As if there is not enough up here (see our recent post about the Egyptian storage move and associated conservation work), this week we brought another quite large object into the lab, and it might be my new favorite object up here.
This is the lid that belongs to the late 21st/22nd Dynasty yellow coffin base which we recently treated here in the Artifact Lab. Due to its previous location in storage, I hadn’t been able to take a close look at it until this week. Now that I’ve gotten to spend a few days with the lid, I’ll tell you that it’s total eye candy. If you were impressed by the painted decoration on the base, the lid will give you even more to get excited about.
I only just started to examine and document the lid and I will continue to update the blog as I work on this object, so today I’m just going to mention a few things about it, and some of my favorite details so far.
First of all, you may have noticed that I referred to this as a “stola” coffin in the image caption above. The term “stola” refers to the narrow red band depicted on the coffin that encircles the neck and crosses over the chest and over the oversize collar. Both the presence of the stola and the oversize collar have been recognized as distinctive of the late 21st/early 22nd Dynasty (see other examples and explanations here and here, and special thanks to Dr. Kara Cooney at UCLA for information as well).
The figure depicted on this coffin used to have a beard, which is now missing, but there is a hole in the chin indicating that it was once there.
The arms are depicted as being crossed over the chest and the hands are made of separate pieces of wood. The hands on this coffin are clenched and I have read that this is reserved for male coffins while females are depicted with hands open and lying on their chests. I’m assuming the fisted hands mean that this coffin belonged to a man, but I’ll have to check with our Egyptologists to confirm, since I cannot translate any of the text myself. I also really like the fact that the thumbnails are painted in:
What else can I say about it? Well, it is beautifully painted and also varnished just like the base with a yellow-colored pistacia resin. This pistacia resin causes many of the areas painted blue to appear green:
There is a thick layer of dust on the surface of the coffin, but I can tell it’s going to clean up well. Check out the embossed details in this raking light image, which were built up with gesso:
This is going to be a fun object to work on! I’m looking forward to getting started with the treatment.
* I should clarify that this coffin technically belongs to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) but has been on long-term loan to us for nearly a century. We received this coffin as part of an exchange of objects between our 2 institutions in the 1930s. I am carrying out the treatment in close consultation with the conservators at the PMA.