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stone carving of animals

This scene is from the tomb of Ti, who was an important government official in the Middle Kingdom.

With the collapse of the Old Kingdom about 2160 BC, there was also a big change in art styles. The carved reliefs of the Old Kingdom continue, still with the background all carved away.

But the subject matter is different: in the Middle Kingdom instead of Pharaohs crushing their enemies, you get quiet scenes from daily life. Here you see a boy driving donkeys to thresh out the grain on the top register and on the bottom men winnowing the threshed grain.

Another scene from the tomb of Ti

Another scene from the tomb of Ti

Over their heads, hieroglyphs explain what they are doing. In another picture, large birds wade in a swamp. They must be observed from nature. All these scenes represent daily life so that the dead person buried in the tomb will be able to do all these things, or have his servants and slaves do these things, in the afterlife.

Learn by doing: the Afterlife Project
Sculpture in the Middle Kingdom

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian art:

Eyewitness: Ancient Egypt, by George Hart. Easy reading.

Ancient Egyptian Art, by Susie Hodge (1998). Shows kids how Egyptian art relates to Egyptian religion and culture.

Hands-On Ancient People, Volume 1: Art Activities about Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Islam,by Yvonne Merrill and Mary Simpson. Art projects for kids, though the directions are really aimed at teachers or parents.

The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Yale University Press Pelican History of Art), by William Stevenson Smith and William Kelly Simpson (revised edition 1999). The standard for college courses.

Egyptian Art, by Cyril Aldred (1985). Another standard.

New Kingdom Egyptian Art
More about ancient Egypt home