Ancient Egypt wooden models were frequent during the Middle Kingdom and thanks to them we know much today about everyday life of ancient Egyptians: butchery, bread production, granaries… Among them there were also many dedicated to the funerary boats which Egyptians utilized for transporting the mummy on the Nile to the necropolis.
These funeral barges show the body lying on the bier and being flanked at both ends by the two professional Egyptian mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys and sometimes accompanied by one priest. The attitude of that two women depicted by the artist is quite static and not too much can be deduced from it, except that they accompany the deceased.
However, piece EA9524 in the British Museum, dating from the XII Dynasty, represents the funerary boat with the corpse and the two mourning women and both extremes; in this case there is no priest, but a helmsman. And the image of both women gives some interesting information about them.
The two professional Egyptian mourners are not in such a static posture as usual. They appear with their left arms raised and the hand on the head, while the right arms are extended towards the mummy. So, they are not just standing, but making the typical gesture of mourning in Ancient Egypt.
But the most important point in this piece is in the head of those two professional Egyptian mourners. They are not with long hair, and their hair is not covered by a scarf. In both women (and also in the helmsman) the scalp can be seen. Their heads were painted in pink color with small black spots. So, the Egyptian artist indicated that their hair was very short or that their head had just been shaved.
That links perfectly with one of our affirmations: the hair of two professional Egyptian mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys was cut and that short hair was a distinctive of the professional mourner in Ancient Egypt. The short hair became a resource for the artists of Ancient Egypt for depicting these two professional mourners and differentiate them from the common mourners.
Fascinating post! Thank you!
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