The Coffins and Canopic Set of Nestanebtishru

    The well preserved mummy of Nestanebtishru was found in her original double coffin set and appeared to be undisturbed by thieves. This latter fact persuaded Reeves to conclude that DB 320 had been the original burial place of Nestanebtishru. However, in spite of the fact that tomb robbers had not pillaged the coffins, they had nevertheless been damaged in an unusual fashion that is somewhat difficult to explain. The outer coffin is liberally splattered with a tarry black material that obscures most of its inscriptions and decorations. The inner coffin and coffin board, to a lesser degree, also received similar treatment.
    Some experts explain this by saying that the coffins had intentionally been coated with bitumen, and leave it go at that. But black bituminized coffin decorations had not been in style since the 18'th dynasty and it is hard to understand why such an anachronistic form of treating a coffin would be reverted to by those responsible for interring the daughter of a 21'st dynasty Priest-King. Also, the black material does not appear to have been carefully applied. Perhaps, prior to her death, Nestanebtishru had planned on donating her coffins for use in another burial, and they had been in an early stage of preparation when she herself had died. The black material--if it indeed is bitumen--may have been placed there to serve as a kind of base for a fresh coating of gesso upon which new inscriptions and symbolic motifs would have been painted for a different owner. Nestanebtishru's unexpected demise would have halted such preparations for donating the coffins since she herself needed them. However, it is difficult to understand why no attempt would have been made at this point to "tidy things up" by redecorating the coffins in an aesthetically pleasing manner for their original owner.
    Another possible explanation is that the black material covering the coffins was caused by the discoloration and hardening of funerary oils that had been poured over the coffins at the time of Nestanebtishru's burial. Howard Carter encountered a similar hardened layer of funerary oils inside the coffins of Tutankhamen and had a difficult time contending with it in his attempts to remove the boy king's mummy. It is conceivable that oils were poured in great quantity over the coffins of Nestanebtishru and then dried, hardened and turned black over the passage of many centuries. But this still leaves a mystery, for none of the other 21'st dynasty coffins were similarly treated. Why should such generous amounts of costly oils and unguents have been lavished on Nestanebtishru? Did she command a position of power greater than historians accord her? (Source Bibliography: CCR, #61.033; DRN, 239.) Source Abbreviation Key

CESRAS photos of the outer coffin of Nestanebtishru.

Black and white photo of Nestanebtishru's inner
coffin lid from Georges Daressy's Cercueils des
cachettes royales
(Cairo, 1909.) Click to enlarge.

CESRAS photo of the outer coffin containing inner coffin.


CESRAS close up photo of the portrait mask on the inner coffin.


CESRAS photos of two of the canopics of Nestanebtishru, showing
Duamutef (left) and Hapi (right.)

CESRAS photos of two of the canopics of Nestanebtishru, showing
Imset (left) and Qebsenuef (right.)

    The Center for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (CESRAS) maintains an extensive collection of online images available for public use on Flickr. The above CESRAS color images of the outer coffins and canopic equipment of Nestanebtishru provide a valuable photographic record of these beautiful objects, currently on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Additionally, CESRAS has posted large size scans of many of the photographic plates from George Daressy's historically important 1909 work, Cercueils des cachettes royales which are also featured on this page.

More close up images of this coffin's decorations and inscriptions may be seen by going to the CESRAS Nestanebtishru photostream

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