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Egyptian Family And Commemoration

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Ancient Egyptians highly valued family life and the belief of eternal afterlife. While the nuclear family was the main focus of Egyptian society, marriage and marriage contracts were largely seen as regulating the transfer of property. In addition to the aspects of their society, Egyptian women held stronger social positions and expanded legal rights, which included the ability to hold and bequeath property. Marriage was usually monogamous and a life long relationship. Eternity was the central belief of the afterlife in ancient Egyptians. They had an optimistic view that the better parts of life will continue after death. Families play a large role in achieving the path to eternity for a god, pharaoh, or people of high status. Through observing ancient art pieces and inscribed hieroglyphics, we have learned much about the Egyptian culture. The commemorated art objects, Mahu and Duat and The Stele of Neferabu provide us the value of family and eternal life which must be achieved by them.

Marriage was highly valued because it encourages continuation and recreation. One example of a married couple in ancient Egyptians is the couple portrait of Mahu and Duat from the 19th Dynasty of Karnack. At the first look of this art piece, it is much simpler in lines, shapes, and colors. This achieved a sense of balance and order. Mahu and Duat are both presented as a pair on a cube shaped seat with raised backs. Seating shows more prestige opposed to standing person (Robins, 72). Mahu and Duat are both in formal robes and black wigs, which are necessary attires to show great importance because much of what they wore represented higher authority and power. They are both roughly the same scale which shows equality but there is more visible detail on Mahu's clothing by the folds and lining on his sleeves and dress. Mahu's skin color is dark brown while Duat's skin is white which is typical in most husband and wife portraits. Normally, men are made darker because they went out to work while the women stayed home to care for the children. Duat's full breast and smaller figure indicates that she is a women while Mahu's figure is larger, which indicates he is a man. Mahu's body figure is not the typical muscular body but is more soft and thin. Offerings were usually placed around the base, side of the seats, or the back of the statues. Mahu's title is mentioned in both art pieces while Duat's title is only mentioned on her side. Because she was given only one title, she is dependent of the king and is evidently of much lesser importance. Her left arm is placed toward Mahu's body while both of Mahu's arms are only on his side (wall label from Bower's Museum).

An art piece to show the values of eternity and family roles is the Stele of Neferabu/Taiset from the 19th Dynasty, probably in the New Kingdom era. Neferabu, a workman in Deir el Medina at Thebes, was shown in the process of Opening the Mouth. This ceremony was performed at the funeral to restore the senses of the deceased. This was done by using an adze, a meteoric iron used to open the mummy's or statue's mouth ( Even though the deceased body does not function anymore, they could still "live" through the revived senses. The interesting aspect of the stele is that it is separated in three sections, each giving the viewers a story to interpret. The upper most section shows the Opening of the Mouth ritual. The four mummies to the left belong to Neferabu in addition with two women and men putting the mummies in place. On the right side are four people taking part in the ritual. The first person is Neferabu's grandson who holds an adze. Next, the scribe Maanaklef is reading a papyrus followed by two women. The center section of the stele shows Anubis leaning over the mummy, which signifies keeping the mummy away from harm ( The lowest section is shown in hieroglyphics divided into eleven columns. The translation roughly means "spell for proceeding to the tribunal on the day of burial" and the reminders of the hieroglyphics are from the "Book of the Dead." (Wall label from Bower's Museum). The use of hieroglyphics helped communicate ideas and tell important stories or event. Creating sculptures or objects was a way in commemorating important people from the past.

The details within both art pieces provide viewers valuable information of Egyptian's love for power, family, and eternal life. In both art pieces, Mahu and Neferabu wanted to be remembered by showing their individual figure in standing out from their surroundings. For example, although Mahu wanted to be commemorated with his wife as a married couple, he is visibly larger and his clothing being more detailed than Duat's. The larger the person compared to other people, the more important and powerful he or she is (Kleiner and Mamiya, 44).In addition, the way Duat's left arm extends out to Mahu's body shows that Duat serves or supports him. We can



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