• Hella Radwan

The first backpack in history?

We all tend to pick a few favourite artefacts when visiting museums and collections of arts. This splendid wooden statue is one of my favourites in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo, going by the name of "Niankh-Pepi's servant" and having the catalogue number JE 30810.


Niankh-Pepi - "Overseer of Upper Egypt", "Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt" and "Overseer of prophets" - was a governor during the reign of Pepi I in the 6th dynasty of the old kingdom. His tomb was discovered in Meir, near al-Qusiya, Asyut governorate. Meir functioned as an Old Kingdom-Middle Kingdom (6th-12th Dynasty) cemetery for the nomarchs of the fourteenth nome of Upper Egypt.


About 36 centimeters in height, the servant is carrying two ornate baskets decorated with geometrical patterns. The smaller basket is in his folded arm, while the other one is carried on his back by means of white straps. This bag has a leopard print band and two legs that the bag can be propped up on when put on the ground.


Wooden tomb models are often found in Egyptian tombs from the Old Kingdom/Middle Kingdom Period. These wooden models reflected a variety of tasks and chores which servants would be expected to carry out in the afterlife, and accordingly, many are depicted as performing a certain task.


Niankh-Pepi's tomb had two rooms: a large pillared room with frescoes that were almost entirely destroyed by bats, and a smaller, undecorated room.





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