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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

86                           Egyptian Art
surely an irrefutable proof of the dominating role which these
arts played in everyday life. A country scene represented on the
walls of an Old Kingdom mastaba must be regarded as evidence,
not so much of the desire to transport a piece of the familiar
country-side into the world beyond, as of the dead man's love
of nature and of its choicest pleasures.
It is only too easy for Egyptologists, constantly delving in
burial-places, and for the readers of their scholarly descriptions,
to lose sight of the relation which funeral rites may bear to the
everyday life of a people. Let us ask ourselves what sort of
knowledge of the general appearance of Europeans during the
past three centuries would be gained by excavating the principal
• cemeteries of our capitals—the vaults, say, of Westminster
Abbey or of the Pantheon in Paris!
It is salutary, too, to reflect upon the conditions under which
the remains of antiquity become available to us. It is safe to
assert that, with rare exceptions, one of the essential factors of
survival is the hardness of the material employed. Another
factor is the degree in which the material can conveniently be
used a second time. A well-squared stone from a wall, for in-
stance, is of more immediate use than the drum of a column
or a fragment of grooved cornice. The proportion of objects in
metal—especially precious metal—found in all excavations in
no way corresponds to the frequency with which metal was used
in the actual life of the people whose customs are being studied.
- And the converse is equally true; it is obvious that the con-
temporaries of the Kitchen-Midden Folk must have had other
things to eat besides the molluscs whose shells they piled up for
our benefit in those huge refuse-heaps. Archaic Greek art has
given us a few statues in stone; but it is common knowledge that
contemporary with these there existed a large number of wooden
statues (xoana) which must also be taken into account.  Simi-
larly, in studying the sculpture of the earliest Egyptian dynasties,
we are in danger of misrepresenting the whole question if we