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Coffin of Aba, son of Ankh Hor

Coffin of Aba, son of Ankh Hor
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0829

Inv.Inventory
 (Al-Asasif-Storeroom 33) 10

where to find


showcase 8

Coffin of Aba, son of Ankh Hor

Category:
Tomb equipment, coffins
Date:
Ancient Egyptian period, Late Period, 26th Dynasty (664-525 BCE)
Provenance:
Upper Egypt, Luxor (Thebes), West Bank, Qurna
Material(s):
Organic material, wood
Height:
38 cm;
Length:
185 cm;
Width:
50 cm
Hall:
In the Afterlife, showcase 8


Description

Wooden anthropoid coffin of a man called "Aba son of Ankh Hor", ruler and treasurer of Upper Egypt. The coffin is fully decorated in the shape of a mummy resembling Osiris with the upturned ceremonial false beard and a wig. The eyes are inlaid with ivory and ebony. Iba wears a large multicoloured necklace, and the sky-goddess Nut appears on the chest area. The goddess Isis with wide-spread wings is portrayed on the feet, while the goddess Nephtys appears at the head.  The three goddesses offer protection to the deceased. The coffin lid is also decorated with texts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the base shows hieroglyphic inscriptions.
 

Coffins

Bodies of the deceased in pre-dynastic Egypt were usually buried in coffins made of clay or inside baskets or wooden planks instead of being placed directly into the sand. As the sand made its way into these burial materials, it preserved the bodies from decaying. This led to the idea of mummifying bodies and placing them in several coffins in order to preserve them. "Ginger" is the oldest example of a mummified body and is currently in the British Museum. 

The early coffins were oval in shape and by the first and second dynasties they were in the shape of a square box in which the body was placed in a flexed position on his left side facing east, in order to be reborn again as the sun rises in the east.  With the introduction of the mummification process, coffins became rectangular in order to accommodate the stretched out bodies of the deceased which were placed extended on their back 

The coffins for the rich and nobles were made of granite, basalt or alabaster, which in turn were placed inside a stone sarcophagus, whereas those for the poor were made of sycamore or tamarisk wood. 

During the First Intermediate Period (2181-2025 BC), wooden coffins were decorated both inside and out and included excerpts from the Coffin Texts written in black ink. A pair of eyes was painted on the east- facing side of the coffin at head level in a frame or panel resembling a door in order to enable the deceased to see the world of the living and for the Ka to go out and partake of the food offered to the deceased.

From the time of the eleventh dynasty, coffins became anthropoid in shape as an extension of the cartonnage mummy masks which depicted the features of the deceased. These coffins were made of wood or cartonnage. The internal coffin was called "Wedjry-usekhet", while the external sarcophagus was called "Wet-aa-wedj-ba".

The shape of these coffins developed in Thebes since the Second Intermediate Period to represent the features of the deceased, bearing the wig and the funeral necklace with a ribbon with hieroglyphic inscriptions listing the titles of the deceased, and the offerings formula. The royal coffin was made of gold and was decorated with friezes depicting the uraeus. Yellow varnish was used over the multi-coloured coffin decorations, which gave them a darker tinge in relation to the original colours.

Scenes depicted on coffins until the Late Period included the Four Sons of Horus and the protective goddesses Isis, Nut, Nephtys and Neith who protected the deceased in his journey into the afterlife.

By the 21st Dynasty, all available surfaces on the coffin were covered with writings and spells, besides the conventional depictions. Cartonnage was in common usage by the 22nd Dynasty, alongside the insertion of anthropoid coffins inside stone sarcophagi for protection. The latter were also decorated.

By the Third Intermediate Period starting with the 26th Dynasty, the outer coffin or sarcophagus was also anthropoid in shape. Cartonnage was used during the Ptolemaic Period, but only to cover main body parts like the head, arms, chest, legs and feet, and it was sometimes gilded.

The use of cartonnage persisted well into the second century A.D., when masks were inserted into the linen bandages, a style known as the Fayoum Portraits.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Ikram, Salima. The Mummy in Ancient Egypt the dead for eternity. London: Thames & Hudson, 1998.
  • "Coffin". In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Edited by Donald B. Redford. Vol. III. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • "Coffins". In Dictionary of Egyptian civilization. By Posener, Georges, Serge Sauneron and Jean Yoyotte. Translated from the French by Alix Macfarlane. London: Methuen, 1962.
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