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Burial customs of the Old Kingdom: Third to Sixth Dynasty
(about 2686-2181 BC)

In the Old Kingdom the number and range of burial goods was significantly reduced; most of the effort was put into the overground structures (mastaba or rock cut tomb).

The Old Kingdom saw increasing use of wall-relief within the offering-chapels and corridors of the elite mastaba. These scenes show the provisioning of the dead with food and other essential things; as a result the objects themselves no longer needed to be placed in the tomb.

Only a few goods were placed in the underground burial chamber. The high quality of some objects indicates that even people of higher status were buried without many objects. There is a clear difference between burials of high officials in the cemeteries of the capital and those of people buried in the provinces.

Burials of high officials in the cemeteries of the capital (Meydum/Dahshur/Saqqara/Gizeh)
a sarcophagus or coffin is common; some of them are inscribed
a set of model copper tools
a set of model pottery
a set of four canopic jars/
some kind of mummification
a washing dish set

Tombs in the provinces and for people of lower classes:

coffins are not so common and not inscribed
a headrest was sometimes placed under the head of the dead
jewellery is not common
some pottery and stone vessels are common in richer tombs


Examples of tombs

the mastaba of Nefermaat, showing the rich decoration of such building
a simple grave with a high quality headrest as only grave good
a simple grave with a very simple headrest as only grave good
a tomb with some jewellery and stone vessels
tomb with copper vulture and one stone vessel
a tomb with a faience necklace and two pots
two pot burials; common burial form at provincial cemeteries


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