This original panel from an Egyptian Sarcophagus is from about 1070-714 B.C.. It is made from wood, plaster, and paint. This artifact is one of Special Collections’ most fragile pieces: although we frequently bring it out for classes, it usually remains in the box and is not allowed to be touched.
The inscriptions on sarcophagi were believed to help the deceased as they journeyed through the afterlife. They were painted on a thin layer of plaster which covered the cedar skeleton of the coffin. Because Egypt is a desert, it is believed that the cedar used in this sarcophagus came from Lebanon.
The colors of this panel have faded with time. The panel was once bright yellow and red. The crudeness of the illustrations suggest that they were painted by an amateur or an apprentice.
This particular panel has a common scene from Egyptian religious rites. Two mummified males are depicted with the traditional red hair ribbons and false beards. They face the left of the panel, and a woman is depicted kneeling before them. She is very faded, but we can still see a raised arm, the outline of a face, and dark hair. The first male figure extends a staff with the ankh (sign of life) on top of it.
In between the two males is the hide of a spotted cow tied to a pole. This pole, known as the “Anubis Pole,” is signifying the god of embalming. The far right of the panel depicts the djed pillar, associated with the god of the dead. A striped cloth banner hangs from the pillar. This was considered necessary to help human flesh become the spiritual form required in eternity.
Above the heads of the three figures are hieroglyphs. These are a portion of the standard texts promising a happy afterlife. The very top has a row of cobra heads and maat feathers, which symbolize the sun’s path through the sky (Goodstein).
Goodstein, Mark. “Collecting Antiques, Fine Art & Decorative Art: Trocadero Online Mall.” N.p., 2016. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.