Tutankhamun Anthropoid Coffins

  The Small Anthropoid Coffins of Tutankhamun

·        These anthropoid coffins never contained any mummified bodies. Their function was to contain heirlooms [An heirloom is defined as any object or a personal property which is passed down through a family from generation to generation]. Inside the coffins two items belonging to Tutankhamun’s ancestors were found: a lock of hair of his grandmother Queen Ti and a small statuette belonging to Amenhotep III.

Tutankhamun Anthropoid Coffins

 ·        Other objects bearing the names of members of Tutankhamen’s family were also found in his tomb such as two ivory plaques belonging to Mrytaton and Meketaton.

·        It is said that these heirlooms might be a way of proving his royal blood to confirm his right to ascend the throne of Egypt, as his grandparents were royalties.

·        Four anthropoid coffins were found fitting inside each other diminishing in size. They were found in the Treasury.

1.     The Outermost Coffin:

It is made out of wood covered with black resin and some parts are gilded. It takes the facial features of king Tutankhamon. He is represented wearing the khat headdress, a broad collar and he is represented in the Osiride form with his hands crossed upon his chest, he used to hold the crook and flail but they are now missing.
Beneath the hands, there is a representation of Nekhbet holding the Shen sign of eternity. The bandages are depicted as a horizontal band of inscriptions and 4 vertical ones covering the coffin. These inscriptions contain a prayer or a plea from the king asking goddess (Nut) goddess of the sky for her protection and asking to be able to turn him into the imperishable stars (the never-setting circumpolar stars) as a sign of resurrection so he will be able to live forever and never dies.

At the bottom of his feet there is a representation of goddess (ISIS) on the nbw sign for his protection. The outer sides of the coffin are decorated with a representation of the 4 sons of Horus.

2.     The 2nd Coffin (the one inside the outermost):

It is made out of wood covered with gold leaf and decorated with the rishi decoration. The king is represented wearing the Nemes headdress, a broad collar, in the Osiride form with his hands crossed on his chest which used to hold the crook and flail but they are now missing. Beneath his hands we can see the representation of the vulture and the cobra (Nekhbet and Wadjet) Wadjet here is represented as a bird with 2 wings with the head of the Cobra.

In the middle of the coffin there is a line of inscriptions giving the name and titles of Tutankhamen.

3.     The 3rd Coffin (found inside the 2nd one):

It is made completely out of wood. Inside this one a small figure made out of pure gold belonging to king (Amenhotep III) was found. He was represented squatting and wearing the Khepresh crown. This figure was found within a bundle of linen and most probably it used to be hung from a necklace. It is displayed in the secured room with the coffins and mask of Tutankhamen. [There were no inscriptions on the statuette bearing the name of Amenhotep III but it had been suggested that it belongs to him judging from the facial features]

4.      The Innermost Coffin:

This is the smallest one and it was found inside the 3rd coffin. It is made out of wood also and it used to contain the lock of hair of Tutankhamen’s grandmother (Queen Ti), which is now displayed next to the coffin in a small showcase. The inscriptions on this coffin mention the names and titles of (Queen Ti). Recent investigations (2010) confirmed the parental linkage of Tutankhamen with Ti after DNA analysis of this lock of hair.
 Tutankhamun Anthropoid Coffins

Other small anthropoid coffins were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, they contained the mummies of the offspring (babies) of Tutankhamen and his wife Ankhesenamen. These babies died before they were born i.e. they were still fetuses [One was 6 months gestation (35 cm long) and the other was 7 months gestation (45 cm long)]. They were mummified, complete with their little cartonnage masks and were put inside these anthropoid coffins. They are now kept at The Museum of El-Kasr El-Aini Hospital and investigations are being undergone to confirm their link with the Tutankhamen family line.

The Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun

 The Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun

Development of Masks:

·        In the Archaic Period and Old Kingdom, the body was wrapped so as to display the facial features and the separate limbs of the deceased, often modelled in a layer of plaster spread over the bandages.

·        The 1st appearance of masks was in the Old Kingdom. They were made out of cartonnage (Cartonnage is either papyrus or linen covered with a layer of plaster which was then painted or decorated). 

 The Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun

·        Appearance of the anthropoid coffins in later Middle Kingdom time/ 17th dynasty somehow replaced the use of the masks because the anthropoid coffin itself has the facial features of the deceased already represented but masks were sometimes still used inside the anthropoid coffins.

·        By the New Kingdom, masks were back in fashion as evident from the magnificent mask of Tutankhamen. In the second half of the 18th dynasty, cartonnage masks extended to cover the area below the chest. Then from the 19th to the early 22nd dynasty full-length cartonnage masks or better known as cages or covers appeared. These extensions were sometimes referred to as mummy boards.

·         By the Saite period (26th dynasty) the main adornment of the mummy was in the form of bead-netting over the mummy shrouds to which a small mask of cartonnage, wood or beads was often added.

·        In the middle of the Ptolemaic period, ordinary masks reappeared and continued to be used into the Roman period in addition to the famous mummy portraits.

Importance of Masks

The main importance of using masks:
1) Protecting the head of the mummy from being damaged
2) Preserving the facial features of the deceased to ensure successful resurrection in the afterlife.

The Mask of Tutankhamum:

It was placed directly on the head of the mummy, together with other decorations or trappings such as a golden vertical line of inscriptions and 4 horizontal ones and the golden figure of the Ba bird which was placed on the chest of the mummy, with a big scarab amulet (the heart amulet) inscribed on the other side with Chapter 30B of the Book of the Dead in order to protect the heart of the deceased.

 The Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun

·        The mask itself is made out of pure gold about 10.23 kg representing the facial features of the king. Tutankhamen is wearing the Nemes headdress, which is striped blue and gold as a sign of association with god Ra (Re’s body was believed to be made out of gold and his hair out of lapis lazuli).

·        The king is represented with a broad collar (wsekh) inlaid with semi-precious stone like Lapis Lazuli (dark blue) and Carnelian (red), Turquoise (light blue) and on either sides of the broad collar  there is a representation of the falcon god (Horus).

·        Upon his forehead, the cobra goddess Wadjet and the vulture goddess Nekhbet are beautifully represented; executed in solid gold and inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones.

·        The facial features of the king show his youth and display vividness of details. He has a serene faraway look confirming his royalty or, according to some scholars, indicating his confidence that he’ll gain victory upon death. The eyes are inlaid with obsidian (for the pupils) and opaque quartze for the white. The earlobes are pierced showing the effect of Amarna art. There is also a turned up false beard made out of lapis lazuli as a sign of identification with god Re.

·        At the back of the mask the hieroglyphic inscriptions represent spell no 151B of the Book of the Dead. This spell identifies each specific part of the face with a certain deity or religious figure in order to guarantee the ultimate protection:

(1)    The forehead is identified with god Anubis.
(2)    The lock of hair and the beard with god Rc
(3)    The nape of the neck with god Horus
(4)    The right eye with the night bark of Rc (msktt)
(5)    The left eye with the day bark of Rc (manDt)

(Regarding no 4 and 5 the explanation is that they provide a kind of protection because the journey of god Ra inside his boats was a very important religious symbol for the deceased).