Model of a Soul House

This model from Rifah of the “Soul House” type represents a house with a three-columned portico behind a walled courtyard; in front of the courtyard a libation spout is partly preserved. A stairway on the right gives access to the roof of the house, where an arched opening represents a feature in actual houses through which cool air was conducted into the main bedroom.

On the left wall of the house a barred window is indicated. A mid-thirteenth dynasty date for this particular house model is indicated by the pottery found in the burial with which it was associated. At Rifah in middle Egypt, the British Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie found clay models of houses such as this placed near burials in such a way that he concluded they had been placed above the burials. He called them “soul houses.”

Model of a Soul House
Model of a Soul House

At other sites such as Thebes, oval clay trays have been found that include sometimes rough reproductions of huts and always little offerings modeled in clay.

These trays were placed in and at the entrances to tombs. Most of the models have a kind of spout at the front through which libation water could flow into the ground.

In ancient Egypt, a soul house, also known as a ka-house or a chapel, was a small structure or shrine that was built to house the soul of the deceased.

It was believed that the soul, or ka, of the deceased needed a place to reside and receive offerings from the living.

The soul house typically contained a statue or representation of the deceased, as well as offerings such as food, drink, and other items that the soul would need in the afterlife.

The purpose of the soul house was to provide a sacred space for the deceased’s soul to continue to receive sustenance and worship from their living relatives.

Middle Kingdom, mid 13th Dynasty, ca. 1750-1700 BC. Pottery, from Tomb 72, BSAE, Deir Rifah at Asyut. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 07.231.10

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