Mummy of Hornedjitef (inner coffin)

Mummy of Hornedjitef, about 240 BC, British Museum, London
Mummy of Hornedjitef, about 240 BC, British Museum, London

The mummy of Hornedjitef was encased in a gilded cartonnage mask and cover, and two anthropoid (human-shaped) wooden coffins. The coffins follow traditional Egyptian funerary practice in form and decoration.

This, the inner coffin, has a fine gilded face, with curled and tapering beard and a richly decorated collar with terminals in the form of falcon heads. In the centre of this collar is depicted an image of the ba, and a pectoral (chest) ornament incorporating a scene in which Hornedjitef adores four deities. Below the collar is an image of the sun-god as a winged scarab beetle, flanked by baboons who worship the rising sun disc. A funerary text is inscribed in hieroglyphs below. Either side of the text are figures of deities: the four Sons of Horus and the goddesses Isis and Nephthys.

The interior of the lid is decorated with many figures, mostly relating to astronomy. Their position on the lid of the coffin is particularly appropriate, as the lid was symbolically identified with the heavens stretched above the deceased.

The central, full-face figure is that of the sky-goddess Nut, on whose body is written the text of chapter 89 of the Book of the Dead. To her left is a list of planets and decans (stars that rose every 10 days, by which the passage of time could be reckoned during the night). To the right of the goddess are the constellations of the northern hemisphere.

Hornedjitef

Hornedjitef was a priest in the Temple of Amun at Karnak during the reign of Ptolemy III (246-222 BC). CT scans of his mummy show that Hornedjitef was a mature man at his death, and his high status is reflected in his elaborate burial.

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