artist unknown, Offering Bearer, ca. 1981-1975 bce, Dynasty 12, Egypt, reign of Amenemhat I, wood, gesso, paint, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Found in a hidden chamber in the tomb of the royal chief steward Meketre, at first glance this carving depicts a woman wearing the traditional costume of the time: a long, tight dress and tripartite wig. Upon closer examination, however, the dress displays a feather pattern often associated with goddesses. The woman is also posed with one foot forward in a posture reserved for males at a time when females were depicted with straight legs and arms. She holds on her head a basket of cut meats and in her other hand a live duck. This iconography points to the figure being a personification of an agricultural estate or farm, placed in the tomb to provide the deceased with sustenance in the after life. Thanks to the arid conditions in Egypt amenable to the preservation of artifacts, all paint on the piece is original and it has never been restored.