Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 11: the Coffin of Naktankh

The coffins we have been looking at until now have been ‘anthropoid’ which means human-shaped. Today’s wooden coffin is older, simpler and boxier. It has none of the colourful artwork we saw on Tamut’s or Padiamenet’s coffins. Instead, it has a simple hieroglyphic inscription and a pair of painted eyes.

Eyes were painted on the eastern-facing side of a coffin to allow the dead person’s spirit to see out. Think of the eyes as a sort of portal between the world of the dead and the world of the living.

As for the hieroglyphic inscription, it’s a great example of the so-called offering formula found on many Ancient Egyptian coffins. It reads:

An offering given by the king to Osiris, the lord of Djedu, Khentyimentu, the great god, the lord of Abydos, that he may give everything good and pure: a thousand of bread and beer, oxen, birds, alabaster, clothing, upon which a god lives, for the ka (spirit) of the revered one, Naktankh, True of Voice.

‘Given by the king’ actually means ‘Given in the name of the king’. The items listed are the things Naktankh’s family would like to give to Osiris and the other gods in the afterlife, hoping that Naktankh will also get some of it.

The vertical columns name other Egyptian gods, including Geb, who we already mentioned on Day 5. You may remember that Geb in hieroglyphs is a duck and a foot. Can you spot Geb’s name on the coffin of Naktankh?

This is how to write Naktankh in hieroglyphs

If you’re very eagle-eyed, you may even be able to spot the name of Naktankh himself. Below is a mirror-image of the eastern side of the coffin, which should make Naktankh’s name a little easier to spot.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Stephen Davies

Children's author: picture books, chapter books and YA novels

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