Your shopping cart is empty!

A view on mummycartonnages by an antiquities dealer

My interest in mummycartonnages as an antiquities dealer comes from a both historical as esthetical interests. In the southern part of Egypt, a major change occurred in the second half of the tenth century BC, affecting all aspects of funerary equipment. It is at Thebes that this change can be observed most clearly. At the beginning of the Twenty-second Dynasty The shape of the wooden coffins was simplified. Instead of the old ensemble of one or two coffins and a mummy-board, Theban priests and officials were now provided with one, two or three wooden coffins and a one-piece cartonnage mummy case as an innermost envelope for the body. These cartonnage cases, which are typical of the Libyan Period, are interesting both for the ingenious method of their manufacture and for the very attractive painted scenes with which they are decorated. Although some cartonnages fit very closely around the mummy, in others the body is found to be considerably shorter than the case.

Apparently then, the cartonnage was not moulded around the body itself, but rather over a disposable core of mud and straw which reproduced the approximate shape and dimensions of the average mummy. This core was coated with coarse plaster and several layers of linen soaked in gum were applied, covering it completely except for the section at the base of the feet. A vertical opening was also left at the rear and, once the final layer of linen had been applied, this rear slit was carefully opened out and the core removed in pieces, leaving a hollow mummiform shell of plaster and gummed linen. The exterior was then coated with gesso. The mummy was apparently inserted before the case was decorated. A wooden board was pegged on beneath the feet and thus the mummy was sealed inside. The case was then ready to be decorated. These cases were not substitutes for genuine coffins, since they were always placed inside wooden cases, which were frequently made of costly imported timber. This change in burial practices coincided with another reorganisation of the funerary iconography, which is suggestive of a change of emphasis in attitudes towards the afterlife. On coffins, much of the new decoration consisted, as before, of symbols of rebirth and divine protection, but there was a preference for motifs with a general beneficial meaning rather than specific extracts from the old established funerary literature.