3D reconstruction II. Laying out the reconstruction and features of the final model

We are now pretty sure that our fragment belongs to a 22nd to 25th Dynasties, Northern Upper Egypt coffin, which will become certain if we look further into John H. Taylor’s descriptions, esp. on head and shoulder, but also at the hands:

Taylor describes that the coffins are featuring faces in small proportions to the rest of the body, often with very broad wigs of tripartite form. They are coloured red, yellow or cream-white with black and white eyes and black or blue eyebrows (Taylor 2009, 387 on Iconographic features). Nearly all of these features can be found in our scanned lid fragment: small face, broad wig, black and white eyes, black eyebrows – just the face colour is hard to determine. It seems to be cream-white was the colour used like seen between the eyebrows, in the upper right corner of the left eye or on the dowels (not to be mistaken with the scratched plaster at the chin or middle of the left eyebrow for example). The hands are another highly distinctive feature which fit our lid:

Hands: Crossed hands appear on many of the coffin lids. They were separately carved from wood and were attached to the main lid-planks. The arms are usually not represented . The consistent depiction of the hands is one of the main differences between the northern and southern coffins of the 22nd-25th Dynasties […]. Another highly distinctive feature of the northern coffins is the decoration of the back of the hands. […] they are usually partly covered by patterning, consisting of rows of stylised beads like those in the collars, or a chequered design. These designs often extend from the wrist to the root of the thumb (or close to it). Naville saw in them a resemblance to ‘gloves made of net-work’, although they do not cover the fingers.

Taylor 2009, pp. 388 f. on Iconographic features (Hands).

Especially on the left hand the chequered net-pattern reaching to the thumb root can be seen very good – also that there are no arms represented. With all these strong evidence to place our lid into the category of 22nd to 25th Dynasties Northern Upper Egypt coffins, we can now have a further look into the construction and features of these coffins to determine the features our reconstructed lid and case have to include.

Construction of wooden Coffins (from Northern Upper Egypt, 22nd-25th Dynasty)

The anthropoid coffins were typically made from small pieces of thin wood, held together with dowels. Whereas the wooden coffins from southern Upper Egypt were carefully sculpted, reproducing the shape of the mummified body from head to foot, the modelling of the human form on the northern coffins was done in a simpler fashion. Only the head, shoulders and hands were distinctly represented. The coffin lids are generally flat, with only thin strips of wood attached along the outer edges to create a slight concavity, and they lack the carefully shaped, protruding foot-case which is typical of coffins from southern sites. On most of the northern coffins the feet are not represented at all, though a flat projecting footboard is occasionally encountered. The cases of the northern coffins are deeper than the lids, but these cases too were technically simple in construction, with straight sides positioned at an oblique angle from the shoulders to the foot end . An attempt was sometimes made to give a curved shape to the canopy, but the skilfully modelled bodily contours typical of Theban coffins are generally absent. A particularly noticeable difference in construction between the two groups is the fact that the lids of the northern coffins were secured to their cases by four or six mortise and tenon joints, in contrast to the eight sockets regularly found on Theban examples.

Taylor 2009, p. 386 on Conspectus of Stylistic Features of Coffins from Northern Upper Egypt

With this description the reconstructed coffin should feature:

  • head, shoulders and hands as human features (covered by our SfM-model)
  • lid with flat surface, slight concave and without footcase (following contour of SfM-model)
  • deep case, simple constructed with straight sides, angled sides from shoulder to foot end (foot end width narrower than shoulder width)
  • four to six tenons and mortises as joints (two seen at the height of the hand positions in the SfM-model)

Detailed features of the lid

The surfaces of the wooden coffins have only sparse decoration. The cases are devoid of images and inscriptions and only the exterior surfaces of the lids are decorated. The area below the wig and collar on these lids is sometimes completely plain. On the majority of specimens the main feature is an inscription in a single vertical line, positioned in the centre of the lid and occasionally framed by borders. A recumbent jackal is regularly painted at the top of this inscription, and indeed this image is one of the most typical iconographic features of the northern coffins, and one which continues in use after the Third Intermediate Period. […]On Theban coffins, in contrast, the axial text begins either directly below the collar or below a solar disc, a winged scarab or a winged goddess.

Taylor 2009, pp. 389 f. on Iconography of body fields.
  • sparse decoration
  • only decoration on the exterior of the lid
  • plain area below wig and hands (as indicated by our SfM-model)
  • one vertical inscription with recumbent jackal on top

Features of the case

The cases are devoid of images and inscriptions and only the exterior surfaces of the lids are decorated.

Taylor 2009, p. 389 on Iconography of body fields.
  • plain wooden case

Colouring

The painted details of face, wig and collar on the wooden coffins are usually executed on a layer of plaster. Frequently, this does not extend over the rest of the surface, and on several of the coffins the rest of the ground is unpainted. […] The wigs and collars are polychrome, in which red, green, blue, black and white predominate. There is usually no varnish over the paint. Inscriptions are generally in blue or black.

Taylor 2009, pp. 392 f. on Colouration and graphic style.
  • plaster on face, wig and collar, rest optional. For us: just on these parts (see SfM-Model, esp. the space between the wigs and hands)
  • rest could be left unpainted. For us: painted directly on wood (see SfM-model, directly behind the right hand the peeled paint and wood below)
  • from our lid: colour some kind of darker creme-white, nearly like khaki-coloured
  • black or blue inscription

Inscription

On the northern coffins there is generally only one inscription, which is located in the centre of the lid or on the front of the cartonnage case. The texts usually begin with either the Htp di nsw or dd mdw in formula, and are addressed frequently to Osiris, Anubis, Re-Horakhty or Ptah-Sokar- Osiris.

Taylor 2009, p. 391 on Inscriptions.
  • optional addition of this kind of inscription as texture

Measurements

Taylor gives no information on the size, esp. the depth of the case. Jonathan P. Elias and Carter Lupton published 2019 a study on two coffins which are coming from Northern Upper Egypt but are 200 – 400 years younger than our coffin and coffin-types. Since this is the only indication I could find, I will still use their measurement of the depths (c. 35cm and c. 38cm) as a rough indicator. Their coffins were larger; therefore I will go with around 30cm as depth.

Bibliography

J.P. Elias/C. Lupton (2019), Regional identification of Late Period coffins from Northern Upper Egypt, in: H. Strudwick/J. Dawson (edd.), Ancient Egyptian Coffins. Past – Present – Future (Havertown/Oxford), 175–184.

J.H. Taylor (2009), Coffins as evidence for a ‘north-south divide’ in the 22nd-25th dynasties, in: G.P.F. Broekman/R.J. Demarée/O.E. Kaper (edd.), The Libyan Period in Egypt. Historical and cultural studies into the 21st-24th dynasties: Proceedings of a conference at Leiden University, 25-27 October 2007 (Leiden), 375–415.

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