The term situla refers to a bucket-like vessel. They were used across multiple cultures, from small Egyptian examples to larger Greek terracotta vessels. A delicate piece such as this was used most likely as an offering vessel within a temple.
The offering scene was an important factor in Egyptian ritual. Scenes offering a standard list of items, including bread, ox, alabaster, beer, fowl and linen, would line the tombs of the deceased. Visual representations of large animal legs, placed on an offering table, accompanied rows of hieroglyphs detailing the offering formula. This is known as the ‘htp-di-nsw’ formula, also the first line of the hieroglyphic text, and translates as ‘an offering which the king gives’. From the Middle Kingdom this phrase became treated as a fixed expression, relating solely to an offering formula.
The gods portrayed here, Horus and Osiris, were extremely important amongst the Egyptian pantheon. Osiris was closely related to the deceased and came to symbolise the pharaoh in death. Horus, similarly, came to be associated with the pharaoh in life.