Sarcophagus of Nes-shu-tefnut

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The shape of the sarcophagus of Nes-shu-tefnut [EsshutfĂȘne] is something of a compromise. Because it has no face, it does not qualify as mummy-shaped. Nevertheless, its outline tapers towards the foot end and its head end has been rounded. The lid, on the other hand, has a vaulted shape as if it were the lid of a rectangular coffin, but without the distinctive high boards at the ends or the corner posts. The sarcophagus of Nes-shu-tefnut was carved out of one piece of volcanic rock, found in one location in the First Cataract region near Aswan. The combination of pitch black and bright spots is the result of complex volcanic activity. It is interesting to observe how the irregularity in the stone at the foot end was simply ignored by the sculptor. The lid is made of a different material: granodiorite. Both the box and its lid have been fully smoothed inside and out and they have been carved with outstanding relief work and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The decoration and inscriptions are typical for sarcophagi from Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis, in the Ptolemaic Period.
One of the principal themes of the decoration is the nocturnal course of the sun, the superb image of death and resurrection. The entire cosmos has been represented. The interior of the lid bears an image of the night sky, showing the goddess Nut swallowing the sun in the evening and giving birth to it again in the morning. She extends herself over the mummy with the stars of the firmament behind her, including the twelve stars of the nocturnal hours represented in human form. On the bottom of the sarcophagus is a representation of the goddess of the west, a personification of the necropolis. It is this goddess who accepts the body of the deceased. She is also a personification of the realm of the dead, the Netherworld. She is surrounded by the emblematic goddesses for Upper Egpyt and Lower Egypt, Nekhbet and Uto, who appear as winged cobras on either side of the head of the mummy. At the head end of the coffin's interior decoration is the goddess Nephthys, depicted as a woman whose vulture's wings are extended in a protective gesture around the head of the deceased. The inscription around this figure is an adaptation from the Book of Amduat, from the beginning of the seventh hour of the night. Nephthys has taken the place of Isis in her role as divine protectress against the annihilating powers of the hereafter. The remaining beings and symbols on the interior faces of the sarcophagus have the same protective purpose. There is the god Anubis in the shape of a crouching jackal, the Eye of Horus, the four Sons of Horus with the heads of a human, a baboon, a jackal, and a falcon (on both sides), and also the four protective goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selkis (divided between the two sides). The goddesses are ranked higher than the sons of Horus, each being in charge of one of the four canopic jars. Finally, on the foot end of the decoration is the djed-pillar, hieroglyph for "duration" and symbol of the back of Osiris' body, together with two protective symbols of the blood of Isis.

Present location


Inventory number




Archaeological Site









108 cm


115 cm


These gods are as follows: their arms are curved around their heads, they have their shadows (= the staffs) hovering in front of them; they mourn over the secret corpse of the Lord of the Netherworld. The two goddesses who tear out their hair. There is water coming forth from the jars, which stems from the eyes of the two goddesses, like blood; the inhabitants of the Netherworld breathe on account of it. The Great god speaks to them, when their souls enter behind him. The speech of the speaker (= the god) to those who hide their character at the divine site of the hidden being: You two gods, you two goddesses, who are in the place of mysteries: Let the Osiris NN (here is the title and name of the deceased) pass by you! Your souls rejoice because they breathe. He enters at your place, you see him who owns nothing.
The speech of the speaker to the catfish gods who receive the secret of the "earthling": You catfish gods, who have received the secret of your "earthling", I let your souls breathe! When NN enters, I will let his soul breathe.
Greetings, you lords of truth, who are free from sin ..., I have been transformed in your image, I have become powerful through your magic, I have been counted amongst you, so that you may save me from the angry one who is in this land of the two truths; so that you may give me my mouth for speaking! My offerings will be given to me in your presence; for I know you and I know your names, and I know the name of that great god to whom you give your offerings... When I am not dispelled, he will not be dispelled; when he leaves, I will leave - and vice versa! I will not be dispelled from the Milky Way!
No enemies will gain power over me, you will not dispel me from your gates, you will not shut your doors against me; because my bread is in (the sacred city of) Buto and my beer is in (the sacred city of) Dep ...