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Ancient Egyption coffins

Top 10 Ancient Egyptian coffins that rewrote history

Ancient Egyptian coffins, standing as silent witnesses to a civilization shrouded in mystery and grandeur, have captivated the imagination of historians, archeologists, and enthusiasts for centuries. In this exploration, we’ll delve into the captivating world of these intricate tombs, unlocking their secrets and understanding why they remain an unparalleled testament to the profound beliefs and cultural richness of this ancient civilization.

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Today, many Ancient Egyptian coffins can be found in museums around the world, offering valuable insights into the beliefs and practices of this ancient civilization:

1. Ahmose, I coffin.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
The Sarcophagus of Ahmose and the splendor of the carvings.

Ahmose I, the legendary founder of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, known for reunifying the country after a period of turmoil, was laid to rest in not one but two magnificent coffins. These elaborately decorated sarcophagi offer a fascinating glimpse into ancient Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife and the artistic skill of the time.

  • The Outer Coffin:

Made from sycamore wood, this grand coffin measures over 6 feet tall and is embellished with lively illustrations and safeguarding enchantments. Inside lies the mummy of Ahmose I, portrayed on the lid in a perfected manner, donning a divine beard and a wide collar adorned with falcon-head terminals. A protective vulture, with wings spread wide, adorns his chest, representing renewal and metamorphosis. Elaborate bands of hieroglyphs wind around the coffin.

  • The Inner Coffin:

A smaller coffin is nestled within the outer shell, equally stunning in its artistry. Made from cedarwood, known for its preservative properties, this inner coffin features Ahmose I portrayed with more realistic features, showcasing his age and experience. Exquisitely detailed scenes adorn the sides, depicting Ahmose I making offerings to Osiris, the god of the underworld, and participating in various rituals believed to aid his journey to the afterlife.

  • Family Ties:

Both coffins bear touching scenes of Ahmose I’s family bidding him farewell. His wife, Hapu, and daughters weep at his feet while his sons stand solemnly beside them. These tender portrayals offer a glimpse into the human side of this powerful pharaoh.

  • A Legacy in Wood:

Ahmose I’s coffins are not merely funerary objects but testaments to ancient Egypt’s artistic skill and deep spiritual beliefs. They offer invaluable insights into the pharaoh’s life, reign, and the cultural context of his time.

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2. Amenhotep I Ancient Egyptian coffins.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Amenhotep’s – Egyptian pharaoh

Amenhotep, a name borne by several pharaohs of ancient Egypt, was a common royal name during different periods of Egyptian history. Two notable pharaohs named Amenhotep were Amenhotep I (ruled around 1525–1504 BCE) and Amenhotep III (ruled around 1386–1353 BCE). During their reigns, burial practices were significant, and the coffins of pharaohs and high-ranking individuals were often intricate and adorned with religious and funerary symbols. The coffins were designed to protect and preserve the body for the journey to the afterlife. Amenhotep I’s burial equipment, including his sarcophagus and coffins, was found in the Valley of the Kings. Amenhotep III, known for his opulent reign, likely had elaborate burial items.

Here are some of the most famous Amenhotep coffins:

Amenhotep I: 

His coffin was discovered in 1881 in a hidden cache of royal mummies. It’s made of cedarwood and decorated with intricate hieroglyphs and paintings depicting religious scenes and offerings to the gods.

Amenhotep II: 

His coffin is also cedarwood and features a beautifully sculpted face with inlaid eyes and eyebrows. It’s decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead, which guided the deceased on their journey to the afterlife.

Amenhotep III:

His coffin is the largest of all the Amenhotep coffins, measuring over 10 feet long. It’s made of sycamore wood and decorated with gold leaf and precious stones. The scenes on the coffin show Amenhotep III being presented to various gods and goddesses.

3. Thutmose Ancient Egyptian coffins.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Sarcophagus of Thutmose III

Thutmose is commonly associated with the famous ancient Egyptian sculptor Thutmose (also spelled Djhutmose or Thutmosis), who lived during the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom, around 1350 BCE. However, your mention of “Thutmose Ancient Egyptian coffins” might refer to the pharaohs or individuals named Thutmose and their burial coffins.

The New Kingdom period saw the use of elaborate coffins and burial practices. Pharaohs and individuals of high status were often buried in ornate coffins adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions, reflecting their beliefs in the afterlife and the importance of preserving the body for the journey to the next world.

The name “Thutmose” refers to several pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty in Ancient Egypt; here are the most well-known ones:

Thutmose I: 

The founder of the 18th Dynasty was known for his military conquests. His mummy was reburied several times, and two main coffins are associated with him. A massive red granite sarcophagus in the Cairo Egyptian Museum is decorated with scenes from his life and funerary rituals.

Thutmose III: 

He is considered one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, known for expanding the Egyptian empire to its peak. His coffin is made of wood, decorated with gold leaf, and inlaid with precious stones. It’s currently on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Thutmose IV: 

He was known for his peaceful reign and focus on internal affairs. His coffin is also made of wood and decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead. It’s currently in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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4. Hatshepsut coffins.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Hatshepsut’s burial coffin.

Hatshepsut‘s journey through the afterlife was entrusted to only one coffin but three! Each one is a testament to her remarkable reign and the complexities of her legacy. Here’s a glimpse into each:

  • The Red Granite Sarcophagus:

This majestic sarcophagus was Hatshepsut’s original resting place, carved from a single block of red granite. Its imposing size (over 10 feet long!) and intricate hieroglyphs depicting her divine right to rule showcase the grandeur she envisioned for eternity. Sadly, her plans were altered after her death.

  • The Usurped Sarcophagus:

She was initially crafted for Hatshepsut; this quartzite sarcophagus was repurposed for her father, Thutmose I. Evidence suggests Hatshepsut intended to be buried alongside him, but her successor, Thutmose III, sought to erase her memory from history. Her inscriptions were meticulously replaced with Thutmose I’s, transforming her coffin into a vessel for another.

  • The Hidden Sarcophagus:

The mystery surrounding Hatshepsut’s final resting place continues. Some Egyptologists believe her mummy might lie in a hidden chamber within her tomb, possibly alongside a third, undiscovered sarcophagus. Fueled by the intrigue surrounding her erasure and rediscovery, this possibility continues to capture the imagination.

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5. Tutankhamun’s Coffin.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Tutankhamun’s coffin and the moment Howard Carter discovered it.

Tutankhamun‘s coffin is not just one coffin but a set of three nested coffins, each more magnificent than the last!

  • The Outermost Coffin: 

It is made of gilded wood, adorned with semiprecious stones like lapis lazuli and turquoise, and intricately decorated with scenes from Tutankhamun’s life and afterlife journey.

  • The Middle Coffin: 

It is also crafted from gilded wood but with even more elaborate decorations and a wider variety of gemstones inlaid. It features protective goddesses like Isis and Nephthys and symbols of the afterlife. 

  • The Innermost Coffin: 

The pièce de résistance, this coffin is made of solid gold, weighing a staggering 110.4 kilograms (243 lbs)! It depicts Tutankhamun as the god Osiris, holding the crook and flail, symbols of his power and authority. The coffin is covered in religious texts and protective spells to ensure the pharaoh’s safe passage into the afterlife. 

These coffins were not just containers for Tutankhamun’s body but works of art in their own right. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs about death, the afterlife, and the divine nature of their pharaohs.

Here are some additional details about Tutankhamun’s coffins that you might find interesting:

  • Skilled artisans made the coffins using various techniques, including hammering, carving, and inlay.
  • The gold in the innermost coffin was mined from the Nubian Desert, hundreds of miles from Tutankhamun’s tomb.
  • The inscriptions on the coffins include spells and prayers to protect the pharaoh in the afterlife.
  • The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and its treasures, including the coffins, was a major archaeological breakthrough that helped shed light on ancient Egyptian civilization.

6. Seti’s Sarcophagus.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Seit I.

Seti I, an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ruled from around 1290 to 1279 BCE. His tomb, located in the Valley of the Kings (KV17), is known for its intricate decorations and the well-preserved sarcophagus of Seti I.

The sarcophagus of Seti I is a massive stone coffin intricately carved from a single block of red granite. It was designed to house the pharaoh’s mummy and serve as a protective container for his remains in the afterlife. The exterior of the casket is adorned with detailed carvings and inscriptions depicting religious scenes and texts from the Book of Gates, the Book of Caverns, and other funerary texts.

The imagery on the sarcophagus reflects the religious beliefs of the time, emphasizing the pharaoh’s journey through the afterlife and his ultimate union with the gods. The sarcophagus lid typically featured an image of the deceased pharaoh with outstretched arms, ready to embrace the afterlife.

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7. Rameses II’s Coffin.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
The Sarcophagus of Pharoah Ramses II

Ramses II had several sarcophagi, but the most famous one is likely the outer anthropoid coffin from his reburial in the Royal Cache at Deir el-Bahari (TT320). This coffin is made of yellow cedar wood and is decorated with scenes from the Book of the Dead, a collection of spells and hymns believed to help the deceased pharaoh navigate the afterlife. The coffin also features images of Ramses II and other gods and goddesses. It’s important to note that this particular casket is not Ramses II’s original coffin. His original coffin was made of gold and was much more elaborate, but it was unfortunately stolen by grave robbers shortly after his death. The coffin in the Royal Cache was made for his reburial, which took place several hundred years after his death.

Other fascinating details regarding the sarcophagi of Ramses II are as follows:

  • One of the biggest and heaviest wooden coffins ever found is the one in the Royal Cache. It is more than 11 feet long and weighs more than three tons.
  • The original color paint job on the coffin has faded over time.
  • The mummy of Ramses II was not seen for more than 3,000 years until the casket was opened in 1881 by French archaeologist Gaston Maspero.
  • The coffin is currently on exhibit at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
  • I hope this knowledge is useful! Please get in touch with me with any more queries.

8. Teti caskets, Ancient Egyptian coffins.

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Anthropoid Coffin of the Servant of the Great Place Teti.

Two distinct Ancient Egyptian coffins are referred to as “Teti coffins”:

  • The Coffin of Teti, the Great Place’s Servant: 

Teti was a painter in the Valley of the Kings, and this anthropoid coffin is from the New Kingdom (1570–1069 BCE). It is constructed of wood and painted in vibrant hues representing guardian angels and funerary scenes. This coffin is especially significant because it’s one of the earliest known yellow-painted coffins, and it was likely made by the same artisans who decorated the tombs of royalty.

  • The Coffin of Teti, Lady of the House: 

This rectangular coffin dates from the late 17th or early 18th Dynasty (1550–1458 BCE). It’s made of sycamore wood and decorated with checkerboard patterns, figural scenes of mourners and offerings, and images of deities like Isis, Nephthys, and Anubis. This coffin was found in a tomb in Thebes and is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

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9. Ay, pharaoh coffin. 

Ancient Egyptian coffins
Tomb of the Pharaoh Ay – The Eastern Valleys of Kings.

Ay, the pharaoh who briefly ruled Egypt after Tutankhamun’s death, had two fascinating coffins, each offering a glimpse into his life and times:

  • The Amarna Tomb Coffin:

Carved from Amarna-style limestone, this coffin depicts Ay in traditional scenes of offerings to gods and goddesses like Osiris and Anubis. The vibrant colors and detailed artwork showcase the Amarna artistic style, characterized by elongated figures and naturalistic scenes. This coffin was likely intended for Ay’s original tomb in Amarna, the city built by his predecessor, Akhenaten.

  • The Valley of the Kings Sarcophagus:

Crafted from red granite, this more imposing sarcophagus features Ay’s royal cartouches and scenes from the “Book of the Dead,” a funerary text guiding the deceased through the afterlife. The casket was found fragmented in the tomb of Ay’s successor, Horemheb, who seemingly desecrated Ay’s burial. Despite the damage, the sarcophagus fragments offer insight into Ay’s funerary rituals and beliefs.

10. Nefertari coffin.

Ancient Egyptian coffins

The Neferetari coffin, known as the “Golden Queen” coffin, is a masterpiece of ancient Egyptian craftsmanship. Discovered in the Valley of the Queens in 1898, it held the remains of Queen Nefertiti, the beloved wife of Pharaoh Ramses II.

The coffin’s exterior is adorned with intricate carvings and paintings depicting scenes from Neferetari’s life and her journey to the afterlife. These include images of her with Ramses, offerings to the gods, and protective deities. The vibrant colors and attention to detail still astound viewers today, offering a glimpse into the artistic skill and reverence for the afterlife in ancient Egypt.

However, the coffin’s true wonder lies within. The interior is decorated with stunning gold leaf, symbolizing Neferetari’s divine status and transformation into a goddess. The intricate designs showcase the celestial sky, constellations, and protective goddesses guiding the queen through her eternal journey. The Neferetari coffin is more than just a funerary object; it’s a testament to the love and respect Ramses II held for his queen. It’s a window into the ancient Egyptian belief in the afterlife and the intricate rituals associated with death and rebirth.

Here are some additional aspects of the Neferetari coffin that you might find interesting:

  • The coffin is made of sycamore wood, a strong and durable material chosen for its symbolic association with immortality.
  • The carvings and paintings depict scenes from the Book of the Dead, a guide for the deceased in the afterlife.
  • The coffin’s design reflects the Egyptian belief in symmetry and balance in the universe.
  • The discovery of the Neferetari coffin sparked renewed interest in ancient Egyptian art and culture, and it remains a popular attraction for visitors to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

And don’t forget to check out where you can see ancient Egyptian sarcophagi: Luxor, Aswan, Cairo.

FAQs about Ancient Egyptian coffins

Q1: What was the primary purpose of Ancient Egyptian coffins?

The primary purpose was to serve as a protective home for the soul in the afterlife, ensuring a safe journey into the realms beyond.

Q2: What types of coffins were commonly used in Ancient Egypt?

Sarcophagi, anthropoid coffins, and canopic coffins were commonly used, each with a unique design and purpose.

Q3: Why were elaborate rituals performed during coffin burials?

Coffin burials were grand ceremonies symbolizing the transition from life to the afterlife, with rituals conducted to facilitate a smooth journey.

Q4: How can one experience the fascination with ancient Egyptian coffins today?

Visit museums worldwide that house collections of these artifacts to feel the energy of the past, marvel at the craftsmanship, and contemplate the stories embedded in each coffin.

In conclusion

Ancient Egyptian coffins are artifacts and portals to a world where life seamlessly transitions into the afterlife. These coffins’ intricate designs, diverse types, and ceremonial significance make them timeless expressions of a civilization’s beliefs and cultural richness. As we unravel the enigma surrounding ‘Ancient Egyptian Coffins,’ we journey through time, understanding the mysteries that continue to captivate and inspire us today.

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