Sarcophagus and mummy of Taosir, Dyn. 26

Sarcophagus and mummy of Taosir, Dyn. 26
Period:Egypt, Late Period, Dynasty 26
Dating:663 BC–525 BC
Origin:Egypt, Upper Egypt, Akhmim [O.K. Tomb]
Physical:183.5cm. (71.7 in.) -

Links to other views:

⇒ Larger View
⇒ 02-Coffin-upper half
⇒ 03-Coffin resting
⇒ 04-Coffin and mummy
⇒ 05-Mummy in coffin
⇒ 06-Mummy head
⇒ 07-Mummy Head
⇒ 08-Mummy feet
⇒ 09-Mummy bandage (detail)
⇒ 10-Coffin bottom interior (Nut)
⇒ 12-Coffin side
⇒ 13-Coffin side detail
⇒ 14-Coffin side detail
⇒ 15-Coffin side detail
⇒ 16-Coffin lid facial profile
⇒ 17-Coffin lid detail (Isis)
⇒ 18-Coffin lid detail (Djed pillar)
⇒ 19-Coffin lid hieroglyphs
⇒ 20-Coffin lid detail (Udjat)
⇒ 21-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 22-Cofffin lid detail
⇒ 23-Coffin lid detail (Tefnut, Maat, Atum)
⇒ 24-Coffin lid detail (Isis close-up)
⇒ 25-Coffin lid detail (Horus)
⇒ 26-Coffin lid detail (collar)
⇒ 27-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 28-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 29-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 30-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 31-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 32-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 33-Coffin lid detail
⇒ 34-Coffin lid detail (ram)
⇒ 35-Coffin lid detail (Horus)
⇒ 36-Coffin lid feet detail (Anubis)
⇒ 37-Coffin pediment detail (Apis)
⇒ 38- Coffin lid interior (Nut)
⇒ 39-Coffin lid interior (Nut close-up)
⇒ 40-Coffin lid interior detail (Nut close-up)
⇒ 41-X-ray cranium
⇒ 42-X-ray torso
⇒ 43-X-ray pelvis
⇒ 44-Cartonnage mask face
⇒ 45-Cartonnage mask top
⇒ 46-Cartonnage collar
⇒ 47-Cartonnage collar detail
⇒ 48-Cartonnage collar detail (Isis)
⇒ 49-Cartonnage collar detail (Thot)
⇒ 50-Cartonnage abdominal
⇒ 51-Cartonnage detail (Imsety)
⇒ 52-Cartonnage detail (Qebhsenuef)
⇒ 53-Cartonnage detail (Duamutef)
⇒ 54-Cartonnage detail (Hapy)
⇒ 55-Cartonnage detail (Nephtys?)
⇒ 56-Cartonnage detail (Nephtys?)
⇒ 57-Cartonnage detail (embalming)
⇒ 58-Cartonnage detail
⇒ 59-Cartonnage foot cover
⇒ 60-Boreux manuscript p.1
⇒ 61-Boreux manuscript p.2
⇒ 62-Boreux manuscript p.3
⇒ 63-Boreux manuscript p.4
⇒ 64-Boreux manuscript p.5
⇒ 65-Boreux manuscript p.6
⇒ 66-Boreux manuscript p.7
if scripting is off, click the ⇒ instead.

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Links to others from Dynasty 26

Amulet of Pataikos, Dyn. 26
Amulet of Shu, Dyn. 26
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze statuette of Bastet, Dyn. 26
Cartouche of King Nekau II, Dyn. 26
Djed pillar, amulet of powers, Dyn. 26
Face from a sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
Face from a sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
Faience shawabti of Hekamsaf, Dyn. 26
Falcon sarcophagus with Osiris mummy
Glass necklace terminal, Dyn. 26
Horus-the-Child, heir to the king, Dyn. 26
King Ahmose II (?) as Osiris, Dynasty 26
King Nekaw II as Horus-the-child, Dyn.26
Large wooden Ka statue, Dyn. 26
Light blue faience shawabti, Dyn. 26
Osiris with Djed pillar on back, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Admiral Hekaemsaf, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor, son of Rurer, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor-sa-Iset-Mut-f, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor-Wdja, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Khonsu-Hor, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik I, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik I, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik II, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik II, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik III, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Mery-Seth-Hor-Mes, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Mery-Seth-Hor-Mes, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Neith-M-Hat, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Ir-Irw, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prophet Wahibre, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prophet Wahibre, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Psamtik-mry-imn, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Psamtikmeryptah, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Royal Prince Ahmes, Dyn. 26
Staff finial, Thoth as a baboon, Dyn. 26
Two-fingers mummy amulet, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Upper Egypt crown amulet, Dyn. 26
Wooden sarcophagus lid, circa 650 BC
Wooden sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
  Discovered in the ruins of the ancient city of Ipu (today’s Akhmin), this wooden coffin holds the mummified body of Taosir (tA-wsir), daughter of Nesmin and Taamun, priestess of Osiris in Ipu around 600 BC. The intensity of the colors, the exuberance of the decoration, the precision of the stroke, and the crispness of its complete hieroglyphic text are a moving record of Egyptian life twenty six centuries ago. So is the mummy itself, with its gentle features concealed beneath untouched linen wraps and gold leafed cartonnage trappings.

The Coffin
The coffin presents Taosir wrapped in a red sheath, her face framed by the traditional blue wig. Between the two strands of the wig stretches a necklace of alternating white, blue, green, and red horizontal strands. Below, a great usekh collar rests on her chest. It is a semicircular collar made up of thirteen rows of geometric beads, in a repeated a-b-c pattern, and finished with a row of teardrop beads (photo 26). The collar terminates at the shoulder with large heads of the falcon god Horus Harakhti (photo 25, 35).

Resting on top of the usekh is a thinner necklace from which hangs a large plate with a scene of the gods Tefnut, Maat, and Atum sitting within a portico (photo 23). Atum is “the form of Re in the evening, the time when the pilot of the solar boat was Atum” (Armour 2001:14).

On the right side of the coffin only, a ram (the god Khnum or Re as a ram?) lays like a sphinx next to the usekh (photo 34).

The mid section of the coffin is dominated by a majestic yet intimate representation of the goddess Isis, stretching her protective wings upon the body of the deceased (photo 17, 24). She is kneeling, flanked by two sphinxes. She wears the golden solar disk on her head, and holds in each hand the feather of Maat, symbol of truth, justice, and integrity. Floating above her variegated wings are symbolic representations of the udjat (eye of Horus) (photo 20). Further on the side are symmetrical scenes where, on the right (photo 21), a young woman dressed in white (Taosir?) kneels in front of a falcon deity (Qebhsenuef?), and on the left (photo 29), a young woman dressed in green kneels in front of an anthropomorphic deity (Imsety?).

The next register is delineated by friezes of red, blue, and green squares separated by black and white rectangles. In the middle, anchoring the scene, stands a djed pillar with the feathered crown of Osiris. It is flanked by two cobras wearing the atef crown (photo 18). Facing the cobras on each side are sets of four animal deities with human bodies, all standing, and all wearing the ceremonial blue wig (Photo 22, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32).

Below this pictorial register are seven columns of hieroglyphic inscriptions (photo 19). The text provides ritual offerings. It reads from top to bottom, and right to left as follows:
Osiris, First Lord of the Land on the Other Side and Lord of the Thinite Nome; Ptah Sokar Osiris, Great God who is inside the coffin; Anubis First Lord of the Sacred Land [the other world]; Anubis presiding over the divine pavilion; Isis the great mother; that they may give offerings of oxen, poultry, milk, wine, incense, cloth, and every thing good and pure to the ka of the Osiris Taosir, true of voice, daughter of Nesmin, true of voice, beget by the mistress of the house Taamun, true of voice. May these offerings bring life to the god who is within—the ka of Taosir, true of voice.

These are offerings which the king gives (“htp-di-nesu”) to Osiris, First Lord of the Land on the Other Side, great god, Lord of the Thinite Nome; to Sokar Osiris First Lord of the Sacred Land); to Anubis presiding over the divine pavilion, so that they give a beautiful resting place [. . .] in the land on the other side to the wab priestess of Osiris Taosir, true of voice [. . . ].

“The idea underlying the htp-di-nesu formula is that the king gives, or has given, or is to give, an offering to some god in his temple, in order that the latter in turn may give offerings to a private individual in his tomb. . .” (Gardiner 1957:172).

On either side of the inscription are fifteen personages in red and blue garments, seated in groups of three (photo 33).

Along the edge of the coffin lid, thirty nine seated personages, some bearded some not, alternately dressed in red and green, guard the mummy with large knifes drawn (photo 12, 13, 15). At the edge of the coffin base stretches a gigantic snake bearing the atef crown (photo 14).

Atop each foot is an image of Anubis, laying on a shrine, with the flail of Osiris above his back (photo 1, 36). The sides of the pediment are decorated in the traditional palace wall motif. On the bottom of the pediment is a striking representation of the Apis Bull galloping, carrying the body of Taosir (photo 37).

On the interior surfaces of both the lid and bottom of this coffin are full length representations of the goddess Nut in simple yet extraordinarily effective red outlines (only the black wig was filled in, suggesting the inside decoration was left unfinished). Nut as a protector of the deceased in the tomb is noted as early as the Pyramid Texts where “the king goes to Nut in her name of ‘sarcophagus’ embraces her in her name of ‘coffin’ and rests in her in her name of ‘tomb’” (Hart 1986:146). Atop her head rests the hieroglyphic sign with the phonetic value “nu” (photos 10, 11, 38, 39, 40).

The cartonnage trappings
The mummy mask shows Taosir wearing the great blue wig (photo 44). Her gilded face is highlighted by immense, stark eyes under long brows painted black. A headband with a pattern of red and green triangles on a white background (evoking jewelry of cornelian, chrysoprase and white quartz) steadies a large gilded sun disk on her forehead. Atop, the scarab god Khepri wraps his variegated wings around her head while pushing the solar disk (photo 45). Between the strands of her wig, we can see some of the thirteen-row necklace that adorns her.

On the rest of the mummy trappings, the application of gold leaf was ritual, rather than decorative, and often obfuscates the details painted beneath.

The chest trapping presents several elements (photo 46). In the top section, a magnificent vulture, the goddess Nekhbet, stretches its wings across the central section, while heads of the falcon god Horus Horakhti anchor the upper corners. In the next section, the following scene is repeated three times: Taosir, sitting between mirror images of the hieroglyphic symbol meaning ‘eternity’, is sheltered between the protective wings of the snake goddess Wadjet and the vulture goddess Nekhbet (photo 47). “Wadjet is in harmony with her southern counterpart Nekhbet—in temples or tombs she can frequently be seen with the full body or just the wings of the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt” (Hart 1986:220). Then comes a sumptuous great usekh collar, with sixteen rows of intricate geometric patterns. Beneath the collar sits Goddess Isis, stretching her protective wings. She wears a white headband and the solar disk, and holds in each hand the feather of Maat (photo 48). Beneath the Isis scene is an understated rectangular register containing a phonetic transcription of the name of the god Thot ‘the scribe of the gods’ (Budge 1969:408), in triplicate (photo 49).

The abdominal trapping (photo 50) is dominated by an embalming scene. Under a winged solar disk with two uraeus, the body of Taosir lays on a bed. Beneath the bed stand the traditional four canopic jars holding her stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines. Seated on either side of the funeral bed are two instances of the goddess Nephtys, whose headdress spells her name: ‘neb-hut’ (lady of the mansion). By deference to the goddess, she is shown considerably larger than the deceased (photo 57). Below that scene, on the sides of a large decorative geometrical panel, are four green shrines containing the four Sons of Horus, guardians of the four canopic jars pictured in the embalming scene. On the left side are Imsety, guardian of the south and protector of the liver (photo 51), and the jackal-headed Duamutef, guardian of the east and protector of the stomach (photo 53). On the right side are the falcon-headed Qebhsenuef, guardian of the west and protector of the intestines (photo 52), and the baboon-headed Hapy, guardian of the North and protector of the intestines (photo 54). Beneath the Sons of Horus are mirror images of an unidentified female deity—presumably another dual appearance of the goddess Nephtys (photo 55, 56). A semicircular section (now detached) continues the geometrical motif (photo 58).

The foot cover, in poor condition, depicts sandals with straps and a buckle. The front section displays three djed pillars and three Ankh signs between two representations of Anubis laying on the shrine (photo 59).

The mummy
The mummy (photo 4-9) still rests in its original bandages, undisturbed for the past 2600 years. Radiographs show that Taosir was wrapped with one hand over the chest. Cursory medical review of the radiographs indicate that she suffered from extensive arthritis (photo 41, 42, 43).

It is noted Egyptologist and Director of the Cairo Museum Gaston Maspero who, in 1884, gave this coffin discovered in Akhmin (Ipu or Khent-Min) to his friend Commandeur Cazeneuve of France.

“Even after the conquest of Egypt by Islam the temple of the ‘great town’ of Akhmin was among the most important remains of the days of the Pharaohs. . . In 1884 Maspero discovered an extensive Necropolis. . . The tombs to the north, which are the oldest, date from the Roman, Ptolemaic, and Egyptian periods. Further up the mountain are tombs of the 6th Dynasty” (Baedeker 1898:207).

In 1914 the coffin (as well as a large papyrus found with it) was in the care of a certain Gabriel Peytraud of Toulouse who wrote Charles Boreux, then curator of Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre, to ask for a translation of the hieroglyphic inscription (photos 60-66). In 1915, it was acquired by the Marquis de Gestas in Tarbes. It became part of this collection in 1975.

A similar coffin, containing a certain Nespamau, also from Ipu, is at the Berlin Ägyptisches Museum (#868 in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz- Ägyptisches Museum 1967). The Berlin example features an additional outer coffin measuring 210 cm.

Dynasty 26
Born in times of weakness, when Egypt was regularly invaded and generally controlled by the Assyrians, Dynasty 26 (‘the Saite Dynasty’) was installed at the head of the tiny kingdoms of Sais and Athribis in the Delta by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. This turned out to be a bad move for Assyria. Within 12 years, in an astonishing reversal of fortunes, the Saite king Psamtik would reunify Egypt under his crown and liberate his nation from Assyrian domination.

Weaving the clear threat of his military power with extremely agile diplomacy and carefully orchestrated ideology, Psamtek brought about the political reorganization that had eluded his predecessors for four hundred years. At last, Egypt was once again led by a centralized authority—an all powerful king, a guardian of order, a living god. It was a true rebirth for Egypt, with a once again thriving economy, a recovered sense of national identity, and a new-found opening to the outside world—most particularly to the Greek World. Under Psamtik’s agile leadership, Egypt was simultaneously moving forward and drawing strength from its glorious past—most particularly that of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. This was particularly manifest in the arts. Craftsmen of the Saite period aspired to equal, and hoped to surpass, their Middle Kingdom predecessors, while adhering closely to the classic canons of aesthetic tradition—a scenario that would play out again 2200 years later when artists of the Italian renaissance sought to rise to the standards set by their Ancient Greek predecessors. Managing their new prosperity with great skill, while keeping the Babylonians at bay, the Saites embarked on an ambitious program of building, restoring, and embellishing. Commerce flourished under dedicated military protection and ambitious public works projects, such as the digging of a canal from the Nile to the the Red Sea—2500 years before the Suez Canal.

Although brilliant by its achievements and the remarkable period of peace and stability it carved within the context of an increasingly turbulent Mediterranean world, the Saite Dynasty was somewhat short-lived (139 years). Its increasing reliance on foreign mercenaries caused tensions, and eventually infighting within the military establishment. Militarily weakened, Egypt became easy prey for the Persian juggernaut. In 525, Persia took over Egypt, putting a sudden end to the Saite period. Egypt would never again shine so brightly.

Sarcophagus is a Greek term used in Egyptology to designate a container made to protect a mummified body (the term literally means “body eater”). Although we are guilty here of using the term loosely, the generally accepted convention today is to use ‘sarcophagus’ for a stone container, and ‘coffin’ for a wooden or metal container.

Initially, Egyptian coffins were rectangular (sometimes with arched tops). They were decorated with symbolically charged motifs and ritual texts. Around Dynasty 12 (Middle Kingdom) appeared the first anthropomorphic coffins, which followed the general shape of the human body. By the New Kingdom, royal burial sets had become very elaborate: “The mummy. . . lay in three mummiform coffins; the innermost is made of solid gold, and the other two of wood covered with sheet gold. . . [the] set of anthropomorphic coffins was laid into a rectangular or cartouche-shaped sarcophagus, which in turn was surrounded by several chapel-like wooden structures. . .” (Redford 2001:[1]283).

Bibliography (for this item)

Armour, Robert A.
2001 Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt. 2nd edition. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt. (14, 96)

Baedeker, Karl
1898 Egypt: Handbook for Travellers. Karl Baedeker Publisher, Leipsic, Germany. (207)

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Sir
1969 The Gods of the Egyptians or studies in Egyptian Mythology (unabridged republication of the 1904 edition by the Open Court Publishing Company). Dover Publications, New York, NY. (408)

Gardiner, Alan
1957 Egyptian Grammar. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. (172)

Hart, George
1986 A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom. (146, 220)

Ions, Veronica
1969 Mythologie Egyptienne (Translation of the 1968 edition by the Hamlyn Publishing Group). ODEGE, Paris, France. (116)

Vandier, Jacques
1944 La Religion Egyptienne. Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, France. (235)

Bibliography (on Sarcophagus)

Redford, Donald B.
2001 Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, London. (283)

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