Investigating and conserving coffins


Lucy Skinner examining the inner coffin of Nespawershefy


The Fitzwilliam Museum has a small collection of coffins, among which are some particularly beautiful examples.

One of the ancient coffin groups in the collection was made for a man called Nespawershefy who was the Chief Scribe of the Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak around 1000 BC. It consists of an outer coffin (in two pieces), an inner coffin (also in two pieces) and a so-called mummy board which would have been placed on top of the body just below the inner coffin lid. The coffin set was brought to Britain and presented to Cambridge University in 1822 by George Hanbury and Barnard Waddington.

Thus far only the inner coffin lid has been studied and recorded; the other sections will be investigated next so that the complete set can be recorded for inclusion in the Egyptian Coffin Catalogue which is being written as part of the Gallery Project.

Years of dirt, grime and modern paint on top of the ancient painted surface have been cleaned away using damp cotton wool swabs and solvents to reveal the impressive paint layer more clearly.

   Image["Detail of the paintwork on the inner coffin of Nespawershefy"]

Image["Detail of the wig area on the inner coffin of Nespawershefy"]


The wig on the inner coffin was originally bright blue in colour but during a relatively modern attempt at restoration it was over-painted in black. It has been possible with a lot of patience to remove sections of this paint to reveal the beautiful original blue wig.

Further work still needs to be done on the coffin (the other sections of the coffin nest have not yet been treated). This section still requires the removal of rusty Victorian screws and the creation of a suitable mount for its display.

The Fitzwilliam Museum : Progress

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