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Gallery 19: Case 21

Middle Kingdom to New Kingdom burials

During the early Middle Kingdom (about 2046-1840 BC), the dead were usually buried in rectangular coffins made of wood. These coffins were decorated with inscriptions giving the name of the deceased, and also increasingly with figures and other motifs.

Inside the coffins, the mummified bodies were laid out in extended form, rather than crouched, often on their sides and with a mask covering the head. Internal organs were mummified separately and placed in canopic jars. The earliest canopic jars had lids in the form of human heads, but over time these were replaced with the heads of the four sons of Horus, protective deities with the heads of a man, a jackal, a baboon and a bird of prey.

There was also an increase in the quantity of objects buried with the dead, including pottery, jewellery and cosmetic items.

By 1850 BC, the dead were closely associated with the god Osiris and the shape of coffins began to change: coffins in the perfect, eternal sah form became popular, having the shape of a person wrapped in white linen and wearing a funerary mask. Box-shaped coffins, however, continued to be made until the early New Kingdom (about 1520 BC).

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