She was the first of her kind; the earliest datable wooden servant girl, ca. 2150 B.C.
In the last post we showed you one of the ancient Egypt's most delightful wooden statues: an Estate Figure from the Theban tomb of the royal Chief Stewart Meketre, ca. 1985 B.C. The figure ensured that he had a continued supply of provisions in the afterlife.
Now let's go back another 165 years to that statue's earliest datable ancestor, from the tomb of Hapikem, ca. 2150 B.C.
For those who aspired to a comfortable afterlife, it was crucial to ensure they would arrive there with willing servants and an everlasting supply of the finest food and wine. However, the cost of elaborate tomb wall carvings of servants and offerings was often too great for even wealthy and well-connected individuals, so wooden models were created instead to do the same job.
Hapikem was one of those who needed to cut a few corners in provisioning his tomb. He was a powerful local prince who lived at the end of the Old Kingdom, and had been buried at Meir in Middle Egypt. Into his tomb went a number of wooden statues of servant girls bearing offerings, including this one.
This exceptional statue is now in the Eton College Myers Collection in the U.K. (ECM 1591). Around 44cm tall, she carries a covered chest on top of her head, which we presume was full of edible treats.
The figure wears a close-fitting sheath dress and her hair peeks out from beneath a head cloth, which is tied with a band that ends in a knot at the back.
This charming, wide-eyed servant girl is beautifully preserved, with much of the original colour. It is perhaps this quality that attracted the eye of Major William Myers.
Until the mid 20th century, Egyptian law allowed the Egyptian Museum to sell objects of types that were already well represented in its collections—even if that meant splitting up burial assemblages. Collectors would eagerly snap up fine pieces, such as our offering bearer, and take them back home.
The Major was friends with Emile Brugsch, one of the curators of the National Museum, housed at that time at Khedive Ishmael's palace on the current site of the Giza Zoo. In his diary Major Myers wrote, ".... Back to hotel where Brugsch came bringing me the little wooden figure I have bought. It is a very fine piece ... and nothing so good exists in any museum he thinks."
What is interesting is that in that very same year, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copehagen acquired a wooden figure (AEIN 670) that is very similar to this one, in all likelihood a companion from the same tomb.
Although many such wooden servant figures have been unearthed over the years, "Eve" is the earliest example we can date with certainty. Very few servant statuettes were seen after the Middle Kingdom's 12th Dynasty. At this time, the first shabtis started to appear in tombs instead.