Soul House



Redware pottery offering table in the form of a so-called 'soul house' which belongs to a type of pottery funerary artefact associated with shaft tombs at Rifa and some other sites. Roughly horseshoe form with a walled courtyard. On the left side of the courtyard is a model of a quern with grinding stone, and a pestle and mortar, or a tall container with stirrer of the type used to prepare beer. Running down the centre of the courtyard are two channels that divide the courtyard in half and terminate at the entrance to the courtyard - this forms a spout for liquid offerings to drain away when poured onto the 'soul-house'. At the back of the courtyard, on either side of these grooves are two short grooves that may crudely represent tanks. At the back is a roofed structure with two open doors in a wall with six engaged columns which appear to be set upon round column bases. On the right side stairs lead to the roof which is divided in two by a low wall, with one side containing four round features which may represent granaries or ‘mulqaf’ (wind-catchers). There is some damage to the wall at the front of the roof which may have been much taller and perhaps columned. In September 1907 the museum received five soul-houses and three soul-house fragments from the British School of Archaeology in Egypt. One was exchanged with Otago University Museum and all the others were destroyed in May 1941 when the Museum was bombed. Between 24.3.1999 and 7.6 2017 it was assumed this was the only surviving soul-house from this group. However, is not marked with an accession number and does not match with any of the descriptions of those acquired in 1907 from Petrie’s excavations at Rifa. Through archive research the source of the object has been traced to the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum (accession no. 24559), donated to World Museum, Liverpool, in 1971. It was purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at Foster’s auction house, 28 June 1920, lot 963d (ex collection of Margaret Tyssen-Amherst, no. 2346).