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Unknown, Egyptian

Inner Coffin of Pa-debehu-Aset, Ptolemaic Period (332 -30 BCE), 332 BCE-30 BCE
4th-1st centuries BCE Egyptian Furniture
Wood, polychromy, gilding, with glass, stone and shell inlay
72 1/16 x 20 7/8 x 18 7/8 in. (183 x 53 x 48 cm), overall

Marion Stratton Gould Fund,  2000.11.2

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About the Object

This pair of nesting coffins once held the mummy of Pa-debehu-Aset, an Egyptian official from the city of Asyut, midway down the River Nile.  

Pa-debehu-Aset's mummy, now lost, would have been placed in the anthropoid, or human-shaped, coffin. The anthropoid coffin would have nested in and been protected by the rectangular outer coffin, called a shrine coffin because it resembles the sacred shrine of a god. Both of Pa-debehu-Aset's coffins are decorated with images and symbols of the gods, goddesses, spells and prayers that would guide his soul into the afterlife.

Like all ancient Egyptians, Pa-debehu-Aset believed that the mummy was the eternal dwelling place for the spirits of the deceased. The divine powers of gods and goddesses would protect him during his life and after his death. Because of its human shape, the anthropoid coffin could serve as a substitute body should Pa-debehu-Aset's mummy be destroyed.

[Gallery label text, 2009]