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Old age in Ancient Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian formal art aims at capturing perfection for eternity. Therefore nearly all persons are depicted as young adults, at the height of their powers.

There are examples of differences from this idealised youthful norm.

Very rarely the different form is an unambiguous reference to old age: an example would be the white hair of a person identifiable by kinship term as older within a family (Deir el-Medina tomb of Pashedu, depiction of father and mother of the tomb-owner).
More common features of difference within idealising formal art are open to different interpretations.

UC 16451, head, Late Period

Consider the following two examples of problems with interpreting depictions of difference in ancient Egyptian formal art:

1. What do rolls of fat on a man denote?

2. What does the depiction of an emaciated shepherd imply?


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