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Objects from the Kharga Oasis

August 14, 2012–August 4, 2013

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis, Kharga Oasis

During the 1930–31 excavation season, Charles K. Wilkinson and Walter Hauser discovered an untouched tomb with multiple burials. The subterranean burial chamber contained three reused wooden coffins. Unpainted and embellished with moldings, the inner coffin housed the body of a woman wrapped in linen sheets with a crisscross binding. She wore silver earrings and five strings of beads. A folded tunic with blue clavi (stripes) covered her body. Many of the grave goods found in her coffin are on view. Resting on the lid of the coffin were an elderly man and an infant.

The well-wrapped body of a young woman was placed in the second coffin, which was painted with funerary and religious scenes drawn from pharaonic art. A folded tunic with blue stripes rested on her body. The woman wore no jewelry, but her hair was elaborately braided. Beside her left shoulder was the body of her newborn, wrapped with nine necklaces. A basket placed at the woman's head contained an assortment of items, including an iron lock and a coin of Nero mounted as a pendant. A man lay on the lid of the coffin. The outermost coffin, which contained the body of a man, combined a bier painted with pharaonic imagery and a coffin lid. Additionally, a third woman was buried in the floor beneath the coffins.

The reuse of pharaonic-style coffins suggests that the deceased were not Christian. However, the placement of the bodies with the heads pointed westward, as well as the inclusion of infants, is typical of Christian burials. Furthermore, the grave goods do not include typical pharaonic items such as ba (human-headed) birds, and the reuse of pagan coffins by Christians is also attested at Saqqara, in Lower Egypt. If these burials are indeed Christian, they provide further evidence of the use of mummification by some Christians, a practice also attested at a handful of other burials in Egypt and in the archive of mortuary workers from Kysis (modern Dush) in Kharga Oasis.

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis

Bagawat Necropolis, Tomb LXVI from the southwest. Photograph: Egyptian Expedition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis

Bagawat Necropolis, Tomb LXVI showing entrances to two burial chambers. Photograph: Egyptian Expedition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis

Bagawat Necropolis, Tomb LXVI, burial with three coffins. Photograph: Egyptian Expedition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis

Bagawat Necropolis, Tomb LXVI, unwrapped mummy of woman in the innermost coffin; beads are visible around her neck. Photograph: Egyptian Expedition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tomb LXVI, Bagawat Necropolis

Bagawat Necropolis, Tomb LXVI, view into second coffin showing mummies of a young woman and her newborn; basket of grave goods is visible. Photograph: Egyptian Expedition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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