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“Mummy Etiquette”

Place of production Egypt
Date 1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D.
Object type tomb equipment
Medium, technique Wood, paint

height: 14.7 cm

Inventory number 60.29-E
Collection Egyptian Art
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Ancient Egypt, Funerary beliefs

Mummy labels originating from Graeco-Roman cemeteries are small tags, most often made of wood, which contain Demotic or Greek inscriptions and less frequently figural decoration. They are pierced with one or more holes through which a piece of string was drawn to attach them to the mummies. One of the purposes of mummy labels was to identify mummies during transportation to the embalming place and the burial site. At times the inscription only contains the name of the deceased, but many mummy labels provide additional information: e.g. the names of the deceased’s parents, grandparents, spouse or other relatives; the deceased’s residence, occupation or age; the date of death, embalming or interment; or the place of burial. Demotic mummy labels often contain a short prayer or other religious text addressed to a deity, which, in addition to their practical role, confirms their religious usage.
This mummy label decorated on both sides is unique for two reasons: 1) the inscriptions are not written in Demotic or Greek but in hieroglyphic writing, 2) in addition to the inscriptions, it also contains figural scenes. On both sides the figure of the deceased man appears in adoration before a god. He wears a Greek tunic (chiton), while the gods are represented according to traditional Egyptian iconography. On one side the hawk-headed mummified Sokar-Osiris appears wearing an atef-crown and holding a scepter. On the other side the mummified, human-headed standing figure of Osiris is visible, who also wears an atef-crown and holds a scepter. The deceased’s name, whose reading is uncertain, is also written above his figure on both sides of the tag.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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