Anthropoid Coffin of Petosiris

Artefact Details

Gallery number: 50 – Ground Floor

Period: Ptolemaic Macedonian Period/Argead Dynasty (c. 332–305 BC)

Place of discovery: Middle Egypt, Tuna el-Gebel, Necropolis, Funerary House No. 21 Petosiris

Size: H 39.00 cm W 53.00 cm D/L 193.00 cm

Material: Pinus halepensis wood (conifers), glass

The tomb of Petosiris, the High Priest of god Thot in Hermopolis, is a unique example of this era. It has the appearance of a small temple from the Graeco-Roman period. The scenes from the tomb are a mixture of Egyptian, Greek and Persian influences and are of outstanding technical quality and rich symbolism.

The tomb holds the stone sarcophagus of Petosiris, in which two wooden anthropoid coffins were found. The innermost coffin depicts Petosiris wearing a divine beard and a long wig. The large eyes and bronze eyebrows that take the form of wedjat eyes, are inlaid with coloured glass. The body, wrapped in a mummiform garment, is decorated from chest to ankles with five vertical lines of inlayed hieroglyphic inscriptions, topped by a hieroglyphic sign of sky decorated with a band of stars, of which two-thirds is now missing. The hieroglyphic inscriptions and the band of stars are inlaid with glass coloured red, yellow, green, blue and white to imitate fine stones and precious materials. The inscriptions bear the name and the titles of Petosiris and the formula from Chapter 42 of the Book of the Dead, helping the deceased to overcome the difficulties of his journey towards the afterlife. The wood of the coffin shows some cracks and a small piece of the outer layer of wood is missing on the left side at the feet.