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Fitzwilliam Museum's Ancient Egyptian Coffins Project

Since 2014, the Fitzwilliam Museum has been conducting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research into its collection of more than 200 ancient Egyptian coffins and coffin fragments. Bringing together a team of Egyptologists, conservators, heritage scientists, a pigment analyst, an expert in historical painting techniques, an ancient woodworking specialist and a consultant radiologist, we have been able to gain unprecedented insights into the coffins’ construction, creation of the decorative programme and, so far as possible, the history of the coffins and their owners.

This online resource presents the complete results of this research, commencing with the coffins of the 25th Dynasty ‘water pourer on the west of Thebes’, Pakepu, and the 21st Dynasty coffin set of Nespawershefyt. This includes full transliterations and translations of the hieroglyphic text, descriptions of the iconography, raw and interpreted results of the scientific analysis, including pigment analysis and wood identification, results of advanced imaging techniques such as CT scans, X-radiography and scanning electron microscopy, and some historical and social commentary on the significance of our findings in the context of ancient Egyptian attitudes to funerary beliefs, the economy and death and the afterlife. The website also contains some special behind-the-scenes footage and insight into what it is like working both internationally and collaboratively.

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The yellow anthropoid coffin set of Nespawershefyt is one of the finest surviving examples of its kind from the 21st Dynasty. Comprising a mummy board, inner coffin and outer coffin, it was one of the first objects to be acquired into the fledgling Fitzwilliam Museum's ancient Egyptian collection in 1822.

Read about Nespawershefyt
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This coffin set belongs to a man named Pakepu who worked as a 'water pourer on the west of Thebes' around c.680-664 BC. The coffins were discovered during excavations in Luxor in 1869 and subsequently gifted to the Museum by Prince Edward (later Edward VII) in the same year.

Read about Pakepu
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