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Senumutef

4 minutes to read

Object number: E.69.1903

Description: Two long planks of wood from the sides of a wooden box coffin of Middle Kingdom date.

The coffin was found in tomb 94 at Beni Hasan by John Garstang in 1903. It is dated by Wolfram Grajetzki to the mid- to late 12th Dynasty (about 1985-1750 BC). The decoration on one plank includes a pair of wedjat eyes, enabling the body inside to see out. This side would also have faced to the East to enable the deceased to see the rising sun and thus have new life each day. The other plank comes from the back of the coffin. The remainder of the decoration is very colourful and shows what is known as a palace facade, thought to indicate that the dead person inside was a form of Osiris, who was considered the king of the underworld and thus needed to be housed in a royal enclosure.

The texts are offering formulae, ensuring that the dead person, named as Senumutef received bread, beer, cattle, fowl, amongst other things that would keep him nourished in the afterlife.

Measurements: Coming soon.

Analysis: The coffin is missing the two end panels, the lid and the base; only the long sides are present. These two sides seem originally to have been made from two (or possibly, three) planks of wood each, joined together with dowels. Only the bottom plank of side 1 remains, and only the top plank of side 2 (the eye panel). The sides are full-length but have some losses to the top and bottom edges. Most of the dowels are missing.

The paint layers are mostly in very good condition. Some areas are very abraded and have suffered possible water damage (e.g., the false door at the left side of panel 1), but there is very little paint loss which is not associated with damage to the wood.

There is little or no ground underneath most of the paint. An exception to this is at the right side of the bottom edge of panel 1, which has approximately 1mm of plaster underneath the paint. This paint in this area is less well consolidated than on the rest of the panel; it is cracked and flaking and is very vulnerable to loss from, e.g., brushing, contact or vacuuming.

An area of exposed ground found the ground layer to be made of calcite. The palette is relatively limited, with Egyptian blue, (probable) Egyptian green, and red earth present. The background yellow is painted in yellow earth, occasionally mixed with calcite to alter the hue. The brown paint is made by mixing red earth, yellow earth and carbon black. The final outlining is carried out in a char carbon black.

Ground layer The ground layer was identified as calcite: PLM05, taken from the bottom edge, found large, irregular, rhombic particles with twinkle and strong birefringence in crossed polars with 3rd order colours.

White The board had a bright white pigment present – much whiter than the areas of exposed ground. This was found to also be calcite, with PLM08 (taken from an area of white in the geometric design just left of centre) exhibiting similar features to that of PLM05.

Blue The blue, sampled from the thick blue line in the left hand side of the geometric design (PLM02), was found to have pale blue, large platy glassy particles containing inclusions with low relief, exhibiting moderate birefringence in crossed polars with blue body colour.

Red The red pigment was identified as red earth – PLM03, taken from the curved decorations on the left hand side, had fine, rounded red particles present in aggregates, with moderate relief and moderate birefringence in crossed polars, with red body colour.

Green The green pigment was probably Egyptian green. PLM01 had characteristics consistent with Egyptian green, however this pigment is difficult to identify postively: large, rough polycrystalline, pale green particles with scrunched texture, with low relief and strong birefringence.

Yellow Yellow samples were taken from three separate yellow passages of different tones. All three samples (PLM04, 07 and 10) found yellow earth: fine, rounded yellow particles present in polycrystalline aggregates exhibiting moderate birefringence with yellow body colour and straight extinction). In the case of PLM04 and PLM10, the yellow earth was found in a mixture with calcite (rhombic, tabular, colourless particles exhibiting twinkle and strong birefringence with 3rd order colours when viewed in crossed polars with straight extinction); this is either due to the ground’s contribution or else calcite has been mixed in to alter the colour. Since the particles have a slightly different shape to the ground sample, the latter is probably most likely.

Black A sample was taken from the outlining around the blue decoration in the checkerboard decoration near the proper right side (PLM06) and the results are consistent with a char carbon black (large, angular and occasionally splintery black particles).

Brown There is a brown cylindrical shape in the middle of the panel (which looks like a reed or a sausage). A sample taken from this paint (PLM09) found it to be a mixture of red earth (~40%), yellow earth (~40%) and carbon black (~20%). Red earth: Fine, rounded particles with red-brown colour but moderate birefringence in crossed polars, exhibiting red body colour. Yellow earth: Fine, rounded yellow particles present in polycrystalline aggregates with moderate birefringence (yellow body colour). Carbon black: Angular black light absorbent particles, some splintery but generally equant.

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