Work of Art: False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru (Called Fefi)
Egyptian
possibly from Saqqara
False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru (Called Fefi)
Dynasty VI, reign of Pepy I or Merenre, circa 2321-2278 B.C.E.
White limestone with traces of paint
63 1/2 x 44 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (161.3 x 113 x 11.4 cm)
Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) and funds from the bequest of Elsie M. Kramer, the bequest of W. R. Valentiner, and Mrs. William Gage Brady, by exchange

The false door was an important architectural element of private tombs because it served as a passageway for the ka (soul) of the deceased to travel between this world and the next. It was the centerpiece of the offering chapel, the accessible part of the tomb located above ground, where offerings were brought to the deceased. Carved in the shape of a door, including jambs, lintels, and even a rolled-up reed curtain above the doorway, it was inscribed with offering formulas and, more important, the name and titles of its owner. This monument belonged to the nobleman Ni-ankh-Snefru, nicknamed Fefi.

Fefi listed among his titles those of lector priest, one who recited sacred texts during religious rituals; overseer of the two cool rooms of the Great House (manager of the wine cellar and the food storage at the palace); and overseer of the pyramid complex Men-nefer-Pepy, the burial place of King Pepy I, located at Saqqara. Fefi was also a courtier of the royal house. He took great pride in this fact, as it is mentioned six times in the inscriptions.

Fefi’s funerary arrangements would have included a contract with a ka priest, who would have been charged with bringing daily food offerings. The bread and beer placed in front of the false door would spiritually sustain Fefi’s ka for all eternity and, after the ceremony, would be given to the priest as payment for his services. Family and friends were also allowed to enter the chapel, provided they brought food and drink or recited offering formulas for Fefi’s benefit. Hieroglyphic inscriptions spiritually provided Fefi with offerings in case the priest or visitors failed to bring any.

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