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.
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.
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.
The coffins (and Nephthys) are now in the Met Museum, acc. no.s: 11.150.15a-c.
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?
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.
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.
It’s not known where it was found, but it is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 33.5
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.
The coffin is now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 25.3.202.
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 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.
This coffin was excavated by Petrie at Tarkhan in the Faiyum and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 12.187.54).
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.
This and other pieces of his coffins are in the Met Museum (this is acc. no.: 28.3.53).
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.
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!
It was found at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, and is now in the Met Museum (acc. no.: 17.2.7a).