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Coffin of the mourning women

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Object name: Coffin of the mourning women

Accession no.: E.283.1900

Other numbers and markings: tbd

Dimensions: Sides : 42 x 187 x 1.7 cm 33 x 161 x 1.7 cm Ends : 38 x 36 x 1.7 cm

Brief description:

Wooden planks from a box coffin.The planks are water and termite damaged. On the exterior are scenes related to the funeral of the deceased, including the funeral procession itself, offering bearers carrying items into the tomb and also the coffin (now lost), and women mourning. A single eye appears on one long side, and there are traces indicating that a single eye was painted on the other side too. This is most likely because the body lay on its back inside the coffin, rather than on its side and close to the eye-panel, as was typical with earlier coffins.

The coffin is made mostly of sycomore fig, with dowels of sidr. The long sides and the foot panel were probably constructed from single, full-depth planks. The head panel was constructed from two planks (the upper of sidr) of approximately equal depth roughly fitted together with two pegged mortise and tenon joints (from which the tenons are now lost). The coffin parts were joined at the corners with wide dovetails, secured with dowels. Regularly spaced, horizontal dowel holes along the bottom of the long panels show where the coffin base was attached. Vertical dowel holes in the undersides of the end panels suggest that these panels (which are not as tall as the side panels) were fixed onto the top of the base board.

The painted surface is heavily discoloured and abraded, making it difficult to assess the original colour scheme. The background appears to have been yellow, painted with yellow earth/jarosite on the long panels and orpiment on the head and panel. However, there is evidence of a mixture of earth and orpiment in some locations. A thin white calcite, gypsum and bassanite preparation layer was applied underneath. The black underdrawing and central setting-out line can also be seen with infrared reflectography on the end panels.

These coffin planks were discovered by John Garstang at Abydos in 1900. Despite the fact it is box-shaped, which is typical of the Middle Kingdom, scenes like this which relate to the funeral of the deceased are not known before the end of the Second Intermediate Period.

Date: 17th Dynasty

1680-1510 BC

Further dating information

Find spot: Abydos

Further find spot information

Acquisition: Given by the Egyptian Research Account

Construction, decoration and materials:

Other information


Coffin of the mourning women, west side panel

Coffin of the mourning women, east side panel

End panel

Detail from the west side panel

Detail of mourning woman

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