Date Made/Found: 2040-1782 BC
Material and Medium: Wood, gesso, paint
Dimensions: Length 430mm; max width 78mm; min width 61mm; height 22mm
Place Object Found:
Accession Number: J1904.24
This fragment of ancient Egyptian wooden coffin was excavated byJohn Garstang at Beni Hasan in 1904. The funerary texts on it invoke the goddess Nephthys.
Ancient Egyptians started using coffins to bury people from around 3200 BC. The coffins of the wealthiest people were made of wood and were sometimes put inside a stone sarcophagus. The decoration of early coffins featured a pair of eyes painted on the outside to enable the deceased to look out into the tomb and keep a link with the living world.
Coffin makers began producing anthropoid (person-shaped) coffins from around 2000 BC. They often applied a lot of decoration with images of gods and the dead person, as well as prayers and spells written in hieroglyphs. Royalty and the wealthiest people could have three coffins one inside the other, while less wealthy people had one or two coffins. But most people had no coffin and were wrapped in a reed mat for burial in a grave in the sand
Coffin makers usually used local wood such as acacia and sycamore fig. They assembled the coffins from short sections of wood, held together by dowels and joints. The most expensive coffins were made of long planks of imported timber, such as cedar wood from Lebanon.