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Body, Cosmos and

Eternity
New research trends in the
iconography and symbolism of
ancient Egyptian coffins

Edited by

Rogrio Sousa

Archaeopress Egyptology 3
Archaeopress
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ISBN 978 1 78491 002 0


ISBN 978 1 78491 003 7 (e-Pdf)
Archaeopress and the individual authors 2014

Cover illustration: Coffin A from KV 63 (front view). Courtesy of Susan Osgood.

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Contents

Foreword iii

Introduction v

Part I : Studies on Coffin Symbolism


From skin wrappings to architecture: The evolution of prehistoric, anthropoid wrappings to historic architectonic
coffins/sarcophagi; separate contrasts optimally fused in single Theban stola coffins (975-920 BC). 1
Ren van Walsem

Permeable containers: Body and cosmos in Middle Kingdom coffins 29


Rune Nyord

Ancient Egyptian funerary arts as social documents: social place, reuse, and working towards a new typology of 21st
Dynasty coffins 45
Kathlyn M. Cooney

Representations of passage in ancient Egyptian iconography 67


va Liptay

Crossing the landscapes of eternity: parallels between Amduat and funeral procession scenes on the 21st Dynasty
coffins 81
Cssio de Arajo Duarte

Spread your wings over me: iconography, symbolism and meaning of the central panel on yellow coffins 91
Rogrio Sousa

Resurrection in a box: the 25th Dynasty burial ensemble of Padiamunet 111


Cynthia May Sheikholeslami

Gods at all hours: Saite Period coffins of the eleven-eleven type 125
Jonathan Elias and Carter Lupton

Part II : Studies on Museums Collections and Archaeological Finds


Continuity in times of transition: the inner coffin of the mistress of the house Gem-tu-es in Vevey (Switzerland) 137
Alexandra Kffer

Egyptian coffins in Portugal 145


Lus Manuel de Arajo

Cercueils jaunes des XXIe et XXIIe Dynasties dans les collections Franaises 149
Alain Dautant

Lot 14 from Bab el-Gasus (Sweden and Norway): the modern history of the collection and a reconstruction of the
ensembles 167
Anders Bettum

The coffins of the priests of Amun: a socio-economic investigation on Bab el-Gasus cachette 187
Elena Paganini

Coffins without mummies: the Tomb KV 63 in the Valley of the Kings 197
Rogrio Sousa

i
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Spread your wings over me: iconography, symbolism and meaning of


the central panel on yellow coffins

Rogrio Sousa
Centro de Estudos Clssicos e Humansticos (University of Coimbra)

Abstract
During the 21st Dynasty, coffin decoration increased in complexity and innovative solutions, particularly in the context of the Theban
necropolis. The strong innovative nature of these objects raises important methodological questions for their iconographic study. This
article presents the first findings of an extensive systematic study on the iconography and symbolism of yellow coffins, focusing on the
central panel of the lid. This section extends from the floral collar (or forearms of the deceased) to the lower section (or in some cases
the foot-board) of the lid. Our concern is to identify the key-elements of this iconographic tableau, its lexicon of symbols and images
and the various methods used to increase its complexity, constantly reinterpreting older creations. We will support our reading of the
iconographic development on a genealogical sequence linking the older tableaux to the later and by far more complex compositions.
This analysis allows us to detect patterns of cultural interaction that reflect broader cultural trends active in the Theban necropolis
during the 21st Dynasty.

1. Introduction bigger size of the foot-board, whereas running all


along the edge of the wall on the case.
It is consensual among scholars that yellow coffins form Foot-board sculpted in the round on the lid,
a unique and exceptionally rich corpus of the Egyptian suggesting the shape of the feet, whereas composed
funerary culture.1 Due to the density of their decoration by a single flattened wall on the case.
and high degree of variability, the systematic study of the
iconography of these coffins is a complex and difficult Note that all these components are common to the lid and
task. Attempts to proceed with the characterization of the case. In addition to these sections, we propose a fifth one
iconography on yellow coffins need to have a comparative which is only detected on the lid: the central panel. This
and systematic perspective with a view to identify the section is a large iconographic tableau inserted between
patterns underlying variability and change. the upper and the lower section of the lid. Sometimes, on
exceptional cases, this composition covers the entire surface
In our previous work on the study of the Eighth Lot of of the lid below the upper section, reaching the foot-board
Antiquities of Bab el-Gasus,2 we paid especial attention (see Figure 16 chapter 1). Therefore, the widness and
to the identification of the formal components of the complexity of this composition is highly variable.
yellow coffins, aiming to prepare methodological ground
for subsequent comparative studies on the materials from Unlike the other sections of the lid, the central panel is
the collective tomb of the priests and priestesses of Amun. composed of a single tableau, (hence our designation of
Generally speaking, the following components were panel) composed of a variable number of registers, each
proposed for yellow coffins (Figure 1): one involving either a large depiction of a winged deity or
a symmetrical composition. Moreover, the central panel is
Head-board corresponding to the rendering of the specifically associated with the yellow coffins and it seems
head and wig. to play a crucial role in the decorative programme of these
Upper section usually very well delimited by the objects.
contour of the forearms, elbows or floral collars.
Lower section slightly different length on the Given its unique character, the central panel by itself
lid and on the case: shortened on the lid due to the provides an excellent perspective in understanding the
dynamics of coffin decoration during the 21st Dynasty.
This study adopts a systematic and comparative approach
1
I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Ren van Walsem for so as to apprehend the main iconographic features of the
supervising this research and contributing with his endless support to the central panel and detect the patterns of its development
improvement of my work. I also would like to acknowledge Dr Andrzej behind variability. With this goal in mind, we worked
Niwinski for his valuable support, allowing me to research on his own
documental records and to the Museums who provided me support in my with a relatively wide sample of yellow coffins, always
research, namely to Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, Munich Egyptian focusing our attention on the same component the central
Museum, Berlin Egyptian Museum, Metropolian Museum of Art and panel - and, at the same time, paying attention to the global
Cairo Egyptian Museum.
2
The catalogue of the coffins of the Eighth Lot of Bab el-Gasus organization of the lid as a whole. Since the exact dating of
(forthcoming). a particular object can be a difficult, if not impossible, task

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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Fig. 1 Coffins components (after the outer coffin of A 136) Drawing by the author.

to undergo strictly based on textual or even archaeological winged goddess is entirely framed within a tableau (Figure
information, we studied the development of the pictorial 2), thus forming the simplest and earliest compositions of
compositions of the central panel according to their degree the central panel.
of complexity, adopting a genealogical perspective of
the iconographic development. Our assumption is that This new tableau was deeply rooted on the iconography
variability is not the result of a random combination of anthropoid coffins, with its antecedents going back to
of features but instead of a constant (re)search for the Second Intermediate Period. Regarding Theban rishi
innovation grounded on previous developments. This coffins, the winged deity is fully depicted in avian form,
approach involves seriating compositions according as a vulture,3 on the chest of the deceased. During the
to their complexity, which is highly efficient to reveal 18th Dynasty, especially from the reign of Amenhotep III
genealogical lines (iconographic key features that play onwards, the depiction of Nut became clearly predominant
a decisive role in the development of complexity) and on black coffins4 and anthropoid stone sarcophagi.5
the principles of composition that rule the organization
of iconography within the central panel. While doing During the Ramesside Period, the programme of the
that, this method gives us a relative dating according to central panel soon included one more register. Typically,
the position of one particular composition in the global
genealogical line.
3
See coffin of Queen Ahhotep (Cairo Egyptian Museum, CG 28501)
2. The basic scheme in HORNUNG, BRYAN, 2002: 109. Golden coffin of Tutankhamun
(with two vultures in lateral position) in IKRAM, DODSON, 1998: 214.
MINIACI, 2011.
The central panel of the yellow coffins is perhaps the 4
Coffin of Tentamentet (British Museum) in TAYLOR, 2001: 225.
most distinctive feature of the yellow coffins. In fact, Coffins of Henutwejbu (Washington University Gallery) in HORNUNG,
BRYAN (eds.), 2002: 66. See also KOZLOFF, BRYAN, BERMAN,
this section results from the formal reorganization of the DELANGE, 1993: 270-273. Coffin set of Maherpa (Cairo Egyptian
decoration on the yellow/gilded type during the Ramesside Museum).
5
Period. Unlike black coffins, where the winged deity Anthropoid sarcophagus of Merymes (British Museum, EA 1001) in
KOZLOFF, BRYAN, BERMAN, DELANGE, 1993: 279. Anthropoid
was loosely depicted heading the longitudinal band of sarcophagus re-used by Psusennes I (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in
inscriptions running down the lid, on the yellow type the MONTET, 1951: Pl. XCVI.

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

Fig. 2 Central panel. Inner coffin of Khonsu (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Drawing by the author.

the basic scheme of the central panel displays two registers 3. The classical scheme
(Figures 3, 4, 5):
Throughout the 21st Dynasty, the decoration of the
First register: composed of a nuclear block central panel increased in complexity as well as density.
usually a depiction of a pectoral, an amulet The process which originated the third register of the
or a scarab - which is the central element of a central panel is not clear, but it seems that it may have
symmetrical register involving centripetal and/or been originated from the lower friezes that decorate
centrifugal blocks. the area bellow the wings of Nut. In a small sample of
Second register: presenting the winged goddess, objects, this lower secondary frieze is large enough to be
usually with her wings delimiting a U-shaped considered an autonomous register on its own.7 At first,
area above her arms. In most cases, secondary the composition of this register was not standardized and
compositions can be found above and below the it created a strong contrast with the other two registers.
wings of the goddess. However, the development of the third register progressed
into a growing dependence towards the first register. This
This organization of the central panel is typical of the late vertical symmetry between the first and the third register
Ramesside Period and the first half of the 21st Dynasty. originated what can be called the classical composition
Moreover, coffins with the central panel presenting of the central panel.
basic scheme features are consistently associated with
Niwiskis type II (see Figures 7, 10 chapter 3; Figure Perhaps after the first half of the 21st Dynasty, the central
4 C chapter 12; Figure 4 chapter 13). In these earlier panel became a tableau composed of three registers (two
objects, depictions are large and tend to follow the symmetric compositions evolving around the scarab and
naturalistic Ramesside style, usually with low density of one register composed of a winged deity see Figure 6).
decoration. This arrangement is consistently associated with coffins
from Niwiskis type III (see Figure 13 chapter 3).
Occasionally, the basic scheme is used on late 21st- The style of these tableaux is more schematic and the
Dynasty coffins, probably seeking for an archaizing compositions are heavier, displaying a highly variable
style.6 However, the style of later objects sometimes degree of quality. Moreover, greater attention is given to
combining features of the Niwiskis type III or V is the volume of certain key-features (scarabs, solar disks or
highly schematic and the weight of the liminal elements enthroned gods) by adding plaster.
(or space fillers) is heavier, which makes their later dating
easy to detect. The stability achieved through this new scheme is only
apparent since, once established, it gave rise to a new
6
Only seldom, coffins of a later date (Niwiskis type III) display a
central panel with basic scheme features. Anonymous coffin from Bab el- search for complexity and innovation. However, the
Gasus, unknown A number (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden,
F.93/10.4), in BOESER, 1916: Pl. I. 7
A.2, coffin (Muses Royaux dArt et dHistoire).

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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Fig. 3 Central panel. Outer coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Drawing by the author.

Fig. 4 Central panel. Mummy-cover of Diukhonsuiry (A.49, Cairo Egyptian Museum) Drawing by the author.

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

Fig. 5 Central panel. Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Drawing by the author.

attention now moved from the main registers to the liminal cases, they figure fully enthroned,11 sometimes forming
areas. The liminal areas are those that provide a frontier entire cult scenes on their own.12
either between the main registers of the tableau or between
those and the outer limits of the lid. It is important to note that, in order to display this
increasingly more complex frieze of symbols, the arms
Once again, it is from the winged Nut that the new impetus and wings of the goddess had to be stretched horizontally
for complexity seems to have arisen. This time, however, and the once typical U-shaped arrangement of her wings
the new elements that irradiated to the liminal areas became obsolete (Figure 6).
originated from the upper composition next to the arms
of the winged goddess. Whereas, on earlier compositions, The elements depicted in these friezes were soon used
symbols such as scarabs, cobras, ankh signs or heb bowls8 on new pictorial areas, such as the upper corners of the
are loosely arranged along the arms of the goddess, they panel. These areas became available on Niwiskis type
soon evolve to form careful and methodologically arranged III coffins. When the depiction of the forearms became
friezes composed of alternating cobras, shetayet shrines, obsolete, the shape of the floral collar interfered directly
scarabs and vultures (Figure 6).9 This frieze of symbols with the upper limits of the central panel, thus creating new
arranged over the arms of the winged goddess eventually pictorial areas (see the contrast between the upper contour
involved more complex elements, such as falcon gods, of the central panel in Figure 5 and in Figure 6). As a result
long twisted cobras and squatted mummiform gods of such changes, secondary registers, usually of triangular
together with their respective shrines.10 Gradually, these shape, were formed involving vultures, mummiform
secondary depictions of gods became larger and, in some squatted gods, cobras, scarabs and shetayet shrines.13
Sometimes these elements create semi-autonomous blocks
8
A.108, mummy board (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29663), see
NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. IX-A. A.136, outer coffin (Sociedade de Geografia
allusive to cult scenes.14
de Lisboa), unpublished.
9
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10112.a) in NIWISKI, 2004: 11
A.18, coffin (Muses Royaux dArt et d Histoire). A.33, coffin
Pl. IV. Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10106.a) in NIWISKI, (Copenhagen National Museum, JE 29630/29729).
2004: Pl. XI. A.99, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29616), 12
A.2, coffin (Muses Royaux dArt et d Histoire).
unpublished. A.139 (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden) in 13
A.83, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29658), see description
BOESER, 1916: Pl. V. A.83, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE in NIWISKI, 1995: 80-83. A.18, coffin (Muses Royaux dArt et
29658), see description in NIWISKI, 1995: 80-83. dHistoire).
10 14
A.110, coffin (Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa), unpublished (see Those scenes consist of mummiform gods depicted in shrines. A.110,
Fig. 6). coffin (Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa), unpublished (see Fig.

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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Fig. 6 Central panel. Coffin of Shedsutauepet (A 110, Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa)


Drawing by the author.

A similar process occurred at the outer borders of the This new pattern of decoration using secondary motifs
central panel, almost creating a frame of iconography has led contemporary authors to consider them merely
disposed around the three main registers. as space fillers and to explain this process as a horror
vacui. In our perspective, these symbols should be seen
All these liminal compositions present a considerable as liminal compositions that evolved as an extension of
degree of autonomy towards the three main registers. the protective role of the winged deity. Such interstitial
Their elements are loosely displayed according to the compositions should therefore be seen as a whole,
available space but it does not mean that they are designed performing a protective role around the main registers
randomly. In fact, it is not rare to find short sentences either with hieroglyphs or with sacred symbols. This trend
allusive either to Nut or to Osiris (Figure 6) among the became so important that the size of the main registers had
liminal compositions.15 to be reduced to increase the area devoted to the liminal
compositions.16
16
A.108, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29663), see NIWISKI,
6). Coffin of Pashedkhonsu (Michael Carlos Museum, 1999.I.15) in 1988: Pl. IX-A. A.139, coffin of Gautseshen (National Museum of
LACOVARA, TROPE, 2001: 51. Antiquities at Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: Pl. V. A.83, outer coffin (Cairo
15
A.110, coffin (Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa), unpublished (see Egyptian Museum, CG 6051), see description in NIWISKI, 1995: 80-83.
Fig. 6). Inner coffin of Padiamon (Mummification Museum).

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

4. The developments of the classical scheme 5. Irregular compositions

Miniaturist panels Progressive and retrograde trends

The increasing use and dimensions of the liminal areas Central panels provided with multiple registers attained a
(typical of coffins of Niwiskis type III or V) led to the significant degree of complexity. Such tableaux resulted
progressive miniaturization of compositions17 and to a from the unprecedented development of the miniaturist
deep change of style, which became schematic and highly trend. The style is schematic and the density of depiction
stylized.18 Miniaturist panels display the three registers is only possible due to a careful planning of the panel
according to the same vertical symmetry of the classical as a whole. This miniaturist trend evolved into different
scheme but present larger interstitial areas: the three main directions.
registers are thus absorbed and involved by liminal
compositions. In the best objects, the composition evolved Progressive programmes continued to be planned,
to form a careful and well planned design of the tableau as seemingly searching for the objects sense of
a whole, presenting a strong sense of geometry and unity uniqueness. This is visible in the alternate inclusion
in spite of the multiple semi-autonomous iconographic of different types of winged goddesses, vultures or
blocks that decorate the interstitial areas (Figure 9 A-B, winged scarabs. Other processes were used to attain
chapter 11).19 Those liminal blocks can be composed of the uniqueness of the object through a systematic
isolated vignettes depicting fairly complex scenes such method:
as rituals,20 recumbent gods and shrines. Introduction of unusual iconographic
features in unexpected places, such as the
Multiple registers depiction of the ba as a ram between the
wings of the protective goddesses25 or the
Interesting variations were attempted through the constant inclusion of snake-headed sphinxes.26 On
addition of new registers into the classical tripartite other occasions, rare details are included,
scheme of the tableau. At first, the process was simple, such as Osiris clad in Heb Sed garments
consisting in the alternate addition of the two main types instead of his usual mummiform appearance,
of registers used on the central panel (winged deity or or the god Heh used as a nuclear block of the
symmetric compositions).21 A typical sequence would symmetric compositions.27
be formed by the following elements: winged solar disk, Replication of a motif or an entire
Osirian symmetric composition, winged goddess, Osirian iconographic sequence. Such replication can
symmetric composition, avian deity.22 affect either the nuclear block the scarab28
or any other element of the composition,
The replication of registers may simply reproduce such as the protective goddess behind the
variations of the first register after the classical tripartite Osirian throne29 or the enthroned gods,30
panel is complete.23 In any of these cases, the size of or even, in the most extreme cases, the
the central panel is significantly expanded to the area symmetric replication of the entire register.
traditionally decorated with the lower section. At the same The coffin of Asetemkhebit from TT320 is
time, the size of the floral collar expanded. These combined one of the most remarkable examples of this
aspects affected the lower section, which became reduced trend.31
to the lower legs or, in the most extreme cases, was even Retrograde programmes. Archaism, as a revivalist
removed from the lid. In fact, on occasions, the central recovery of features considered old fashioned
panel covers the entire surface of the lower section of the became a new trend of innovation on miniaturist
lid (see Figure 16 - chapter 1).24 panels. This is clearly visible in the recovery of the
basic scheme with its typical two registers but
now designed according to the new miniaturist and
schematic style, displaying the typical density and
profusion of the interstitial compositions.32
17
Outer coffin of Tabakmut (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Coffin
25
(Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6263) in EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Coffin (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6265) in EGNER, HASLAUER,
Pl. 23. Inner coffin of Tabakmut (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 1994: Pl. 18.
18 26
A.149, outer coffin (Berlin Egyptian Museum). Coffin (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6271) in EGNER, HASLAUER,
19
Outer coffin of Tabakmut (Metropolitan Museum of Art). 1994: Pl. 9.
20
Coffin (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6269) in EGNER, HASLAUER, 27
A.55, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29637), see description
2009: Pl. 28. in NIWISKI, 1995: 63-64.
21
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10102) in NIWISKI, 2004: 28
Coffin (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6271) in EGNER, HASLAUER,
Pl. IV. A.47 (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden) in BOESER, 1994: Pl. 9.
29
1916: Pl. IV. Inner coffin of Tabakmut (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
22
Anonymous coffin (British Museum, 48972). 30
A.132, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29612), unpublished.
23
A.124, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29696 ), see 31
Outer coffin of Menkhepere (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Outer
description CHASSINAT, 1909: 1-3. coffin of Asetemkhebit (Cairo Egyptian Museum, CG 26198) in
24
A.136 (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: DARESSY, 1909: Pl. L.
32
Pl. VIII. A.41 (Copenhagen). A. 29, inner coffin (British Museum). A.91, outer coffin (Berlin Egyptian Museum).

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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Fig. 7 Central panel. Mummy-cover of Padiuamun (A 87, Cairo Egyptian Museum) Drawing by the author.

Unusual compositions be made to those whose impact in the overall organization


of the tableau seems to be more extensive.
The general layout of the central panel may be significantly
transformed creating compositions with an even higher Very exceptional compositions are created by blurring the
degree of irregularity. Such compositions are usually frontier between the upper section and the central panel to
associated with coffins of exceptional quality. Although the point of forming a continuous tableau traversing the
it is virtually impossible to characterize all types of central axis of the lid from the head-board to the lower
irregularities that may occur, reference will nevertheless section (Figure 7). In these objects, the upper section

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

does not simply disappear. On the contrary, the large or by winged goddesses.39 The later motif is remarkably
collar is depicted, as well as the hands of the deceased. similar to the decoration detected on the pectorals actually
The difference is that the central panel breaks through the found in the royal tombs of Tanis.40
central axis of the upper section, thus creating a single
composition mingling depictions typical of both sections. Solar barque . In a limited sample of 21st-Dynasty coffins,
the nuclear block of the first register depicts the solar
One of the finest examples of this kind is found on the barque (Figure 4). Royal funerary jewellery did include
mummy board of the High Priest Pinedjem II.33 Designed pectorals of this kind and it is possible that these scenes
according to the classical scheme of the central panel, were inspired by such objects.41 When the solar disk is
the composition presents three main registers with the depicted, lateral compositions include the divine crew,
winged goddess replaced by a large falcon. The adherence usually forming centripetal compositions. Outside the
to the classical scheme is blurred with the introduction barque may figure cosmic symbols such as the pet sign and
of additional almost independent - blocks disposed the signs of the East and the West, thus suggesting the solar
in the liminal areas creating a multitude of secondary navigation in the sky.42 Another variation consists in the
registers. Additionally, the area above the three main depiction of the winged (ram-headed43) scarab navigating
registers displays a vertical sequence of registers, each in the solar barque. This central motif is depicted together
one presenting a nuclear block (heart amulet or pectoral) with centrifugal blocks displaying twisted cobras44 or
inspired on the earliest versions of the central panel. jackals45 below the wings of the scarab.

An identical scheme is detected on the mummy board of Collar with a scarab. Associated with the basic scheme, it
the priest Padiamun (A.87) found in Bab el-Gasus, with consists in the depiction of a funerary pectoral in the shape
the area above the traditional tripartite scheme evolving of a winged scarab supported on suspender-like bands and
into the head-board with a large nuclear block combining floral elements (lotus flowers and buds) adorning its lower
the heart amulet and the winged scarab. fringe (Figure 5). These depictions seem to reproduce the
features of funerary pectorals whose actual existence is
6. The iconographic lexicon of the central panel archaeologically attested.46

Symmetrical registers: The nuclear block Solar scarab. Typically associated with the classical
scheme of the central panel. Probably as a development
The nuclear block rules most of the features of the of the depictions mentioned above, the solar scarab alone
symmetric compositions and originates significant eventually became the focal element of the symmetrical
variations on the general layout of the register. The compositions without an explicit association with a
following types of nuclear blocks are detected: pectoral, a collar or the solar boat (see first register of
Figure 6). However, given the context, connotations with
Naos-shaped pectorals. It can be found on Ramesside or the heart scarab are likely. The typical depiction consists
early 21st Dynasty coffins. The area above the pectoral in a (ram-headed) scarab,47 with the upper legs holding the
is decorated with solar compositions involving the akhet solar disk and the hind legs flanking a shen ring.48 The solar
sign34 or the solar disk35 (Figure 3). The pectoral itself is disk is inserted within a multi-coloured ring from which
decorated with variations of the vignette depicting the solar two cobras emerge wearing ankh signs at their necks.
god alone36 or integrated in groups of mummiform gods.37
39
Other variations include the solar god flanked by a falcon38 Late Ramesside mummy board of Nesyamun (Leeds City Museum D.
426-426a.1960).
40
See MONTET, 1941: Pl. XXVI (Pectoral of Sheshonk II). See also
33
DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XLIV. STIERLIN, 1993: 169. See pectoral from the reign of Tutankhamun
34
The akhet-sign can figure alone see outer coffin of Henut-taui REEVES, 1990: 151. This motif is also common in the decoration of the
(Metropolitan Museum of Art), outer coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian shrines of the sacred barque of Amun.
Museum, JE 26195) in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. III, or displayed within 41
See pectoral from Tutankhamuns tomb in STIERLIN, 1993: 69. See
wider compositions which may include the wedjat-eyes see Ramesside also pectoral from the mummy of Sheshonk II STIERLIN, 1993: 195.
42
mummy board of Nesyamun (Leeds City Museum D. 426-426a.1960), Coffin of Nesyamun (Leeds City Museum, D. 426-426a.1960) in
coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, 10101a) in NIWISKI, 2004: Pl. I. COONEY, 2007: fig. 187. Mummy board of A.49 (Cairo Egyptian
35
The solar disk is usually encircled by cobras. See coffin A.81 (Cairo Museum, JE 29733) in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. V.
Egyptian Museum, JE 29649) in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. LXIV. Outer 43
Inner coffin of A.68 (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6267a) in EGNER,
coffin of Maatkare (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, 1909: Pl. HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. See also A.151, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian
XXXIX. Museum). The latter presents the triple atef crown.
36
Inner coffin of Tjuiu (Cairo Egyptian Museum, CG 51006-7) in 44
Coffin A.46 (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29651) in NIWISKI,
QUIBELL, 1908: Pl. X. See also anthropoid sarcophagus of Ramessu 1988: Pl. VII. Mummy board of Tauhert (Cairo Egyptian Museum), in
(Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 72203) in SALEH, SOUROUZIAN, 1987: DARESSY, 1909: Pl. LVII.
45
no. 200. Inner coffin of A.68 (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6267a) in EGNER,
37
See coffin A.81 (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29649) in NIWISKI, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8.
46
1988: Pl. LXIV. Outer coffin of Maatkare (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in See STIERLIN, 1993: 188 (pectoral of Sheshonk II).
47
DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XXXIX. Also outer coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Winged compositions are not common in these tableaux. When a
Egyptian Museum, JE 26195) in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. III. Mummy winged scarab is depicted, its wings are usually feathered, following the
board of Khaemipt in COONEY, 2007: fig. 213. First depictions of the model of the falcon wings. Mummy board of Henut-taui (Metropolitan
solar barque in the pectoral may be detected already in the Ramesside Museum of Art). Mummy board (Michael Carlos Museum). Outer coffin
Period. See coffin set of Henutmehyt (British Museum, 48001) in of Pinedjem II (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XLII.
48
TAYLOR, 2001: 227. Inner coffin of Amenhotep (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden)
38
Outer coffin of Paser (Louvre Museum, N 2570, N 2581). in BOESER, 1917: Pl. I.

99
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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Fig. 8 Central panel. Inner coffin of Tjenetipet (A 119, Cairo Egyptian Museum) Drawing by the author.

Other signs (djed or was) are attached to these, creating a Symmetrical register: Lateral compositions
column on both sides of the scarab.49 The scarab emerges
from a heb bowl50 or a nub basket.51 More exceptionally, it The nuclear block is the centre of symmetrical compositions
emerges from a lotus flower,52 a djed pillar53 or even from that spring from the centre towards both sides of the lid.
the arms of a squatted deity.54 Most of these compositions involve centripetal blocks
and sometimes centrifugal blocks. Distinct subjects are
Heart amulet. This symbol is typically associated with the consistently associated with each of these blocks.
upper section but it can be exceptionally included in the
first register of the central panel, sometimes erasing the Centripetal blocks: The wedjat eye56 is a recurrent subject
barrier with the upper section (Figure 7). The use of the in this block (Figures 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8). Compositions
heart amulet in the central panel is typically detected in involving squatted/standing (winged) goddesses are also
exceptional compositions where several irregular elements very common57, usually displaying the wedjat eye between
or combinations are possible55 (Figure 8). their wings, together with the ba bird in adoration (Figure
5)58 or even the Sons of Horus.59 These goddesses are
normally identified as Isis and Nephthys60 (Figure 5, 6, 7),
49
Inner coffin of Amenhotep (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden)
in BOESER, 1917: Pl. I.
50 56
Anonymous coffin from Bab el-Gasus, unknown A number (National Coffin set of Henutmehyt (British Museum, 48001) in TAYLOR, 2010:
Museum of Antiquities at Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: Pl. I. 98, 117. Mummy board of Khaemipt in COONEY, 2007: fig. 213.
51 57
A.86, mummy board (Cairo Egyptian Museum). See description in Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
58
CHASSINAT, 1909: 74-75. Mummy board of Tanethereret (Louvre Museum, E 13034). outer
52
Mummy board of Gautseshen (National Museum of Antiquities at coffin of Padiamun (A.114, JE 29666), in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. XI.
Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: Pl. VIII. Outer coffin of Maatkare (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY,
53
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, 10105) in NIWISKI, 2004: Pl. X 1909: Pl. XXXIX, Coffin of Paser (Louvre Museum, N 2570, N 2581).
. Coffin of Hor (Inv. No. 525, Rio de Janeiro), see KITCHEN, 1990: Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Inner coffin of
109. Mummy board of Henutaneb (Grenoble) in KUENY, YOYOTTE, Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XXXVI.
59
1979: 109. Outer coffin of Pinedjem II (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY,
54
See A.28, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum). See also mummy 1909: Pl. XLII. Mummy board of Nany (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
board of A.111 (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29667) in NIWISKI, 60
Mummy board of Panebmontu (Inv. E 13046, Louvre Museum).
1988: Pl. VI. Mummy board of Gautseshen (National Museum of Antiquities at
55
A.109, inner coffin of Djedmaeiuesankh. Leiden) BOESER, 1916: Pl. VIII.

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

but occasionally the name of Neith is also referred to.61 Ptah-Sokar76 or mummiform gods77) or even complete cult
Cobra goddesses62 can appear as secondary elements and scenes.78
are usually identified as manifestations of Neith. When
the available space is limited especially on mummy The winged deity
boards the centripetal block is directly juxtaposed to the
nuclear block, forming a group composed by the winged Dividing line
goddesses flanking the solar god which is a motif typically
used in the decoration of the shrine of the divine barque In the basic scheme of the central panel, it is not uncommon
of Amun-Re. The winged goddesses are also abundantly to find a horizontal line dividing the two main registers
attested on the decoration of divine or funerary shrines.63 of the central panel (Figures 3, 4, 5). In this context, this
feature became very common and only exceptionally
Centripetal blocks can also display offering scenes, clearly is omitted.79 If the nuclear block of the first register is
inspired on temple decoration, such as the god Thoth a pectoral, this line is traced on its lower limit80 (Figure
performing a ritual (usually offering the wedjat eye) before 3). When enthroned gods are depicted in the centrifugal
the enthroned god, sometimes followed (or substituted) by blocks, this line can be absent and long mats positioned
the deceased in festive garment (presenting offerings)64 or underneath the thrones can be depicted instead (Figure
as a ba bird presenting libations. Scenes with Ptah-Sokar 5). In that case the dividing line between the first and
in avian form65 are also common. the second register is interrupted near the centre of the
composition.81 When the nuclear block is a solar barque,
Centrifugal blocks. They are normally used together with this division usually takes the form of a long pet sign82
the centripetal blocks66 and depict mummiform gods (Figure 4), sometimes decorated with stars.83 Aquatic
(squatted67 or seated on a throne) facing outwards,68 such connotations of the sky are emphasized with the depiction
as Osiris (in full human depiction see Figures 5 and 6) of a fish pulling out from the water84 which also alludes
or the falcon-headed god Ptah-Sokar.69 Exceptionally, the to the word besy, meaning introduction, with strong
enthroned gods are depicted as royal ancestors from the religious connotations related to the ascent to heaven,
New Kingdom, such as Horemheb.70 Standing (winged) the divine realm inhabited by the gods.85 With the classic
goddesses (sometimes identified as Isis and Nephthys71) scheme this feature became obsolete.
protect the back of the enthroned god. In the most elaborate
compositions, the centrifugal block (enthroned gods and Winged goddess
protective female deities) is entirely depicted inside a
shrine.72 In most of the compositions, Nut figures as the central
deity. She is depicted from her point of view - facing
Additional blocks. Additional blocks are inserted on the left,86 as a squatted woman wearing a divine dress usually
available areas. These semi-autonomous elements are knotted with a long red belt. In most cases, the goddess
composed of sacred animals (such as the ba depicted wears a headband,87 a modiu (Figure 3),88 or a royal crown
as a ram73 or the god Anubis as a jackal74), hieroglyphic adorned with cobras,89 sometimes together with a sun
compositions (usually involving the wedjat eye and the
nefer sign75), secondary shrines (sheltering deities such as
76
A.95, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, CG 6008), in CHASSINAT,
61
Mummy board of A.111 (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29667) in 1909: 23-26.
NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. VI. 77
A.16, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29692), in NIWISKI,
62
Mummy board (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). A.68, mummy 1988: Pl. V.
board of Ankhefenmut (British Museum, EA 24797). 78
A.105, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29661), in NIWISKI,
63
See the funerary shrines from Tutanhamuns tomb: PIANKOFF, 1952: 1988: Pl. XI.
Pl. III, Pl. X, Pl. XII, Pl. XV, Pl. XVII. 79
A.114, outer coffin of Padiamun (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29666)
64
Inner coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum), in DARESSY, in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. XI.
80
1909: Pl. XXXVI. Outer coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Mummy
65
Coffin of Panebmontu (Louvre Museum, Inv. E 13029). board (Munich Egyptian Museum, S_12a.9).
66 81
Exclusively centrifugal compositions are rare Coffin of Padiamun Mummy-cover of Amenhotep (National Museum of Antiquities at
(Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 26220 / CG 61011) in COONEY, 2007: Leiden), see BOESER, 1917: Pl. I.
fig. 175. 82
A.49, mummy board (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29733) in
67
A.136, inner coffin (Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa), unpublished. NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. V. Outer coffin of Pasebakhaienipet (Brooklyn
68
Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Museum), see BLEIBERG, 2008: 96-97.
69 83
Mummy board of Nesyamun (Leeds City Museum, D. 426-426a.1960) A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, S 6267a)
in COONEY, 2007: fig. 187. Also coffin (Munich Egyptian Museum, in EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. Also coffin (Turin Egyptian
S-12c). Museum, CGT 10104a) in NIWISKI, 2004: Pl. VIII.
70 84
Mummy board of Gautseshen (National Museum of Antiquities at Outer coffin of Pasebakhaienipet (Brooklyn Museum), in BLEIBERG,
Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: Pl. VIII. 2008: 96-97.
71 85
Coffin from Bab el-Gasus, unidentified A number (Cairo Egyptian See KRUCHTEN, 1989: 163-167.
Museum, CG 6034). See NIWISKI, 1995: 23-24. 86
The inner coffin of Khonsw, from the tomb of Sennedjem (TT 1), is a
72
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10104a) in NIWISKI, 2004: remarkable exception of this rule, where the goddess is facing right. This
Pl. VIII. is the only exception to this rule known to us (see Figure 2).
73 87
Mummy board of Panebmontu (Louvre Museum, Inv. E 13046). A.86, Coffin set of Tamutneferet (Muse du Louvre, N 2631, N2571, N 2623,
mummy board (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29711), see description in N 2620).
88
CHASSINAT, 1909: 74-75. Outer coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
74
Coffin of Hor (Inv. No. 525, Rio de Janeiro), see KITCHEN, 1990: 109. 89
A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a) in
75
Mummy board of Panebmontu (Louvre Museum, Inv. E 13046). EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8.

101
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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

disk.90 Occasionally, the winged goddess wears the symbol Words spoken by Nut, the great one. Words spoken
of Neith on top of her head.91 by Isis, the mother of gods105
Words spoken by Nut, the great one () she gives
The goddess grasps feathers,92 ankh or djed signs.93 daily offerings, all the good and pure things106
Typically, large U-shaped wings irradiate from her open Words spoken by Nut, the great one who gives
arms (Figures 3, 4, 5, 7, 8). Less often the winged deity birth to the gods, who conceived Re, lady of the
is fully depicted in avian form, either as a falcon94 (see Amentet, may she give all the good and pure
Figure 4 A chapter 11) or as a vulture.95 Exceptionally, a things 107
winged solar disk may also figure in this context.96
Iconographic arrangements became more common with
Secondary compositions: the upper record the classic scheme of the central panel where the wings of
the goddess are stretched horizontally. The iconographic
In the basic scheme, the U-shaped wings of the goddess97 compositions are displayed over the wings, usually forming
create an empty space between the first register and the centripetal compositions on both sides of the head of the
winged deity. This space is used to write short inscriptions winged goddess. These friezes display several subjects:
or a secondary iconographic composition. Texts and
inscriptions refer to the name and titles of Nut98 (frequently (Winged) cobras with twisted bodies108 - sometimes
combined with the depiction of the wedjat eyes99 - see combined with usual inscriptions referring to Nut
Figure 4, 5). The goddess is referred to as: (basic scheme).109 Occasionally, the winged cobras
are identified as manifestations of Neith.110 In other
lady of the sky, lady of the gods100 instances, this area is decorated with cobras pending
Nut, the great one of the horizon101 from the horizontal pet sign above,111 sometimes
Nut, the great one that gives birth to Re, the lady wearing solar disks or even the pshent crown.
of the Amentet102 Frieze of symbols. Secondary motifs involving
Nut, the great one that gives birth to the gods, may various symbols became arranged according to a
she give offerings103 stable sequence (Figure 6): (winged) wedjat eyes,112
Nut, the great one, mother of gods, daughter of solar falcons,113 cobras,114 shetayet shrines, scarabs
Re, who is in the House of Life (Per-Ankh), lady and vultures.115 These sequences decorating the
of the House of Beauty (Per-Nefer), may she give area above the arms of the winged goddess became
all things104 increasingly more frequent on later coffins.

Short spells of Nut are sometimes included: Secondary compositions: the lower record
90
A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a) in On earlier objects, the area below the wings of the central
EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. deity is usually left undecorated116 (Figures 3-4). However,
91
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, 10102.a) in NIWISKI, 2004: Pl.
IV. A.19, coffin (Copenhagen National Museum, JE 29723). A.121,
coffin (Victoria Museum, JE 29709). A.38, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian 105
Coffin set (Die Stdtische Galerie Liebieghaus, 1651 a-f) in COONEY,
Museum, JE 29655), unpublished. 2007: fig. 25.
92 106
Outer coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Outer coffin Coffin in COONEY, 2007: fig. 166.
107
of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XXXVI. Coffin of Panebmontu (Louvre Museum, Inv. E 13029).
108
Outer coffin of Paser (Louvre Museum, N 2570, N 2581). A.46, outer Outer coffin of Pasebakhaienipet (Brooklyn Museum), in BLEIBERG,
coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29651), in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. VII. 2008: 96-97. Anonymous coffin from Bab el-Gasus, unknow A number
93
A.68, mummy board of Ankhefenmut (British Museum, EA 24797). (National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden, F.93/10.4) in BOESER,
94
A.114, outer coffin of Padiamun (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29666). 1916: Pl. I.
Mummy board of Maatkare (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 26200), in 109
A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a)
DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XL. in EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. Inner coffin and mummy board
95
Outer coffin of Maatkare (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 26200) in of Tauhert (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, 1909: Pl. LIV-LVII.
DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XXXIX. Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10104.a) in NIWISKI, 2004:
96
See Fig. 17 from chapter 3. Pl. VIII.
97
Mummy board of Khaemipt in COONEY, 2007: fig. 213. 110
A.95, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29617), in
98
Coffin set of Tamutneferet (Muse du Louvre, N 2631, N2571, N 2623, CHASSINAT, 1909: 23-26.
111
N 2620). Mummy board and inner coffin (Munich Egyptian Museum, These cobras are depicted in groups (usually four - two at each side)
S_12). Outer coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in and they can be depicted together with a small inscription referring
DARESSY, 1909: Pl. XXXVI. Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan to Nut. Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10105) in NIWISKI,
Museum of Art). 2004: Pl. X. Coffin of A.19 (Copenhagen). A.68, mummy board of
99
Coffin in COONEY, 2007: fig. 166. Mummy board of A.49 (Cairo Ankhefenmut (British Museum, EA 24797). Sometimes, eight or even
Egyptian Museum, JE 29733) in NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. V. Coffin of ten cobras are depicted.
112
Panebmontu (Louvre Museum, E 13029,). Inner coffin of Henut-taui Mummy board of Amenhotep (National Museum of Antiquities at
(Metropolitan Museum of Art). Leiden) in BOESER, 1917: Pl. I.
100 113
Outer coffin of Khonsw, in COONEY, 2007: fig. 132. Coffin A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a) in
(gyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, no.10832) in COONEY, EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8.
2007: fig. 54. 114
A.38, inner coffin (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29655), unpublished.
101 115
Inner coffin of Khonsw in COONEY, 2007: fig. 135. Outer coffin of Pinedjem II (from TT 320, Cairo Egyptian Museum),
102
Mummy board of Khamipt in COONEY, 2007: fig. 213 see DARESSY, 1909: PL. XLII . A.28, outer coffin (Cairo Egyptian
103
Outer coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, Museum), unpublished. A.27, mummy board (Sociedade de Geografia
1909: Pl. XXXVI. de Lisboa), unpublished.
104
A.68, coffin of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a) in 116
A.49, mummy board (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 29733) in
EGNER, HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. NIWISKI, 1988: Pl. V. Mummy board of Nesyamun (Leeds City

102
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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

it became increasingly frequent to display centrifugal from the secondary compositions that gravitate around
compositions in this area involving wedjat eyes,117 the Nuts image, which bears witness to the importance and
Anubis jackal118 (Figure 5), (Winged119) cobras120 among significance of the winged deity in the overall programme
others. of the central panel. In particular, the importance of the
liminal elements (the so-called space fillers) is due to
7. The symbolic elements of the central panel their ability to extend the magical protection provided by
the winged goddess to all the areas of the tableau. Their
Winged deity prevalence on later compositions thus exposes a desire to
strengthen the magical protection provided by the heavenly
The large depiction of Nut on the lids of the 18th-Dynasty mother goddess to the coffins components.
anthropoid coffins is the result of a long tradition dating
back to the Old Kingdom. It evolved from inscriptions Wedjat eyes
written on Middle Kingdom coffins but the texts themselves
were borrowed directly from the Pyramid Texts, in which On Ramesside coffins, the depiction of wedjat eyes in
the goddess is regarded as the kings mother through his the central panel is prevalent. They are usually disposed
identification with Osiris (son of Nut).121 The goddess symmetrically around the nuclear block of the first
could be symbolically identified with the coffin and so, register. In this context, the symbolism of the wedjat eyes
when the dead man was sealed inside this, it was as if he is twofold.
was being placed within the body of Nut, his divine mother,
thereby reaching a state from which he could begin a new Given the prevalence of magical symbols on the central
life. Indeed, in texts of the Old Kingdom, the word for the panel associated with amulets used to protect Ramesside
chest of a sarcophagus is mwt (mother) a clear allusion mummies (pectorals, solar barque and scarabs), it is
to this concept.122 possible that the large wedjat eyes depicted on the tableau
might be allusive to the amulet with the same shape
As the personification of the sky, the depiction of the supposed to be positioned in the abdominal area to protect
winged deity in the central panel resumes the symbolism the incision of the embalmers.125
of the lid itself: Oh, my mother Nut, spread yourself over
me, so that I may be placed among the imperishable stars However, the symbolic associations of the wedjat eyes in
and may never die.123 the context of the central panel might be more complex. It is
certainly not accidental that the symmetry of the large wedjat
The depiction of Nut originated from a particular trend that eyes depicted on the Ramesside central panels may suggest
consisted in the addition of vignettes next to the bands of the design of the eye panel. In fact, we can trace back the
texts inscribed on the surfaces of the coffin. Thus, Nuts origin of this motif on the eye panel traditionally depicted
image illustrates the text inscribed on the longitudinal on the left side of the rectangular troughs. Anthropoid
band running down the centre of the lid.124 The tableau sarcophagi of the late 18th Dynasty display the eye panel
depicted in the central panel of the Ramesside yellow in its traditional position on the left side of the case,126 while
coffins is deeply embedded in this set of beliefs related to Ramesside coffins already display a pair of wedjat eyes
the kings immortality. on the left shoulder of the lid.127 The wedjat eyes depicted
on the central panel thus seem to have migrated from the
The winged goddess alludes to the magical protection left side of the lid, where they first appear. The migration
given by the goddess of the sky and to her ability to of this motif is extremely significant for the subsequent
provide rebirth for the (royal) deceased. The subsequent development of the decoration detected on the central
development of the tableau is also rooted on this subject. panel and on the lid. One has to keep in mind that the eye
Both the third register and the liminal elements derive panel is usually associated with the false-door motif, thus
being closely related to the symbolism of passage between
Museum, D. 426-426a.1960) in COONEY, 2007: fig. 187. the worlds of the dead and of the living. As a result of the
migration of the wedjat eyes from the eye panel of the case
117
Coffin set of Tamutneferet (Muse du Louvre).
118
Inner coffin of Henut-taui (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Mummy
board of Tanethereret (Louvre Museum, E 13034); Coffin (Turin to the central panel of the lid, the symbolism of the passage
Egyptian Museum, CGT 10104a) in NIWISKI, 2004: Pl. VIII. was introduced in the later, thus imprinting to the lid new
119
Inner coffin of Masaharta (Cairo Egyptian Museum) in DARESSY, symbolic associations related to the idea of a sacred gate
1909: Pl. XXXVI. Anonymous coffin from Bab el-Gasus (National
Museum of Antiquities at Leiden) in BOESER, 1916: Pl. I. A.68, coffin between the world of the living and the realm of the dead. In
of Ankhefenmut (Kunsthistorishes Museum, AS 6267a) in EGNER,
HASLAUER, 1994: Pl. 8. 125
Compositions involving the wedjat eyes include hieroglyphic
120
Coffin (Turin Egyptian Museum, CGT 10105) in NIWISKI, 2004: arrangements such as neb neferu, The lord of Beauty, a title related to
Pl. X. Mummy board of Gautsesehen (National Museum of Antiquities at the mummification process, when amulets and pectorals such as those
Leiden), in BOESER, 1916: Pl. VIII. depicted in the central panel were positioned in the wrappings of the
121
TAYLOR, 1989: 11. mummy. The same idea is conveyed by the recurrent depiction of the
122
TAYLOR, 1989: 11. Anubis jackal, sometimes depicted over a shrine a symbol allusive to
123
TAYLOR, 1989: 11. See also DELANGE, 1993: 274 the canopic chest.
124 126
The depiction of Nut in the central panel of the lid resumes the See, for example, the inner sarcophagus re-used by Psusennes I, in
identification between the lid and the mother goddess, fully displaying MONTET, 1951: Pl. XCVI
127
the protection and regeneration granted by the goddess in the Duat. Coffin of Henutwdjebu (Washington University Gallery of Art) in
TAYLOR, 1989: 11. HORNUNG, BRYAN (eds), 2002: 67.

103
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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

fact if we consider the earlier depictions of the central panel panel. Its image refers to the rebirth of the sun god: As
(Figure 2) it is clear the resemblance with the decoration of with most representations in tombs, on coffins and on
the lintels of Ramesside tombs (see lintel from Nefertaris pectorals, the scarab represents Khepri, referring to the
tomb - Figure 17 in chapter 1), which, together with the phase of the mounting movement from the netherworld to
bands of text inscribed on the lower section, could be seen heaven. It functions as a symbol of a solar resurrection in
as the depiction of a sacred gate. which the deceased hopes to partake. Usual attributes are
sun disks between its forelegs or a shen ring between its
Pectorals hind legs, pendent protective uraei, apparently originating
from the usual configuration of sun disk with uraei.134
The depiction of a pectoral on the chest of anthropoid
coffins128 and sarcophagi129 is rarely found in the 18th Either alone or integrated in a naos-shaped pectoral or
Dynasty, but it became increasingly common during the a solar barque the (winged) scarab is, together with the
Ramesside Period.130 At first, the regular position of the winged goddess, one of the main symbols of the central
pectoral was on the upper section (on the chest of the panel. Given that all other nuclear elements of the central
deceased) but its location became gradually lower, perhaps panel seem to be closely related to the amulets displayed
with the purpose of associating the solar significance of within the wrappings of the mummy, it is logical to suppose
this object with the symbolism of the winged goddess that the solar scarab, so insistently depicted in the nuclear
depicted in the central panel.131 Eventually, the pectoral was block of symmetric compositions, may be allusive to the
included in the central panel, where it became the nuclear magical role of the heart scarab.135
block of a new register, thus triggering the development of
the central panel as a whole. Thus, the basic scheme of the Some symmetric compositions present the scarab flanked
central panel results from associating the imagery of the by mummiform gods, extending the symbolism of this
protection provided by the heavenly mother goddess with register to the idea of solar-Osirian union, a central subject
symbolism of the sun gods rebirth. of Theban theology. Such compositions allude to the union
of the sun god with his own corpse a central subject of the
It is noteworthy that naos-shaped pectorals introduced the iconographic compositions of the Books of the Hereafter
imagery of the divine shrines in the central panel. As such, depicted on royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings. In
it summoned the role of the naos of a temple assuring fact, the sacred scarab depicted in the central panel can
contact with the world of the Duat, where the regeneration be seen as a short abbreviation of the compositions of the
of the sun god took place. The depiction of the pectoral Amduat referring to the solar rebirth. This is an additional
thus seems to have strengthened the architectonization132 reading that ought to be kept in mind to understand the
of the lid already pursued with the inclusion of the wedjat most extreme developments of the symbolism of the
eyes. Curiously enough just as it happened with the wedjat central panel, such as those large panels extending to the
eyes the architectonization of the lid progressed hand in entire lower section of the lid. With repetitive depictions
hand with the inclusion of symbols used in mummification of winged deities, these compositions strongly suggest
or in funerary rites (amulets and pectorals). In fact, such the typical arrangements on the ceilings (detected in the
pectorals depict actual funerary objects whose existence decoration of shrines, temples or royal tombs) and the
is archaeologically attested. An important collection of dynamism of the solar journey through the Duat (see
funerary pectoral involving sacred scarabs was uncovered Figure 16 Chapter 1).
in the wrappings of the mummy of Tutankhamun and in
the royal tombs of Tanis.133 The heart amulet

Solar scarab The depiction of the heart amulet in the context of the
central panel is consistently associated with highly
The sacred scarab figures in the nuclear block of almost exceptional compositions. In these cases, the heart amulet
every symmetric composition depicted on the central seems to be used to blur the formal distinction between
the central panel and the upper section. Such compositions
128
See inner coffin of Tjuiu (Cairo Egyptian Museum, CG 51006-7) in were probably not created just for the sake of singularity
QUIBELL, 1908: Pl. X. See also Coffin of Katabet, (British Museum, EA or uniqueness. The symbolism of the heart amulet,
6665) in COONEY, 2007: fig. 21. revolving around the justification of the deceased,136 is
129
Coffin of Ramessu (Cairo Egyptian Museum, JE 72203) in SALEH,
SOUROUZIAN, 1987: no. 200. combined with symbols of the central panel usually
130
The symbolism of these objects is usually focused on solar rejuvenation alluding to mummification and rebirth. Tableaux such as
and rebirth. See WALSEM, 1997: 121. these combined two distinct ritual sets: the central panel
131
An interesting example can be found in the outer coffin of Tamutneferet
(Louvre Museum), in COONEY, 2007: fig. 42. See also coffin lid of
134
Muthotep, in COONEY, 2007: fig. 170. See WALSEM, 1997: 149. GOFF, 1979: 209-220
132 135
On the concept of architectonisation of coffins see WALSEM, 1997: Eventually the solar scarab alone became the focal element of the first
361. register without an explicit association with a pectoral. However, given
133
Apparently these objects were not found in the wrappings of the the strong association of the previously discussed scenes with magical
mummies of Bab el-Gasus, which may suggest that the pectorals depicted objects (funerary pectorals or amulets), it is a strong possibility that the
on yellow coffins may have had a substitutive role, thus aiming to provide solar scarab depicted in the central panel may in fact be allusive to the
the magical protection of an object that was probably no longer included heart scarab.
136
in the funerary equipment of the mummy. DARESSY, 1907: 3-38. SOUSA, 2011a: 8-9; 47-48.

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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

was focused on the protection to the mummy itself (thus recreation of a magical sphere (borrowed from temple
concerned with the corporeal self and the secrecy of the and tomb decoration) that provides regeneration.
burial chamber), whereas the upper section was centred
on justification rituals (concerned with the social self of On the other hand, the chthonic god is depicted in the
the deceased and with rituals supposed to be performed centrifugal blocks. Clearly, the symmetrical register revolves
in the superstructure of the tomb). The entire cycle of around the mythological constellation of Osiris, with Isis
funerary beliefs related to the afterlife was thus condensed and Nephthys providing the resurrection of the god.
in these exquisite compositions. Their exclusive character
is another aspect to consider when estimating their It is noteworthy that the motifs included on these blocks
symbolism. In fact, such tableaux can only be found in are borrowed from temple ou funerary decoration which
coffins of refined craftsmanship. Considering that the certainly plays a part in the identification of the central
upper section was traditionally associated with symbols panel with the magical territory of the Duat, seen as a
revealing the deified status of the deceased, it is possible sacred realm where the regeneration of Osiris took place.
that the blurring of the frontiers between the central panel
and the upper section might have been seen as a rather The vertical reading
exclusive way of displaying social status.
The genealogy of the compositions depicted in the central
7. The meaning of the central panel: rebirth and passage panel suggests that this area was clearly dedicated to the
idea of rebirth provided by the mother goddess. Grounding
Regardless of the complexity of the tableau, two main its roots on the symbolism of royal rishi coffins, which
readings are identified in the compositions of the central depicted the deceased as a newborn ba-bird, the central
panel: panel evolved specifically from the depiction of the mother
goddess (first depicted as a vulture and later as the goddess
Vertical reading of solar significance involving Nut)139 embracing the deceased with her life-giving wings.
the winged deity and the sacred scarabs depicted in
the nuclear blocks of the symmetrical compositions. As we have seen, the depiction of Nut in the central panel
Horizontal reading of Osirian significance - of the lid resumes the identification between the lid and
revolving around symmetric compositions. the mother goddess. The repetitive depiction of the winged
goddess is borrowed from the decoration of the ceilings of
The horizontal reading the funerary temples, especially in the Theban necropolis.

With a variable degree of complexity, two main themes Solar symbolism is clearly dominant in the nuclear blocks
seem to dominate these symmetric compositions, both of the symmetrical compositions, where the depiction of
revolving around the idea of the resurrection of Osiris: the solar scarab, the very image of solar rebirth, is the
rule.140
The wedjat eye, alluding to the magical protection
and healing provided to the mummy. These alternate compositions winged goddess and sacred
The winged goddesses presenting the typical scarab assumed an ascending movement towards the
V-shaped pose. light. For this reason, the central panel is equipped with
devices prepared for communication between the Duat and
In fact, the arrangement of the wings of the female deities the world of the living, such as the wedjat eyes or the naos,
is a convention used in two-dimensional representations, reminiscent of the eye panel.
as evidenced by bronzes and other statuettes where the
wings are parallel. The winged goddesses represent Note that, in some coffins, the rising sun heads the
protection as well as provision with the breath of life in entire composition, either depicted within the akhet sign
funerary context. The wings were taken from Nut, the or as an imposing winged sun disk, thus suggesting the
oldest winged protective goddess on coffins.137 It is also identification of the central panel with the horizon from
noteworthy that symmetric depictions of winged deities which the sun springs each morning.141
are common on royal sarcophagi of the New Kingdom,
precisely to convey to the royal mummy the embodiment
of Osiris the restoration of its vital powers.138 Such 139
Given the hieroglyphic meaning of the vulture (mwt, mother), the
depictions are also common in the decoration of shrines depictions of this bird might have been used not so much as the symbol
and pectorals, alluding to the rebirth of the god. The winged of the goddess Mut but as a symbol for mother. The depictions of the
vulture and the goddess Nut on the lid are thus largely equivalent.
goddesses depicted in the central panel thus suggest the 140
See pectoral CG 12204, in REISNER, 1907: Pl. XII. See also the
pectoral of Sheshonq II, in STIERLIN, 1993: p. 189 or the pectoral of
Tutankhamun in STIERLIN, 1993: 178.
137
WALSEM, 1997: 146 141
The association of the ba-bird with the central panel is also not
138
The earliest occurrence of this motif is attested in the sarcophagus accidental since it probably corresponds to the area of the mummy where
of Akhenaten, where Nefertiti figures at the four corners of the object. the union of the ba bird with its own corpse was supposed to occur. In
The winged goddesses are introduced in this decorative context in the fact, in the scenes depicted on the central panel, the ba bird witnesses
sarcophagus of Tutankhamun and this scheme will be kept by his immediate the mysteries of the Duat: the regeneration of the sun god and his union
successors, Ay and Horemheb. See IKRAM, DODSON, 1998: 260. with Osiris.

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Body, Cosmos and Eternity

Architectonisation thus shapes the central panel of the workshops that could easily produce innovative coffins
lid with several features borrowed from the decoration without the need of a formal supervision: this goal could
of funerary shrines (either from their ceilings, doors or be achieved by simply observing the basic guidelines
walls), from lintels or ceilings of the royal tombs/funerary ruling the decoration of each section of the coffin. This
temples. trend achieved its highest expression with the coffins
produced from the pontificate of Pinedjem II to the end
The adoption of such pictorial schemes recreated the of the dynasty. Interestingly enough, the style evolved
magical territory of the Duat in the central panel and the to adapt to this highly standardized context, becoming
association of the vertical and horizontal readings of the increasingly schematic and miniaturist.
tableau provided the combined action of Nut with Isis and
Nephthys. Together, they assured the union of the sun god Complexity thus became mastered by means of well
with Osiris and the subsequent rebirth of the sun god (the ba standardized principles of composition, allowing a
of Osiris) and the regeneration of Osiris (the corpse of Re). wider degree of variability and, at the same time, the
observance of a very stable pattern. On the other hand,
8. Preliminary notes on standardization and variability in while standardization achieved its apex, exquisite irregular
coffin decoration compositions were also created, apparently following
systematic procedures. Those are the most interesting
The development of the central panel illustrates on itself procedures used to originate singular and truly unique
the complexity of the phenomena involved in coffin compositions:
decoration. In the first place the creation of this new section
reflects the global reorganization of the coffin decoration. Blurring the frontier with the upper section,
Although grounded on traditional features, this section creating a vertical extension of the central panel.
was reinterpreted and enriched with a vast number of new These versions display a combination of the typical
elements taken from temple and tomb decoration as well, depictions of the upper section (heart amulets and
revealing the intericonicity typical of the 21st Dynasty. winged scarabs) with elements of the central panel
(pectorals). In some objects, the formal distinction
With this rearrangement a vast array of symbols were was observed, but the heart amulet typically
borrowed from tomb or temple decoration (or even associated with the upper section was introduced
funerary artifacts) and begun to be used in coffin in the first register in the nuclear block.
decoration probably to suggest the identification of the Adopting archaizing features typically observed
coffins components with specific architectonic or even in compositions of the basic scheme - such as the
ritual contexts. As a result, the iconographic resources of U-shaped wings of the winged deity presiding over
the 21st Dynasty coffins expanded significantly. the second register, or the large pectorals typically
displayed on the nuclear block of the first register -
On the other hand, the complexity involved in the infinite in the typical arrangement of the classic scheme.
possibilities introduced by such wide iconographic Or introducing highly irregular features in the third
resources seems to have been mastered through an register either on its nuclear blocks (tail of the
increasingly higher iconographic normalization or winged deity or the legs of the standing goddess,
standardization of the compositions. solar barque, pectorals, etc.), on lateral compositions
(with the depiction of a wider range of deities) or
In fact, complexity did not evolve randomly during the 21st on additional blocks forming secondary registers.
Dynasty. If we attend to the central panel in particular, it is
clear that each tableau is guided by specific principles of This erudite combination of archaizing motifs with highly
composition: regardless of the apparent complexity of the innovative arrangements created outstanding compositions
compositions, only two main types of registers are depicted, displaying a strong and vivid sense of uniqueness. Such
each one composed with semi-authonomous blocks with a compositions reveal the astonishing ability of their
relatively stable iconographic lexicon. Large iconographic authors to use the conventions previously established in
tableaux could thus be easily composed observing the rules unexpected manners.
in use for the creation of a particular type of panel (basic
scheme and classical scheme with its variations). The Both aspects - standardization and innovation - introduce
high degree of autonomy observed between the registers us to another type of problems of sociological scope.
or even between the iconographic blocks themselves, Since the beginning of the 21st Dynasty, innovation and
increased variability: unique compositions could thus be individualism seems to have taken primacy over the
created by simply adding or eliminating certain blocks or observance of traditional canons for coffin production.
sequences, according to the available space or to the global Clearly, each coffin was meant to be unique but at the
style of the coffin. same time it observed the normative code that ruled
the overall layout of each section. Coffin production thus
Through this normalization it was possible to provide involved paradoxical processes of normalization and
a well-defined canon of iconographic resources thus individualization, each one defining different aspects
largely benefiting the activity of coffin production in local of the identity of the deceased: on one hand he/she was

106
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Rogrio Sousa: Spread your wings over me

part of a professional corporation (the priesthood of by the priesthood of Amun, who also controlled at least
Amun-Re) and on the other hand he/she was personally in theory - all the available resources of the necropolis,
committed to a personal and unique relationship with as well as the activity of workshops. It is thus expected
Amun-Re, the supreme god. Through normalization and that the patterns detected on workshops (namely on coffin
individualization, the priesthood of Amun was able to decoration) might be consistent with the patterns detected
guarantee the full expression of both roles. in the management of the necropolis as a whole.

In the 21st Dynasty, each coffin thus presents an unique In fact, later coffins were provided with highly standardized
outcome that resulted from the tension between these decoration, clearly not intending to be used by a particular
two poles. It is expected that the most exquisite coffins person. Such kind of artifact could have been commissioned
presented a higher degree of individualization resulting or bought by the corporation of Amun itself and that was
from the direct involvement of scholars responsible for the main reason to leave empty the area corresponding to
the key decisions that contributed to the esoteric symbolism the name of the deceased. The management of the burial
of the coffin. This type of decoration is clearly dominant equipment by the priesthood of Amun also explains the
on coffins dating to the first half of the dynasty. Later on, high rates of usurpation detected in Bab el-Gasus and the
it is clear that coffin production increased in numbers and differences of style detected on the objects belonging to
with it standardization became the rule. However, even the same coffin set.145 In fact, at some point in the middle
ordinary and highly standardized coffins most of them of the Dynasty, the previous 21st Dynasty burials seem to
anonymous - presented unique features,142 which on itself have been dismantled and their equipment re-used either
showcases how much the sense of uniqueness of the coffin preserving its original composition146 or combining objects
was highly revered even in ordinary artefacts. from different burials.147

This trend achieved its full completion from the pontificate All these practices suggest that in the second half of the
of Pinedjem II until the end of the dynasty. After a period 21st Dynasty the role of the priesthood of Amun, as a
of intensive recycling and re-use of funerary structures, corporation, was clearly dominant. It was the membership
new building activities were being carried out, such as the to this corporation that defined the access to the necropolis
excavation of the collective tomb of Bab el-Gasus, as well and to the tomb. Moreover, each one of the mummies
as DB 320 and possibly other tombs, still uncovered. To my buried in Bab el-Gasus should thus be seen as a member
point of view this was a turning moment in what concerns of the priesthood of Amun and as such he/her contributes
the patterns of occupation of the Theban necropolis: until to recreate this corporation within this tomb. In fact, the
then the Theban necropolis was used as a network of small distribution of burials within the tomb is not accidental,
caches installed in re-used tombs, most certainly with with the most important ones located in the funerary
burial equipment commissioned for those individuals. But chambers and the transversal gallery, while lower ranking
now a different pattern seems to emerge: a completely burials seems to have been concentrated in the first
new type of tombs appeared - collective in nature - clearly section of the longitudinal gallery. It is thus expected that
intended to be used and managed by a corporation.143 the individuals buried in Bab el-Gasus might have been
Structures as Bab el-Gasus and DB 320 will remain unique selected in order to reproduce a sample of the corporation
to the late 21st Dynasty with no parallels with the Theban of Amun itself. DB 320 was also managed under the same
caches of the 1st millennium.144 The construction and principle but its purpose was to gather the genealogical
occupation of these tombs required a careful management line of the royal ancestors who ruled over the priestly
community of Amun-Re.
142
SOUSA, 2010.
143
SOUSA, 2011b: 79-100; SOUSA, 2012:131-149. Besides theological concepts, which will be dealt with
144
According to Elias, a coffin cache is defined as a cluster of roughly
contemporaneous coffins which is associated with a solitary and confined
in future studies, coffin decoration was fully used to
burial zone (a single chamber or hall). Implicit in connection with the display concepts related to identity and social status of the
term cache tomb is the notion that interments were added to the burial corporation of Amun-Re. Standardization and codification
zone over an extended period, the tomb being entered on a repeated
basis until perceived as filled. In ELIAS, 1993:145. We believe that
of iconography of the yellow coffins is one of the many
this definition should also include the idea of re-use, typical of these features suggesting that by the end of the Dynasty these
structures. In fact, the notion of cache finds its applicability in a typical funerary artefacts were not prepared to be used by an
phenomenon of the Third Intermediate Period which consists in the re-
use of former private tombs, individual in nature, to shelter a variable
individual with a career of his own (as it happened with the
number of burials. This means that, in order to be used as a cache, royal bureaucracy of the New Kingdom), but by a member
the tomb is disinvested of its original purpose being then occupied by (either anonymous or highly revered) of the priesthood of
intruder burials. This is not by all means what happens with the Royal
Cache or Bab el-Gasus, where the expression collective tombs seems
Amun-Re.
more suitable, given the specific purpose with which they were invested
from the start. Although the architectural features might be different from
KV 5, the collective burials of the 21st Dynasty should also be regarded 145
See for instance the equipement of A.2 (coffin dating to the first half
as tombs prepared for a collectivity. Instead of the brotherhood composed of the dynasty and mummy-cover from the seconda half) or A.136 (outer
by the sons of the Pharaohs, the collective tombs of the 21st Dynasty held coffin with a lid decorated with later features and case showcasing an
a collectivity of priests and priestress (in the case of Bab el-Gasus), or archaizing type of decoration).
146
the lineage and close family of the high priests of Amun (including the Such as it happened in the coffin set of A.110 originally belonging to
Pharaohs of the New Kingdom joined in the tomb as full-members of this Shedustauepet and later used by Djedmutuiesankh.
147
lineage and not only as refugees). See coffin set of A.2.

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