Ibis Coffin

Ibis Coffin, 305-33 BCE, Wood, Silver, Gold Leaf, Gesso, Rock Crystal, Animal Remains, Linen, Pigment, 19 x 8 x 22 Inches, Brooklyn Museum, New York

This Ptolemaic Period ibis coffin was probably from the Tuna el-Gebel area of Egypt.  The coffin is in the from of a standing figure of an ibis serving as container for mummified ibis; the wooden body of the coffin is entirely surface gilded. There is a resin covering the gilt in places which may be the remains of a varnish. The figure has a onventionalized tail indicated by black paint over the gilt and the top of its body is cut for a cover which runs entire length of body.

The figure’s head and feet is cast in silver; the eyes are of crystal outlined in gold. The head has an incised necklace at base of neck. The figure is mounted on an oblong wooden base, apparently original, of rough work. The mummified ibis lies within the figure’s body, in an intact condition.

Animal mummies were routinely placed in some type of container once the animal had been wrapped in linen. The more ordinary containers were specially designed or reused pottery jars. Such objects have been found by the tens of thousands in so-called animal cemeteries at a number of sites in Egypt.

At times elaborate coffins were crafted to hold the animal mummies. Just as human coffins were anthropoid, so animal coffins took the form of the animal contained. The ibis mummy held by this coffin was placed within through the detachable lid on the back. The gilding of the body and the exquisite detailing of the head, legs, and feet make this example one of the finest of its kind.

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