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Egyptian wooden sarcophagus lid, Late Period, 664-323 B.C.

Conservation:  Cracked base with part of the wood missing; cracks and some holes on the surface
Material:  Wood
Dimensions:  160 x 53 x 33 cm
Provenance:  Sedart Auctions, Spain, 2015.
Exhibited:  “Descifrando el Antiguo Egipto Tutankhamon”, Casa de la Ciencia (Sevilla, 15/09/2019-15/07/2020).


On request
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Egyptian sarcophagus lid made of wood and meticulously painted, depicting the deceased luxuriously adorned with a pectoral necklace and adorned with two heads of Horus over the men. The body is occupied by several scenes of great interest to understand the funerary rituals of Ancient Egypt and their beliefs about the passage of the soul to the Beyond. There are three registers with descriptive scenes, on which appears the image of the goddess Isis, with the Sun on her head (for being the daughter of Ra, the solar god) and big wings of milano, opening her arms to bless her devotees and children. Below we can see a double scene: the trial before Osiris with the beast Ammyt and the weighing of souls.

On the left side of sarcophagus is Osiris, with the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, holding before him the staff, and in front of him, on the other side of a table with offerings, the beast Ammyt. Osiris’ judgment was the most transcendental event for the deceased, since it determined the fate of his soul after death. The “duat” or spirit was led by the god Anubis before Osiris, who magically extracted the “ib” (heart, symbol of conscience and morals) and placed it on a scale, with the feather of Maat (symbol of Truth and Universal Justice) on the opposite side. While his “ib” was heavy, a jury composed of different gods questioned the deceased with questions about his past behavior, and depending on his answers the heart decreased or gained weight. At the end of the trial, Osiris passed sentence. If this was positive, his “ka” (vital force) and his “ba” (psychic force) could meet with the mummy to conform in “aj” (to be beneficial), that is, to incarnate again, and to be able to live eternally in the fields of Yaru, the Egyptian paradise.

However, if the verdict was negative, the “ib” of the deceased was thrown to Ammyt, the devourer of the dead, putting an end to the immortal life of the deceased. Here we see Ammyt in the center of the composition, on a pedestal, with his mouth stained with blood, with his characteristic hybrid body with crocodile head, lion torso, and hippopotamus hindquarters. The right side of the composition depicts the weighing of the “ib”, with the balance guarded by Anubis and Horus. In the middle register, immediately below the one we have just mentioned, Anubis is represented carrying out the mummification of the deceased. Anubis was the Egyptian funerary god, master of the necropolis and protector of the embalmers. He was depicted with the head of a jackal, probably in relation to the habit of this animal of digging up the corpses to feed itself. Anubis was the god of the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, and therefore was related not only to death, but also to the resurrection in the Hereafter.

However, when Osiris became god of the world of the dead, Anubis took the place of embalmer, taking over the task of mummifying the bodies of the pharaohs. It is precisely this scene that is depicted here in great detail. We see the deceased in a feline-shaped bed (similar to the one found in Tutankamon’s tomb), and behind him the god holding a canopic vase. The scene is flanked by two figures of Isis, with the headdress in the form of a throne on his head and the Maat feather in his hands. Finally, in the lower register appears Ra’s boat, with the deceased accompanying this god on his journey through the sky, helping him in his fight against Apep, incarnation of the evil forces that inhabit the Duat.

In Ancient Egypt, the sarcophagus was related to the rituals of embalming and mummification, designed for the deceased to reach eternal life. During the Middle Empire, the custom arose of placing masks made of linen and a paste similar to cardboard on the face and shoulders of the deceased. From this fact gives rise to the appearance of the first anthropomorphic sarcophagi, coffins themselves, in human form, almost always made of wood. They will be ornamented pieces with painted scenes and texts of funerary symbolism. However, in general, the sarcophagus of the New Empire, mainly the royal sarcophagus, will be characterised by its rectangular shape, imitating the most ancient examples of the New Empire. However, the type of anthropomorphic coffin will extend throughout the centuries until the end of the Pharaonic world. Finally, on the sides of the lid of the sarcophagus, we can see different gods, shelves and profile.

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