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6 / Death

Coffin of Henettawy
Coffin of Henettawy
Artist / Origin Unknown Artist, Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes, Egypt
Region: Africa
Date Third Intermediate Period, 21st Dynasty, ca. 1040 BCE–992 BCE
Material Gessoed and painted wood
Medium: Other
Dimensions H: 79 7/8 in. (203 cm.)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Credit Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund

expert perspective

Deborah VischakLecturer of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

Additional Resources

“Coffin set of Henettawy [Egyptian; From Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes].” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tipd/ho_25.3.182-184.htm (October 2006).

Dodson, Aidan, and Salima Ikram. The Tomb in Ancient Egypt. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008.

El-Shahawy, Abeer. Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt: A Bridge to the Realm of the Hereafter. Photography by Farid Atiya. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2005.

Malek, Jaromir. Egyptian Art (Art and Ideas). London: Phaidon, 1999.

Robins, Gay. Art of Ancient Egypt, revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Silverman, David, ed. Ancient Egypt. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Taylor, John H. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Wasserman, J. The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day. Translated by R. Faulkner. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.

Coffin of Henettawy

» Unknown Artist, Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes, Egypt

Preservation of the deceased’s body was critical, according to ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife.

An important part of the preservation process was mummification, a technique which evolved over several millennia and was fully developed in the Fourth Dynasty. The body of the deceased was dried out and the internal organs were removed, except for the heart, which was intentionally left within the corpse. The body was then wrapped in linen and enclosed in a coffin or tomb along with the preserved organs, Books of the Dead, and other items deemed important to one’s well-being in the afterlife.

The Coffin Set of Henettawy includes two nearly identical coffins, one nesting inside the other. During the Third Intermediate Period, the period when this particular coffin was created, using more than one coffin was a common practice among the ruling class. Coffins of the period are also notable for their elaborate ornamentation, particularly because tomb walls of the period, even for the elite, were generally left bare. Henettawy’s outer coffin, shown here, is adorned with dressings, bracelets, rings and other jewelry that replicate the gold decoration often found on coffins of Egyptian rulers. It also bears a variety of protective symbols, as well as inscriptions and images invoking the blessings of the gods.

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