Anthropoid coffin of Iret-hor-irou
Museum purchase, gift of Diane B. Wilsey in memory of Alfred S. Wilsey
The human-shaped coffin functioned as a substitute for the mummified body, while also supplying a surface for magical images and texts to protect the deceased and assure his safe passage to the netherworld. This magical association with the body, which developed and changed over the centuries, was responsible for the form of the coffin, its decoration, and even the position it occupied in the tomb.
This beautifully carved and inscribed coffin presents a haunting and timeless image of the coffin as a house for the mummy and its spirit. Two large pieces of cedar wood form the lid and box of an inner coffin for the burial of an important and wealthy individual. Imported cedar was considered a luxury commodity in ancient Egypt, which had little in the way of its own hard wood, and care was taken to insert patches into holes next to knots in the wood. The inscription on the front is unusually long and is carved into the wood with great attention to each detail. Multicolored inlays were once inserted into the glyphs and , remarkably, a few of these remain. They include spell number 72 from the Book of the Dead as well as the name of the owner of the coffin.