Corn Mummy of Osiris

This falcon-headed coffin does not contain an actual mummy but a symbolic Osiris mummy stuffed with grains like corn and sand. The falcon head on the coffin and the hieroglyphic text on the painted lid indicate they are associated with the funerary deity Ptah-Sokar-Osiris.

During the mysteries, two statuettes of Osiris were manufactured: one was the Osiris called vegetans, made of silt and grains that were meant to germinate, thereby illustrating the rebirth of nature; the other one was made of silt, resins and ground precious stones.

Corn Mummy of Osiris
Corn Mummy of Osiris

Both statuettes were swaddled according to the required rituals, and deposited in a temporary tomb before being set into their permanent one at the end of the mysteries of the following year.

The practice of planting beds in the shape of the god Osiris began in the New Kingdom. Osiris, supreme god of resurrection, was closely associated with the life-giving forces of nature, particularly the Nile and vegetation. Above all, he was connected with germinating grain.

The emergence of a living, growing, plant from the apparently dormant seed hidden within the earth was regarded by the Egyptians as a metaphor for the rebirth of a human being from the lifeless husk of the corpse.

The concept was translated into physical form by the fashioning of images of Osiris out of earth and grain. These “corn-mummies” were composed of sand or mud, mixed with grains of barley. As in this instance, the “mummy” is sometimes wrapped in linen bandages and may possess a finely detailed mask of wax, representing the face of Osiris.

On special feast days, figurines of the god Osiris, would be filled with mud and grain that would sprout in the tomb, emphasizing the role of Osiris in bringing forth life from the earth.

Such figures were sometimes fitted with wax masks with the face of Osiris. These figures were placed in falcon-headed coffins and buried as votive offerings on feast days in cemeteries and sacred sites.

Third Intermediate Period, 21st to 25th Dynasty, ca. 1069-664 BC. Sarcophagus: sycamore wood, figurine: earth and grain. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 36539