Funerary Art

Funerary art describes a wide variety of artistic forms used in association with rituals surrounding the dead which, due to the religious context of most ancient art, were extremely prolific across most ancient cultures. As well as this funerary art is, by virtue of its use in tombs, often very well preserved such that artefacts of materials that would otherwise have been destroyed over time have survived in often excellent condition. Though funerary art may describe external works, in this context the term mostly refers to objects placed with the dead, which were intended never to be seen again after their entombment. Funerary art may commonly have the purpose of supporting the wider funerary rites of ritually enacting the departure from the world of the living, yet what is perhaps more common is the use of artefacts to aid the dead in the afterlife. In prehistoric Europe, the Beaker Culture is so named due to the little understood placement of an empty beaker, commonly of gold, by the dead possibly along with other secondary vessels. In Ancient Egypt, great emphasis was placed on funerary art, among Egyptian funerary art are shabti figures which would act as servants in the afterlife and funerary scarabs which commonly displayed texts that would aid and instruct the dead in the afterlife. In China from the Han to Ming dynasties, many extremely fine examples of funerary art can be seen in ceramic tomb figures, either painted or glazed which were similarly placed in the tomb of the deceased in order to aid them in the afterlife.


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