Object number: E.68.1903
Description: This coffin was made for a woman called Nakht, described as a ‘lady of the house’, and dates to the Middle Kingdom (about 1915 - 1870 BC). The inscriptions tell us that she was the daughter of a person named Warti-hetep; the tomb in which her coffin was found contained three other burials, perhaps of family members. All four sides of the coffin are decorated with the palace façade motif and with inscriptions appealing to gods, including Osiris and Anubis, for offerings to be provided for Nakht in the afterlife. The inscription on the side decorated with eyes uses the phrase ‘for the ka of’, indicating explicitly that the offerings were for the benefit of Nakht’s ka spirit. A major change from these standard texts, however, is to be found in the first line of inscription on the lid of the coffin: here Nakht herself is addressed as Osiris. It also appeals to the goddess Nut to spread herself over Nakht, causing her to be a ‘god without enemies’. The vertical texts on the sides of the coffins mention other gods, including the Sons of Horus, who provided protection for the dead person within the coffin. The coffin was given to the Museum by the Beni Hasan Excavation Committee in 1903.
Measurements: 54.5 x 185 x 43.8cm.
Analysis: The wood is good-quality cedar with few knots. Cedar is not native to Egypt and had to be imported, which meant it was expensive. Parts of the coffin, in particular the side decorated with eyes, have suffered water damage, probably from moisture seepage into the tomb. The wood here is fibrous and fragile. The loss and deterioration of the pigments in these areas have reduced the pattern and texts to ghostly black-brown silhouettes. Each panel of the box is made from two planks of similar width, joined with dowels. The corners are dowelled through mitred edges, with a butt joint at the top. There are a number of redundant dowel holes, which do not line up with each other. This is especially the case on the back panel of the box and on parts of the lid and suggests that some of the wood of this coffin has been recycled. The lid is a complex piece of carpentry, using multiple pieces of wood to build a hollow structure, but one which gives an impression of depth. The dowels in the box are cedar, those in the lid mostly sidr and acacia. The wood is carefully smoothed on the exterior. The interior preserves many tool marks – those of a saw along the face of the planks and a chisel on the retaining battens that are attached to the underside of the lid. The interior joints were sealed with paste. Parts of the exterior surface were coated with a base layer of white calcite and gypsum, but in many places the paint was applied directly to the wood. A central vertical setting-out line (only visible with infrared reflectography) was placed on both end panels and black lines ruled along a straight edge were used to lay out the palace façade design. This was painted with red and yellow earth, Egyptian blue and calcite. The green areas are complex – made from yellow earth, calcite, Egyptian blue and copper-based green pigment.
Commentary: Coming soon.