To the ancient Egyptians, the ka was the actual life force of a person and was symbolised by a pair of raised open arms. Unlike the ba (soul), the ka was restricted to the tomb.
Statues like this were included in mortuary chapels as safe havens for the ka. The idea was that, if tomb robbers damaged the coffin and mummy of the dead person, the ka could inhabit the statue and survive.
This ka figure is one of the oldest pieces in Te Papa’s collections. It was carved in the ‘pyramid age’ some 3800 years ago. Tomb robbers mutilated the figure’s face to destroy the owner’s identity and prevent them from taking magical revenge.
Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty (about 1994–1781 BCE)
From Riqqeh, Egypt
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, purchased 1963
Click on the thumbnails below to see some highlights from the exhibition: