False doors are a stylized representation of an actual door, which allowed the deities’ or the deceased’s spirits metaphysical access to and from the temple or tomb. The majority of false doors are found in tombs and mortuary temples. They were placed on the west wall of the offering chamber. The west being associated with death and afterlife.
Thought to be a threshold between the mortal world and the afterlife, false doors were believed to give the deities or deceased a way to interact with the living. In front of the false door, relatives and friends of the deceased deposited offerings of food and drink. At times, it is not unusual to find two false doors: one for the deceased and one for his wife.
False doors can be constructed using a single piece of fine limestone, constructed out of wood, or painted on the flat surface of an interior wall of the tomb. Typically, they have a long, narrow recessed panel, representing the doorway. Above it is usually a semi-cylindrical molding that represents the reed mat used to close a real door. These are then set inside a rectangular frame, topped by a rectangular panel, which depicts the deceased sitting at the offering table. In addition to the deceased’s name, titles, and offering formula, text along the false door includes a curse to those who intend harm to the deceased and a blessing to those who makes offerings.
I love false doors, and even mention them in Son of Set. Our local art museum has one on display that I love to visit. I once sat in front of it for a few hours, starting the outline of a sketch. But what I would love even more is to have the chance sit by a false door as the sun rises above the horizon. I think it would be magical. One might even catch sight of a soul emerge through the threshold.
- Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
- The Met. (2018). Tomb Chapel of Raemkai: False Door on West Wall. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/577370
- Strudwick, H. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York, New York: Metro Books.
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