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(Arabic: bench) Rectangular superstructure of ancient Egyptian tombs, built of mud brick or, later, stone, with sloping walls and a flat roof. A deep shaft descended to the underground burial chamber. Old Kingdom mastabas were used chiefly for nonroyal burials. Storage chambers were stocked with food and equipment, and walls were often decorated with scenes showing the deceased's expected daily activities. What had earlier been a niche on the side grew into a chapel with an offering table and a false door through which the spirit of the deceased could leave and enter the burial chamber.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mastaba, visit Britannica.com.