Wm. Max Miller,
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21'st Dynasty Coffins from DB320
Examine the coffins
of 21'st Dynasty Theban Rulers.
Including the mummy identified as Tutankhamen's mother.
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The Treasures of Yuya and Tuyu
the funerary equipment of Queen Tiye's parents.
Raiders of KV 46
How thorough were the robbers who plundered the tomb of
Yuya and Tuyu? How many times was the tomb robbed, and what were the thieves
after? This study of post interment activity in KV 46 provides some answers.
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Follow the trail of the missing treasures from mysterious KV 55.
55's Lost Objects: Where Are They Today?
The KV 55 Coffin Basin
and Gold Foil Sheets
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Mystery of the Missing Mummy Bands
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Unknown Man E
Was he really
Tomb of Maihirpre
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important discovery of this nearly intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Who were the real tomb raiders?
What beliefs motivated their actions? A new perspective on the ancient practice
of tomb robbing.
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Audience With Amenophis II Journey
once more with Pierre Loti as he explores the shadowy chambers of KV 35 in the
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Background Image: Wall scene from the tomb of Ramesses II (KV 7.) From Karl
Richard Lepsius, Denkmäler (Berlin: 1849-1859.)
21'st Dynasty Coffins from DB320
During the 21’st Dynasty, coffin decoration reached an apex of complexity and symbolic intensity. Images of funerary jewelry and protective amulets, vignettes of the deceased making offerings to the gods, and images depicting funerary rituals and divine beings now appeared on the coffins and covered every available surface with intricate designs. The magical symbols and images were intended to transform the occupants of the coffins into newly awakened deities, and the luminous golden color of the face masks and hands affirmed this apotheosis by portraying the skin of the deceased as radiant and filled with divine light. In his comprehensive study Gleaming Coffins: The Sheltering Sky (2018, p, 197ff.) researcher Rogerio Sousa describes these masterworks of funerary art as “semiotic wrappings” created to convey a multiplicity of religious and social meanings.
In addition to their aesthetic beauty and religious significance, the coffins display stylistic features that convey data about the gender and social status of their occupants and also help to determine the historical period in which the coffins were made. Even the types of damage which the 21’st Dynasty coffins from DB320 exhibit provides valuable information that deepens our understanding of illicit activities in the Royal Theban Necropolis. Follow the links below to learn about these magical and informative ancient works of art.
Coffins of Nodjmet
Coffins of Pinudjem I
Coffins of Duathathor-Henttawy-A
Coffins of Maatkare-Mutemhet
Coffins of Masaharta
Coffins of Tayuheret
Coffins of Pinudjem II
Coffins of Isiemkheb-D
Coffins of Nestanebtishru
Coffins of Djedptahiufankh
Examining the Coffins
Types of Coffin Damage--The 21'st Dynasty coffins found in DB320 (as well as the coffins from earlier periods that were also found in the cache tomb) showed evidence of having sustained damage in antiquity: gilded features, such as portrait masks, hands, certain wig elements, and disk-shaped earrings, had been removed. Gilding from other areas of some coffins had also been scraped off with adzes. In other cases, coffins had been broken and whole sections were missing This damage may be interpreted as the result of three different kinds of activity:
Processing--An officially sanctioned operation conducted under the supervision of necropolis officials in which coffins and mummies were removed from their tombs and stripped of anything valuable which they might still retain. This process was carried out with some degree of respect for the deceased: their mummies were re-wrapped and inscriptions, along with sacred representations of deities, were typically not excised or defaced while other gilded surfaces were being removed from the coffins. The valuables obtained through such processing were to be turned over to government officials.
Pilfering--This type of activity is indicated whenever an intact (or mostly intact) outer coffin is found to contain an inner coffin and mummy board from which gilded elements have been removed. Usually done on a small-scale, acts of pilfering targeted gilded portrait masks and hands, and those who pilfered these gilded elements were probably the workers who had been given legitimate access to coffins and mummies in order to move them into their tombs. Knowing that these burials would next be visited by funerary priests and necropolis inspectors, the thieves refrained from pilfering similar gilded features from visible areas of the burial equipment, and thereby hoped to hide their illicit activities within coffins that appeared untouched. The golden objects obtained through pilfering were probably melted down to obliterate all connections to the funerary industry and then used for personal ends.
Plundering--More destructive activities were engaged in by individuals who lacked official permission to be in certain places at certain times in or around the Royal Necropolis. These were the plunderers who covertly broke into the tombs. and a chief characteristic of their work is its flagrant lack of respect for the deceased and his/her burial equipment. Gilded surfaces of coffins were crudely hacked off with no regard for inscriptions or sacred images, coffin lids were forcibly thrown onto floors and damaged in the process, and the mummies were sometimes literally torn apart in a frantic attempt to find portable loot. There is some evidence that certain plunderers were probably connected to a kind of underground tomb robbing syndicate with various members scattered throughout Thebes and other nearby communities. These underground connections would have helped the plunderers dispose of their incriminating loot in safe (and lucrative) ways.
Any given individual could have possibly engaged in all three of these activities. A tomb worker employed to help process mummies under the watchful eyes of supervising necropolis officials could have pilfered from coffins when he was later employed to help move these heavy objects into place within their assigned sepulchers. The often tortuous and claustrophobic conditions within some tombs would make strict monitoring more difficult and pilfering much easier, especially in DB320 where coffin sets probably had to be disassembled to facilitate their lowering down a very deep entrance shaft. During his "off-hours," at times when his presence in the necropolis would have been deemed illegitimate, this same worker could have taken part in plundering operations. Records indicate that the identities and social roles of those accused of illicit activities relating to the Theban Necropolis were varied and ran the gamut from tomb workers, necropolis officials, and funerary cult priests all the way up to local district mayors. It is probably likely that the vast Theban tomb robbing network reached even higher into the corrupt administrations of the late 20'th Dynasty and early Third Intermediate Period.
In the following pages devoted to the 21'st Dynasty coffins from DB320, an attempt has been made to use the three terms defined above (processing, pilfering and plundering) in a consistent fashion in order to clearly indicate the kinds of ancient damage which most of these beautiful objects sustained. Of course, in addition to the three types of intentional damage noted above, various coffins show signs of accidental wear-and-tear. Certain decorative elements were broken off due to rough handling while coffins were being moved from place to place. Other coffins exhibit possible water damage which they had sustained prior to being moved into DB320. Such accidental damage is also noted as such wherever it is encountered.
21'st Dynasty coffins may be studied from a number of different perspectives, each one helping to enrich our understanding of these beautiful and complex social artifacts and the culture from which they derive. Each coffin reveals vistas of historical, religious, aesthetic, and social significance which tell the story of our shared inheritance from the distant past. The link below leads to videos of lectures given by Dr. Kara Cooney and Dr. Andrzej Niwinski, respected experts in the field of 21'st Dynasty coffin studies, who provide many valuable insights about these remarkable antiquities.
Andrzej Niwinski & Kara Cooney
Discuss 21'st Dynasty Coffins