This is the inner coffin of a man called Khonsu, who lived in Deir el Medina and worked in the Valley of the Kings during the reign of Ramesses II (around 3200 years ago). He was found buried in his father’s tomb, and his coffins were sold to the Met in 1886 (acc. no.: 86.1.2).

The portion I’ve photographed here includes the goddess Nut kneeling and spreading her arms and wings around Khonsu’s chest to protect him. She’s wearing a red dress with a yellow (or white?) belt tied round her waist, mirroring a red sash in her hair.

You can tell it’s Nut, not just because it’s normally her depicted in this place on coffins, but also because her name and some titles are written above her head. I think it translates as “Nut, greatest of (the horizon?). Nut, lady of the sky, mistress of the gods.”

The three characters immediately above her head are her name: to the left is a small pot, which stands for the syllable “nw” (the type of pot it is) and to the right is a small semi-circular bread loaf that is the letter t. These spell nwt or Nut.

Underneath there’s a third symbol that represents the sky, it does have sounds associated with it in other contexts but here it’s a determinative. It’s a feature of the writing system not the language and tells you what sort of word you’re looking at: in this case a “sky” word.

Which makes sense, because Nut is the mistress of the sky. And you can see the sky determinative turns up again to the right of her name, at the bottom of a short column, indicating that the two symbols above (p and t) are to be read as pt which is the word for sky.

Inner Coffin of Khonsu. From the tomb of Sennedjem (TT1), Deir el Medina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Rameses II, c.1279–1213 BCE. Acc. No.: 86.1.2

See it on my photo site:

I’ve written about the Egyptian scripts on the blog before:

And I’ve re-told an Egyptian creation story including Nut’s birth here:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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