The Mastaba (Tomb) of Idu At Giza in Egypt

The Mastaba (Tomb) of Idu

At Giza in Egypt

by Jimmy Dunn

One of the statues of Idu in its niche on the west wall of his tomb

The Mastaba of Idu (Idut) is located in the Eastern Cemetery at Giza near Cairo, Egypt. In life, he was the Scribe of the Royal Documents in the presence of the king. He also held the title, "Tenant of the Pyramid of Pepi I" as well as "Inspector of the wab-priests of the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre (Pyramid), during the reign of Pepi I. He lived during Egypt's 6th Dynasty. Numbered G 7102, it lies near the tomb of Qar, who is believed to have been either his father or son. It also has clear stylistic similarities to that tomb.

Both mastabas are among the most interesting of the private tombs at Giza, each having unusual statues as well as very detailed scenes of the Old Kingdom funerary retinue.

The mastaba of Idu consists of a descending stairway followed by a large vestibule that is not exactly square, with an entrance corridor followed by a single rectangular room with its major axis running north-south. The west wall of this last chamber is adorned with a series of five niches containing a series of high-relief statues thought to depict the deceased, or the deceased and family members, plus a smaller one on the left (nearest the entrance doorway) of his possible son, Qar, with their names and titles in beautifully carved hieroglyphs. The other statues in the five larger niches are sometimes said to be those of various family members, but many scholars believe they represent only the deceased at different ages, though not as a child in the sixth niche.

Plan of the Mastaba of Idu

The engaged statues on the west wall face, on the east wall, a false door stela, painted to simulate granite. In the bottom half of the false door Idu's statue eerily rises out of the ground to receive his offerings. This is a very unusual false door. His arms stretch forward with upturned palms, open to receive offerings. In a panel above, the deceased, his face elegantly sculpted and wearing the usual wig and a wide collar, and his wife, Meretites, are shown sitting opposite each other at an offering table. On the table are tall, stylized offering loaves. Near the floor, and offering bench is placed in front of this wall, which depicts offerings to be given to the tomb owner and his wife.

The decorative plan of the this tomb, not unusually, revolves around funerary themes. On the south wall, to the left and right of the door, is a depiction of mourners at the deceased's home, the purification tent and the funerary procession. This is one of those tombs that provide much information about the private funerary practices, beginning at their home and ending with their burial.

Upper section of the faluse door, showing Idu and his wife seated at an offering table

Interestingly, according to Ron Fellows, an Associate Director of the Americas Museum, There is also a curse written jut inside the entrance on the right hand side of the west doorjamb, in one vertical line, reading: "As for every man who shall enter this tomb, not purifying him(self) as the purification if a god, one shall make a punishment for him because of it evilly (or painfully)."

At the end of the western wall, there is a scene depicting men and cattle returning from the marshes. On the back, northern wall, there are a number of scenes taking place before the deceased, who is seated on a palanquin. These scenes include the preparation of food and drink, music with dancers, persons bringing offerings and children playing games.

The False Door of Idu in his tomb at Giza, Egypt


Title Author Date Publisher Reference Number
Illustrated Guide to the Pyramids, The Hawass, Zahi; Siliotti, Alberto 2003 American University in Cairo Press, The ISBN 977 424 825 2
Tomb and Beyond, The: Burial Customs of Egyptian Officials Kanawati, Naguib 2001 Aris & Phillips Ltd ISBN 0 85668 734 0
Treasures of the Pyramids, The Hawass, Zahi 2003 American University in Cairo Press, The ISBN 977 424 798 1