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Egyptian Farmers
Silver gelatin on glass
23.5 x 29.5 cm
Epigraphic Survey, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
Egyptian Farmers.
A group of Egyptian farmers, or fellaheen, stand below a palm tree at the edge of the cultivation. In the Egyptian Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2060-1785 B.C.), the image of the soul of the dead taking its leisure beneath a tree is inimical, for danger lurks in the shadows. By the time of the New Kingdom (c. 1560-1085 B.C.), however, this had changed, and the soul of the dead is often shown drinking water in the shade of a palm. The goddesses Hathor and Nut, providing food for the souls in the Hereafter, were at times depicted as trees, and the dead man could desire a metamorphosis into a dom-palm--a manifestation of the potent fertility god Min. The fruit of the date palm was one of the chief sweeteners of the ancients, and, as in antiquity, all parts of the palm tree are still used by the Egyptians. The donkey appears to be the photographer's pack animal, the leather pouches being the carrying cases for the camera and the glass plates.

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