A group of Egyptian farmers, or fellaheen, stand below a palm tree at
the edge of the cultivation. In the Egyptian Coffin Texts of the Middle
Kingdom (c. 2060-1785 B.C.), the image of the soul of the dead taking
its leisure beneath a tree is inimical, for danger lurks in the shadows.
By the time of the New Kingdom (c. 1560-1085 B.C.), however, this had
changed, and the soul of the dead is often shown drinking water in the
shade of a palm. The goddesses Hathor and Nut, providing food for the
souls in the Hereafter, were at times depicted as trees, and the dead
man could desire a metamorphosis into a dom-palm— a manifestation of the
potent fertility god Min. The fruit of the date palm was one of the chief
sweeteners of the ancients, and, as in antiquity, all parts of the palm
tree are still used by the Egyptians. The donkey appears to be the photographer's
pack animal, the leather pouches being the carrying cases for the camera
and the glass plates.
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