Coffin of Pa-di-tu-Amun

Although the coffin belongs to an Ancient Egyptian man named Pa-Di-Tu-Amun, the coffin lid was originally made for a female priestess, with the titles “mistress of the house, chantress of [Amun]”. The feminine quality of the art is still noticeable.

Acquired in Egypt during the 1920s, by the Swedish scientist Olof Vilhelm Arrhenius, this Third Intermediate Period coffin was featured at the world-famous Christies auction house in 2019.

Third Intermediate Period, 22nd-23rd Dynasty, c. 945-889 B.C.

Christies, 2019.
Christies, 2019.

This Third Intermediate Period coffin is one of the finest examples to ever appear at auction. It was acquired by the Swedish scientist Olof Vilhelm Arrhenius during his travels to Egypt in the 1920s and shipped home in a warship.

It first became known to a wider audience when his descendants put it on loan in Heidelberg in the early 1980s, and it has since been on loan to 2 other public institutions until the present day.

What makes this coffin remarkable is its excellent state of preservation and extensive and fine pictorial representations across almost every surface.

In previous periods, Egyptian tombs were decorated with painted or sculpted scenes but due to the extensive destruction during the Third Intermediate Period, this extensive imagery was transferred to coffins as seen here.

Christies, 2019
Christies, 2019.

Consisting of a lid originally made for a woman and a trough made for a man named Pa-di-tu-Amun, this coffin set reflects extensive ancient reuse of elements of coffins from earlier burial ensembles, and further shows evidence of multiple alterations on its lid. Since Egyptian coffins of this period were made in standardized sizes, the lid of one could easily be “married” to the trough of another.

A close examination of this coffin however allows a more complex understanding of the many changes undergone by both parts of the coffin in ancient times. Most likely, Pa-di-tu-Amun adapted the lid of the coffin of a priestess to match his extant coffin trough some time in early 22nd Dynasty. The clear addition of a beard on a female face implies that both elements were used together by a male owner in antiquity.

Christies, 2019.
Christies, 2019.

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