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Coffin of a Child

Findspot Gamhud, Egypt
Date 2nd-1st centuries B.C.
Object type tomb equipment
Medium, technique Wood (sycamore), paint

112 x 39 x 30 cm

Inventory number 51.2002.1-2
Collection Egyptian Art
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Ancient Egypt, Funerary beliefs

This coffin of a child was excavated at the beginning of the twentieth century from the cemetery of Gamhud by an Austro-Hungarian team sponsored by the Hungarian entrepreneur Fülöp Back and conducted by the Polish Egyptologist Tadeusz Smoleński. The finds were transported to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and a considerable part was offered to Fülöp Back who mostly distributed them among three museums in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Budapest, Vienna, and Cracow). Apart from smaller funerary objects, more than two dozen of the coffins were donated to the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, from where they were transferred to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1934. In 1936 and 1937 the coffins were opened, their cartonnages removed, and the mummies transferred to the Museum of Ethnography in 1938. In addition to Cairo, Budapest, Cracow, and Vienna, a number of European museums also possess coffins that are from Gamhud, even though their place of origin is not always documented.
This coffin probably can be dated to the early phase of the Gamhud cemetery. According to the inscription running on the lower half of the lid, its owner was a girl, whose name may have been Tahyris. The current condition of the wood is good. The carving is rude. The scenes and inscriptions covering the outer surfaces are not carefully executed but clearly attest experienced craftsmanship.
Below the black wig, the chest is decorated by the usual wesekh-collar of floral and geometric motifs with one falcon head at each end, below the shoulders. The area below is occupied by the kneeling figure of the sky goddess Nut, who holding a feather symbolising maat (order and justice in the universe) in each hand, spreads out her wings to protect the deceased lying inside the coffin. The goddess is depicted kneeling on the top of a shrine, the facade of which is adorned by three vertical columns of inscription. The text contains a short version of the formula addressed to Nut which ensured that the deceased became a god and was protected by the sky goddess Nut.
On the left side of the lid, fragments of two standing figures are visible: they can be identified as two of the Sons of Horus, the falcon-headed Qebehsenuef, and the ape-headed Hapy. On the rear of the coffin, on the dorsal pillar, the much faded traces of a vertical column of inscription can be detected, which once probably contained an offering formula with the name of the deceased girl.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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