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).

http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=E.88.1903&oid=50697

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.

TEXT IN TRANSLATION

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!

 

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An Unknown Official and an Unseen Statuette (E.7804)

E.7804

E.7804

During the course of the work we are currently doing on the redevelopment of the Garstang Museum of Archaeology, a number of interesting artefacts have been found languishing in the museum stores. Many of these objects have been in storage for decades, and some may never have been seen by the public.

This elegant, yet sadly damaged, statue is one such object. It is carved from a relatively soft stone known as steatite, or soap-stone, and is a beautiful matte-green in colour. Even though the head and the bottom of the figure’s legs have broken away and been lost, it is nonetheless possible to tell that the figure was male and in the ‘active pose’ – with his left leg extended as if in mid-step.

This pose was highly popular throughout Pharaonic history, for kings and commoners alike. The stance, along with the youthful physique of the statue (with highly defined muscles) was intended to convey the “go-getting”-attitude and vitality of the deceased individual.

UC.8711

UC.8711

The dating of the object is not too difficult, even though it does not have any archaeological context. The pointed wig and posture is highly reminiscent of late Middle Kingdom private sculpture. Examples of this style are found in museums all over the world, such as this basalt statue currently residing in the Petrie Museum of Archaeology (UC8711).

Attached to the back of the figure is a pillar containing a hieroglyphic inscription of the offering formula. The purpose of this formula was to ensure a perpetual supply of foodstuffs and goods in the afterlife, and is a very common feature of ancient Egyptian funerary material. A similar back-pillar and inscription is also found on the now-famous “spinning” Middle Kingdom statue of Neb-Senu from the Manchester Museum. Despite keeping a close eye on E.7804, we have not yet witnessed any spinning – perhaps due to the loss of his legs!

E.7804 Inscription

E.7804 Inscription

The inscription on E.7804 is dedicated to “Osiris, Lord of Ankh-Tawy” which is quite an unusual combination of god and epithet. Ankh-Tawy was the necropolis district of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis and is almost always associated with the god Ptah. However, on occasion Osiris, as the Ruler of the Dead, was associated with this vast cemetery during the late Middle Kingdom, which adds further support to our suggested date for the figure.

Unfortunately the inscription breaks off just before the point where one would normally expect the name of the statue’s owner to appear. Egyptian statues were highly stylised, rather than being accurate portraits of the individual they commemorated. For this reason the inclusion of the individual’s name on an object of this type was of critical importance as it allowed the owner’s ka (spirit) to identify, and subsequently inhabit, the statue.

E.7804 will be going on display with a number of other funerary statuettes in the new gallery of ancient Egyptian funerary beliefs, opening in 2014.