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Ancient Egypt's History

Old Kingdom - Decorative Arts



In pottery making the rich decoration of the Predynastic period was replaced by beautifully made undecorated wares, often with burnished surfaces, in a wide variety of useful shapes. Pottery in antiquity served all the purposes for which glass, china, metal, and plastic are used today; consequently it ranged from vessels for eating and drinking to large storage containers and brewer's vats. Jewelry was made of gold and semiprecious stones in forms incorporating animal and plant designs. Throughout the history of Egypt the decorative arts were highly dependent on such motifs. Few examples of actual furniture have been preserved, but the number of illustrations in tombs give much information about the design of chairs, beds, stools, and tables. Generally they were of simple design, incorporating plant forms and animal feet.

By the end of the 6th Dynasty central rule in Egypt had weakened; local rulers chose to have themselves buried in their own provinces rather than near the burial places of the king they served. From this dynasty comes the oldest surviving metal statue, an image in copper (circa 2300 BC, Egyptian Museum) of Pepi I (reigned about 2395-2360 BC). The First Intermediate period (7th through 10th dynasties) was a time of anarchy and unrest. A feeble attempt was made to carry on the artistic traditions of the Old Kingdom, but not until the strong rulers of Thebes in the south reunited the country did artistic activity return to a healthy state.