1. Mini table full of offerings
This is a gift that was put in someone’s grave with them. It is a mini Chinese table with offerings to the ancestors. ‘Grave gifts’ like this stand for something that a dead person will need in the afterlife. A long time ago, grave gifts were made of clay. Now they are made of paper, and the family burn them at the grave to send them to the person who has died.
China; 1500-1600; glazed earthenware; courtesy of Van den Ende Collection
2. The gift of life
These ancient jars were gifts that the community put in the grave of a dead person when they were buried. The animals and the water in the jars would make sure that the community could keep in touch with the dead person. But why these animals? The people that lived in the Andes Mountains believed that the owl connects life and death. The deer lives in the mountains, and rivers carry water down from the mountains. In the valley it flows through the fields, so that food can grow. The water ends up in the sea, where the sea lion lives.
2A Sea lion: Moche; 1-100; earthenware; WM-73351
2B Owl: Moche, Peru; around 450; earthenware; RV-1403-1549
2C Deer: Vicús, Peru; 1-500; earthenware; WM-73330
3. All you have
The owner of this pot would keep their valuable things in it. The pot was also important when they died. At the funeral their family would put more things in it, like food, as a gift for the afterlife. There are musicians on the lid, which tells us something about the owner, who might have been a musician.
Asante; Ghana; 1900-1950; bronze; TM-2354-1a
4. For a safe final journey
People from the Maprik region in Papua New Guinea give a ring like this one at important times in a person’s life. It is made from a giant shell. The shell ring is precious because it is rare and beautiful. When someone dies their mother’s family put shell rings in their grave. This helps keep the dead person safe on their journey to the afterlife.
Maprik; Papua New Guinea; around 1962; tridacna shell; WM-55588
Tell each other: what would you give to someone who had died at their funeral?
5. Food for the afterlife
In many cultures people believe that when someone dies they carry on living in the afterlife. They put food and drink in the grave for the afterlife. More than 3500 years ago people in Canaan, in the Middle East, gave a dead person these jugs filled with food. And an oil lamp (which was used!) in case it was dark.
Canaanite; Jericho, Palestine; 1600 BC; earthenware; TM-3297-1, TM-3297-2 and TM-3297-3