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Help in the Afterlife: An Egyptian False Door (lesson plan)

Abstract

Students will study the False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru. Using design elements they will create a false door for their own imaginary tomb. Students will create a monologue of their offering formula and present it to the class.

Created by A+ Schools of NC

Grade Levels
9th Grade
Subject Areas
Drama, History, Visual Arts
NC Standards Correlations
Social Studies
World History
WH.H.2.9
Visual Arts
B.V.3
B.CX.1
Theatre Arts
B.CU.1.2

Artwork Related to this Lesson

  • False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru (Called Fefi)

    False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru (Called Fefi), by Unknown Egyptian Artist

    The false door was an important architectural element of private tombs because it served as a passageway for...

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Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will broaden their understanding of Egyptian false doors.
  2. Students will create a false door for the chapel of their own tomb.
  3. Students will create an offering formula for their false door and also perform it.
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Activities

Warm-up

Have students bring in photos/descriptions of the headstones of family members or headstones from a local cemetery. Compare what information is considered important today to information that was considered important in the tombs of ancient Egypt.

Investigate and Create

1. Have students look at the False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru. Ask:

  • What do you notice? Describe what you see.
  • Is there an order to the design and composition of the door? What makes you say that?
  • What are the elements of art and principles of design which seem to be most important? (line, color, value, space, shape, texture, variety/contrast, emphasis/focus, balance/proportion, unity, and movement/rhythm)

2. Discuss contextual information about the False Door of Ni-ankh-Snefru.  

  • Share measurements (approximately 5 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide) and placement. 
  • Tell students: The false door was an important architectural element of private tombs because it served as a passageway for the ka (soul) of the deceased to travel between this world and the next. This monument belonged to the nobleman Ni-ankh-Snefru, nicknamed Fefi.
  • Fefi’s funerary arrangements would have included a contract with a ka (soul) priest, who would have been charged with bringing daily food offerings. The bread and beer placed in front of the false door would spiritually sustain Fefi’s ka for all eternity and, after the ceremony, would be given to the priest as payment for his services. Family and friends were also allowed to enter the chapel, provided they brought food and drink or recited offering formulas for Fefi’s benefit. Hieroglyphic inscriptions spiritually provided Fefi with offerings in case the priest or visitors failed to bring any.
  • Notably, this false door has a picture of Fefi near the center of the door, sitting in front of an offering table. At the bottom of the false door are images of several people all facing in as if they are approaching the door. See detail images here.
  • The hieroglyphic inscriptions on the door include Fefi’s name as well as many of the titles for which he is known: lector priest (one who recited sacred texts during religious rituals); overseer of the two cool rooms of the Great House (manager of the wine cellar and the food storage at the palace); and overseer of the pyramid burial complex Men-nefer-Pepy. The inscriptions mention six times that Fefi was a courtier of the royal house.
  • If no actual offering was brought, Fefi’s ka (soul) could still be nourished by the visitors reciting the offering formula which was also inscribed on the False Door.
  • When Fefi’s tomb was completed, his false door probably would have been painted vividly in the style of the False Door of the tomb of Shendwa, a scribe.  The paint on this false door is preserved because it was only very recently (2010) uncovered in Saqqara.

3. Prompt students to imagine a false door for the chapel complex of their own tomb. Using a large sheet of chart paper with markers, students should design a false door that people will see when they come to visit their imaginary tomb. Students should include in their design:

  • The elements and principles of art.
  • An image of themselves sitting at an offering table.
  • A list of their titles and accomplishments.
  • A list of offerings they would prefer that visitors leave to nourish their soul throughout eternity.
  • Images of people coming to visit their tomb, using the Egyptian Grid System/Canon of Proportion as seen in Figure 1 here.

4. Have students create a monologue of what they want people to recite at their false door if they have failed to bring real offerings. The monologue should be written as if the visitor is standing in front of them as they sit in a chair behind an offering table. Tell students: Make sure your monologue relates to the visual art you have created.

Closing 

5. Post students’ false doors around the room. Have students do a gallery walk looking for imagery they can decipher. 

 

Written by A+ Fellow Jef Lambdin

Assessments

  • By viewing the student’s false door, the teacher will be able to tell if the student understands the Egyptian Canon of Proportion and the use of the False Door.
  • By watching the performance of each student proclaiming their offering formula, the teacher will be able to tell if the student understands the concept.
  • Teacher could also assess each written monologue.

Sample Rubric for a Theater Presentation

(Edited from New York State Theatre Education Association Assessment & Tools)

 

             4           3                        2                    1
 Voice  

 

Volume fits character.  Easily understood. Student used a clear voice and correct, precise pronunciation. Clear dramatic voice. Student’s voice is clear. Student pronounces most words correctly. Audience has difficulty following performance because student uses “normal” student voice.  Little or no voice inflection makes it difficult for audience to stay engaged. Many words pronounced incorrectly Audience cannot understand lines, misunderstood due to low volume. Student mumbles, incorrectly pronounces words, monotonous tone causes audience to disengage.

Lesson Resources

Links:

Materials Needed:

large sheet of chart paper per student, assorted colors of markers, other drawing tools, writing paper, writing utensils

Vocabulary:

Volume, dramatic voice, inflection, tone, monologue

False door, tomb, hieroglyph, inscription, pyramid

ka

Jamb, lintel, formula

Color, value, design

Related Content

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