Egypt Picture - Terra Cotta Mourners

Terra Cotta Mourners

Terra Cotta Mourners


Kenneth Garrett


Terra Cotta Mourners


Women were commonly depicted as mourners in Egyptian art. In New Kingdom tombs, weeping figures were painted on walls, but in this Greco-Roman cemetery they appear as statuettes. It was part of the ancient funerary ritual to hire professional mourners to follow the dead to their graves, and this tradition still exists in some villages in Upper Egypt, where local women are paid to wear black dresses and walk behind the funeral procession waving their hands and striking themselves in grief. We assume that the purpose of these statuettes was to weep for the deceased. Two of the terra cotta mourners have their hands over their eyes, and a third has her hands on her head. So far, only 4 of these figures have been found, which were buried with the wealthiest mummies in Tomb 54 in the Valley of the Golden Mummies. Perhaps this was an honor reserved for people in high positions.

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