The Coxe Egyptian Expedition

Originally Published in 1932

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A FIND of the first importance has been reported by Mr. Alan Rowe, field director of the Coxe Expedition at Meydûm, Egypt. It is a limestone slab on which is carved in relief a portrait of Snefru, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty who was probably the builder of the great pyramid at Meydûm. The fact that the portrait was found in a quarry used in building the pyramid clearly indicates that it is a work contemporary with the Fourth Dynasty. So far as is known, this is the only contemporary portrait of King Snefru that has ever been found in Egypt; other pictures of this king have been found in Sinai, but only one of these can be called a portrait. The king is depicted wearing a close-fitting cap, above which are the horns of a ram supporting two curved plumes; he holds the was-sceptre and is shown with a long, curved, false beard. The king’s name is crudely incised on the stone.

Although the portrait of Snefru was found in the vicinity of the quarry north of the pyramid, the principal scene of interest during recent weeks has been the large cemetery, still further north and dating from Ptolemaic to early Christian times, which was mentioned in our last report. The earliest Ptolemaic tombs were very shallow, but the later ones consisted of a deep, square shaft sunk in the rock; the upper part was lined with mud bricks and at the bottom were cut rectangular chambers connected with the shaft by doorways. The coffins were mostly of wood, but some were of pottery. One of the latter, of slipper shape, was particularly interesting in that it had a lattice-like ornament painted on the outside to represent the outer mummy-wrappings [Plate III]. A wooden anthropoid coffin, dating from the period in which the ancient Egyptian language began to be considerably supplanted by Greek, had on the end prayers to Osiris in hieroglyphs, together with the Graecized form of an Egyptian proper name, Hatres Pasōs, written in Greek characters in a blank space left especially for that purpose.

A slipper coffin with criss crossing decoration
Plate III — Graeco-Roman Pottery Sarcophagus from Meydûm, Egypt
Image Number: 34754

The late Ptolemaic and early Roman tombs were characterized by an enormous quantity of objects. An amphora imported from Rhodes had on the handle the stamp of the potter, Nysios, with his trade-mark in the form of a man and two stars, and on the other handle the name of the magistrate, Pausanias, and the Rhodian month in which the pot was made. Numerous large jars, originally filled with wine for the refreshment of the deceased; bowls, dishes, and incense stands; as well as terra-cotta figurines, lamps, and other objects, were found. Hundreds of dog burials doubtless were due to the association of the dog with the jackal-god, Anubis.

Two ostraka (potsherds with ink inscriptions) in Coptic were found in tombs of the early Christian period; the first ostrakon contains the names of various people, each followed by the Coptic word for hemp, which material they had probably been distributing; the other was obviously a school-boy’s exercise, as it contains the letters of the Coptic alphabet with some of them repeated. Between two and three thousand bronze coins were found in a pot in a vaulted chamber of a burial of the Christian period.

A singular feature of some of the Christian burials is that the face of the mummy (which wears very bright garments) is covered with a pile of small pieces of sheepskin as much as twenty inches high. The significance of this custom is not known.

About two and a half miles north of the pyramid a great brick wall has been discovered, with buttresses at irregular intervals along it. The wall, which is perhaps of Roman origin, has been traced for only a short distance, but it appears to go in the general direction of the ancient city of Philadelphia, in the Fayyûm.

Cite This Article

"The Coxe Egyptian Expedition." Museum Bulletin III, no. 5 (March, 1932): 111-115. Accessed July 12, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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