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Remembering loved ones in ancient Egypt

Worshiping the dead was an important feature of ancient Egyptian society. While pyramids and elaborately decorated tombs were prominent memorials to kings and queens, countless other items were used to honour the dead.

Ancestor busts, small limestone sculptures found in tombs and at the site of homes were important representations of a deceased person. Some of the 150 examples of ancestor busts which have been uncovered are without hieroglyphic inscriptions. This has led some Egyptologists to speculate that busts without inscriptions were used in a domestic setting where the living knew who the bust represented and had therefore not need of identifying marks.

This ancestor bust, representing a person known as Muteminet, does feature hieroglyphic inscriptions. It is one of nine items currently on display in the museum. Part of the British Museum’s Touring Exhibition ‘Egyptian hieroglyphs: unlock the mystery’, it is open from now until 12 October. Admission is free.

Ancestor bust of Muteminet 1295-1186 BC, Thebes, limestone. British Museum Collection
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