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Coffin of Khety

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Object name: Coffin of Khety

Accession no.: E.71.1903

Other numbers and markings: tbd

Dimensions: H 50 cm

W 186 cm

D 44.4 cm

Brief description:

This rectangular box coffin belongs to a man named Khety, whose tomb was found, still intact, at Beni Hasan, about 250 miles south of Cairo. The inscriptions contain standard formulae calling for Osiris and Anubis to provide offerings for Khety’s use in the afterlife. Khety’s job titles are not specified, but it is likely that he was a fairly wealthy person since his burial included models of people working on his behalf, presumably reflecting his earthly standard of living as well as his intentions for his status in the afterlife. Two eyes are painted on one side of the coffin to allow Khety to see out.

The coffin is made of sycomore fig. The joints are secured with dowels, most of which are made of sidr. Each side of the box is constructed from two edge-jointed planks, tangentially sawn and only roughly finished. The corners are mitred with a small butt joint at the top. In addition to the dowels along each corner, there is a tied joint at top and bottom. Dowel holes along the bottom of the panels indicate how the base fitted within the walls.

The lid is made of two full-length planks. On the underside are three roughly shaped retaining battens pegged into the planks across the centre and one at each end. The carpenters cut two marks into the top of the foot end panel to match up with marks on one of the battens, presumably to give an indication of which way round the lid fitted.

The interior is bare wood, except for a thin white paste sealing the joints. On the exterior, a very thin discontinuous layer of calcite acts as a ground for the earth pigment paint. Flaws in the wood were filled with a rough paste and painted with a slightly darker paint. The placing of the text and the eyes is guided by drafting lines drawn against a straight edge using a reed pen. The lines continue from the coffin box to the lid, suggesting that the final decoration was applied with the coffin complete and closed

The text was sketched in black then coloured with a thin layer of Egyptian blue. A small trail of blue droplets shows where the scribe let his brush drip onto the surface of the lid.

Box coffin. The outside is plastered and painted orange. The inscriptions are painted in green. The guidelines for the hieroglyphic inscriptions are in black and are everywhere still visible. Especially on the back side there are several drops of green paint on the orange background under the inscription. There is only one line of inscriptions on the four outer sides and one line on the lid. The text on the front reads: An offering which the king gives to Osiris, lord of Busiris, foremost of the westerners, lord of Abydos (may he grant) a voice offering consisting of bread, beer, cattle of the revered one before the great god, lord of heaven Khety.

On the back:

An offering which the king gives to Anubis, in front of god’s shrine, who is on his mountain, who is in the embalming, lord of the sacred land (may he grant) a beautiful burial in his tomb of the necropolis in the western desert, the revered one Khety.

On the lid:

An offering which the king gives to Anubis, in front of the god’s shrine, who is on his mountain, lord of Sepa (may he grant), that he may be accompanied well by his ka at all good places on which accompany the revered one, Khety.

On the foot end:

The revered one before Anubis, Khety.

On the head end:

The revered one before the great god, lord of heaven, Khety

Date: About 2120–1950 BC

Twelfth Dynasty Middle Kingdom

Further dating information

Find spot: Beni Hasan, tomb 366

Further find spot information

Acquisition: Given by the Beni Hasan Excavation Committee

For objects found with this coffin see:

Further acquisition information

Construction, decoration and materials:

Other information


Coffin of Khety without lid, front view

Coffin of Khety with lid on, front view

Coffin of Khety with lid on, back view

Coffin of Khety lid

Coffin of Khety inner angle view, with locating marks cut into the upper edge of the foot end panel

Coffin of Khety outside angle view

Coffin of Khety foot end side

Coffin of Khety head end side

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