Anthropoid Sarcophagus of Usermontu

This is a relatively unusual object – it’s a human shaped granite sarcophagus, which is not unusual in itself but it belonged to a private individual who lived during the New Kingdom and at that period it was generally only royalty who got stone sarcophagi.

The man who was once buried in it was called Usermontu, and he held a suite of high ranking titles including High Priest of Montu and Overseer of the Treasury. This reinforces the impression of very high status that’s implied by the sarcophagus.

And he didn’t just have one stone sarcophagus – in his tomb (TT382) there’s another larger black one, into which this one presumably fitted (this one wasn’t found in the tomb, it was originally bought in Egypt from an antiquities dealer in 1913).

Yet another indicator of his prestige is the size of his tomb, which is bigger than the others around it. That tomb was known at the beginning of the 20th Century, but somehow misplaced and only rediscovered in 2010 when some modern buildings were demolished.

Anthropoid Sarcophagus of Usermontu. Probably from Theban Tomb 382. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Ramesses II, c. 1279-1213 BCE. Acc. No.: 17.190.2042 a-c

This sarcophagus is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 17.190.2042

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/991/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=138c3b85c13d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2346e2af6372

Inner Coffin of Khonsu

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: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1578/category/6

I’ve written about the Egyptian scripts on the blog before: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2020/10/01/write-like-an-egyptian/

And I’ve re-told an Egyptian creation story including Nut’s birth here: https://talesfromthetwolands.org/2019/11/01/how-everything-became/

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=3f2e50122dc6
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=30bcd6820ee2

Inner Coffin of Tabakenkhonsu

This is the inner coffin of a woman called Tabakenkhonsu who lived and died during the 25th Dynasty around 2600 years ago. She was buried in the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, and I shared a photo of her bead shroud a few weeks ago.

She was buried in 3 coffins and you can see parts of them all in this photo. The outer one was rectangular and the other two are person shaped – you can see the lower part of the outer one with bedpost like corners at the far end, as well as the lower part of the middle one.

The inner one is displayed here with the lid as well as the base. On the foot end is a very typical decoration for this period – the deceased is shown as a mummy being carried by the Apis Bull towards the tomb.

Inner Coffin of Tabakenkhonsu. From the pit in the Hypostyle Hall of the Hathor Shrine, Temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 25, c.680-670 BCE. Acc. No.: 96.4.3

These coffins were found at Deir el Bahri and are now in the Met Museum, acc. no. 96.4.3.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1538/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=19dc43b9be31
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0e8bc2abae05

Detail of the Outer Coffin of Amenemopet

This is another detail from the outer coffin of a man called Amenemopet who lived during the 22nd Dynasty (around 3000 years ago), I shared a photo of the interior a few months ago and this is the outside of the foot portion of the coffin.

I love looking at and taking photos of coffins from this era, because they are so covered in motifs and decorative elements – every time you look at an object you see something you’d not seen before!

The central panel of this piece is heavy on protective snake motifs, just in this photo alone there are three of them. And between them are solar and Osirian images, with more protective beings (and more snakes).

The top panel shows the scarab beetle, Khepri, pushing the sun up (protected by paired snakes) from what looks awfully like a palace facade motif. He’s flanked by two mummiform jackal headed beings, kneeling on the ground and each holding a crook and flail.

Below is an analogous scene with different participants. The sun disc and flanking snakes sits on top of a tyet knot, the symbol of the goddess Isis, and the mummiform beings are human headed and seated on chairs.

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

And there’s loads more, if you go to my photo site you can look at a larger version using the drop menu on the top right of the page and see more of the details to the left & the right. The coffin itself is in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 17.2.7a.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1567/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2f6fac7de13f
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=286eb8bf813f

Coffins of Nephthys

In these rather splendid coffins was buried a woman called Nephthys, who held the title of Mayor’s Daughter and lived during the Middle Kingdom in the reigns of Senwosret I & Senwosret II (so around 4000 years ago). She was found in her coffins in an intact burial at Meir.

She wasn’t the original owner of the coffins – her name looks added into the inscription later, and previously the coffin was inscribed for a man called Ukhhotep. You can’t see it on this photo, but the text of the name is in a subtly different colour to the rest.

The outer coffin (box shaped) is made of wood – sycomore and ziziphus wood, which are both (I think!) found in Egypt. So not the highest quality of wood (that would be imported woods like cedar) but the planks look pretty straight and even so it was an expensive coffin.

The inner coffin is made of cartonnage (which is like papier-mâché but made with linen and plaster) and has a gilded face, and a broad collar made of inlaid stones. I particularly like the colour of the gold, which gives the effect of being both golden and skin coloured.

Coffins of Nephthys. From Cemetery of Meir. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, reign Senwosret I – Senwosret II, c. 1961-1878 BCE. Acc. No.s: 11.150.15a-c

The coffins (and Nephthys) are now in the Met Museum, acc. no.s: 11.150.15a-c.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1249/category/6 and go one to the right for an angle where you can see the text alteration.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1b0777118e57
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=03da66950fbb

Mummy Mask of the Mistress of the House Iynaferty

Iynaferty (or Iineferty) rejoiced in the title of “Mistress of the House”, which actually just means she was a housewife but sounds rather grander. She was buried at Deir el Medina in her husband Sennedjem’s tomb (and presumably lived at Deir el Medina too!).

Sennedjem also had a fabulous title – he was “Servant in the Place of Truth”, which means he was one of the people who worked on building the royal tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings. Given the richness of his tomb, probably quite a senior figure in the workforce.

This is Iynaferty’s mummy mask and it’s quite beautiful. I particularly like the lotus flower motif on the top of her head. She’s also depicted as having natural hair poking out from the wig, with two little pigtails framing her face. Perhaps a glimpse into contemporary fashions?

Mummy Mask of the Mistress of the House Iynaferty. From the tomb of Sennedjem (TT1), Deir el Medina. New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, reign of Rameses II, c.1279–1213 BCE. Acc. No.: 86.1.6

It was found in TT1 at Deir el Medina, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 86.1.6). It dates to the reign of Ramesses II.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1587/category/6 and go one to the right for a close up of the head.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2514110b5c84
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1d65d50953a8

Head of the Anthropoid Coffin of Heribsenes

The head of this coffin is interesting – at first glance it’s a rather fine piece of work, but as you look more closely you can see it doesn’t look like it was made all in one go! The face doesn’t quite seem to match the surrounding wig, and looks rather nicer quality.

The coffin itself is inscribed for a woman called Heribsenes who lived in the 26th Dynasty, but the Met Museum’s website dates the face to the New Kingdom based on the style. So anything from 500 to 1000 years older than the rest of the piece.

But this doesn’t appear to be a modern frankenstein of a coffin – the wig is nicely shaped round the face, for instance. So this is ancient re-use: Heribsenes (or those burying her) saw this fine old coffin fragment and thought it would look rather nice on her coffin.

Head of the Anthropoid Coffin of Heribsenes. Provenance unknown. Late Period, Dynasty 26, c. 664-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 33.5

It’s not known where it was found, but it is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 33.5

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/949/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=37b16342bb5d
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0f08432526b5

Inner Coffin of Ankhshepenwepet

This is a close up of the front of the coffin of a woman called Ankhshepenwepet who lived during the second half of the 25th Dynasty, around 2500 years ago. She was buried in the temple grounds of Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahri, and her tomb was robbed in antiquity.

Around the middle you can see the deceased being led from the far right of the photo towards several divine beings. Thoth leads Ankhshepenwepet away from the weighing of the heart, which you can just see around the right hand side of the coffin as you look at it.

The queue of beings is headed by Osiris with Isis behind him, but I think most of them are the judges from the Hall of the Two Maats. These are the divine beings to whom the negative confessions are addressed as the deceased demonstrates they are worthy to enter the afterlife.

Inner Coffin of Ankhshepenwepet. She was buried in Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahri. From MMA56, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, second half of Dynasty 25, 690-656 BCE. Acc. No.: 25.3.202

The coffin is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 25.3.202.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1506/category/6

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=0b369df1eb39
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=2c9be89548d0

Mummy Board of Henettawy

This is the innermost part of the coffin set of a woman called Henettawy, who was a Chantress of Amun-Ra during the late 21st Dynasty (so about 3000 years ago in the Third Intermediate Period). It’s her mummy board, which sat on top of her mummy inside the inner coffin.

I took this photo of the lower half of it because I found the decoration quite striking particularly in juxtaposition with her other two coffins. They are elaborately decorated with gods etc, as is the top of the mummy board, but the bottom is simple, restrained and elegant.

The red background is represents a red cloth wrapping around the mummy, and over it is depicted a bead net dress. A couple of such dresses have survived (and been restrung), one of which is in the Petrie Museum (see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum/bead-net-dress).

Mummy Board of Henettawy. Henettawy was only 21 when she died, and was buried in a plundered tomb which had previously belonged to one of Hatshepsut’s officals. From MMA59, Deir el Bahri, Thebes. Third Intermediate Period, late Dynasty 21, c.1000-945 BCE. Acc. No.: 25.3.184

It is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 25.3.184.

See it on my photo site: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1546/

I also have a photo of all three parts of the set: https://photos.talesfromthetwolands.org/picture.php?/1551/ and if you go right there are several more photos of the coffins.

Jigsaw Puzzles:
easier: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1fb3a9efb745
harder: https://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=1f7ba5be09de

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