These two large stone sarcophagus lids were made for a wealthy royal scribe and priest named Pa-di-Inpu and his son Pa-di-Djehuti. They are examples of the expensive tomb equipment we expect for all Egyptians. Yet only a limited group of people could afford burial in such elaborate stone coffins. Members of less-wealthy families made coffins from low-quality wood or even terracotta.
Pa-di-Djehuti: the Limestone sarcophagus lid of a man with wig and false beard has three vertical registers of hieroglyphs running down the front of the piece. The translation of these is as follows: “Royal scribe, accountant of all things, scribe of Anubis of Hiffonon. Thatpe-her (?) son of the royal scribe of the books of the temple of Hiffonon Pedi-Anubis, born of a priestess of Uazit of Hiffonon Set-ari-ban”.
Sarcophagus Lid for Pa-di-Inpu: a limestone sarcophagus lid of a man with a wig and beard. Three vertical registers of hieroglyphs run down the lower front. The translation is “Royal scribe, accountant of all things, priest of Hathor of Hebenis (the XVIth Nome of Upper Egypt), scribe of Anubis of Hiffonon (XVIIIth Nome of Upper Egypt), Pedi-Anubis, son of the Royal scribe, Pedi-Anubis born of a priestess of Uazit of Hiffonon Thet.”
Pyramidion of a Woman, ca. 1185-718 B.C.E.
Reliefs on four sides of this small pyramid from a woman’s tomb depict basic aspects of Egyptian belief. The deceased worships Osiris in the niche and Re on the back, the two major gods connected to the afterlife. On the right side, a human-headed bird representing the ba-soul, which travels outside the tomb, perches on a djed-pillar, a symbol of rebirth. The deceased is followed by two demigods. On the left side, the gods Horus and Thoth perform part of the funeral purification ritual on the deceased’s mummy.
Anthropoid Coffin of the Servant of the Great Place, Teti, ca. 1339-1307 B.C.E.
Egyptians after the New Kingdom desired coffins representing them as Osiris. This coffin was made for Teti, a “Servant of the Great Place.” This title was used by artisans who painted tombs in the Valley of the Kings and lived in Deir el-Medina. As a middle-class artisan, Teti paid nearly a year’s salary for a coffin of this quality. He was able to use five different paint colors to decorate his wooden coffin, including blue, yellow, red, black, and white. The yellow background paint with red streaks is used to imitate the gilded coffins of the wealthy.
Seated Statue of the Superintendent of the Granary Irukaptah, 2425-2350 B.C.E.
This statue functioned as a place for Irukaptah—also known as Kenu, a fifth dynasty dignitary—to receive offerings from this world to convey to the next world. The Egyptians believed that the ka-soul could inhabit a statue like this. Scenes of offering carved on the sides of this chair show men offering fowl, linen, and food in containers. On the back, two women offer objects in a chest and perhaps bread. These scenes substitute for or augment scenes of offerings that were carved on the walls of the tomb. Irukaptah was titled “Master Butcher of the Great House King’s Wab Priest.” His tomb near Saqqara is known widely as the “Butcher’s Tomb.”
Triad of Isis, the Child Horus, and Nepthys, 305-30 B.C.E.
After Osiris went to the afterlife, Isis raised her son Horus with the help of her sister Nephthys. Isis hid her son from his jealous uncle Seth, who had killed Osiris and taken the throne of Egypt from him. Amulets like this were placed on the lower torso of the mummy and protected the deceased as Isis and Nephthys protected Horus.
Statue of Horus as a Child, 664-332 B.C.E.
Horus grew up to challenge his uncle Seth, who had taken the throne from Osiris. A human child who wore this amulet received the protection that Isis had given to the child Horus. Such amulets continued to be worn after death.
Mummiform Figure of Osiris, 664-332 B.C.E.
The inscription identifies this figure as Osiris. He wears the crown of ostrich feathers, a sun-disk, and the ram’s horns that identify him as a king. Yet he is also in the form of a mummy with the curled beard worn by the dead. The figure stands on a hollow base in which a papyrus with a spell written on it was stored.
Relief with Netherworld Deities, ca. 1332 – 1250 B.C.E.
This relief carving is from the tomb of Yepu, an high official of ancient Egypt. The carving illustrates Spell 145 from The Book of the Dead when the deceased approaches the guardian deities of the fourth and sixth gates of the netherworld. The words inscribed on the carving were to be recited upon reaching the gates. A wealthy individual in ancient Egypt would have made sure to incorporate spells into many different forms so that he or she would remember all of them upon reaching the netherworld. In addition to this relief carving, which would have been affixed to his tomb’s wall, Yepu also likely had a papyrus version of The Book of the Dead.
Sheet from an Amduat: What is in the Netherworld, 945-712 B.C.E.
The Amduat—also known as The Book of the Dead—included spells that a deceased person would need to know and recite to speed his or her journey into the afterlife. This copy was made for a high-ranking priest of the god Amun. Most remaining examples of The Book of the Dead are only partially intact. This sheet contains Spell 15, which includes writing that gives the genealogy of the deceased and the name of the god Re-Har-akhty-Atum.
Gaming Board Inscribed for Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.E.
This board and gaming pieces were used to play a game the ancient Egyptians called senet—which loosely translates to “passing.” The game was played by two people, each of whom used seven game pieces to advance, jump over their opponent’s pieces, and eventually remove their pieces from the board. The first player to remove all of their game pieces won rebirth into the afterlife. Game boards such as this were used for over three thousand years in Egypt and were often included in tombs.
Block Statue of Padimahes
This statue of Padimahes would have been placed in a temple after his death. It is believed that his forward gaze was directed towards a temple procession. Padimahes’s ba-soul—the part of the human soul that remains with the body of the deceased after death, but which can travel in the mortal world and the afterlife—would have been able to share in the offerings made to the god in the temple, but would have then returned to the tomb.
Block Statue of Nesthoth, 305-30 B.C.E.
Nesthoth was named to honor the god Thoth. The baboon wearing the moon-disk, carved on his lower legs, is a symbol of Thoth.
Elaborately Painted Shroud of Neferhotep, Son of Herrotiou
This shroud for the mummy of Neferhotep was likely made during a time of Roman rule in Egypt, and thus it has Roman stylistic influences. The shroud bears a Roman-style portrait, similar to the panel portrait found on Demetrios’s mummy seen nearby in this gallery. Neferhotep’s mummy would have been less expensive, however, because the portrait was painted directly on the shroud instead of on a wooden panel, and because it was made with tempera paint instead of encaustic paints. When this shroud was excavated by French Egyptologist Bernard Bruyère in 1948, parts of it were missing. The darkened parts of the ultraviolet photograph reproduced here show areas of restoration undertaken around 1970.
Image of Ba-bird on a Footpiece from a Coffin, ca. 945-712 B.C.E.
The human-headed bird represents the ba-soul, part of the Egyptian soul that could leave the tomb and travel both in this world and in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians recited spells to ensure that the ba returned to the mummy from its various journeys to maintain the proper burial.
Statuette of a Standing Hippopotamus, ca. 1938 -1539, B.C.E.
In ancient Egypt, Seth was disliked because he killed his brother, king Osiris, and then claimed the throne. Seth became known as the god of chaos and was often represented by the symbol of a hippopotamus. In an Egyptian tomb, negative forces were controlled by including a statue of a hippopotamus with broken legs. The lotus flowers on the sides of the hippopotamus signify how the animal might have appeared as if it were standing in the Nile River among natural vegetation.
Mummy of a Dog, Mummified Dog
Sometimes very wealthy ancient Egyptians chose to mummify their pets. Most often, however, such animal mummies were offerings to the gods. The animals mummified represented a god or goddess, such as the cat belonging to the goddess Bastet or the ibis belonging to the god Thoth. Some animal mummies contained a papyrus with a request to the god written on it.
The Mummy of Demtri[o]s, 95 – 100, C.E.
With Roman stylistic influences, this mummy of a wealthy Greek person known as Demetrios was likely made during a time when the Romans ruled Egypt. Made with expensive imported materials, it reveals the wealth of the deceased. A linen shroud is wrapped on top of this mummy’s bandages and painted with red pigment imported from Spain. The face of Demetrios is depicted in Roman-style on a wooden panel using pigments and encaustic. Artists also used gold leaf to incorporate divine Egyptian symbols, the name of the deceased, and his age (59 years) at the time of death. Researchers recently used a medical imaging method known as a CT scan to x-ray this mummy, revealing that Demetrios suffered from gallstones during his lifetime.
Headrest with Two Images of the God Bes
Headrests like this were used to support the heads of living persons while sleeping, but they are also found supporting heads of the deceased inside coffins. This headrest was likely made for a tomb because an offering prayer is inscribed on the supporting column. The prayer on the headrest also could have been added after the death of its owner.
Canopic Jars (Jackal, Hawk, Human, Baboon)
Canopic jars were used by ancient Egyptians to store mummified internal organs. Each organ was kept in a separate jar and preserved for the afterlife. Such jars first appeared in the royal tomb of Hetepheres, the mother of Khufu and builder of the Great Pyramid. The canopic jars seen here, however, were typical of those used by the middle-class. These more affordable jars were “dummies,” whose vessels were never hollowed out to actually hold organs, yet were sill included in the tomb of the deceased.
Panel from the Coffin of a Woman
This coffin is decorated with hieroglyphic texts invoking both national gods and the local gods of Asyut. A stand with five jars of oil, a bed with seven linen bags of materials for mummification, a mirror, and a pair ofsandals are all depicted on the coffin’s side, magically ensuring their presence in the tomb and with the deceased forever.
Standing Figure of Bes
Bes was the deity who protected women in childbirth and children during life and in the tomb. The god Bes had the face and tail of a lion, the legs of a dwarf, and a feathered headdress. Just as he protected the act of birth in the living world, he also aided rebirth into the next world. Bes amulets were made from many different materials, but the most prized were gold.
Statuette of Sennefer,ca. 1938-1837 B.C.E; Statuette of a Striding Man, ca. 2288-2170, B.C.E.
Carved from a softer, and therefore lower-grade limestone, these sculptures reveals less detail than some of those carved of harder limestone, diorite, or granite nearby. Though nearly all ancient Egyptian statues were painted, the paint on these statuettes hides the lower-grade stone used.
Coffin of the Lady of the House, Weretwahset, Reinscribed…
A typical coffin set would have included a coffin lid and a separate mummy board. In the original coffin set for Weretwahset the lid and board were combined. Generally, the lid would have been decorated to present the body of the deceased to the god Osiris, but in this example Weretwahse wears a dress that she would have worn in life. About two hundred years after Weretwahset died, this coffin was reused by someone named Bensuipet. Bensuipet added the mask and body cover, and erased Weretwahse’s name from the coffin in order to add her own.
Mummy Caronnage of a Woman, ca. 1st century C.E.
Head and Chest from a Sarcophagus, 4th century C.E.
These mummy covers convey the extremes between wealth and poverty in Roman Egypt. The professionally crafted, gilded, and inlaid mummy cartonnage was for a woman whose life and death were spent in luxury. In contrast, the hand-modeled and simply painted terracotta mask was probably fashioned by the woman it represented or a family member of the deceased. While both covers protected each mummy adequately, the different materials demonstrate how different social classes prepared the necessary objects for the next world.
Seated Statuette of Si-Hathor, ca. 1818-1630 B.C.E.
This statuette combines the seated image of the deceased with the base where the inscription would normally be carved (as in Seated Statuette of Sekhemka shown nearby). Here, the artist carved the offering prayer directly onto Si-Hathor’s garment, a solution that saved on the amount of stone to be purchased.
The Meaning of Amulets
Amulets were small objects worn by the living or attached to a mummy after death as a means of protection. Depending on what one could afford, amulets were made from either gold, precious stones, or simple ceramic faience.
The following kinds of amulets are in this exhibition:
These amulets were placed on the chest of the mummy. They ensured the return of the ba-soul, which could travel from the tomb to the world of the living and to the afterlife. Though the mummy was the ba’s home, The Book of the Dead suggests that Egyptians feared the ba might not always return. They believed that ba amulets could substitute for the true ba. These types of amulets were made from precious gemstones such as lapis lazuli, as well as less-expensive materials such as faience and glass.
These amulets were worn suspended from a chain around the neck. Bes was the deity who protected women in childbirth and children during life and in the tomb. The god Bes had the face and tail of a lion, the legs of a dwarf, and a feathered headdress. Just as he protected the act of birth in the living world, he also aided rebirth into the next world. Bes amulets were made from many different materials, but the most prized were gold.
Wadjet or Eye Amulets
Ancient Egyptians believed the moon to be the eye of the god Horus, represented symbolically by the wadjet-eye commonly depicted on amulets. Just as the moon waxes and wanes, the eye of Horus can be injured and healed. The wadjet-eye is probably the most common amulet, and was made from almost all materials.
The Book of the Dead refers to the djed as the backbone of the god Osiris, which allows him to rise up in the afterlife. The djed symbol may have originally come from the form of a tree trunk that was elevated during Osiris’s ceremony of resurrection. The hieroglyph on a djed translates to “enduring.”
Hollow Cylindrical Amulets
Amulets like this were suspended from a cord and worn around the neck. They contained a piece of papyrus with a written spell that offered protection to women and children. They are known only from the Middle and New Kingdoms and belonged to royalty and high-ranking members of society.
Heart scarabs were placed over a mummy’s heart in the tomb. They were a specialized type of amulet shaped like a dung beetle. These beetles were known for pushing small pellets of dung, which reminded ancient Egyptians of how the sun god Re travelled across the sky. Heart scarabs were inscribed with a spell from The Book of the Dead imploring the heart not to testify against the deceased at the judgment of the dead.
Nefertum was the son of the great gods of Memphis, Ptah and Sekhmet. These three gods formed an alternative divine family parallel to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Like the amulets of Horus, those of Nefertum were worn to protect young people in this life and the next.
The Book of the Dead instructed ancient Egyptians to place a red jasper tyt amulet on the neck of the mummy. Shaped like the goddess Isis’ belt, the amulet guaranteed that she would protect the mummy.
Ancient Egyptians worked with gold and semiprecious stones mined in the deserts east of the Nile River in a place they called Nubia—present-day Sudan. Nub was the ancient Egyptian word for gold.
Ancient Egyptians made many objects using faience—a non-clay ceramic material made from crushed quartz and sand. Although many faience objects were reproduced in large quantities, sometimes extremely high quality pieces (such as this one) were made.
Figure of Pataikos, ca. 664-30 B.C.E.
In this amulet, the dwarf god Pataikos strangles snakes while standing on two crocodiles. A scarab rests on his head. Pataikos is flanked by Isis and Nephthys—the wife and sister of Osiris. This amulet would have been worn on a cord around the neck to protect the deceased from snakes and crocodiles in the afterlife. The name Pataikos refers to a protective god (or perhaps a whole group of related gods) in the form of a dwarf. Representations of Pataikos appear on amulets worn around the neck. The god is usually depicted with a bald head on which a scarab can be seen. Sometimes he has a falcon's head. He is often standing on crocodiles and holding other dangerous animals such as snakes in his hands. As far as attributes and function are concerned, he may be compared to the god Horus as depicted on magical stelae from the Late Period. Pataikos appears frequently from the New Kingdom on, but similar figures from the Old Kingdom may perhaps already be depictions of the god. The name Pataikos was introduced by the Greek writer Herodotus. He relates that in the temple of Memphis there was a statue of the god Ptah in the form of a dwarf, an image so remarkable that it provoked the mockery of the Persian king Cambyses. Herodotus compared the statue with a protective statuette in the shape of a dwarf that he knew from Phoenicia. He also records that Pataikos was regarded as the son of Ptah. We do indeed have representations of Pataikos from the Late Period whose texts identify him as Ptah or Ptah-Sokar. We also find Pataikos depicted together with Sakhmet or Nefertem, two gods who formed the triad of Memphis along with Ptah.
Shabties were magical figures that people took with them in their tombs that would do work when they arrived in the next world. Shabties were made from stone, wood, faience, and (rarely) metal, depending on the tomb owner’s priorities. Amunemhet had a small number of very fine shabties, including the painted stone example shown here and a wooden example seen nearby.
Outer Sarcophagus of the Royal Prince, Count of Thebes, Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, ca. 1075-945 B.C.E.
Ancient Egyptian elites eventually stopped building elaborate tombs and instead painted their coffins with scenes normally reserved for tomb walls. This outer coffin for the Royal Prince shows multiple scenes of the gods worshiped by the deceased. The coffin presents the deceased as Osiris and illustrates the many gods he will encounter in the afterlife. This coffin has been damaged but left unrepaired in order to show how it was made. Beneath the damaged paint, small pieces of wood were pinned together with wooden pegs. Artists then plastered and painted the surface to make it appear smooth.