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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : New Kingdom Wooden Mummy Case Head
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New Kingdom Wooden Mummy Case Head - X.0379
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1550 BC to 1070 BC
Dimensions: 20.0" (50.8cm) high x 15.0" (38.1cm) wide
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Wood

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: Great Britain
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The funerary rites and rituals of Egypt are among the most elaborate and celebrated burial traditions in the ancient world. The foremost concern was the preservation of the body, in order that it might be reborn in the afterlife. While the painstaking mummification process achieved this goal of counteracting the effects of physical decomposition, the ancient Egyptian were not satisfied with a wrapped body alone. Gorgeously decorated mummy cases and sarcophagi developed over the course of thousands of years so that the body could be properly presented to the audience of the gods awaiting the deceased’s arrival in the next world. These cases were created from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, and cartonnage, that were utilized depending upon the wealth and status of the deceased. Some of the earliest examples were relatively unadorned, featuring the general shape of the body highlighted by idealized facial details. Later, they evolved into ornate memorials that sought to recreate the specific appearance of the memorialized individual, both in terms of physical features as well as clothing and jewelry. Polychrome paint infused the works with color and the finest examples were gilt.

This mask once formed the upper part of the lid of an anthropoid sarcophagus which is now in the form of a bust. The deceased is represented with an oval face framed by a tripartite wig which exposes the ears, the lobes of which are nicked. The almond-shaped eyes exhibit a plastic upper lid which trails off to the sides of the face and plastically raised paint stripes for eye brows. The bridge of the nose is rather wide and ends in prominent wings. The mouth is horizontally aligned with thin lips and drilled corners.

Typologically our sarcophagus belongs to a series sculpted in limestone and carved in wood, which all share a set of general characteristics. Several of these in wood were never painted in antiquity, and comparisons with our example suggest to that it likewise not painted. The ancient Egyptians appreciated the quality of the wood for both its aesthetic and symbolic values. The most famous examples of such unpainted, wooden sarcophagi are of late fourth century BC date and were discovered in the burial chamber of Petosiris, priest of Thoth, at the site of Tuna el-Gebel in Middle Egypt.


For these sarcophagi in general, see M.-L. Buhl, The Late Egyptian Anthropoid Stone Sarcophagi (Copenhagen 1959); and for the example inscribed for Petosiris in Cairo, The Egyptian Museum JE46592: Mohamed Saleh and Hourig Sourouzian, Official Catalogue: The Egyptian Museum Cairo (Mainz 1987), number 260a.

- (X.0379)


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