« PreviousContinue »
the earlier dynasties, figures of deceased persons must have been placed in them, and it would seem that the custom is as old as the settlement of the Egyptians in Egypt. Votive Votive figures of the gods were rarely colossal, but figures of kings were made of every size, and their heights vary from a few inches to several feet; the colossi of Amenophis III., of Heru-em-Heb, and of Rameses II., are examples of the extreme size to which figures of kings attained. In the earlier dynasties there can be no doubt that the artist endeavoured to make the form and features of the figure exactly like the person for whom it was made ; how well they succeeded is evident from the most cursory examination of the figures of the first six dynasties exhibited in European museums, or in the Museum of Gizeh, which is particularly
Woman kneading bread. [Museum of Gizeh).
rich in figures of this period. The famous Shêkh el-Beled is what may well be termed a “speaking likeness," and the other figures of that date show that he is not a solitary success of the Egyptian artist. In later times conventional representation was adopted in forming the figure, with the result that the sculptor lost the art of portraiture once and for all. Figures were made of granite, basalt, and other hard stones, limestone, gold, silver, bronze, wood, steatite, faïence, and terra-cotta. Standing figures have the arms placed at the sides of the body ,and the hands usually hold a roll; sometimes, however,
a , , made in the form of Osiris have the hands crossed over the breast. Figures kneeling or sitting on the ground hold with both hands tablets or altars, or shrines engraved with funereal inscriptions, before them ; figures seated on thrones or chairs have the hands laid flat on the knees. All figures were draped, and the pedestals or plinths on which they stood were usually inscribed with the names and titles of the persons for whom they were made; at times the various
members of the deceased's family were sculptured in relief,
The oldest coffin in the world is probably that of
found, together with the remains of a wrecked mummy, by
See Aegyptische Zeitschrift, 1892, p. 94.
but it is tolerably certain that coffins during the first six dynasties were made of plain wood, that they had a human face, and that the inscriptions were short and cut into the cover.
Coffins during the XIth and XIIth dynasties are usually Coffins rectangular in form, with a cover consisting of one flat about
B.C. 2500. plank about 2%2 inches thick. Both coffin and cover are very rough, and the paintings consist of large stripes of blue, red, white, green, and yellow colours, interspersed with lotus flowers and pictures of funereal offerings, sometimes very rudely drawn. Many of the coffins of this period are, however, of the greatest interest, and B.M. 6654 and 6655 are good typical examples. The former is inscribed on the outside Ornamenwith one line of well-cut hieroglyphics, and is inlaid with tation of
early ; the inside of the coffin and both inside and outside of coffins. the cover are inscribed in hieratic with a number of chapters of the Book of the Dead of the period of the Ancient Empire ; this coffin was made for an official called Amamu." The latter, made for Mentu-ḥetep, is of the same form, and is also inscribed in hieratic with chapters from the Book of the Dead. At the same period, coffins with human faces were also made ; they were formed of rough pieces of wood, badly put together, and are characterised by a rude, gaudy style of ornamentation. A striking contrast to these is the gilded wooden coffin of Ån-åntef, B.M. No. 6652, a king of the XIth dynasty, who ruled at Thebes about B.C. 2500. The hardwood face is beautifully carved, and is intended to be a portrait of the deceased; the eyes and eyelids are made of black, white, and blue obsidian, inlaid ; the feather work and star ornaments on the coffin appear to have originated at this period. The ordinary ornamentation of coffins at this period is a large collar, beneath which are figures of the uræus and vulture, emblematic of dominion over the north and south, and under the feet are kneeling figures of Isis and Nephthys, who mourn the dead Osiris.
The coffins of the period between the XIIth and the
A facsimile of the text and an English translation were published by Birch, Coffin of Amamu, London, 1886.
* For facsimiles of other hieratic texts on coffins of the XIth dynasty, see Lepsius, Aelteste Texte des Todtenbuchs, Berlin, 1867.