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:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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:

See it on my photo site:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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: 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: See also their site for more information and photos:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

Relief Decorated Chalice

This rather beautiful blue chalice is about 15cm tall, and is made of faience. It dates to the Third Intermediate Period (between 2500 and 3000 years ago) and is said to have come from Tuna el-Gebel (it’s now in the Met in New York, acc. no. 26.7.971).

The scenes on it are really finely modelled – you can even see the feathers on the bird (next to the man carrying the calf) and the scales on the fish. I’m not sure exactly what the meaning of these scenes is, but I think they are all to do life, creation and rebirth.

I’m particularly intrigued by the man holding apart some sort of antelope-y creature and what looks a lot like a rhino (I’m sure it isn’t, but I’m not sure what it is!). It reminds me of earlier motifs of men with beasts, so perhaps it’s depicting man bringing order to chaos.

Relief Decorated Chalice. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22-25, c. 945-664 BCE. Acc. No.: 26.7.971

See it on my photo site: and go one left to see it alongside another similar vessel.

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

Stela of Pakeshi

This stela was set up by a man called Pakeshi, who held the title God’s Father of Amun, as did his father Nespautitawi. Pakeshi stands before Osiris and the Four Sons of Horus, and the text below is a fairly standard offering formula. It’s not known where it was found.

It dates to the 25th or 26th Dynasties, somewhere around 750-525 BCE. It’s made of wood with gesso over it and painted in this pastel style that’s typical of the time period (so says the Met Museum, and I assume it’s on this basis that they date it to this period).

Despite looking nicely made it’s got one feature that looks like the artisans who made it dropped the ball – you can see in front of the face of each figure there’s a neatly outlined space where the name should go, but no-one’s come back and written the text in!

Stela of Pakeshi. Provenance unknown. Third Intermediate Period – Late Period, Dynasty 25-26, c. 750-525 BCE. Acc. No.: 90.6.30

It’s now in the Met Museum, acc. no.: 90.6.30

See it on my photo site:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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: and there’s another detail from this coffin one photo to the right.

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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:

I’ve written about Khepri on the blog before:

And about Maat:

And jackals:

Jigsaw Puzzles:

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:

Jigsaw puzzles:

Medinet Habu

It’s easy to visit Medinet Habu and think of it as just the one temple, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, standing in proud almost-isolation with only a brief mention of the palace next door and something something harem conspiracy. A bit like a great medieval cathedral, self-contained and singular. But that’s really not true of Medinet Habu (nor necessarily of cathedrals, but that’s a story for someone else’s blog entirely!).

The temple the name Medinet Habu conjures up in the mind isn’t even the earliest remaining temple on the site – that is what is now referred to as the Small Temple, which was founded by Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. And beneath that are the remains of a Middle Kingdom structure. This temple was built to house the primeval mound the creator god Amun-Re Kamutef rose from and returned to to be rejuvenated – referred to as “The Mound of Djeme” or “The Genuine Mound of the West”. Every 10 days a festival procession came to the temple bringing the image of Amun from Luxor Temple to be rejuvenated at the mound, before returning to Luxor. This didn’t stop when Ramesses III built his much bigger temple just next door some 300 years later. It is a measure of its continuing relevance that the Small Temple was still the occasional recipient of royal building works well into the Roman Period. The last structure here is an unfinished court & portico begun by Antoninus Pius in the 2nd Century CE.

It is fair, however, to say that the mortuary temple of Ramesses III dominates the site. For a long time I thought mortuary temples were just sites where the king was worshipped after he died, a bit like the medieval practice of saying masses for the deceased in a chantry chapel. But, as seems to be the theme today, there’s more to them than that somewhat misleading name. The Egyptians called them Temples of Millions of Years and they were not solely concerned with the king (deceased or otherwise) nor were they solely religious in nature. I mustn’t downplay the mortuary function too much, though. The practice of making offerings to the deceased king goes back to at least Early Dynastic times if not before, with kings of the 1st & 2nd Dynasties constructing large enclosures within which their funerary cult was practised. Over time the forms and rituals evolved with changing beliefs, but the basic idea of ensuring a smooth (and permanent) transition into the afterlife for the king by means of a funerary cult remained the same. The decoration scheme of some of the innermost chambers of Ramesses III’s Temple of Millions of Years reflects this. In one set of chambers he is shown partaking in the Osirian afterlife – ploughing and harvesting in the Field of Reeds. In chambers on the other side of the same hall he is shown travelling with Ra in his sacred boat. Both sets of scenes are intended to guarantee the successful rebirth of the king.

Medinet Habu

Other festivals not directly connected with Ramesses III’s afterlife were also celebrated at this temple, during the king’s life and beyond. There’s a calendar of these festivals on the outside of the south wall of the temple which gives details of the necessary offerings, and some of the major ones are shown on the walls of the second courtyard. There are daily offerings to be made, as well as much bigger annual festivals. One of these was the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, where the sacred boats of Amun-Re, Mut and Khonsu came across the Nile from Karnak Temple. Originally they visited the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, and then as each new Temple of Millions of Years was built it was added onto the processional route so the festival got longer with each Pharaoh’s reign. There was also a one day annual festival of Min and a several day festival of Sokar, both of which are shown on the walls of the second court of the temple.

The king visited the temple to take part in these ceremonies (the major ones, that is), and so he needed suitable accommodation. To the south side of the temple are the remains of a palace. Or rather remains of two palaces – the original buildings were pulled down and rebuilt during Ramesses III’s reign. The palace was attached to the south of the temple, with access into the first court as well as a window of appearances overlooking this court. From the window Ramesses III could view and participate in festivals, and be seen by his courtiers and priests – it makes me think of the Royal Box in the Royal Albert Hall (and other theatres). As well as providing access to the religious ceremonies the palace was also the seat of royal ceremony. There’s a throne room with a raised dais, where presumably Ramesses III would sit in state. And as almost every book and tour guide is keen to point out, the throne room also has an en-suite loo accessed via a door in one corner.

As well as the ceremonial rooms of the palace there was other accommodation provided for the king and/or his household. The whole of the site is surrounded by a double wall, through which there were two gates. One of these was small and at the back (west) of the site – the servants entrance, for minor officials, temple employees, delivery men and the like. At the front (east) of the site there is a much more impressive structure – modelled on a Near Eastern fortress called a migdol. And within this imposing gatehouse are other rooms for the royal household. Often these are referred to as the harem where the king’s women would stay, and the internal decoration is said to represent the king indulging in pastimes with his concubines. But Betsy M. Bryan (writing in “Valley of the Kings: The Tombs and the Funerary Temples of Thebes West” ed. Kent Weeks) suggests that these might’ve been the more functional accommodation for the king, leisure rooms away from the formality and ceremony of the palace proper. And she then interprets the young women in the reliefs as Ramesses III’s daughters. A reminder that we don’t actually know for sure the purpose of these rooms, and that we are still working our way through the hangover from what 19th Century Europeans thought about “exotic eastern cultures”.

So, a couple of temples, some fortifications and palaces – is that it for Medinet Habu? It’s not even the end of what was built on the site during the time of Ramesses III! As I said there are two enclosure walls around the site – the outermost one is a real fortification, whereas the inner one is more symbolic and intended to protect the temple from the profane outer world. Between these two walls were the houses for the priestly and administrative staff necessary to keep the temple functioning. This is the equivalent of the rather more famous Middle Kingdom town next to the pyramid of Senwosret II at Lahun. And inside the inner enclosure wall around the back and north side of the temple were great storage magazines for grain. These are far far bigger than would be necessary for feeding the residents of the temple and the offerings presented in the temple – if full they would hold 56,972 sacks of grain, which would be enough to feed something on the order of 1,000 families for a whole year. Instead one must remember that grain was wealth in Ancient Egypt, and that people were paid with rations of grain. These magazines were the stored wealth of the king used to fund the wars he showed off about on the temple walls, as well as being a significant part of the local economy.

These administrative functions are probably the reason the site is so well preserved – each Temple of Millions of Years was set up like this, but as each Pharaoh built a new one it replaced his predecessor’s one as the administrative hub. Ramesses III built the last one, and so it continued to be the centre of the local economy. For instance this is where the workers at Deir el Medina get their rations (wages) from not only in the reign of Ramesses III but in those of his successors – and this is why when they go on strike over non-payment of wages it’s Medinet Habu they go to. During the 21st Dynasty they even move into Medinet Habu, safe behind the fortifications in the more unsettled times after the end of the New Kingdom.

And so the site continues to evolve and be built on even after Ramesses III is long gone. The neat rows of houses don’t long out last the New Kingdom, Barry Kemp positions this as a triumph of self-organisation rather than decline, however. The palace gets remodelled for senior priests, and may even have been occupied by the God’s Wife of Amun during the 25th & 26th Dynasties. At this time the role was occupied by a daughter of the king and she exercised his authority in Upper Egypt. Four of these priestess princesses were buried in the forecourt of Medinet Habu, Amenirdis of the 25th Dynasty and three more from the 26th Dynasty.

The town that Ramesses III’s Temple of Millions of Years has evolved into continues to thrive into the Coptic era. There may’ve been a gap in occupation before the Roman Period – although it’s hard to tell if this is a real gap or if the Romans levelled out the site before they built on it and destroyed the traces of the immediately preceding houses. Later the Copts converted part of the mortuary temple in the second court into a church, as the Copts were prone to do. And even into very modern times the site retained some significance in the eyes of the local population – in Kent Weeks’s Illustrated Guide to Luxor he says that until the 1970s local women still came to pray for children or to avoid illness.

Not just a temple for the soul of a dead king, not just a religious centre for the state religion, a place of worship and separation from the world – instead a thriving hub for a widespread community, full of bustling bureaucrats and people living their everyday lives.

Resources used:

“Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilisation” Barry J. Kemp
“The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt” Bill Manley
“The Pharaoh: Life at Court and on Campaign” Garry J. Shaw
“The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt” Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson
“The Illustrated Guide to Luxor: Tombs, Temples and Museums” Kent R. Weeks
“Valley of the Kings: The Tombs and the Funerary Temples of Thebes West” ed Kent R. Weeks
“The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt” Richard H. Wilkinson
“The Egyptian World” ed. Toby Wilkinson