Serdab and Statue Placement in the Private Tombs down to the Fourth Dynasty*)
By MlROSLAV BARTA
The following analysis and reassessment of the earliest statue/serdab attestations within private tombs evolved as one of the prerequisites for an appropriate evaluation of the architecture of the early Fourth Dynasty tomb of Ity which was excavated by the Czech Institute of Egyptology during the 1993 season at Abusir South1). This study tackles the question of earliest statue placements within the private tomb compounds focusing on the period of the First-early Fourth Dynasties and is intended as a contribution to this trend.
It will be claimed that the generally assumed idea that the tombs of the First-Second Dynasties entirely lacked any serdabs2), must be, in the light of both older and also recently published evidence, modified. It will also be demonstrated that there are several attestations to the fact that some tombs were equipped with statues as early as during the First Dynasty. Due to the restricted and unilateral material basis and the utter lack of positive evidence for the occurrence of statues within the tomb compounds, the study must naturally concentrate on such features which in subsequent periods are indicative of statues being present in the tombs. This evidence is represented mainly by architectural features which - fortunately - do not provide sufficient space for any other interpretation.
In order to assess the importance of the serdab installations and their appropriate place in private tomb development, I think it is first necessary to give a brief overview of the earliest attested occurrences of either statues or/and their vestiges, and rooms which were clearly designed for housing statues within private tombs. The most pertinent feature for this question seems to be not the serdab itself (as a sealed room equipped with statues3)) but the mere placing and function of the statues (which is to a great degree dependent on their location within the tomb complex) in a tomb/tomb complex proper. For reasons of avoiding unnecessary conflation of the evidence presented below, the statues placed in the freely accessible rooms and those placed in the closed rooms - serdabs - will be discussed separately.