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Coffin of Horankh

c. 700 B.C.E.

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, United States

Ancient Egyptian coffins housed an individual's physical remains and ka (vital force or soul) during the journey to the afterlife. The decorations on the inside and outside of the coffins guaranteed the deceased's survival. Such decorations included food and drink, servants, a pair of eyes to see the rising sun, spells, and other items that reflected religious beliefs and social practices.

Anthropoid coffins, introduced during the 12th Dynasty (1985-1795 BC), replicate the form of a human body wrapped in a linen shroud and served as substitutes for the corpses in case the remains were lost or destroyed. The Dallas coffin was made for Horankh as indicated by the name inscribed on the base. Although the sculpted head is rendered in a naturalistic manner, the colors and beard are symbolic: the green face and plaited, upturned beard are attributes of Osiris, Lord of the Underworld and god of the resurrection. Horankh's dedication to Osiris is evident in the invocation to the deity inscribed on the base of the statue.(4)

Horankh lived during the 25th Dynasty (747-656 BC), which is also known as the Kushite or Nubian Dynasty. Nubia was located along the Nile River between Aswan in southern Egypt and Khartoum in northern Sudan. There the ancient Nubians developed powerful, independent kingdoms beginning around 3100 BC and competed with Egypt for the use of the Nile River as a commercial highway and for the acquisition of land. While Egypt dominated Nubia on more than one occasion, the Nubians took advantage of a divided Egypt in 747 BC and ruled it for one hundred years.

This outer coffin, with its lack of ornate decoration, is reminiscent of coffins from the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) and illustrates how the Nubians borrowed from the classic models of earlier dynasties.

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  • Title: Coffin of Horankh
  • Date Created: c. 700 B.C.E.
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 76 3/4 x 18 x 16 1/2 in. (1 m 94.95 cm x 45.72 cm x 41.91 cm)
  • Type: Containers
  • External Link: https://www.dma.org/object/artwork/3304922/
  • Medium: Wood, gesso, paint, obsidian, calcite, and bronze
  • period: Late Period
  • culture: Egyptian
  • Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

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