The current issue of Nile Magazine features a terrific article by Dr. Reg Clark, exploring why it was so important to beat the tomb robbers—and how they tried to do it.
The tomb wasn't just about housing and protecting the deceased's body, but also two of the person's spiritual elements: the ka and the ba. These, as Reg explains, "were integral to a human in life, but separated from it at death.
"The ka remained in the tomb, whereas the ba could leave during the day to join the world of the living, but had to return at night. Both, however, had to reunite daily with the body in the tomb to attain the highest spiritual state, which was an akh or “effective” being, able to enjoy eternity on earth and amongst the gods. To ensure an everlasting afterlife, therefore, it was essential that both the structure and contents of the tomb remained intact."
The ka was expressed by a hieroglyph depicting two upraised arms stretched out in adoration.
This famous wooden ka statue was found in the humble tomb of 13th Dynasty ruler, Hor Awibre. The tomb, originally built for a member of the court of 12th Dynasty king Amenemhat III, was discovered in 1895 by French archaeologist, Jacques de Morgan at Dahshur. It was carved within the sacred precinct on the northeast corner of Amenemhat’s giant mud-brick pyramid. This statue was all about insurance—it provided a surrogate body for the king’s ka in case the royal mummy was destroyed.
Hor likely reigned briefly during the 13th Dynasty, a hazy time in Egypt’s history, with a great turnover of pharaohs: around 70 rulers in 150 years.
When the statue was found it was covered in a fine layer of painted stucco, but this crumbled away upon touch. What captivates most people today are those stunning eyes, made of rock crystal and quartz.
Hor's statue is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (JE 30948). Photo courtesy of Andrew M. Smith.
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