Egyptian Gilded and Painted Wood Falcon Headed Sarcophagus
Egyptian · Late Period, 26th-30th Dynasty, 664-343 B.C
H: 50.2 cm
Made of wood, this coffin is composed of a box and a lid: both elements are mummiform and are maintained by partially preserved wooden pegs. The surface, covered with plaster, is almost entirely painted in black (including the interior of the box): green and blue traces of polychromy are still visible on the plinth; the wig retains traces of blue painting and the muzzle is entirely covered with gilding. The eyes and the beak are black, while other details are incised. The inscription, only visible with backlighting, was added with light-colored pigment.
According to the appearance of the mummy (which is also preserved), it seems probable that it would have contained the remains of a falcon rather than a statuette of Osiris (which would connect it with the cults related to fertility and to the rebirth of the god), but no element appears to confirm this hypothesis.
From the early Dynastic times, the falcon was considered as a royal symbol by Egyptians. As the god of the pharaoh, he was associated to many cults and to various deities, who often took his appearance, like Re-Horakhty (the Egyptian god of the sun), Horus, the god of the sky (his right eye represented the sun, his left eye symbolized the moon), Khonsu (the god of the moon), the war-god Montu, etc.
In the 1st millennium especially, the Egyptians mummified millions of animals and fish of all kinds, bulls, hawks, ichneumons, snakes, and even insects. Some were discovered in large numbers, while others are rare. Many species were specially raised on farms in temple precincts: they were used as votive offerings to the gods, or were mummified and sold to the worshippers who offered them to the deity as ex-votos.
While having the same function as the precious metal statuettes, animal mummies were certainly considered less expensive offerings and therefore aimed at a wider audience.
Complete and in good condition; the decoration and inscriptions almost completely faded; the black paint was repaired. The mummy, still preserved with the coffin, is in a black gangue (possibly covered with bitumen): it is wrapped in linen bands that are well preserved, especially in the upper part.
Formerly, property of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA;
Ex- Petit Musée, Montreal;
Ex- Cinq-Mars collection, Canada, late 1950s – early 1960s.
BRAFA, Brussels, 2016
ANDREWS C. A. R., Egyptian Mummies, London, 1984.
FAY B., Egyptian Museum Berlin, Berlin, 1984, p. 154, no. 77.
IKRAM S., Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt, Cairo, New York, 2005.
LACOVARA P., TROPE B. T., The Realm of Osiris: Mumnmies, Coffins, and Egyptian Funerary Art in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta, 2001, p. 66, no. 57.
SALEH M., SOUROUZIAN H., The Egyptian Museum Cairo: Official Catalogue, Mainz/Rhine, 1987, no. 268.
WILKINSON R. H., The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, London, 203, pp. 108-109; 113-114; 200-211.