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Userhet

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Object number: E.88.1903

Description: This anthropoid (human-shaped) coffin was found at Beni Hasan, in tomb 132, inside a rectangular coffin very like Nakht’s. Pottery from the same tomb, together with the form of the outer coffin (now at the University of Liverpool), suggests a date late in the Twelfth Dynasty (about 1855 – 1790 BC). The coffin decoration shows Userhet prepared for burial, as if the coffin itself is meant to perform the function of the white linen wrappings around his body and the mask over his face. Like earlier mummies, this coffin lay on its side, so that the eyes were close to the eyes painted on the outside of the rectangular coffin. Userhet’s face is painted black, a colour associated with Osiris, and the line of inscription down his front identifies him with that god, beginning ‘O Osiris, warrior Userhet’. The title ‘warrior’ is not common at this period and was not used for other buried in this cemetery; it may signify Userhet’s status locally rather than being a military title. The rest of the text, like that on the coffin of Nakht, calls on Nut to spread herself over him. The decoration on Userhet’s chest represents a broad collar of coloured beads, a feature that occurs on many later coffins. The coffin was given to the Museum by the Beni Hasan Excavation Committee.

Measurements: 33.2 x 182.4 x 41.2cm.

Analysis: The box and lid (including the face and ears) were each carved from a single piece of sycomore fig; the beard is a separate piece of wood. A long strip of sycomore fig dowelled in a long the left-hand side was needed to make good the rim of the box, giving a secure anchor for the pegged tenons that hold the coffin halves together. Strips of open-weave linen were glued to the surface to help the thick calcite preparation layer stick to the wood. The decoration was painted with red earth, Egyptian green, Egyptian blue and carbon-based black. Completely invisible from the exterior is evidence of a major problem encountered by the makers of Userhet’s coffin: at some point during manufacture, the hollowed-out box split from top to bottom. The damage was repaired with the same technique used to strengthen the corner joints of the coffin of Khety: the slit was sewn together with rawhide or sinew stitches. These were partially sealed on the interior surface with patches of paste. The X-radiograph shows details of the repair. There are also early twentieth-century repairs and restorations to much of the surface of the coffin.

Commentary: Coming soon.

Collection data

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