ideas underlying the
development and the relation of these scenes to the material culture of the period - in
this particular case, to the pottery inventory (bread moulds). It is also necessary to
enquire about the relationship between ideas, which could remain virtually unchanged,
concerning life in the afterworld, and the varying forms in which they might be
represented in tomb reliefs.
One of my aims in this article is to offer an alternative to Cberpion's classification,.
suggesting a new tentative chronology of the development of the scene of !.he funerary
repast, attempting to pinpoint the dynamics of the formal development of the bread
loaves, and concentrating on the main stages in their development. I use both
arc:.bcological evidence, and ideas of the afterlife attested in the written records of the
I propose to divide the Old Kingdom development into four principal stages (I-TV)
and a fifth (V) that was conlCmporary with stage IV.
Stage I (Cherpion's stage i) can be divided. into three successive phases. These phases
are outlined in the following paragraphs.
The first phase iJ; represented on cylinder seals, where rudiments of the funenuy
repast scene appear for the first time. These show the tomb owner sitting behind a plate
covered with bread loaves as offerings. This iconography is attested from the I- - 3
The second phase is found on stone slab stelae mostly dating to the 2"" dynasty
(Figure 4: 1). This set of finds consists of ca. twenty five slab stelae (later enlarged by
Kaplony up to thirty-three pieces) from the early dynastic cemelery at Helwan dis-
covered by Saad
, three being from the archaic cemetery at Saqqara
, one in the Berlin
, one in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptolek in Copenhagen
and possibly also the
Bankfield stela in Halifax
. Most of these stelae have bread loaves baked in bdl forms
that are sliced into halves oriented from left to right and placed in a shallow bowl that
U F.W. von Bissins, Der Tote vaT dem Opfettisch. SoAW 2, 19S2.
:w Z. Y. Sud. Ceiling Sielae in Second Dynasty Tombs from the Excavations al Helwan. SASAE 21.
19H; Kaplony. lnsehrif\en. 230-234.
iI) Archaic MISlabas. Pis. XXVI. XXVD, XXVOl, 1-2.
A. Scharff, ine Archaische Grabplatte des Berliner Museums und we Entwickhmg der Gnbplatten
ii'll. (rUben Allen R2:ich. in: Studies preseoted to F.lJ. Grifilhs, 1932.
l1 O. KoeCoedPetersen, La Stiles PublIcations de la Glyptotheque Ny Carlsber&. No.1.
1941, I, PI. 1.
11 A. Gardiner, in' lEA 4, 1917,256-260.
Archaeology and Iconography 27
is placed on a higher stand. Alexander Scharff supposed lbese slab-stelae to be lite
earliest precursors of later false doors
Detailed discussion of their find circumstances
is to be found with Haeny30
The third phase still wilhin Cberpion's Slage I is represented by the frequent depiction
of slightly taller bread loaves placed on flat plates on the stands. the loaves being
oriented symmetrically around a central vertical axis (Fig.4:2). The increase in the height
of the bread loaves is in accordance with the archaeological evidence pointing towards
the same tcndency in the inventory of the b{/J Conns (see supra). Offering tables of this
type were called blwr
This stage is to be dated to the 3
and 4 dynasties. From that
period onwards this scene was also an integraJ pan of the decoration of the west wall of
offering chapeJs in tombs. Part of this scene also became the list of offerings which have
been now for the first time clearly separated from the rest of the scene'2. Among scenes
of the 3
dynasty are those from tombs of Hesire
, KhabausokaJ"'. and Metjen
Saqqara and Djefa-nysur'. From the beginning of the 4* dynasty there are scenes from
the tombs of Nefennaat
, RahotepJl, Heknen:l9, and N o f r e t ~ . all from Meidum, and lunu
from Giu
I propose lbat stage II (Figure 4:3, Cberpioo's ii il.Od iii) is quite homogenous and
dates to the second half of the 4" and the early 5" dynasl)'. up and including the reign
of Neferirkare. In this stage the bread loaves become considerably taller and expand to
the distance between the knees and the chest of the seated tomb--owner. These loaves
have Oat sides and pointed tOps. They were probably baked in rprt foans. Examples are
in the Giza tombs of SeshathotepJ, Khufukhaf (I.)"l, Kanufer". Nefero and Kamen"'. 5"
1'9 A. Scharff. op.cit., 356.351.
;lCl G. Haeny, Fs Ricke. 148153.
Jl Wb Ul, 224; Gardiner, EG. SOl, sign R2.
Jl Junker. Giza XU. 69.
3) J.E. Quibell. Excavations at Saqqara (1911-1912). The lomb of Hesy. 1913. Pis. XXXI-XXXII.
,)I Murray. Saqqan. Mambas I, PI. I.
n H. Goedicke. MDAIK 21. 1966. Taf. 1 and 6. For dating of Metjen 10 the early 4th Dynasly see for
inslance N. Strudwick, The Administration of EgYPI in lhe Old Kingdom. Studies in Egyptology.
36 R. Drenkhahn. Die Igyplischen Reliefs im KeslnerMuseum Hannover. 1989.22, Fig. 3.
11 W.M.F. Petrie. Mcdum. 1892. Pis. XX and XXVI.
:It Pelrie. op.(:iL, PI. XD.
Petrie. op.ciL. PI. XVI.
CI Petrie. op.cit. PI. XV
41 Junker, Giza t. T.r. XXVU.
C Junker. Giu m. 74. Abb. 9a.
4J W.K. Simpson, The Mastabas of Ka.....ab. Khafkhufu 1 and lL G 1111).20. 1130-40, 1150 and sub-
sidiary nwtabas of Srreet G 1100. Giza Mastabas 3. 1978, Pl XIX. Fig. 31. [Fn. 44-46 s. S. 28)
M. Bart. SAK 22
dynasty depictions of the bread loaves both in non-royal tombs and in the pyramid
temple of Ncferirkare at Abusir
shows that the bread was already baked in (prt forms.
This tendency in iconography is again paralleled by the development in the ponery
inventory of the t"prt forms. What remains a bit striking evidence is this more or less
parallel introduction of reed leaves in both private: and kiIigs'monuments.
Stage III (Cberpion's ili-iv) is found from the second half of the S" dynasty (reign of
Ncwoscrrc) to the beginning of the 6
dynasty. Typical for this stage is the contemp-
amy occurrence of depictions of both bread loaves baked in rprt forms and of first reed
leaves. To the reign of Newoserre dates the lomb of KhufuJchaf(U) at Giza which shows
hom bread loaves of (prt forms and loaves with slightly beveUed bases side by side.
This is the first indication we have that the earlier style gradually gave way to the latter
depiction.... The same variation continues till the beginning of the 6 dynasty. in the
tomb of Kaiemankh at Giza"'. From the S dynasty onwards thcre arc tombs where the
bread loaves reach as higb as to the shoulders of the seated tomHwner - as in the Giza
tombs ofKaninisul (Il)so, Kai
Sesbemnefer (II1.)Sl. Kaisedju
and thc Saqqara tombs
of Nefer and Kabais- and Niankbnum and KhnumholCpSl. The Saqqara tomb of Ti.
which dates to the beginning of the reign of Ncwoserre. shows only reed leaves
Giza lombs of Sehetepu
, Mersuankb"', Nimaatre
and Sekbcmankhptah
are all dated
to the end of the S and the beginning of the 6" dynasty. have similar taU bread loaves.
This tcndency also survives at the beginning of the 6- dynasty, in the tombs of Hetep-
<4 RciStlcr, Diu I. 440, Fig. 261.
4j Rcisner, Giu I, PI. 31, Fig. 241.
" Hassan, Giza m, 103. Fig. 9J.
n Borchardt. Nefcrirk81e, 30, Abb. 32.
<. Simpson, op.cit., Figs. 49-50.
., Junker, Diu U1, Abb. 6-7.
JO Junkcr, Giza 1lJ, Abb. 22.
'I Junker, Giza m. 135, Abb. 22.
J) Junker, Giza Ill, Taf. I.
U Junker, Diu VI. Abb. 38L
... H. AltenmUllcr. M. Moussa, The Tomb of Nefer and K.hay. AV S, 1971. Pis. )839
J) H. AhcnmuUer, M. Moussa, Oas Grab des Nianchnum und Chnumhottp. AV 21,1917. Tat. 3.
M M. Verner. in: BlFAO 87, 1987,297.
n G. Steindorff. Das Grab des n. 1913, Taf. 127
Junker, Gu Xl. 59, Abb. 3S.
" Hassan. Giza I. 113. Fig. 185
Hassan. Gza D. FiB. 239_
61 Hassan. Qu.. U. 38. FiB- 35
I99S Archaeology and Iconography 29
and Ankhkbaf'l at Giza. However, to the !ame period i.t is possible to attribute
the tombs of and Sedug" at Giza with early depictions of reed leaves.
Stage IV (Figure 4:4) (Cherpion's Stage v) is to be dated to the 6" dynasty and is
characterised by the exclusive depictions of reed leaves. Good examples are in the
tombs of Qar and Jdu at Giza of the reign of Pcpi J". the Saqqara tombs of Khcntika
called Tkhckhi. reign of Teti''', MehilMchnes, reign of Teti-Pcpi I", Scmdcnt
and lril
Tctiscneb"'. reign of Pcpi 1; Hesi. reign of Pcpi J"71.lrjoakht
and trics
, mid 6 dynasty.
This tendency which is observable in the iconograpby of the the 6 dynasty funerary re-
past scenes 15 so strong that by the end of this dynasty there is a token that the word
gsw "loaves of bread" is detcrmioed in hieroglyphic script by three leaycs of reeds in-
stead of usual bread loaves'. However, for instance D. Dunham understood reed leaves
depictions of this final stage and of the First lntennediate Period from Naga ed-Del'" as
bread loaf forms with lost meaning fol'" the provincial anists
Stage V (Cherpion's stage vi) is parallel 10 stage IV in the 6th dynasty. It seems to have
been an off-shoot of the tendency towards a simplification of the scene in the sense that
only the contours of the reed loaves were executed. Examples are the Giza tombs of
Imhotep, lri, Ptahhotep, Rahorka, Sem and Hebsed"',
11 Junker, Giza XI, 259, Abb. 104.
U Hassan. Giza m, 133, Fig. 114.
.. Junker, Giza Xl, 215. Abb. 83
$J Junker, Giza LX, J II, Abb. 46,
" W..K. Simpson
The Mastabas of Qar and Jdu, G 7101 and 7102, Giza Maslabas 2, 1976, Pigs. 23
and 25. Pis. vru. ac - Qu, Fig. 39. PI. XXVU, b - Jdu.
" T.G.H. James, The Mastaba of Khentib called Ikhekhi. 1953, PI. XXi
U N. Kanawati, A. el-Khouli, Excavations at Saqqara. North-West of Teti's Pyranlld. Vol. D. 1988,
12, PI. 8.
.. N. Kanawati. A. e1-Khouli, A McFarlane, N.V. Maboud, Excavations at Saqqara. North-West of
Teti's Pyrvnid. Vol. t 1984: 16, Pis. 5-6.
,. Kanawati, el-Khouli, op.cit. 7, PI. 4.
11 Kanawan, e1-Khouli,;19, PIs. 11-12-
12 Kanawatl, d-Khouli, Mcfarlane. Maksoud, op.cI1., 43, Pl 21.
n Kanawati. el-Khouli, McFarlane, Maksoud, op.cil., 48, PI 29.
Finh-Gunn. Teti Pyramid Cemeleries I. 207.
n D. Dunham, Naga-ed-Der Slelae of !he First Inlennedi.te Period, 1937,
It Hassan. Giza V, Fig. 25, 20-25.
M. BArta
SAK 22
It was F.L. Griffith who first noticed that there were bread loaves placed on the table
before the deceased on the scenes of the funerary repast". L. Borchardt was the first to
observe that in later representations reed leaves replace the original bread loaves", S.
Hassan supposed that they had developed from bread loaves through the frequent and
mecbanical copying of older models. the meaning of which was either forgotten or
From the 11* dynasty we possess proof that the original bread loaves
were taken to be leaf blades, for these are painted green in the tomb of Khcti at Seni
r The fact that as early as in the S* dynasty Egyptians were conscious of
different meaning between loaves of bread and reed leaves in this context is well proved
by the false door of lnti" which shows both bread loaves bordered on eacb side by a
simple reed leaf. Both N. Cberpion and Ch. Worsham propose that reed leaves depict
the "Field of Reeds" s!;l ylrw (Wb.r. 32,8; IV, 230,18) and symbolize life after death in
the afterworld
. Next to the sbt ylrw there is also term s ~ btpw ~ "Field of Offerings"
(Wb Ul, 184,16 "OrtJichkeit im Jenseits al.s Aufenthaltsort der Gotter und der seligen
Toten"). Both localities arc characterised as watery fields of reeds. The deceased king
passed through the fields of laru to become riwally purified before his ascent to the
eastern horizon, where be would join the sun god Re. The field is thought as a symbolic
gateway to life after death. The Field of offerings was destined for the stay of deceased
in the afterlife". According to S.B. Mercer, who based his argument on the Pyramid
Texts, he considered both the fields to be places where daily life continued after death.
i.e. field activities, hunting. travelling by boat.. offering to the gods, and so forth.... Later
on, in the Book of tbe Dead, the dead penon was thought go out into the fields of
offerings to get food and drink
H. Kees, H. Bonnet, H. Frankfort and AJ. Spencer
considered both tenns to be de facto fully complementary". R. Weill, however, saw
some difference between the two terms, in that be placed the Field of laru to the east.
and the Field of Offerings to the west, and envisaged bot as being connected with the
n F.L, Griffith, A Collection of Hieroglyphs. A Contribution 10 Ihe History of Egyptian Writing.
" L. Borchllldt, in: zAs 31,1893,1-9.
11 Hassan, Giza V, 170172.
to Berti Hasan 1, PI. XVIL
" 01. Worsham. in: JARCE 16. 1979.9. PI. n..
n Cberplon., op.cit. 43; Worsham. op.cit, 10
n J. Leclant, in: LA 1. 1156-1160.
.. Mercer, Pyr. TV, 65-61.
n T.G. Allen, The Book or the Dead or GoiDg Forth by Day, 197.4.90. Spell 110.
.. Kees, TOlengJaubm, 110, 136; RARG, 161; H. Franlcfort, Ancient Egyptim R.eltgioo, 1961, 110;
AJ. Spencer. Oealh La Ancient Egypt.. 1982. 148-9.
Archaeology and Iconography
solar cult". Also A. Bayoumi made difference between these two terms in that Field of
laro was thoughllo be a place of ritual purification. whereas Field of Offerings place of
scjour after death".
The evidence from the Pyramid Texts seems to be quite a bit confusing in this
r e s p c c ~ for instance 1205c"'<l indicate no substantial difference between these two
terms. On the other side, 749d and 1165 define Field of Offerings as a place of'
sejour, unlike U 1086c and 1164b which describe Field of taro as a place of passing
through and purification respectively. The tendeocy to integration of both tenns is
further supported by the later evidence from the Coffin Texts (CT IV, 26dg; V. ISle;
VU, 192). For the purpose of the following interpretation it is oot necessary to malee a
shasp difference between Field of Reeds aDd Field of OfIc:rings for they wtte to a
certain degree complementary templates of the Ancient Egyptians which had to evoke
the idea of life after death.
In,erprrlotion (Figure 4)
My aim in thi5 article is to outUne a method capable to follow individual stages in the
development of the bread loaves depictions and their laler transfiguration in the Old
Kingdom funeral repast scenes. I have attempted to demonstrate that representations of
stage I and nshow bread baked io the bell forms and sliced in half (Figure 4:1. and 2.).
These forms are attested from the beginning of the lit dynasty, both in iconographic and
in archaeological evidence (see supra), and continued in existence until the 4* dynasty.
Stage Ill, in which elongated bread loaves baked in the C'prt forms were shown dates
from the end of the 4
to the middle of the S dynasty. Up till this point conventions for
representing bread relate directly to development in material culture: at the end of the
4" and at the beginning of the Sill dynasty massive production of 8 new pottery type,
namely the C'p" forms started (next to bg.fJ, producing a new fonn of baked bread that
was than depicted in tomb relief
Stage IV, from the second half of the Sdl dynasty to the early 6
is a period of
transition phase, when bread loaves began to appear beside reed leaves, occuring
together even in lite same scene. This is point when the original connection between
material and mental aspects of the culture begins to disappear. The change to the reed
leaves might have been based ani6cially on the similarity of form between bread loaves
baked in tprt forms and reed leaves. I should like to propose a hypothetical explanation
for this developmenL Throughout the Old Kingdom there could have been a single set
" R. Weill, Le Champ des Roseaux et Le Champ des Offrandes dans la Religion Funecaire ella
Religion Generale, 1936,94.
tI A. Bayoumi, Autour du Champ des Souchets eI du Champ des Offrandes, 1940, 65.
32 M. Barta SAK 22
Figure 4: Scheme of the development of scenes with offerings of bread loaves in the Old Kingdom.
1995 Archaeology and Iconography 33
of beliefs relating to life after death. One of the most imponant elements of this
construct would be the nceessiey of ensuring the provisions of food and drink which
were indispensable for the continued existence of the deceased after death. especially
bread. At the same lime the reed leaves were believed to symbolize pouibly both a
symbolic entnlnce to the Afterworld and subsequently a place where life continued after
death (Fields of loru and Offerings). This belief migbt be decisive for the development
and different diachronic interpretation of the scene of the funerary repast Ideas of the
life after death may have remained virtuaUy unchanged while the symbols bread, reed
leaves, which had to evoke this conception of the Afterlife, developed. It indicates that
just different aspects oflhe very same concept were emphasized during different times.
In respect to reed leaves meaning it was H. Altenmil11er who has proposed a
comparable inlerpretation of scenes of the hippopotamus hunt in the papyrus thickeL
This motif appears first in the mid S dynasty (reign of Neferirkare-Newoserre)". Thus
there we have a transparent tendency at the same time towards the usc of papyrus
thickets to evoke life after death. Since that time reeds seem to prevail (at least III
Saqqara) both in the decorative programme of tombs
, and in the scene of the funCT'al)'
repasL Foood offerings an: no more emphasized. but entrance to the Afterworld
symbolised by a papyrus thicket'l.
The r'Caden themselves may recall the fact thal, together with the appearance of reed
leaves in the scenes from Egyptian tombs, there is slightly later evidence (reign of
Djedkare Isesi and Unas, end of the S dynasty) for the introduction of Osiris name in
offering fonnula
Moreover, exactly in this period we can witness a "democratisation"
in the material culture reflected for instance by the production of cult statues which
became accessible (0 a wider circle of officials'n. II is from this time also that the names
of private persons (possessors of tombs) stan to occur in the offerring fonnulae on the
false-doors'", All this points to the conclusion that at the end of the Sill dynasly there
was a considerable democratisation of the mortuary cult which is paralellcd by a demo-
n H. Altcnmilller, in: BSeG 13, 1989, 10-12.
" y, Harpur, Decorarion in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom. StudIes in Orientation and Scene
Context Studies in Egyptology. 1987, 19L
II H. AlttnmUller, op.cil., 1921, M. Eliade, Die RehgJollen und das Heillge. E1emente der Religions-
geschichte. 1954,374-376.
ft Gnffilbs, Origins of Osiris. 21, 67-68; Bana., Opferformel, IS. 217; 1.G_ Griffiths.. in. LA V. 625.
" 1 Assmann, Stein und Zeit'Mensch Wid GeseUscbaft 1m allen Agyplen. 1991. 147. J Assmanft
(GroBe Texte ohne elne groBc Tradition: Agypten. als tine vorac.b.sctzeitiithe Kultur. in: S.N.
Eisenstadt, eel, Kulturen der Achsenzeit II. Ihre lnstitutioadle Entwickhmg.. Ted 3. Buddhismus..
Islam. Altlgyplen, we:stliche Kultur, 1992. 259 and endnote 56) Introduces instead of the
*democratisation the Dew lerm Oemotisierung"
tot Bana. Op.ciL. 19
34 M. BAna SAK 22
cratisation of religious beliefs. And the inauguration of the Osiris cult", is a tangible
manifestatioD of this development. accompanied by other phenomena, sucb as new
motifs in tomb decoration and changes in the iconography of the funeral repast By
democratisation is here meant that certain motifs and elements (in this case reed leaves)
occuring in tomb decoration and equipment pertaining the thoughts about the etcmaJ life
became accessible to and used by the nobles and later on also by lhe people who were
appa:rently Dot of the highest social rank". Thus the meaning of reed leaves (and/or
papyIUS thicket) seems not to be exclusive domain of the elite ideology. Similarly, a
liberal approach to the interpretation of the bread/reed leaves depictions may thus be far
more complex than originally supposed for in order to attain a balanced interpretation
it was necessary to incorporate the copious archaeological evidence with artistic con-
ventions and textual materials. J suggest that this interpretation of the changing form of
depictions of offering loaves illustrates the nature of such holistic approaches.
It was possible to substitute the symbols of the bread loaf with that of the reed leaf
precisely because they were symbols, that is signs which refer to the set of ideas (=
topic of the sign) by virtue "... of the idea of the symbol-using mind, without which no
such connection would exist

"A Symbol is a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes by virtue of law,
usually in association of general ideas, which operates to cause the Symbol to be
interpreted as referring to that Object...
Let us mention once again that the topic of
these signs remained unchanged throughout the Old Kingdom, it was the arbitrary signs
which underwent considel1lble and irreversible transfonnation from the level of the real
material culture towards the purely symbolic level of mental concepts. The sign
represented by a loaf which may at the beginning (during the initial phase of Stage I)
have been interpreted as icon or image of its object =provisions consisting of meal
which had to ensure life after death, which later on. hovewer, became sign with
symbolic meaning. GradualJy, perhaps because of a similarity in shape between bread
loaves baked in I"prr moulds and reed leaves, a purely symbolic representation was
reached with emphasis laid on another aspect of the afterlife conception (symbolic
entrance to the life after death and a place of etemal sejour of the deceased instead of
food provisions).
" U. BegelsbadlerFiscber, Untersuchungen zur G6nerwelt des Alleo Reiches im Spiegel del
Privatgrlbe:r de:r IV. und V. Dynastic. 1981, 124; M. Ealon.K.raus, an' VA lll. 233236.
,. I.A. Wilson (The Burdeo of Egypl An Interpretation of Ancient Egyptian Culture. 1951, 116) calls
it -the democratization of the huufter".
., Buchler, ed., The Philosophy or Peirce. Selected Writinp. 1940. 114.
" Buchler,op.cil. 102.
1995 Archaeology and Iconography 35
It was the pottery together with a strongly anticipated functional pan (defined in
time) of the pottery inventory development which enabled to follow and explicate these
diachronic changes. In other words: the system of religious believes pertainiog, to life
after death remained unchanged. What has changed were signs referriog to this set of
ideas. This process M. Shapiro calls "diachronic synchrony"". Diachr-onic and syn-
chronic aspeClS of reality are in lhis case not necessarily opposed. It is also interesting
to note thai during the second half of dynasty 5 an older rudiment could beside
a newer form of depiction of bread loaves and leafs of reeds respectively at least for a
brief period, the fonner just occasionally complementing the meaning of the latter one
(the lomb of Khufukhaf at Giza, see supra). This was also possible only because of the
fact that both meanings of depictions referred to the very same concept within the
afterlife. At least until to the mid 5 dynasty the iconography of the scenes of the
timerary repast seems to have reflected directly the contemporary pottery inventory and
the fonns of bread loaves baked in the vessels. Thus, it was the aim of this discussion
to elucidate that, at least in this concrete example. individual cultural components of a
society are inseparable from one another when a detailed explication of a phenomena is
tackled. This "cognitive approacb"'oo reveals that sue1J analysis might be one way to
discover answeres to some of those questions raised recently by J. Baines: such notions
as the investigation of the extent to which the elite and nonelite members shared the
same ideologylOl. In the funerary repast scene and tis fonnal development it is the
second half of the 5
dynasty which marks a certain modifications ofrepresentations of
religious thoughts about the afterlife resulting in a more symbolic and less materially
based menIal templates which as such perhaps became gradually more easily accessible
to people who were not of the lUghest social rank (that is the reason for using the term
"democratisation"). Thus the whole set of thought and beliefs connected with the
"Speisctischszcnc" falls possibly among the precursors of the "great texts" as defined by
J. Assmann

" M. Stapiro, The Sense or Change. Language as Histot)', J991, 8

lOf G L.akofT. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. What Reveal about Mind, 1987.
,., J. BJJI'Je5, 1II: IARCE 27, 1990. L
101 J AssmlM, op.cit.. 260.