Falcon sarcophagus with Osiris mummy

Falcon sarcophagus with Osiris mummy
Period:Egypt, Late Period, Dynasty 26
Dating:664 BC–525 BC
Origin:Egypt, Lower Egypt, Fayum
Material:Wood (undetermined)
Physical:49.7cm. (19.4 in.) - 2975 g. (105 oz.)

Links to other views:

⇒ Larger View
⇒ Coffin lid
⇒ Coffin bottom
⇒ Bottom detail 1(ankh)
⇒ Bottom detail 2 (bull)
⇒ Bottom detail 3 (hieroglyphs)
⇒ Bottom detail 4 (hieroglyphs)
⇒ Bottom detail 5 (hieroglyphs)
⇒ Coffin lid head close-up
⇒ Coffin lid detail (sky divinities)
⇒ Coffin lid detail (hieroglyphs 1)
⇒ Coffin lid detail (hieroglyphs 2)
⇒ Coffin lid detail (hieroglyphs 3)
⇒ Coffin lid detail (Anubis at foot)
⇒ Coffin lid (Hapy)
⇒ Coffin lid (Kebsenuef)
⇒ Coffin lid (Imsety)
⇒ Coffin lid (Duamutef)
⇒ Beeswax and gold mask
⇒ Mummy
⇒ Mummy detail (head)
⇒ Mummy detail (feet)
⇒ Ball
if scripting is off, click the ⇒ instead.

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Links to others from Dynasty 26

Amulet of Pataikos, Dyn. 26
Amulet of Shu, Dyn. 26
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze of King Psamtik I as Osiris, Dyn. 26
Bronze statuette of Bastet, Dyn. 26
Cartouche of King Nekau II, Dyn. 26
Djed pillar, amulet of powers, Dyn. 26
Face from a sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
Face from a sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
Faience shawabti of Hekamsaf, Dyn. 26
Glass necklace terminal, Dyn. 26
Horus-the-Child, heir to the king, Dyn. 26
King Ahmose II (?) as Osiris, Dynasty 26
King Nekaw II as Horus-the-child, Dyn.26
Large wooden Ka statue, Dyn. 26
Light blue faience shawabti, Dyn. 26
Osiris with Djed pillar on back, Dyn. 26
Sarcophagus and mummy of Taosir, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Admiral Hekaemsaf, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor, son of Rurer, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor-sa-Iset-Mut-f, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Hor-Wdja, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Khonsu-Hor, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik I, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik I, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik II, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik II, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of King Psamtik III, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Mery-Seth-Hor-Mes, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Mery-Seth-Hor-Mes, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Neith-M-Hat, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Horiraa, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prince Ir-Irw, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prophet Wahibre, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Prophet Wahibre, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Psamtik-mry-imn, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Psamtikmeryptah, Dyn. 26
Shawabti of Royal Prince Ahmes, Dyn. 26
Staff finial, Thoth as a baboon, Dyn. 26
Two-fingers mummy amulet, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Udjat eye amulet-pendant, Dyn. 26
Upper Egypt crown amulet, Dyn. 26
Wooden sarcophagus lid, circa 650 BC
Wooden sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26

Links to others representing Horus

Bronze Horus sarcophagus, Dyn.18
Horus, Lord of the Two Lands. N.K.
Horus-the-Child, 1070-774 BC
Horus-the-Child, Alexandria, 100-30 BC
Horus-the-Child, Alexandria, 304-30 BC
Horus-the-Child as a ruling king, Dyn. 18
Horus-the-Child as Amun, 776-656 BC
Horus-the-Child, Dyn.19, 1300-1200 BC
Horus-the-Child, Dyn. 25, 776-656 BC
Horus-the-Child, heir to the king, Dyn. 26
Horus-the-child, Meroe, 590-300 BC
Horus-the-Child, Ptolemaic, 200-100 BC
Horus-the-Child, Ptolemaic, 304-30 BC
Horus-the-Child riding a swan, 304-31 BC
Pair of udjat eyes of Horus, Dyn. 18
Wood statuette of Horus stiding, Dyn. 11
Wooden sarcophagus lid, Dyn. 26
  Within this highly sculptural sarcophagus in the image of the falcon god Sokar, lies an ‘Osiris mummy’ fitted with a gilded beeswax mortuary mask and protected by sacred/magic earthenware balls. Possibly Fayum, Dynasty 26.

The Osiris mummy
This ‘Osiris mummy’ is not a real mummy, but rather a figurine made of earth and grain seeds representing the god Osiris. Osiris was a god of rebirth after death, and these figurines were presumably designed to materialize his symbolism by germinating in the tomb.

This particular Osiris mummy was wrapped in exquisitely finely woven linen, then covered with bitumen. The mixture of grains and earth is clearly visible at the ‘feet’, where the bandages have been abraded away.

Such mummies are often termed ‘corn mummies’ or, more rarely, ‘grain mummies.’ American readers may be led astray by the ‘corn,’ which here does not refer to the maize plant as it would in US English, but rather to the British English meaning: “a seed of one of the cereals, as of wheat, rye, barley, etc.” (Oxford English Dictionary).

The sarcophagus
The falcon god Sokar, who was commonly assimilated with Osiris, is shown here with a human body, headdress and ears.

“In the late period, numerous tombs are equipped with Ptah-Sokar-Osiris wood statuettes in anthropomorphic form, with a falcon's head. . . This rests on a base containing the Book of Going Forth by Day, or a grain mummy. . .” (Redford et al, 2001:306).

The cedar wood was coated with bitumen, then decorated and inscribed with a light-colored pigment. The ornamentation is much more extensive than would seem at first glance:

In front, a collar with five rows of beads adorns the neck of the god. Beneath the collar the artist painted a frieze of stars. A second frieze representing the divinities of the local sky stretches horizontally across the chest. Then, from the chest to the feet, three vertical registers were drawn to hold hieroglyphic inscriptions, but the first column was either left blank or has been erased. Translation of these hieroglyphs is in progress. They include the name NeB-Sh adjacent to Ta-Sa (“the Fayum”), presumably referring to the contemporary ruler of the Fayum oasis, in Lower Egypt. Finally, on each foot lays a depiction of the royal Anubis (Hr-sshta), The Keeper of the Secret.

On the sides, the four sons of Horus guard the mummy of the sacred falcon against all dangers. On the right side, there is Hapy (the baboon-headed son of Horus, protector of the defunct’s lungs and guardian of the north) and Kebsenuef (the falcon-headed son of Horus, protector of the defunct’s intestines and guardian of the west). On the left side, there is Duamutef (the jackal-headed son of Horus, protector of the defunct’s stomach and guardian of the east) and Imsety (the human-headed son of Horus, protector of the defunct’s liver and guardian of the south).

The bottom section of the sarcophagus was rich with hieroglyphs, some of which have eroded away. At the top, a broad horizontal register contains a bull representing the god Osiris, a walking scarab, and the seated goddess Maat, holding her feather of Justice. Beneath, six columns of hieroglyphs stretch down to the feet.

The Mask
The polychrome and gilded mortuary mask which rests upon the head of the mummified falcon portrays the god Osiris. The mask is made of beeswax covered in gold leaf. The eyes, brows, and beard were further detailed with black pigment. The demeanor, classically serene, exemplifies the artistic style of the Saite Dynasty 26 which furthered the return to Middle Kingdom aesthetics favored by the Kushite kings of Dynasty 25.

The Magic Balls
These four earthenware balls, rather similar in appearance to the dung balls made by dung beetles (also known as scarabs), are inscribed with white pigment. They presumably offered some ritual protection to the mummy of the falcon.

We are particularly indebted to Andreas Effland of University of Hamburg for information on the true nature of this item.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, #2001.547.1-2
Berlin Aegyptisches Museum, Inv No. 6/66
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, No 58.98 A-D
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, No 58.106 A-C

The falcon god Horus embodies one of the most fundamental tenets of Egyptian religious and political beliefs. “According to the Turin Canon [a papyrus from the time of Ramses II], the late Predynastic rulers of Egypt were ‘followers of Horus’. By the time of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in 3000 BC, the ruler was Horus” (Hart 1986:89). Therefore unlike, say, medieval European kings, Egyptian kings were not ‘kings by the grace of God.’ They were not born as gods either. Instead, it is upon their enthronement that Egyptian kings became the embodiment on earth of the god Horus. They would remain the earthly manifestation of Horus throughout their lives, until the next king became inhabited by the god.

As central as he is to Egyptian thought, Horus often escapes our comprehension and frustrates our modern want for clear unique explanations of concepts. Egyptians were perhaps more comfortable than we are with some fifteen different manifestations of Horus (Horus the Elder, Horus the Child, Hariese, Harakhti, Horus of Behdet, Harmachis, Horus of Nekhen, Horus of Mesen, etc.), his various forms (falcon, falcon-headed man, sun disk, and child with a side lock of hair), and his ever changing filiation (son of Geb and Nut, or son of Hator, or son of Ra, or son of Isis and Osiris) (Armour 2001:71). Some of this confusion arises from geographical and temporal variations which have been flattened from our current vantage point. Yet, some of the complexity remains. “. . . at Edfu, Horus appears as the consort of Hathor and the father of another form of himself, Harsomtus” (Redford 2002:166).

Few Egyptian gods remained important in all periods, in all regions, and in all strata of society. Horus may be a rare exception. He was prominent at the birth of the nation, and was still prominent three thousand five hundred years later when the last Egyptian temple—the temple of Philae—was shut down by Justinian in 550 AD. In all his variations, Horus was not only present in both upper and lower Egypt, but could be claimed as a ‘local god’ in many places. More importantly, although Horus was the quintessential official god of the powerful, he was also a god close to ordinary Egyptians, as demonstrated by the popularity of ceppis (Horus the child standing over crocodiles) and Udjat eyes (the eye of Horus) as devices to ask the god for help warding off pain, disease, and fears.

“The iconography of Horus either influenced, or was appropriated, in early Christian art. Isis and the baby Horus may be seen as the precursor for Mary and the infant Jesus; Horus dominating the beasts may have a counterpart in Christ Pantokaor doing the same; and Horus spearing a serpent may survive in the iconography of Saint George defeating the dragon” (Redford 2002:167).

“As a cosmic deity Horus is imagined as a falcon whose wings are the sky and whose right eye is the sun and left eye the moon” (Hart 1986:94).

Bibliography (for this item)

Khalil, Hassan M.
1976 Preliminary Studies on the Sanusret Collection. Manuscript, Musée l’Egypte et le Monde Antique, Monaco-Ville, Monaco. ([II] 133-143, 299)

Redford, Donald B.
2001 Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press, London. (306)

Bibliography (on Horus)

Hart, George
1986 A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom. (94)

Redford, Donald B.
2002 The Ancient Gods Speak. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. (166)

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