King Tut Coffin

The Coffins of King Tutankhamun

The Coffin is usually defined as a “chest” in which a body is buried but to distinguish it from the sarcophagus it can be also defined as the container nearest to the mummified body. Thus the sarcophagus is the outermost container in which the body of the deceased will be placed within its coffin. 

King Tut Coffin

Development of Sarcophagi:

·        The word “sarcophagus” is a Greek word, which means ‘flesh-eater’ apparently from a Hellenic belief that some stone used for body-containers, actually consumed its contents (as if the sarcophagus eats the flesh of the deceased). This is confirmed by the fact that in Predynastic times the bodies were buried in a contracted position in shallow pits in the sand and they retain their shape until now (like the famous example of the mummified body kept at the British Museum). The bodies were preserved only by means of the heat of the sand due to the hot weather. Then by around the late 3rd Dynasty, sarcophagi were introduced for keeping the dead bodies but it was discovered that the bodies decomposed (were not preserved) so in the 4th Dynasty the Egyptians thought about mummification as a means of preserving the dead bodies; so it is logic that they mummify the body then put it inside the sarcophagus which will not then eat the flesh of the deceased.

·        The name of sarcophagus in ancient Egyptian language was nb anx (Lord of life) or pr anx: House of life or since the Ramesside Period mn anx: the eternal monument.

·        The earliest sarcophagi recorded dated to the Old Kingdom (3rd dynasty). They were made out of stone and the lid took the shape of the ancient shrine of the North (Shrine of goddess Wadjet) or the “pr nw”. Later on, in the New Kingdom, wooden sarcophagi appeared but they were used by private people as only royalties could use stone sarcophagi. At this time, the lids took the shape of the sloping “pr wr” or the ancient shrine of the South (Shrine of goddess Nekhbet).

 King Tut Coffin

·        Royal sarcophagi were initially rectangular in shape but soon adopted an oval, cartouche-form which continued into the Twentieth dynasty, with the exception of the Amarna Period also a very popular form of sarcophagi was the anthropoid (meaning: taking the shape of the human body. This word derives from the word ‘anthropology’ which means the science of the human body.).

·        The sarcophagus of Tutankhamen was made out of yellow Quartizite and the lid made of granite painted yellow to match the sarcophagus. The lid takes the shape of the “pr-wr” and is decorated on the four corners with sculpted figures of the 4 protector goddesses outstretching their wings, which was an innovation during the New Kingdom.

King Tut Coffin

Development of Coffins:

·        As mentioned before, the coffin is the container in which the deceased body is put before burial and it is the nearest thing to the body of the deceased.

·        Two kinds of coffins are known in ancient Egypt: rectangular and anthropoid.

·        When coffins 1st appeared, they were rectangular in shape and were made out of wood. In the beginning they were short chest to contain the contracted burials, but after mummification was practiced bodies were extended and put in full-length coffins. Rectangular coffins were called by the ancient Egyptians: qrsu (qrst is used generally for ‘burial’).

·        Anthropoid coffins came in use in the Middle Kingdom but became dominant in the 17th dynasty. They were made out of stone or wood or cartonnage. The ancient Egyptian name was: suht (the same word is also used for shrouds).

·        From the 17th Dynasty the anthropoid coffins were decorated with a specific kind of decoration which is called the Rishi decoration, the word (Rishi) ® came from the Arabic word meaning feather. It represented the feathers of the Ba bird or goddess Isis stretching her wings to protect her husband Osiris.

·        As for inscriptions, coffins had simple inscriptions of just a horizontal line then 4 vertical lines were added. Sometimes a pair of eyes was placed to link the deceased with the outer world.

·        Later on, coloured coffins came into fashion such as white coffins with polychrome decorations, black coffins with yellow decorations or yellow coffins decorated with bright colours, all accompanied by extensive texts and funerary scenes (vignettes).

·        From the 25th/26th dynasties, there are examples showing coffins supported by a back pillar and standing on a pedestal to make it easier to perform the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony.

King Tut Coffin
Tutankhamun coffins in Cairo museum

The Anthropoid Coffins of Tutankhamen

Inside the quartizite sarcophagus of Tutankhamen, 3 coffins were found. The innermost contained the mummy of Tutankhamun [which is still in his tomb (KV 62) at the Valley of the Kings] covered by luxurious adornments especially the golden mask. It is now housed in a special showcase preserving it from the damaging effects of the external weather.

King Tut Coffin

1.     The Outermost Coffin:

It is made out of wood; gilded in some parts inside it they found the 2nd coffin. It rested on a low leonine bier that was still intact though certainly suffering from the strain of a ton and a quarter worth of weight it had endured over the prior 3,200 years. Fragments chipped from the toe of the coffin lid at the time of the burial confirm a crude attempt to rectify a design problem and allow the sarcophagus lid to sit properly. Some of these fragments were found in the bottom of the sarcophagus. The chippings revealed that the coffin was made of cypress wood with a thin layer of gesso overlaid with gold foil. The layer of gold varied in thickness from heavy sheet for the face and hands to the very finest gold leaf for the rather curious khat-like headdress. Over the Khat headdress, the cobra and vulture are attached to the forehead, and the turned up beard of Osiris is attached to his chin. His arms are crossed over his chest holding the crook and the flail (the Heka and the Nekhekh). It is decorated with the Rishi decoration. There are the figures of Isis and Nephtys outstretching their wings on either sides of the body. The underside of the foot carries a further representation of Isis kneeling on the nbw sign.

This coffin is still kept in the tomb of Tutankhamen at the Valley of the Kings inside the sarcophagus.

 King Tut Coffin

2.     The Middle Coffin:

It is made out of wood, covered with gold sheets and heavily inlaid with coloured glass and semi precious stones: carnelian (red), turquoise (light blue) and lapis lazuli (dark blue). It represents the king wearing the Nemes headdress with the cobra and the vulture beautifully sculpted on his forehead. The upturned beard of Osiris is attached to his chin. His arms are crossed in Osiride form holding the crook and the flail. It is covered with the rishi decorations. Instead of Isis and Nephtys, there is a representation of the vulture goddess Nekhbet and the cobra goddess Wadjet depicted with the wings of a bird.

 King Tut Coffin

3.     The Innermost Coffin:

It is made out of pure solid gold weighing about 110 kg. Its decoration is exactly similar to the middle coffin but the differences are: it’s inlaid with semi-precious stones in only a few parts and there is a further representation of Isis and Nephtys protecting the lower part of his body while Nekhbet and Wadjet protect the upper part. At the foot of both coffins there is a figure of (ISIS) kneeling on the nbw sign. The middle and the innermost coffins are the ones displayed at the Egyptian museum.

Statue of KHEPRI

 Statue of KHEPRI

    His name means: ‘he who is coming into existence’.

      Creator god principally manifested in the form of the scarab or ‘dung beetle’, although sometimes depicted in tomb paintings and funerary papyri as a man with a scarab as a head or as a scarab in a boat held aloft by NUN (the primeveal ocean). The best example for Khepri in his scarab form is the huge scarab next to the Scared Lake in the Karnak temples.


Statue of KHEPRI
Statue of KHEPRI

 He is attested from at least as early as the fifth dynasty, where he was mentioned in one of the spell of the Pyramid Texts invoking the son to appear in the name of KHEPRI.

 He is the god of resurrection and after life.

He is one of the three forms of the sun. He represented the sun at the early hours of dawn. The ancient Egyptians associated him with the rising the sun, because they observed the scarab at dawn when they used to roll their dung in balls and push it from the east to the west early in the morning (which is reminiscent of the movement of the sun). 

 Similarly, they believed that Khephri, in the form of a gigantic scarab, rolled the sun like a huge ball through the sky, then rolled it through the underworld to the eastern horizon. Each morning Khephri would renew the sun so that it could give life to the whole world.

 Khephri was believed to be swallowed by his mother, Nut each evening then pass through her body to be reborn each morning.  There is no male and female in the scarab species, i.e. they don’t need to get married to reproduce so that’s why they are associated with the idea of regeneration. This character is known as hermaphrodite.

Statue of GEB

Statue of GEB

He was the god of earth (physical support of the world). His sister and wife NUT was the goddess of the sky. He was the son of SHU and TEFNUT (as per the HELIOPOLITAN ENNEAD)


He is often depicted lying under the feet of SHU, the air god, beneath the sky goddess NUT reclining on his side with one knee bent implying the mountains of the earth.

Statue of GEB
Statue of GEB

As a god of earth, responsible for vegetation, he was sometimes represented green in colour or even with vegetation sprouting from him. He was the provider of crops and a healer. It was believed that Geb’s laughter caused earthquakes. It was feared that because Geb was an Earth god, he might imprison the dead, preventing others from having another life in the netherworld.

His sacred animal was the goose. Thus he is sometimes represented as a man with a goose upon his head. He had a title associating him with the goose, which was “the great cackler”. 

Statue of GEB  

His normal representation was in purely human form.

According to an Egyptian legend, Geb married his sister Nut, the sky goddess, without the permission of the powerful Sun god Re. Re was so angry at Nut and Geb that he forced their father Shu, the god of air, to separate them. That is why the Earth is separated from the sky. Moreover, Re prevented Nut from having children in any month of the year. But, fortunately, Thoth the divine scribe decided to help her. Thus, he convinced the Moon to play with him a game of draughts, where the prize was the Moon's light. Thoth won so much light that the Moon had to add five new days to the official calendar. Thus Nut and Geb could finally had five children: Osiris, Seth, Isis, Nephthys and Horus the Elder. These days are known as the Five Epagomenal Days.


The gilded wooden statue portrays Geb, the god of earth, standing on a small rectangular base. He is depicted in the form of a mummy, with his body completely enveloped in a cloak. His arms are crossed on his chest, which is adorned by a large collar. He wears a tripartite wig on his head. His body is entirely gilded except for his eyes, eyebrows, and false beard.

Statue of Shu

Statue of Shu

·        He was the son of ATUM–RE in the HELIOPOLITAN ENNEAD. Together with his sister and wife TEFNUT, they formed the 1st pair of gods born off ATUM-RE in the HELIOPOLITAN ENNEAD.

·        He was the god of air and dryness while his sister TEFNUT was the goddess of moisture so they complemented each other.

Statue of Shu
Statue of Shu

·        His name means “the uplifter” or "he who raises up". His job was to support heaven (the sky NUT). His position was always separating GEB the earth god and NUT the sky goddess while he is standing and lifting up his arms to hold NUT.

·        One of the myths suggests that god RE asked him to separate NUT from GEB after RE fell in love with NUT.

·        He was represented in a human form and sometimes wearing a plume on his head which represented the hieroglyphic sign of his name. Shu could also be represented as a lion.

 Statue of Shu

·        He was sometimes equated with the Sun as the right eye of RE and his wife TEFNUT was associated with the moon as the left eye of RE.


In this wooden gilded figure god Shu is shown as a mummiform man he is wearing a headdress with four feathers. He has an osirian beard, which like his eyelid and eyebrow, is painted black.
There is a question related to this figure because on the bases of the other deity figures which were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen the king is described as (beloved of the deity) but text on the base of this figure read as (Shu Horus strong of arm), this could be explained as: the king himself is sometimes described as Horus strong of arm but why there is a link between Shu in this form with Horus. This problem is still unsolved.

King Tutankhamun upon a Panther

 King Tutankhamun upon a Panther

This collection of hardwood figures buried with Tutankhamun (about 32 statues in total) were found divided between the Antechamber, Burial chamber and the Treasury. Seven of them represented the king himself while the rest included a strange group of divinities or maybe representing the king himself in the form of those divinities maybe to acquire their blessings. These statues were mostly gilded or black in colour, both colours are associated with regeneration and rebirth. They were wrapped in linen shawls with the manufacture date of the 3rd year of Akhenaten’s reign.

 King Tutankhamun upon a Panther
 King Tutankhamun upon a Panther

The greater number was recovered from the Treasury, where they had been crammed into 22 double-doored shrines of black resin-coated wood mounted on sleds and with sloping roofs. The doors of only one of those shrines had been opened by tomb robbers while the seals of the remainder had survived untouched since Tutankhamun’s funeral.

 They were mainly made out of wood covered with gold leaf. The eyes of all figures are framed in bronze and inlaid with glass or semi-precious stones except for Qebehsenewef and Dwamwtef whose eyes are simply painted in black. The fittings, including the objects they carry and their sandals, are of gilded copper-alloy.

The bases of the majority of the statues are inscribed with the coronation name (niswt bity) of Tut: Nebkheperure, beloved of “the appropriate diety”.

The function:
According to HOWARD CARTER, these figures of gods or divinities represent a record of myths and beliefs, ritual and custom, associated with the dead and the afterlife. But their exact meaning in the burial is not clear to us, they might have represented good or evil and/or they may have some form of magic associated with them.

Some scholars suggested that TUTANKHAMUN is represented in the form of these deities but we don't have a strict meaning for that. Maybe he wanted to embody some of their aspects in the afterlife. Others suggest that the reason for placing them in the tomb might be due to the fact that the ancient Egyptians were religious people so they were hoping for these deities to accompany them in the afterlife?!

The statue itself:
This statue was found together with its pair covered with linen shawls in one black shrine in the Treasury; here we can see the king represented standing upon a panther.

The statue is made out of gilded wood representing the king in the traditional royal attitude with his left-leg stepping forward. He is wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt with the uraeus upon his forehead for protection. He is wearing a wide collar (wsx collar) and the royal kilt (Sndyt). He is holding in his right hand the nxx or the flail and a long staff in the other hand both these objects are made of gilded bronze. The uraeus upon his forehead and the sandals are made out of bronze.  The eyes and eyebrows are inlaid with glass. The king is represented standing upon a panther, which is a probably a sign of power and his wish to overcome the problems to be faced in the afterlife. The panther’s body is made out of wood covered with black resin except for the facial markings and interior of ears, which are gilded. The name of the king is painted in yellow on his pedestal.

Ø     We don't know exactly the purpose of this representation. There are some theories about this unusual position:

1.     Maybe to prove his power and strength being in control of a panther.
2.     Maybe by standing on the panther he is confirming his authority on foreign lands; in this case the animal would represent the enemy.
3.     Maybe this position is connected with a funerary concept dealing with triumph over the dangers of the Netherworld so it is probably because the panther would help him in his journey in the afterlife because according to an archaic belief, the panther represented the night sky which symbolizes the underworld while the king is assimilated to the sun by the golden tan of his skin, thus proving his triumph over death and conquering the underworld.
4.     The panther probably represents here the goddess Mafdet who accompanied the king on his journey to the beyond. Mafdet was a guardian of the dead, it was her task to fend off the hostile snakes which were awaiting them in the beyond. Some spells in the book of the dead are dedicated to the killing of snakes. In the underworld, Mafdet even becomes the helper of the sun god and overcomes the serpent-like Apophis.

Similar panther statues were found in other royal tombs e.g. Amenhotep II, Thotmose IV and Horemheb but the statues discovered were not connected to the figure of the king; they only had mortises at the back, which would be later connected to the king’s figure. Also there is a depiction on a wall in the tomb of Seti II in the same position but the king is standing upon a lion not a panther, so we knew that this representation had some kind of a funerary context although its nature is completely obscure.

Tutankhamun Guardian Statues

The Life-sized


 Ka Statues


 Guardian Statues of Tutankhamun

When Howard Carter shone his torch through into the antechamber, among the first things that caught his eyes were these two large black statues of the king with the remains of their ancient linen shawls still hanging around their shoulders. They were found flanking the entrance to the burial chamber.

 Tutankhamun Guardian Statues

Why are these two statues called so?
1-     Life-sized statues: Because they correspond very closely with the estimated height of the king, which is 167 cm, based on the measurement of the mummy.

2-    Guardian Statues: Due to the place of discovery as they were found in the antechamber facing each other on either side of the blocked doorway of the burial chamber as if they are guarding from the danger of being attacked by any intruders. The maces and the staffs are the tools that he would use in the beyond for this function.

 The Guardian Statues of Tutankhamun

3-    Ka Statues: The ancient Egyptians believed that the ka of a person first comes into existence at one’s birth; when the ram-headed god Khnum, who was fashioning human beings on a pottery wheel, was responsible for creating two identical figures: the body and a spiritual copy that is the ka. After death, it continues to represent his identity so long as it has an exact image of the deceased. Therefore, the ka needed a permanent domicile in the form of either a mummy or a statue replacing the mummy in case the original corpse disappeared or got damaged. However, the inscriptions on the kilts of the statues are clarifying that only one of them was made for the Ka that is the one with the fnt headdress. 

They are made out of wood, gessoed, and coated with bitumen or black resin except for (the headdress, jewelry and the kilt or Shendyt, which are gilded). The outlines of the eyes, the eyebrows, cobra on the forehead and the sandals are made of gilded bronze.

 The Guardian Statues of TutankhamunThe Guardian Statues of Tutankhamun

·        These two statues are almost identical except for two things:
-The First is in the type of the headdress as one is wearing the Nms headdress (the one on the right-hand side) and the other wearing the fnt headdress (the one on the left-hand side).  The ‘fnt headdress is different from the Khat headdress with the tail extended from the back and this tail represented either the tail of God Anubis or the two wings of god Horus tied together.
-The Second is in the inscriptions on the central part of the kilt of each statue.

The king is represented standing in the traditional pose of the royal king: left leg stepping forward, wearing the headdress. The cobra is shown on his head is for protection. The eyes are inlaid with calcite for the white part and obsidian for the black part. The king is wearing a wide collar and a pectoral in which there is a winged scarab as a sign of resurrection. He is wearing armlets and bracelets that are gilded. He is holding a mace head decorated with scales in his right hand and a long staff in his left hand with a papyrus umbel just under his hand as a handrest. The king is wearing a pleated kilt (Shendyt) with a starched central tab that was fashionable during this era. The tab of this kilt is decorated by two cobras wearing the sun disk and on both sides there are sunrays to enlighten the inscriptions carrying the titles of the king which are in the middle of the kilt. At the very end on either corner, there is the head of a jackal. In his feet, he is wearing gilded bronze sandals.

The two statues bear slightly traces of Amarna style of art which appeared in the pierced earlobes, slim legs, and bulging belly.

Inscriptions on the statue with the Nms headdress:

  niswt bity nb xprw ra  (the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the
forms or existences of ra)
  sA ra nb xaw twt anx imn HkA iwn rsyt anx Dt mi ra ra nb
(the son of ra, lord of the crowns (or appearance) “the living image of Imn , ruler of southern Heliopolis (Thebes)”, living forever, like Re, every day)

Note: This statue represents the king during his lifetime. All the inscriptions are about the sun god Re and the king’s occupation on earth as a ruler of the southern Iwn (Thebes).

The Guardian Statues of TutankhamunThe Guardian Statues of Tutankhamun

Inscriptions on the statue with the ‘fnt headdress:
 Just under the crack:

  kA n ra Hr Axty (the ka of ra Hr Axty)

  wsir niswt (The Osiris king)

   nb xprw ra (the lord of the forms of ra)

   mAa xrw (true of voice)

Note: After death the king was identified with both the sun god, of whom Horakhty is one appellation and with Osiris.
The inscription describes Tutankhamen as “the Royal ka of Rehorakhty”, so it confirms that this statue represents the royal ka or spiritual double of the king. It reads: (n kA n ra Hr Axty) which means (to the ka of ra Hr Axty) where Rehorakhty refers to the king himself (Horus on earth), then wsir nsw which refers to the king after his death (the dead king). Also the epithet true of voice is only used for the dead.

Why are the statues black in colour?
There are several theories concerning this:
The First:  Black is the colour of death.
The Second: Black is the colour of Osiris (god of death, resurrection and the afterlife) because the colors of the Osiris are (green, black and white).
The Third: Black is the colour associated with regeneration, probably owing its origin to the black colour of the fertile soil of Egypt as a source of plant-life. That is why Egypt is called Kmt (the black land). So the statues were covered with black resin to increase their potency as instruments of regeneration. Mummies and coffins were sometimes covered with black resin, undoubtedly for the same reason.
The Fourth: Identifying the king with the god Anubis who is the guardian of the necropolis since they both have the same function.
The Fifth: Black is the colour of the Nubian guards. (a weak theory)
The Sixth: To scare the intruders off the burial chamber of Tutankhamen. (even weaker theory)

     Apart from these two statues of Tutankhamun, there is another similar example found in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35). Also there are three other examples of the same kind displayed in the British Museum. They were acquired in 1821 from the British consul – General in Egypt, Henry Salt, who had obtained two of them from the tomb of Ramesses I, and the third may have come from the tomb of Ramesses II.

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