Object in Focus: A Terracotta Figurine of the Goddess Nike (C.531)


Terracotta statuette of the goddess Nike (C.531)

This terracotta figurine is of the Greek goddess Nike (C.531). It dates to the Hellenistic period (2nd – 1st century BC) and comes from Apulia in Italy.

During the Hellenistic Period (c. 323-31 BC), winged statues of figures like this one of Nike, the personification of Victory, or of Eros, personification of love, became increasingly popular.

These figurines, typically made of terracotta, were mainly deposited in tombs, most often


Terracotta figure of Nike (C.531)

those belong to women and children. They were also often placed in sanctuaries, where they were dedicated as votive offerings, expressing the desire of visitors to communicate with and show devotion to the gods.

By the 8th century BC, the city-states of Greece had colonised much of Apulia (modern Puglia) in south-eastern Italy. In 706 BC, the Spartans founded the city of Tarentum (modern Tarento), one of the most prominent cities in the region. With their easy access to the Mediterranean, fertile hinterland, and quality craftsmanship, many of these colonies flourished.

This figurine may have been manufactured in Tarentum, as the motif of the winged Victory was a popular one in this area. Beyond this, however, its provenance is largely unknown, but it is unlikely to have come into the Museum’s collections from John Garstang’s excavations, as is the case for many of the Egyptian objects in the collection.


Wing and wing-tip from C.531

The figurine is in good overall condition. The left wing was reattached by restorers, but the tip was not. The right wing is detached from the object, and the tip is missing. Based on the marks of repair at the figurine’s neck, the head was likely also restored or reattached. The base also shows signs of restoration. The base of the statue is hollow, and there is a circular whole at the back of the object, between the wings. The figure’s clothing also has residues of green, red, yellow, and white pigment. Coloured glazes or slips were used to decorate terracotta in this way until the 5th century BC.


From the Archives: John Garstang at Alawniyeh , Beit Khallaf, and El Mahasna, 1900-1901

One of the most important collections in the Museum consists of the photographs from the excavations of John Garstang. Some of these have recently been catalogued and digitized as part of the ‘Ancient Egypt in Focus: The photographic Archives of John Garstang’ project, which is now available online.


Map showing approximate location of sites surveyed by Garstang in 1900-1901. © 2016 Google Maps, ORION-ME

Dish from grave L209, Alawniyeh

Small, four-legged dish discovered in grave L209 at Alawniyeh. The white line decoration on the interior depict a human figure and animals. (JG/F/2/1)

The earliest photographs in the collection come from Garstang’s excavations in 1900-1901, between the villages of Alawniyeh and Beit Khallaf, north of Abydos. Unfortunately, many of the original negatives from these excavations have been lost,including images of the tomb superstructures at Beit Khallaf.

Only two photographs of objects from burial L209 at Alawniyeh survive in our collection: a four-legged dish in Naqada II style, and a selection of unusual clay model arrowheads, and human figures.

Clay objects from tomb L209, Alawniyeh

Nine clay objects discovered at grave L209 at Alawniyeh, thought to be models of flint tools and human figures. (JG/F/2/3)


Limestone offering table with inscription found in tomb M366 at El Mahasna (JG/F/3/12), now in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium (E.0924).

The survey found a cemetery dating from the Early Dynastic period to the 11th Dynasty, south of the village of Mahasna. Garstang believed the majority of the burials to date from the Old Kingdom onward, though in 1908, the Egypt Exploration Fund excavated a predynastic cemetery to the west of the village. Garstang’s photographs only depict the more attractive or unusual objects discovered and the larger grave deposits.


Stoneware vessels, an alabaster head rest, and a copper mirror discovered in tomb M107 at El Mahasna (JG/F/3/7). The deposit was discovered in a bricked up chamber at the bottom of a burial shaft, and were taken for display in the Cairo Museum.

Much of the cemetery covered an earlier prehistoric settlement at the site. Although Garstang found little indication of dwellings, he discovered several pot kilns, including one with a half-baked pot still inside.


Close-up of a kiln discovered at site M S, showing a half-baked pot supported by fire bricks (JG/F/4/3).


Vessel in the shape of a frog, discovered at site M S near El Mahasna (JG/F/4/4).


Garstang also investigated the large, mud-brick structure near the village of Beit Khallaf, as part of the same work season. This structure had been thought to be an Old Kingdom fortress.

Garstang's published plan and section of tomb K1 (Mahasna and Bet Khallaf, 1903: pl. VIII).

Garstang’s published plan and section of tomb K1 (Mahasna and Bet Khallaf, 1903: pl. VIII).

Excavation revealed it was in fact a previously unknown mastaba tomb, which Garstang called K1. The burial shaft was found 25 metres below the surface, at the bottom of a stairway covered with alabaster vessels. This had been blocked by six massive stones lowered through shafts at the top of the tomb.

In addition to the alabaster vessels, Garstang found copper implements, stoneware vessels, and flint tools. Many of the alabaster vessels had mud seals bearing royal names of the 3rd Dynasty. Most of these bore the name of Djoser. Garstang believed that K1 was the burial place of Djoser, and not the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, which he thought showed little evidence of having been used as a tomb.

Group of alabaster vessels discovered in tomb K1 at Beit Khallaf (JG/F/1/10)

Group of alabaster vessels discovered in tomb K1 at Beit Khallaf (JG/F/1/10)

Further excavations in this area revealed four smaller mastabas. One of these, which Garstang called K5, was the tomb of prince Nedjemankh. Another (K2) contained seals bearing the name of Sanakht, who may have succeed Djoser. As with K1, Garstang believed this was the burial place of Sanakht.

Garstang argued that there were no remains at Saqqara which had been positively identified as belonging to Djoser. By contrast, K1 was near other royal tombs, and close to the 3rd Dynasty necropolis at Raqaqna. However, today it is more generally believed that the tombs belong to high officials of the 3rd dynasty, and not to the kings themselves.

The sites Garstang worked at in 1900-1901 have not been excavated since. The photographs in our archives provide context to objects now found in Museums around the world. These sites are not well-known outside the academic community. It is our hope that the digitization of the photographs from this expedition will make it more accessible to researchers and the general public alike.

The Mummy Returns!

The Garstang Mummy in his new home

The Garstang Mummy in his new home

Over the past few months we have been busy arranging the move of the ‘Garstang Mummy’ to a new climate controlled display case in the museum. The mummy, which dates to around 1000BC, was brought from Egypt to Liverpool by Professor John Garstang, along with the base of the coffin of an unrelated woman, dating to the much later Roman Period in Egypt.

Moving the Garstang Mummy from his home in Anatomy

Moving the Garstang mummy from his previous location in the University of Liverpool Department of Anatomy

A peaceful afterlife in the Institute of Archaeology was interrupted in 1941, when the Blitz struck Liverpool. Much of Liverpool was destroyed beyond recognition, including parts of the University. A bomb dropped on the Abercromby Square area damaged a number of buildings where the Sydney Jones Library now stands. The artefacts held within the collection of the Institute were dispersed, with some even being kept at the house of Professor Garstang. Our mummy was evacuated to the Department of Anatomy.

However, he was in safe hands. After the war, the Department of Anatomy was at the forefront of the scientific examination of mummified remains. In 1968 Professor Ronald Harrison performed the first x-ray of the mummy of King Tutankhamun. Professor Harrison and his then post-doctoral student, Dr Bob Connolly, went on to examine a great number of mummies.

All wrapped up and ready to move. The blue cover is designed for patients in a CT scanner (keeping them completely still).

All wrapped up and ready to move. The blue cover is designed to keep patients in a CT scanner completely still, and allowed us to minimise the risk of any damage occurring when we transported the mummy across the university campus.

While investigating the mummy of Tutankhamun, the Garstang mummy was used for trials of new techniques, before they were performed on the royal body. Thanks to the work of the Department of Anatomy we know a lot about our mummy. He was in his late 20’s when he died, though the cause of death is unknown. He also lived well, and was likely a member of the elite section of society – this is reflected in the good condition of his teeth: often the non-elite of ancient Egypt had teeth in poor condition due to a high quantity of sand in their bread, which wore tooth enamel down over time.

The Curator Gina and Assistant Curator Dan ready to move the Garstang Mummy into his new case.

Curator Gina Criscenzo-Laycock and Curatorial Assistant Dan Potter, ready to move the Garstang mummy into his new case.

Following the Blitz, the Garstang mummy spent the next 74 years in the Department of anatomy. He was on display within their departmental museum for a short time. However, with the redevelopment of the Garstang Museum in 2014 it was agreed that he would return to the museum, to be housed in the Egyptian funerary gallery. A grant was secured to purchase a custom-made climate controlled display case, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the University of Liverpool.

Making the final adjustments

Making the final adjustments

The gallery in the Garstang Museum in which the mummy now resides contains a wide range of funerary equipment from ancient Egypt, much of it of a type that our individual would originally have been buried with. In reuniting him with this material, we not only 20150806_130558give our visitors an understanding of the practical requirements of an ancient Egyptian in order for them to reach their afterlife, but we honour the beliefs of this particular individual, by providing him with the tools that he would have considered necessary in order to have the eternal existence he wished for.

Dr Bob Connolly reunited with the Garstang Mummy. we have Bob to thank for much of the scientific information we have about the Garstang Mummy

Dr Bob Connolly reunited with the Garstang mummy. We have Bob to thank for much of the scientific information we have about the mummy


We would also like to thank National Museums Liverpool, Victoria Gallery and Museum and the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, for all their help in bringing the Garstang mummy home.



LightNight 2015 at the Garstang Museum


Curatorial Assistant Dan Potter explaining the history of the Garstang Mummy

An Aging Rocker and a Couple of Old Hoes: Objects from an Egyptian foundation deposit

Part of a model rocker 2014/258

Part of a model rocker 2014/261

Small wooden model tools are one of the most common types of objects found within foundation deposits of the mid-18th dynasty of Egypt. Foundation deposits were collections of objects with a ritual significance, buried within the foundations of temples (and tombs) at the start of construction, in order to provide magical protection for the building.

Model hoes 2014/258-260

Model hoes 2014/258-260

It is from such a context that four artefacts in the Garstang Museum originate (above and left). They were donated to the museum by the Sion Baptist Church in Rawtennstall, with no information about their origins or excavation history. However, the hieroglyphic texts inscribed on the objects actually record the name of the temple under which they were buried – something very few archaeological artefacts are kind enough to provide!

Three of the objects are nearly identical. Measuring approximately 30cm in length, with a base diameter of around 10mm, each of these wooden sticks has a small roughly circular hole approximately 30cm from the top. A short, vertical inscription is positioned beneath the hole on each piece, on what was originally the outer surface of the tool.

Their curved, tapering form, along with the remains of another wooden rod which had been inserted into the hole on each stick, indicate that these objects are what is left of three model hoes (see below for a complete example).

Model hoe in the Ashmolean Museum, AN1895.150 (surrounding a model adze, AN1895.147).

Model hoe in the Ashmolean Museum, AN1895.150 (surrounding a model adze, AN1895.147).

The fourth object is a fragment of a model rocker (see figure 3 for a complete example), approximately 20cm in length. Broken into two pieces, the fragment has been glued back together in modern times. Traces of nine small spherical holes remain, positioned at regular intervals along the curved edge of the fragment. These are the features that reveal that the object is the remnant of one side of a model rocker – a tool used to facilitate the movement of large stone blocks. A horizontal line of text is inscribed on what was once the outer side of the model.

Complete model rocker in the Ashmolean Museum, AN 1895.149.

Complete model rocker in the Ashmolean Museum, AN 1895.149.

TEXT IN TRANSLATION The formulaic nature of the inscriptions correlates with those commonly found on objects form foundation deposits during this period –  ‘The good god (king) X, beloved of (god) Y’ frequently (although not always) followed by ‘lord of (town/temple) Z’. The inscriptions on the Garstang Museum objects read (from right to left): rocker nfr nTr mAat-kA-ra mr(y)t imn xnt Dsr-Dsrw ‘The good god, Ma’at-ka-re, beloved of Amun, foremost (of) Djeser-Djeseru.’

Part of model rocker. 2014/261 (scale = cm).

Part of model rocker. 2014/261 (scale = cm).

These short inscriptions are extremely useful as they provide us with their date. They were deposited during reign of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who was also known by her throne-name, Ma’at-ka-re. She ruled Egypt as a member of the 18th dynasty (1539-1292BC), during the period known as the New Kingdom..

The mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri “Djeser-Djeseru” (C) Charlie Phillips

The inscriptions also give us the original location of the foundation deposit in which the objects were buried: the Queen’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahari, which was known as the Djeser-Djesru (‘holiest of holies’). This temple was the first of a series of great mortuary temples built on the west bank at Thebes (modern day Luxor), each dedicated to the cult of a different Pharaoh of the New Kingdom

Part of model hoe. 2014/258 (scale = cm).

Part of model hoe. 2014/258 (scale = cm).

Drawings by Carrie Jenks.

Rome through the eyes of Meroë: an enemy trampled underfoot

As part of the ‘Ancient Egypt in Focus’ project has allowed us to take a closer look at the history of John Garstang’s excavations, life at these sites and the discoveries made there.

M/J/16 Detail of the fresco of site 292 (the skull was not originally in the wall, it was placed there as a macabre addition of black humor)

M/J/16 Detail of the fresco of site 292 (the skull was not originally in the wall, it was placed there as a macabre addition of black humor)

During the second season at Meroë, Sudan in 1910, the expedition uncovered a number of brightly coloured frescos (in an area known as ‘site 292’). Sadly, the years were not kind to these delicate pieces of art, as they were destroyed a few years after the excavations when a storm removed the roof of the structure built by Garstang to protect the paintings from the elements.

M/JA/29 The structure built by Garstang to protect the frescos of site 292.

M/JA/29 The structure built by Garstang to protect the frescos of site 292.

One of these frescos depicts a king sat on a throne decorated with an image of the god Bes. The King’s footstool is decorated (or made of) bound captives. The motif of the king trampling on their enemies is common throughout Pharaonic history. Particularly notable examples of this were found upon a number of footstools from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Detail of the top of one of the footstools of King Tutankhamun showing bound captives- intended for the feet of the king to cover them. Image from Grifiith Institute (http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/gif-files/Ross_photo_0049.jpg)

Detail of the top of one of the footstools of King Tutankhamun showing bound captives- intended for the feet of the king to cover them. Image from Grifiith Institute (http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/gif-files/Ross_photo_0049.jpg)

(For another example of this motif from the tomb of Tutankhamun clicke here: http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/php/am-makepage1.php?&db=burton&view=gall&burt=&card=&desc=footstool&strt=1&what=Search&cpos=12&s1=imagename&s2=cardnumber&s3=&dno=25)

Most commonly, the enemies shown are from African, Asiatic and Aegean civilisations. However, in the Meroitic fresco one of the enemies appears to be wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier (the figure on the far left). During this period of history, the Roman Empire stretched through Europe and down the Nile into southern Egypt. However, with conquerors and settlers, the previous inhabitants do not always take kindly to the imposition of rule.

M/J/14 Detail of the painted fresco of the footstool, amongst more traditional enemies is a bound captive (on the far left) who wears a brightly colored Roman style tunic and possibly a Roman helmet.

M/J/14 Detail of the painted fresco of the footstool, amongst more traditional enemies is a bound captive (on the far left) who wears a brightly colored Roman style tunic and possibly a Roman helmet.

The Greek historian Strabo in Book 17 of his Geographica mentions the campaign of a legendary one-eyed Meroitic Queen Candace (Not a singular individual, more likely a corruption of the royal title Kandakes, meaning “Queen”). This campaign involved the sack of a Roman settlement in southern Egypt, during this campaign a bronze statue of the Emperor Augustus was decapitated, with the head returning to the city of Meroë.

The decapitated head was buried underneath the doorway to the building in which these frescos were painted. It has been suggested that this structure was built to mark this victory over the Romans, the Roman figure eternally under the feet of the figure in the fresco, and the head of Augustus ignominiously under the feet of all those who would cross the doorway!

For more on the Meroë head of Augustus and this act of decapitation, click on the link below to the British Museum’s blog on the subject.


For the passage of Starbo click here: http://rbedrosian.com/Classic/strabo17d.htm


See you in the New Year!

Just to let you all know, the museum will be closed to the public for the next two weeks due to the Christmas break. We will be back open every Wednesday from 7th January.

We’ve had an absolutely fantastic year so thanks to everyone who helped us designing displays, researching our collections and of course to all of those who have visited the museum!!

See you in the New Year!

Ancient Egypt in Focus: The photographic Archives of John Garstang

John Garstang was one the early pioneers in the use of photography as a method of recording archaeological excavations, artefacts and surveys. The museum’s photographic archive contains almost twenty collections of glass-plate negatives relating to Garstang’s archaeological research in Egypt, Sudan and the Near East. These photographs give an insight not only into how excavations were carried out during the early part of the twentieth century but also record now lost artefacts and sites, as well as showing us a little of what life was like for Garstang and his teams.

The Pilgrim Trust funded ‘Ancient Egypt in Focus’ project aims to catalogue and digitise a portion of the photographic collections held by the Garstang Museum, specifically, those relating to John Garstang’s excavations in Egypt and Sudan at the sites of Meroë, Abydos, and Beni Hasan. This process will ensure the preservation of these images, they will also be published online on the Archives Hub so that others may also view these images.

Image of the excavated portico discovered during excavations of Sakçagözü, Turkey, 1908, Reference: SG-044

Image of the excavated portico discovered during excavations of Sakçagözü, Turkey, 1908, Reference: SG-044

In 2011, the Hertitage Lottery Funded ‘The Lost Gallery: John Garstang and the discovery of the Hittite World’ project processed the Museum’s photographic collections relating to Garstang’s work in the Near East, including the excavation of Sakçagözü, Turkey. The negatives were digitized using a digital camera suspended above an adjustable platform from which the negatives could be illuminated by a light box below.  The equipment was fully adjustable to cater for different size and formats of negatives. In six months the project processed nearly 900 images. For the digitisation of the Egyptian and Sudanese negatives, the project will last for fifteen months, allowing for an even greater number of negatives to be processed, indeed, the new project hopes to process over 2000 images!

Interns using the digitization equipment during the Hittite project

Interns using the digitization equipment during the Hittite project

It is early days in the project but we will be making frequent updates about our progress here on the blog and on our facebook page

For more information about the project please contact the project archivist, Katie Waring ( kdw@liverpool.ac.uk)


Archives Hub     http://www.archiveshub.ac.uk/

‘The Lost Gallery: John Garstang and the discovery of the Hittite World’ project     http://sace.liv.ac.uk/lostgallery/

What do James II and Mark Antony have in common?

Mark Antony and King James II

Mark Antony and King James II

What does James II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, son of Charles I (AD 1633-1701) have in common with Marcus Antonius, Roman politician, general and triumvir (83-30 BC)?

Sadly, Richard Burton never took on the role of James II, nor did Marlon Brando! The answer is actually warfare: both men had their share of tribulation: James was deposed and exiled to France after his defeat in the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, while Mark Antony was defeated at the Battle of Actium by his former ally Octavian. They also shared a common problem, how do you pay your soldiers?

Minting coins in the Roman Republic

Bronze statue of James II dressed as a Roman General

Bronze statue of James II dressed as a Roman General

Whilst we are used to the government of a country minting coins for its citizens, this has not always been the case. At various times throughout history private individuals were able to mint their own coinage. This person is known as the moneyer. This practice was particularly prevalent during the Roman Republic, as prominent individuals sought to have their message spread in the community. It also offered them control of their own money supply. Mark Antony was one of these moneyers. While on campaign in what would become the Eastern Empire, he needed to ensure that he would have enough currency to pay his soldiers their monthly salary. In order to do so, he brought a mint with him, so he could make coins as needed. The coins which bear his name and imagery have been found across Europe and North Africa, demonstrating the size and reach of his armies. There is also evidence that the silver denarii he minted were in circulation for a long time after his death in 30BC.

These silver coins are most easily identified by the depiction of a galley on one side and a legionary standard on the other. Here at the Garstang Museum we have four of Mark Antony’s denarii, dating from 32-31BC. Each of the coins is inscribed with the name of the legion which the money was minted for:

Silver denarius minted by Mark Antony with the Galley motif

Silver denarius minted by Mark Antony with the Galley motif

CC.373 Legio III “Cyrenaica” (Cyrene)

CC.374 Legio IV “Scythica” (Scythia)

CC.375 Legio V “Gallica” (Gaul)

and CC.376 Legio XVII
The name of this last legion is unknown. However, we do know that the legion was raised by Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus. In this case Mark Antony was minting money for the soldiers of his enemy! This suggests that Antony believed he would win the war, and by minting money for this legion would be able to pay them when they crossed to his side.

Gun money

During the Jacobite/Williamite War in Ireland (1689-1691) James II also needed to pay his forces. The token-coins which made up this payment were minted in Dublin and later in Limerick using base metals, such as copper, brass or pewter. The idea behind these token-coins was that following a Jacobite victory they could be redeemed for silver coinage – though this never happened as James was decisively defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. The name “gun money” comes from the story that these coins were minted using metals from melted down cannons, though records suggest that church bells and pans were also used to mint these coins.  Additionally, the coins often included the month of issue on the reverse side. This was included so that the soldiers could claim back their wages to the date given.

Large half-crown dated to 1690 (MC.118)

Large half-crown dated to 1690 (MC.118)

Small half-crown of James II dating to February 1689 (MC.105)

Small half-crown of James II dating to February 1689 (MC.105)

Despite their stalwart financial efforts both James II and Mark Antony were ultimately on the wrong side at the end of their respective wars!


Object in focus: A fragment of a “dummy” funerary vessel (E.586)

Whilst working in the museum stores, we often come across objects that have suffered from the effects of time, wear and tear. This is the case with object E.586, a broken piece of limestone with a polished, curved surface inscribed with two lines of hieroglyphs.

E.586 front view

E.586 front view

We came across this object, and many others during  the museum redevelopment project. At first sight, it was assumed to be part of a statue. However, one of our volunteers (who is a ceramic specialist) noted two slight breaks in the curve above and below the hieroglyphs, this led him to suspect that this was in fact a dummy funerary vessel.

After a little research, a number of similarities between this fragment and a type of dummy funerary stone vessel popular during the 18th Dynasty  became clear.  These dummy vessels had the outward appearance of popular shapes, but were not hollowed out. This type of object has been found in several high-ranking Theban tombs, such as the one belonging to Tutankhamun’s grandparents, Thuya and Yuya.  . Without the complex and time-consuming effort of hollowing out these stone vessels, they were much quicker, cheaper and easier to produce, they functioned as magical stand-ins for the real thing.

The inscription on E.586 identifies the owner of the vessel as “The Overseer of the Fields of Amun, the Osiris, Nebseny”. During the 18th Dynasty the title “Overseer of the Fields of Amun” was held exclusively by very high-ranking officials associated with the Karnak Temple. One particularly famous holder of this office was the 18th Dynasty official Senenmut who lived during the reign of Hatshepsut.

Reconstructed side view E.586

Reconstructed side view E.586

Image copyright of the Griffith Institute

Image copyright of the Griffith Institute

Curiously, E.586 is not the only museum object to mention Nebseny. A funerary cone in the British Museum (EA62848) contains an inscription for “The Overseer of the Fields of Amun, the Accounting Scribe of All Supplies in Upper and Lower Egypt and The Overseer of the Cultivators of Amun, Nebseny, the Justified”. EA62848 was gifted to the British Museum by Egyptologist Norman de Garis Davies in 1930. Davies had received the funerary cone from Sir Robert Mond, who found the object during his excavations near the tomb of Ramose (TT55) in 1903-1904. Robert Mond also has close links to the University of Liverpool and to John Garstang, having been associated with the Institute of Archaeology in its formative years.

Unlike funerary cones (which were displayed outside tombs), the dummy vessels were part of the burial equipment and would have been placed inside the tomb shaft itself. Mond does not report discovering any tomb belonging to Nebseny, it seems  likely that the heavily broken E.586 was damaged as the tomb was looted, only to be discarded in the vicinity of the tomb. The tomb of Nebseny,  remains undiscovered.


The Texts of the Coffin of Userhat (E.512)

One of our most prized and most viewed objects is the box-coffin of Userhat (E.512). The coffin was excavated by John Garstang in 1902 and was one of the first objects on display in the museum of the Institute of Archaeology in 1904. The text inscribed upon the coffin tells us that Userhat was a soldier He lived during a period Egyptologists call the Middle Kingdom (c. 1991-1783BC).

The Inner coffin of Userhat (E.88.1903) kept at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge

The Inner coffin of Userhat (E.88.1903) kept at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge

When Userhat died, he was mummified and interred in an anthropoid (human-shaped) coffin, which was then placed inside the box coffin. Userhat’s inner coffin was donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge by the Beni Hasan Excavation Committee in 1903, where it is kept today (E.88.1903).


As Garstang was a pioneer in the use of photography within archaeology we are also able to see the coffin as it was first discovered, with the inner coffin laying on its side, with the face of the coffin looking out of the painted eyes upon the outside of the box coffin . The rest of the tomb merely contained a few pieces of pottery.

The coffins of Userhat in situ

The coffins of Userhat in situ

The texts which adorn the coffin are dedicated to a number of funerary deities, such as Osiris, Anubis, Isis and Nepthys. Most of these texts are highly standardised, with only a few alterations made in each register. The texts translated here are the first inscriptions that would have been seen by Garstang, they are from the head end of the coffin and refer to “the revered one” (i.e. deceased) Userhat in reference to specific deities.


Userhat Text

Top: Revered one before Nepthys, the Soldier Userhat

The image in the centre of this panel is of the goddess Nepthys, whilst the goddess Isis strikes a similar pose at the foot end of the coffin.

Left column: Revered one before the Great Ennead, the Soldier Userhat

Right Column: Revered one before the Lesser Ennead, the Soldier User(hat)       

An Ennead (pesdjet in Egyptian) is a grouping of nine-god. Some of these groups are more important than others, hence the “Great” and the “Lesser” Enneads.

It seems that the painter of this coffin had not planned the size of the text out fully before applying the paint as despite requiring the same amount of space and signs, they ran out of space  for Userhat’s  name, cutting off the lower parts of these signs.

Detail from the Coffin of Userhat as it stands on display in our galleries

Detail from the Coffin of Userhat as it stands on display in our galleries

Come and see the Coffin of Userhat in our Egyptian Afterlife Gallery, we are open to the public every Wednesday from 10 ’til 4 and are completely FREE!