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Coffins and cartonnage cases (John H. Taylor)

Study of the fragments of coffins and cartonnages, begun in the previous season, continued from 5 to 18 October. Two main groups of material in particular were examined.

18th dynasty coffins

A large number of fragments of black-varnished and black-painted wooden coffins can be attributed to the original burials of the 18th dynasty. These had all been smashed into pieces, and the more substantial components were completely missing. The surviving fragments included relatively few diagnostic pieces, but these indicate that at least four coffins decorated in this style were originally present, and that these included both larger and smaller (i.e. outer and inner) cases. Two of these were made of a hard, dense, fine-grained wood, reddish in colour. One of them can be attributed to Senneferi himself on the evidence of two sections of inscription in raised relief which preserve his name. Other inscribed fragments in sunk relief can also be attributed to Senneferi by the presence of his distinctive title imy-r xtmt . Senneferi's coffins appear to have been decorated with gold leaf, applied to the wood over a thin substratum of white plaster. Other `black-type' coffins from the tomb are of inferior workmanship and have decoration in yellow paint, instead of gold leaf. None of these fragments yielded evidence of the identities or sex of their owners, leaving open the question of whether Senneferi's wife Taiamu had been buried with him in the tomb.

22nd dynasty cartonnage cases

The large quantities of painted cartonnage fragments, briefly surveyed in 1999, were studied in depth, and five mummy-cases were partially reconstructed. The inscriptions indicate that at least three of the owners were members of one family. The father, the it-nTr mry-nTr Djedhoriuefankh, was buried in a case of fine quality. The style of the painting on the case indicates that the burial dated to the early 22nd dynasty (c. 900 BC ). The inscriptions included three generations of the paternal ancestry of Djedhoriuefankh, showing that his father and grandfather were named Djedkhonsuiuefankh and Nespaperennub, respectively. Traces of a further name indicate that the great-grandfather may have been a man named Hor...3 Two other mummy-cases are identified by their texts as belonging to two children of Djedhoriuefankh. One is that of a woman named Tabakmut, the other of indeterminate identity. In addition to these cases, which it was possible to reconstruct almost in their entirety, there were fragments of two other cases of which substantial pieces survived. One of these belonged to a woman named Tayuheret. The shafts also yielded the remains of at least four other cartonnages, whose owners could not be identified.

The shattered condition of the cartonnages provided a good opportunity to study the procedures followed in the construction of such cases, on which relatively little data has hitherto been available. Examination of the fabrics and the interior surfaces of the cases confirmed in broad outline the reconstruction proposed by C.V.A Adams, based on the study of a cartonnage in Exeter Museum.4 It is clear that these cases were not built up around the wrapped mummy (a technique sometimes used for funerary-masks in earlier periods5), but were fashioned over a core of mud and straw, which was removed before the mummy was inserted. In every case the fabric consisted of layers of linen, which had been soaked in glue or plaster to facilitate adherence. Three of the finer-quality cases from tt 99 were composed of ten, twelve and fifteen layers of textile respectively. Substantial traces of core material were observed still adhering to the inner surface of the cartonnages, and on some examples roughly parallel linear marks are visible, indicative of the use of fingers or a tool to scrape the mud-and-straw mixture from the linen fabric.

22nd dynasty wooden coffins

Fragments of anthropoid wooden coffins attributable to the 22nd Dynasty were identified by small traces of figures and texts in yellow on a black-painted background. The iconography of collar-rows and the use of yellow outline for the tracing of the decoration enabled these pieces to be distinguished from the superficially similar 18th Dynasty fragments. These coffins, into which cartonnage cases were probably placed, were evidently only sparsely decorated.

3. A preliminary search of Theban prosopographical data from the early 22nd Dynasty has identified the names Nespaper[en]nub and Horhotep appearing as the father and grandfather of a Djedkhonsuiuefankh on the latter's coffin and cartonnage, Louvre N. 2585, 2621 (both from the second Salt collection). Further research is needed to determine whether or not this Djedkhonsuiuefankh is to be identified with the father of Djedhoriuefankh.

4. C.V.A Adams, `The manufacture of ancient Egyptian cartonnage cases', Smithsonian Journal of History, vol. 1, no. 3 (Autumn 1966), 55-66.

5. Cf. masks from burials of the late Middle Kingdom-Second Intermediate Period found in the cemetery of the fortress of Mirgissa in Nubia: A. Vila, `Les masques Funéraires' in J. Vercoutter, Mirgissa III. Les nécropôles (Paris, 1976), 151-268, pls. H-T. I-IV.

© Nigel Strudwick 1997-2018