Page images

simples, qui sont aussi les plus anciennes; en général, ces
morceaux sont d'une seule couleur, pourpre ou brune, avec
des filets clairs en lin écru. Le dessin est sommaire, net,
sobre, bien combiné, harmonieux, d'une grande franchise
plastique, dans le style qu'adoptera ultérieurement l'art
héraldique; naturellement, dans la figure il est plus faible
que dans l'ornement, car le tapissier, avec sa broche, ne trace
pas aussi facilement que le céramiste avec son pinceau;
nous devons excuser les tapissiers coptes, leurs successeurs de
tous les temps et de tous les pays ayant comme eux fait plus
ou moins de fautes de dessin .. Les tapisseries poly-
chromes1 sont généralement postérieures à cette première
série, mais il importe de faire remarquer que certains modèles
primitifs n'ont pas été abandonnés et qu'on les retrouve dans
les tissus modernes du bas Danube et de l'Orient
Jusqu'ici le dessin est clair et lisible; maintenant nous
arrivons à une suite inférieure; les lignes se compliquent et
les formes deviennent épaisses;
l'ornement est encore

dans un bon esprit, mais les figures sont faibles .
Avec les siècles suivants, nous tombons dans une décadence
relative, moins profonde que celle de la mosaïque au IXe
siècle; le corps humain est contourné, strapassé; les têtes
sont bestiales; les animaux sont difformes et fantastiques,
pourvus de sortes de tentacules; ils se transforment en orne-
ments; la flore n'est même plus ornemanisée ni convention-
nelle; certains motifs sont incompréhensibles; l'ornement,
mieux tenu, présente toujours des combinaisons intéressantes;
.. même dans leurs fautes, les Coptes continuent à
prouver qu'ils sont décorateurs."


IN many of the rectangular wooden coffins that have been found in the mountains that lie behind the modern town of Asyût, in Upper Egypt, and in those that extend to the north and south of it, the mummies were raised a few inches from the bottom of the coffins by means of wooden grids, which had been painted white or yellow. Most of these grids were broken up and thrown away by the natives, who, because no one would buy them, regarded them as useless, but one was secured and it is now preserved in the British Museum (No. 46639). The reason for placing the grid in the coffin is unknown to me.

The so-called" mummy-board" is a flat wooden covering which was of the same shape and size as the mummy on which it was laid,

1 Of the IVth century.

2 Vth century.

and which seems to have been introduced into funerary paraphernalia by the priests and priestesses of Åmen-Ra at Thebes. This covering is slightly rounded so that it may lie firmly on the mummy, and on the end which rests on the face of the mummy a human face is carved, which was intended to be a portrait of the deceased. In some cases the face was carved in high relief on a separate piece of wood, which was pegged to the board, and in others the face is carved on the board itself in much lower relief. This board is covered with figures of the gods and mythological scenes painted in bright colours, which are rendered more conspicuous by a coat of varnish. The back of the board was often painted a mauve or purple colour, and on it in yellow outlines were painted figures of the boat of the sun, the mummy lying on its back with grain plants growing up from it, and other funerary scenes. A fine typical example of this class of object is B.M. 22542. This is decorated with an elaborate pectoral, figures of the gods, sacred symbols of Osiris and Isis, and at the foot, between crowned uraei, is a cartouche containing the prenomen and

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Amenḥetep, one of the earliest kings of the XVIIIth dynasty and a great benefactor of the priesthood of Amen at Thebes. This board was presented to the British Museum in 1889 by Mr. A. F. Wheeler, and has been the subject of many paragraphs in the newspapers. On the back of another example (B.M. 15659) is a memorandum roughly written in hieroglyphs, showing that the board and the mummy to which it belonged were repaired by the inspectors of mummies and tombs, probably under the rule of the Priest-kings of the XXIst dynasty.1 Another instructive example of the mummy-board is that which was made for Ḥentmeḥit (B.M. 48001), a priestess and singing woman in the temple of Amen-Ra at Thebes. The face and head-dress were carved with elaborate care, and the middle and lower parts of the board are decorated with hollow-work panels containing figures of the gods. Their background is a layer of linen, dyed pink or purple, and as the board was heavily gilded before being covered with a layer of purple varnish, the effect, when it was first made, must have been very striking. With the end of the rule of the Priest-kings the mummy-board disappeared from coffins, but we seem to meet with survivals of it in B.M. 35464, 36502. These are long flat boards of the shape of a mummy, but neither has a face either cut or painted upon it; they resemble somewhat in form the head-stones that are seen in old Arab and Turkish cemeteries. On No. 36502 figures of the deceased on his bier and the four Canopic jars are painted. Beneath these are figures of seven gods, i.e., the Seven Spirits of Chapter XVII of the Book of

1 It is dated in the third year of a king whose name is not given; see Guide to the First, Second and Third Egyptian Rooms, p. 50.

the Dead, and extracts from the SHAI EN SENSENU, or "Book of Breathings," written in hieroglyphs. On the reverse is a scene in which are depicted the light of Rā, lord of heaven, falling on the body of the deceased (Chapter CLIV), and figures of the Seventy-Five Forms of Rā. In No. 35464 the scenes are painted on one side only of the board, and the text of thirty-nine lines is written in demotic. For the sake of convenience I have called these memorial boards.


THE object of the mummy-board is not clear, unless we assume that it was intended to take the place of a complete second inner coffin, and so save expense. But it may also have been devised with the view of hiding the mummy-bandages, and of beautifying the mummy. Another way of beautifying the mummy was to place it in a cartonnage case with a moulded face. This case was made of layers of linen with plaster run in between them, and when the mummy had been placed inside it the edges of the sheet of plastered linen, which formed the case, were sewn together down the back. The case was then treated as a coffin, so far as decoration was concerned. The face was painted flesh-colour, rosettes, lotus flowers, etc., were painted on the head-dress; below the pectoral are the usual scenes with gods and goddesses, Utchats, etc., and the inscriptions contain the usual prayers for offerings. The mummy in a brightly painted cartonnage case is often found with an inner and an outer coffin, a fact which suggests that the cartonnage case, like the mummy-board, was intended to hide the mummy from sight. Cartonnage cases seem to have been kept in stock by the undertaker, for on some of them the prayers and inscriptions are painted all complete, but spaces are left blank for the insertion of the names of those who were to occupy them (see B.M. 6687). Another form of cartonnage case was made, not of plaster and linen, but papyrus. In such cases the papyrus was moulded into form on the actual body of the deceased, and the exact shape of the features and other physical characteristics are reproduced in detail. When, like the two fine examples in the British Museum (29585, 29586), such cartonnages are painted with representations of the dress and jewellery usually worn by the deceased woman, the effect is lifelike. In the Ptolemaïc and Roman Periods cartonnage cases that covered the whole of the mummy became rare, and many Egyptians were content to provide the dead with cartonnage head-cases having gilded faces and pectorals with a hawk's head near each shoulder. Attached to the pectoral was a strip of cartonnage on which the name of the deceased and a prayer for offerings were painted; some mummies are provided with cartonnage feet-cases. Interesting examples of the painted cartonnage pectoral of the Roman Period are those of Sheret-Menthu, inscribed with a prayer to Ra-Herȧakhuti-Kheperà (B.M. 6966),

Uaḥȧbrā, an official of the temple of Osiris Bakhat (B.M. 6969), and that of Afu, inscribed with an address to Temu and Kheperȧ (B.M. 54146). Cartonnage pectorals were kept in stock by the undertaker, and spaces were left in which to add, after they had been bought, the names of the persons for whom they were intended (B.M. 6967 and 34262). The cartonnage case B.M. 20744 is of special interest. It contains the mummy of a very young woman, which is kept in position by a block of wood fixed by pegs to the cartonnage under the feet; the case is laced up the back and has not been opened. The wooden arms attached to a cartonnage case, as in this instance, are probably unique. The face is gilded and the case is inscribed with the name of the deceased, and is decorated with the characteristic scenes of the XXth or XXIst dynasty; but these have at some time all been washed over with a layer of bitumen, probably with the view of making the identification of the mummy impossible.


UNDER the XXVIth dynasty, or later, when the Egyptians were unable to provide their dead with mummy-boards or cartonnage cases, they frequently covered their mummies with sheets of beadwork. The beads were of the bugle variety, were made of blue or green glazed Egyptian porcelain, and varied in length from half an inch to one inch. They were arranged in diamond pattern, and frequently a small flat, round bead made of the same material, though not always of the same colour, was threaded where the ends of the bugle-beads met. This blue beadwork covering typified the blue sky of night, and in late times faïence figures of Nut the Sky-goddess were attached to it. The usual ornaments found sewn to it are (1) a flat faïence scarab, with outstretched wings, or a small light green scarab without base, and (2) figures of the Four Sons of Horus in faïence or beadwork.


HOWEVER well and carefully made the mummy, the desire to ornament it or cover it with some decorative material seems to have been prevalent in the minds of the Egyptians under the New Kingdom. The shrouds of Amenḥetep III and Saptaḥ and other kings were inscribed all over with religious texts, and the mummy of Ḥentmeḥit, a priestess of Amen, was wrapped in one large sheet of papyrus inscribed in hieratic with Chapters from the Theban Book of the Dead. In the late Ptolemaïc and Roman times, when mummy-boards and cartonnage cases and beadwork coverings were not to be got, shrouds were painted with figures of gods and representations of bugle-beadwork. A typical example of such a shroud is that of the lady Seusertsetes,

[ocr errors]


(B.M. 17177).

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
« PreviousContinue »