mastaba (măsˈtəbə) [key], in Egyptian architecture, a sepulchral structure built aboveground. The mastabas of the early dynastic period (3200–2680 B.C.), such as those of the I dynasty at Sakkara, were elaborate, having many storage or offering compartments, and were quite evidently close copies of contemporary houses. Better known are the mastabas of the Old Kingdom (2680–2181 B.C.), which were an elaboration of the predynastic burial-pit and mound form. The typical mastaba was generally rectangular in plan with a flat roof and inward-sloping walls, built of brick and faced with limestone slabs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.