For the ancient Egyptians, the gods and the dead had the same needs as the living, and had to be provided constantly with food and libations. An early manifestation of this belief is the offering table, a stone slab where various food items and drinks could be placed for consumption by the deceased or the divine.
Offering tables often were made to resemble the hetep sign, the hieroglyph for offering, as this one does. The table consists of a rectangular slab, representing a mat, with a section representing a loaf of bread protruding from the middle of one side. One way of guaranteeing that offerings would be made continuously was to carve representations of food and drink and the “offering formula” onto the table itself, thus making the table eternally functional.
This example comes from Karnak Temple and belongs to one of the most powerful kings of Dynasty 18, the great warrior king Thutmose III. On the front faces of the table are images of the king kneeling to present vessels filled with liquid, and on the top surface, in place of carved items of food and drink, are forty holes to hold offerings. The titulary of the king is inscribed on the protruding part of the table, and the sides are adorned with Isis knots and djed pillars, representing protection and stability.
Luxor, Karnak Temple, Precinct of Amun, Central Court
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, Thutmose III (ca. 1479 – 1425 BC)