Ancient Egyptian Coffins and Sarcophagi


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This gallery contains images of Ancient Egyptian coffins and sarcophagi from approximately 1075 B.C. to A.D. 30. These elaborate coffins are or were vibrantly painted and decorated with depictions of gods and goddesses in various forms, scenes detailing the afterlife the deceased person hoped to obtain and physical attributes to indicate his or her status while they were alive. Although many Ancient Egyptian coffins and sarcophagi are decorated in a somewhat similar manner, each one is specifically made to help the person it was built for obtain passage to the afterlife. Although the materials used to make the bodies of the coffins changed with different dynasties and the decorations changed with different religious views, these coffins show a common theme in Ancient Egyptian culture - the dead were expected to live on in the afterlife.

Coffin lid of Henet-Mer, Unknown artist, 1075 B.C. - 945 B.C., From the collection of: The Newark Museum of Art
Henet-Mer means "Mistress of Love" and the inscription on her coffin lid describes her as a "priestess of Amon-Ra, songstress, Mistress of the House (title for a married woman)".
Coffin and Mummy Board of Pasebakhaemipet, Unknown, ca. 1070-945 B.C.E., From the collection of: Brooklyn Museum
This coffin shows a change that occurred during Dynasty 21, when "magical" decoration of the deceased person's started showing up mainly on coffins instead of on tomb walls, as they had in the past. Pasebakhemipet was the mayor of Thebes and therefore a very important person. His false beard, headdress and elaborately decorated coffin make that evident. His coffin is decorated with images of Osiris, the god of the dead, Nut, the sky goddess, and the goddess of the afterlife. It also includes scenes of Pasebakhaemipet's journey into the after life and of him as a living presence in the next world.
The Arrhenius Sarcophagus is a wood and polychrome gesso coffin. It includes a large collar, many figurative scenes and even passages from the Book of the Dead. The sarcophagus identifies the mummy it contained as a woman and as an enchantress. This connects her to Osiris, god of the underworld, and would have guaranteed her eternal passage through the afterlife. Even though it is thousands of years old, the scenes are still clear and the colors are still vibrant. She wears a headdress and has her arms crossed, which is a common styling of an important person in Ancient Egypt.
Coffin of Sesekh-nofru, Unknown artist, -1107/-1047, From the collection of: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Egyptian coffins were not made to represent what the dead person actually looked like, but instead were meant to represent the god the deceased hoped to become once he passed into the Afterlife. The Sesekh-nofru coffin has the crossed arms, headdress and false beard typical of Egyptian royalty. This coffin also depicts the Wreath of Righteousness around the deceased's head, which was given if the gods found the person worthy of eternal life. This coffin also depicts Osiris, with outstretched wings, across the body of the mummy - this depiction is meant to protect the deceased in their journey into the afterlife. The gold paint over nearly the entire body would indicate that Sesekh-nofru was very wealthy and powerful.
Bottom of Coffin, Unknown, ca. 1070-945 B.C.E., From the collection of: Brooklyn Museum
The large figure in the paintings on this coffin represents Osiris, who as the king of the dead is obviously a very important figure in Egyptian culture. Since the mummy would have originally laid on top of this painting, it would have associated him with the king/god who was reborn into the afterlife. This coffin also contains a depiction of the ba-soul and deities like Anubis and Horus in it's registers. Anubis and Horus are there to protect Osiris and can be seen supporting his legs.
Cartonnage of Nehemsu, Unknown, -0800/-0720, From the collection of: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Cartonnage is an inner coffin that mummies from around 1100 BC onwards were often given. It is made by linen stuck together with paste and coated in stucco. This one was made for a woman named Nehemsu. Cartonnages from the 22nd Dynasty often show gods in the shape of birds or with birdlike attributes. This cartonnage shows a falcon with a ram's head stretching it's wings over the body of the deceased and a sun disc is shown above it's head - which represents the nocturnal aspect of the sun god. The winged sun disc below represents the diurnal aspect of the sun. Together these figures represent the cycle of day and night or life and death, which the deceased hopes to become a part of.
Anthropoid Coffin, ca. 750 B.C., From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
This coffin again shows the nocturnal aspect of the sun god, who is stretching his wings over the body of the deceased for protection. Osiris is depicted in the lower registers, along with the four Sons of Horus as protective funerary deities. This coffin also contains several winged sun discs, which are meant to provide the deceased with magical protection and rebirth.
Inner coffin of Nesmutaatneru, Unknown, 760 B.C. - 660 B.C., From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This type of coffin replaced cartonnage cases and is that of a mummified body standing on a pedestal. It is decorated by brightly colored paint over a layer of linen and plaster. She has on a vulture headdress, a large, detailed collar and the nocturnal aspect of the sun god - wings outstretched - on her body. The registers on the body are of hieroglyphs and deities associated with the afterlife. The center scene on the body of the coffin shows Nesmutaatneru lying on a bier, surrounded by Isis, Nephthys and a winged scarab representing Khepri.
Mummy Coffin of Pedusiri, Egyptian, Late Dynastic (712–323 BC) or Early Greco-Roman (323 BC–AD 395) Period, 500/250 BC, From the collection of: Milwaukee Art Museum
This coffin is a representation of the artistic and religious practices in the late Dynastic and early Greco-Roman periods. It is brightly painted with hieroglyphs to protect Pedusiri. He has an idealized gold face mask, blue head cloth and a detailed funerary collar with hawk-headed terminals, which all indicate that he was a wealthy and powerful man. The registers show the sky goddess, Nut, with her wings stretched out and a rare scene that shows the details of the mummification process with a ritual priest dressed as Anubis (god of the afterlife). It also shows canopic jars, which were used to hold the organs of the deceased and had lids decorated with protective deities.
Coffin of Pedi-Osiris, Egyptian, 305 BC–AD 30, From the collection of: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Pedi-Osiris was a priest of Osiris. This coffin is over 7' tall and has a gold face mask, wig painted in the blue of lapis lazuli, painted necklaces and a red cloth covered in painted beads. His gold face mask includes a false beard and black-lined eyes, which were a symbol of high rank or royalty. As typical of Ancient Egyptian coffins, this one contains depictions of several gods and goddesses intended to protect and help the deceased in the journey to the afterlife.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
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