Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reflections about the Serdab !

Serdab of Djoser
In Arabic language, the Serdab means a "hidden passage".

This name was given by the egyptologists to the rectangular chamber which contains statue(s) of the owner of the grave (accompanied sometimes with the statue(s) of his circle of acquaintances and/or servants).

Mainly valid during the Old Kingdom, the notion of the Serdab (and its contents) will be rethought during later periods.

These statues were to be visible to the persons who came to visit the owner of the grave : a squint (so called "the eyes of the house of Ka" in religious texts), generally rectangular, was dug in one of the walls of the Serdab.

This squint can be relatively small but big enough so that a person can see the contents of the Serdab.

The Serdab moreover is often called the "house of the statue" ( 
pr - twt ), sometimes the "house of Ka 1" ( ḫ.t - kȝ ).

1 The Ka is one of the five inseparable elements composing the being in lifetime of the owner of the grave : the spiritual "double" which is born at the same time as the human being and which survives after the death.

After the death, the Ka is considered as the real representative of the human personality. According to the Egyptian faiths, it is necessary to keep the body so that the Ka can repossess it as much as necessary.

A statue in the effigy of the dead man allows the Ka to find the lines under which he was formerly embodied. This statue can even contain physical deformations, necessity in this case so that the "symbolism" junction can be made.

Another function of these statues of the Ka is it to replace the physical body in case of a destruction of it ? 

The idea is interesting but remains to be proved. 

It is true that the art of the mummification in this period had not arrived at a "acceptable enough" level for the preservation of the body : statues could be a good "insurance" in case of destruction of the physical body.

Serdab of Ty
 What is the purpose of the Serdab ?

First as "r
eceptacle", its role seems to be to protect one or several statues from harm or theft ! so much by allowing to be seen by the very "thoughtful" persons !

The old Egyptians had a conception of the protection more based on the magic aspect than on the material aspect.

Second, t
here is also a notion of "hidden", of spiritual - a religious dimension, even sacred.

The location of the Serdab depends on the arrangement of the grave.

In a lot of case, we are going to find it behind the wall of the chapel in front of the entrance (c
an be more easily accessible by the visitor).

But there are no rules concerning the orientation and the location of the Serdab.

The position of the squint is in correlation with the height of statues : what seems rather logical because the objective is to see these statues.

In some Serdab, we can have several squints due to the heights different from statues.

Others Serdab are equipped with a False - Door 2 (particularly to the Vth dynasty). 

The squint of the Serdab can be embedded into the False - Door.

2 The False - Door is a passage, a "threshold" between the world of the living and the deaths. 
Offerings made in front of this False - Door was intended for the owner of the grave.

To integrate a False - Door into a Serdab is can be a "insurance" that the offerings will arrive well at "destination" : the physical body (in the best of the cases) or the statue (which represents the lines of the owner of the grave) as a possible replacement of the destroyed physical body.

Others Serdab are built in two parts, each having own squint.

If you loved this article and if you wish to support this project, not to hesitate to download HIERO on the MacApp Store.