Ancient Egypt – Cheapskate Coffin Makers

About 3,000 years ago, a man named Nespawershefyt, working in the temple of Amun at Karnak (in modern Luxor), commissioned a set of coffins for himself, consisting of an outer coffin and an inner coffin – the smaller of the two to be placed in the larger, much like Russian dolls – and a mummy board that would be placed on top of his embalmed and wrapped body when he was dead. He seems to have commissioned this fabulous funerary assemblage after reaching a reasonably high rank in the temple hierarchy.

Unbeknown to Nespawershefyt, the artisans he had chosen to make his coffins were cheapskates. The wood they chose for the inner coffin was poor and needed lots of patching. They were good at painting though. All the patches were expertly covered with a bright yellow paint and text. The coffins were delivered but not needed for years. Sometime before his death Nespawershefyt decided to update his funerary inscriptions: he had received a promotion at the temple and wanted to mention his new higher-level position on his coffins. You cannot leave your CV out-of-date for eternity, so the artisans set to work once again.

The coffins can be seen at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Dimension(s):
depth, 49, cm, width, 60, cm, length, 206, cm, length, 190, cm, length, mummy board, 179, cm

Acquisition:
given; 1822; Hanbury, Barnard, Waddington, George
Accession: Object Number: E.1.1822