TITLE: Headrest CULTURE: Ancient Egypt PERIOD: Old Kingdom, Dynasty V - VI, 2500 - 2190 B.C. MATERIAL: Alabaster DIMENSIONS: Height 26 cm; width 25.3 cm. REF: 20142065 PROVENANCE: Private collection Mr.H.M Germany, acquired in the 1980's. CONDITION: In a good state of preservation aside from a slight chip on the corner of the base. DESCRIPTION: An excellent headrest composed of three pieces: the rectangular-shaped base with an upright stand to support the piece where the head rests and which is decorated with vertical carved grooves.
The form, which clearly resembles funerary architecture, was developed during the Old Kingdom and reached its highest point in Dynasty VI with a completely formed classical style. Given the decoration on the column, this example is typical of those at the end of the Old Kingdom.
This elegantly shaped object is not one for daily use as its size would not permit correct use. They were made from alabaster or limestone, were made up of different pieces, as is this example, and had inscriptions that made reference to the deceased and his titles. Headrests of this quality were reserved for the elite, for high dignitaries. Other more simple examples were for daily use, with a size adequate to their purpose and with an arched form to support the head that not only guaranteed a comfortable position for sleep but also allowed the air to circulate around the head, an added advantage in a hot and dusty climate like that of Egypt.
These objects appeared in the Old Kingdom and lasted until the last years of Egyptian civilization. Such was the development of the concept that they are still produced and used in certain tribes in Africa. The moment of splendor for headrests was in the Middle Kingdom, when every sarcophagus had to contain a headrest to accompany the deceased. It was considered an integral part of the grave goods.