Old Kingdom Wooden Coffin

The words “ancient Egyptian coffin” conjure up images of gold, of intricate decoration & texts, and of human shaped boxes. But this was not always the case, and earlier coffins (like this one which dates to the early Old Kingdom) can be quite a bit less ostentatious & elaborate.

To start with it’s shorter than you might expect – this is because in this period (c. 2500 BCE) people weren’t laid out straight for burial. Instead they were placed in their graves curled up in a contracted position that’s sometimes referred to as the foetal position.

But don’t mistake it for a cheap or shoddy piece of work. Decent wood wasn’t plentiful in ancient Egypt, so a wooden coffin is demonstrating that you can bury a certain amount of wealth. Even given it was local Egyptian tamerisk wood I imagine it would still make a statement.

It’s also shaped to convey meaning. The long sides mimic the palace facade motif, which is part of the king’s iconography and is also used in the funerary context by more than just the king. The lid is vaulted and this is the shape of the shrine associated with Lower Egypt.

Old Kingdom Wooden Coffin. From Tarkhan. Old Kingdom, Dynasty 3-4, c. 2649-2467 BCE. Acc. No.: 12.187.54

This coffin was excavated by Petrie at Tarkhan in the Faiyum and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 12.187.54).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1370/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3b69d5b42476
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1487b7dfb59a

Part of the Outer Anthropoid Coffin of Pakherenkhonsu

This is a section from the head end of an anthropoid coffin, and we’re looking at the outer wall. The coffin belonged to a man called Pakherenkhonsu, and it was found in one of the tombs at Thebes (MMA832).

The coffin dates to the 25th Dynasty, however the tomb it was found in was constructed during the 11th Dynasty according to the museum label; wikipedia says 22nd Dynasty which is quite a contradiction! Whichever it is, it’s clear Pakherenkhonsu was re-using someone else’s tomb.

He was a Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun, a relatively minor part of the temple hierarchy. But nonetheless he must’ve had things worth stealing – his burial was found in a disturbed condition, with his coffins in pieces.

Part of the Outer Anthropoid Coffin of Pakherenkhonsu. Pakherenkhonsu was the Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun, he was buried in a reused Dynasty 11 tomb. From MMA 832 (Tomb of Aafenmut), Khokha, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25, c.712-664 BCE. Acc. No.: 28.3.53

This and other pieces of his coffins are in the Met Museum (this is acc. no.: 28.3.53).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1497/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=243dcfd0e903
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=14f7b833dbb3

The Coffin of the Noble Lady Shep

This coffin belonged to the Noble Lady Shep, and dates to around the 25th or 26th Dynasty (around 2500 years ago). It’s quite a different style to the earlier 21st Dynasty coffins – where they are bright, yellow and busy this one is almost minimalist by comparison!

The scene on the left of her chest (right of the photo) has the Devourer eagerly waiting in front of Osiris. But the scene on the left of the photo shows that she was disappointed – the Noble Lady Shep has passed the Judgement and is escorted by Thoth and Maat to Osiris.

Below these two scenes are, I think, two of the Sons of Horus protecting the deceased. There’s 4 registers of pairs of figures and at the bottom on her feet are two jackals sitting on shrines. Above you can see the bottom of her broad collar necklace and the ends of her wig.

The Coffin of the Noble Lady Shep. Third Intermediate Period-Late Period, Dynasty 25-26, c. 760-525 BCE. Acc. No.: O.C.6B

I don’t think it’s known where the coffin comes from, but it’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: O.C.6b). I don’t have a full length photo of it, but there’s one on the museum’s website: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/552621

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/940

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=031e7f7d95ba
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1b0b5bdd195b

Detail from the Outer Coffin of Amenemopet

This is a detail from a 22nd Dynasty coffin, belonging to a man called Amenemopet. The bit in the photo is the back of the inside of the box of the outermost coffin, between the shoulders and the elbows. It’s the typical style of this period: yellow background and lots of detail.

The central mummiform figure is the deified Amenhotep I, his cartouches are just out of frame at the top. He ruled around 600 years before this coffin was made and after his death he became deified as the patron deity of Deir el Medina, and this coffin was found near there.

He’s flanked by two fecundity figures, perhaps representations of the god Hapi as I think I see his name by the point of Amenhotep I’s elbow. They wear tight-fitting garments decorated to indicate water and present platters piled high with food offerings.

There are all sorts of other symbols as well: protective vulture deities up above with shen rings for eternal protection, standards behind the Hapis which have Benu birds sitting on top of them, And many more just in this one section, the whole coffin is covered with decoration!

Detail of the Outer Coffin of Amenemopet. From Sheikh Abd el-Gurna, Western Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, early Dynasty 22, c.975-909 BCE. Acc. No.: 17.2.7a

It was found at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 17.2.7a).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1566 and go to the left and right for other photos of this coffin set, I have 9 in total.

To see the whole decorative scheme of the interior of the outer coffin there is this photo from the Met Museum: https://images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages/eg/original/LC-17_2_7a_EGDP026805.jpg See also their site for more information and photos: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544722

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=39737cac8a40
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=26af4b10c75a

Inside of the Mummy Board of Henattawy

This is the interior of the innermost part of the coffins of a 21st Dynasty woman called Henattawy who held several titles to do with the worship of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. She was buried in tomb MMA60 in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri alongside several other people.

The large figure of a goddess on this mummy board is not Nut, as I had at first assumed it would be. Instead this is the Goddess of the West, Imentet, who has the emblem of the West as her headdress. She’s appropriate here because the West is where the land of the dead is.

You can see near the top of the photo there are two ba birds, representing Henattawy, who are worshipping the goddess and presenting offerings. In return Imentet is presenting life, in the form of four large ankh signs.

I particularly like the bottom register in my photo where the goddess is being worshipped by two emblems of the West, with arms. And each has a protective cobra looped round an arm, and each cobra has an ankh sign hung from its body.

Inside of the Mummy Board of Henattawy. From MMA 60, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, c.990-970 BCE. Acc. No.: 25.3.6

It’s now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 25.3.6).

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1528

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0ac6ca64ccbc
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3a0c917f3288

Detail of the Innermost Coffin of Kharushere

This is a close up of the innermost coffin of a man called Kharushere, who was the Doorkeeper of the House of Amun sometime in the 22nd Dynasty (c.800 BCE). His father Bes had the same title, and his mother Tanetheretib was a Chantress of Amun as well as Mistress of the House.

This vignette is on his chest, and shows the man himself being presented to Osiris (seated) by Thoth. Behind Osiris is Isis, and to the right is another goddess (she might be Sopdet but I’m not sure as I can’t find the hieroglyphs for her name in the text).

It’s rather nicely drawn – I particularly like the detail on Kharushere’s fine transparent linen clothing. It’s a shame tho that the person who has painted the blue colour seems to’ve gone for quantity over quality, and so has gone outside the lines in all the hieroglyphs!

Detail of the Innermost Coffin of Kharushere. Kharushere was the son of Bes, Doorkeeper of the House of Amun and Tanetheretib, Mistress of the House and Chantress of Amun. From Sheikh Abd el Gurna, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22, c.825-715 BCE. Acc. No.: 86.1.33

It was found at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna by Maspero, and is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 86.1.33.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1492 and there’s another detail from this coffin one photo to the right.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=01cb7b91b53d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=06021546d044

Outer Coffin of Nany, Mistress of the House, Chantress of Amun, King’s Daughter of His Body

Coffins, particularly Third Intermediate Period coffins, are fascinating to look at and to photograph, which is why I always end up with lots of photos of details from coffins whenever I’ve been to a museum!

This is the outer coffin of a woman called Nany who was “Mistress of the House, Chantress of Amun, King’s Daughter of His Body”. She was probably the daughter of Pinedjem I (a High Priest of Amun who had kinglike status), and died during the 21st Dynasty (c. 3000 years ago).

This bit has such a lot going on it’s hard to pick out all the details. Top centre there’s a winged scarab, presumably Khepri, with a sun disk with uraei above and a djed pillar for Osiris below. To either side are Osiris himself, with Maat behind and Thoth in front.

Below is Nut, with her wing-arms outstretched holding ankhs. She’s got protective cobras, two with wings and two without hanging down from the dividing line between the registers which is also the hieroglyph for the sky. And jackals beneath her wings, with natty red scarves.

I think my favourite details (at least as I look at it this time) are the wadjet eyes with wings and little red upraised arms, worshipping the falcons beneath Khepri’s wings.

Outer Coffin of Nany, Mistress of the House, Chantress of Amun, King’s Daughter of His Body

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 30.3.23.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1555/

I’ve written about Khepri on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2021/05/07/scarab-beetles-creation-and-the-sun/

And about Maat: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/06/01/the-way-things-ought-to-be/

And jackals: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/04/21/some-sort-of-canid/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=21107a9bdfe0
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0ee6cd400056

Image of Nut in the Sarcophagus of Merenptah/Psusennes I

Many coffins and sarcophagi have images of the goddess Nut on the inside of the upper lid – the sky stretching herself protectively over the deceased. This rather fine example is carved in high raised relief inside a granite sarcophagus.

Around and on the goddess are texts and scenes carved in the more usual sunk relief. I particularly like the way she is wearing a close-fitting garment which is covered in stars.

The sarcophagus was found in Tanis (in the Egyptian Delta region) in the intact tomb of the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes I, who died in 994 BCE. But that’s not where it was originally intended for – it started out as the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Merenptah, some 200 years earlier!

Image of Nut in the Sarcophagus of Merenptah/Psusennes I. Found in the tomb of Psusennes I at Tanis. Originally made in the New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Merenptah, c. 1212-1202 BCE. Re-used in the Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 21, reign of Psusennes, c. 1045-994 BCE. Acc. No.: JE87297

In 2016 when I visited it was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, acc. no.: JE87297.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/669/

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=10bb9b53e8d6
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1f317ffb407e

Coffin of Ahmose Meritamun

This is the coffin of an early queen of the 18th Dynasty – Ahmose Meritamun, who was the wife of Amenhotep I. She was also his full sister, and they were the third generation in a row of brother-sister marriages. It is perhaps unsurprising that they appear to’ve had no offspring!

She gets a bit overshadowed by her mother, Ahmose Nefertari, as her mother had in her turn been over shadowed by her own mother (Ahhotep). But sadly Ahmose Meritamun appears to’ve died young and didn’t live long enough to take on the role of preeminent woman in the kingdom.

I think this coffin is particularly beautiful. The face is very delicately defined and looks almost as if it was a real person (whether or not (likely not) it looks anything like the real woman). I also like the effect of the blue on gold paint of the wig.

It was found at Deir el-Bahri in tomb TT358, and is now in the Cairo Museum acc. no. JE53140.

Coffin of Ahmose Meritamun. From tomb TT358, Deir el-Bahri. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep I, c. 1525-1504. Acc. No.: JE6250

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/460/ and go 1 to the right to see a photo of the foot end.

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2d71a36ddf42
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=029f4eb53225

Coffin of Thothirdes

This serene face, gazing into eternity, belongs to the coffin of a man called Thothirdes. It was probably found in Saqqara and is now in Brooklyn Museum (acc. no.: 37.1521 NB the museum disagrees with itself about provenance, I’ve gone with the online catalogue).

I don’t think we know anything about his status or job, but he must’ve been middling wealthy – the coffin is nicely decorated, but his mummification is described as “average” and the structural fabric of the coffin has deteriorated a lot.

However they are sure about his sex and dating – he’s been radiocarbon dated to between 768 & 545 BCE, which correlates nicely with the 26th Dynasty date that his coffin style suggests. And the latest CT scan shows he’s anatomically male (it was in doubt after previous X-rays).

Coffin of Thothirdes. Probably from Saqqara. Late Period, Dynasty 26, c. 664-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 37.1521a-b

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/105/ and there are more photos to the left and right of that one (including his mummy).

Jigsaw puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3648c5974208
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=29943d123e7f