Outer Coffin of Kharushere

Third Intermediate Period

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 126

The outermost of an unusual and elaborate assemblage, this coffin was excavated by Gaston Maspero in 1885. Inside were the second coffin (86.1.32), innermost coffin (86.1.33), and cartonnage shell (86.1.44) containing the mummy of Kharushere (86.1.35), who held the office of Doorkeeper of the House of Amun. His parents were the Doorkeeper of the House of Amun, Bes, and the Mistress of the House, Chantress of Amun, Tanetheretib.

Made from planks of coniferous wood, this massive coffin was painted black, with only the face, wig, floral collar, straps, and a single line of inscription detailed in white. Such stylistic simplicity indicates that the coffin was an outer container for the burial—the equivalent of a huge stone sarcophagus.

Visible on the inside of the coffin’s base if one looks closely through the glass is a fascinating representation of the goddess Isis as a personified amulet. Her head sits atop a tit-knot, a religious symbol associated with the goddess. Usually red in color, the tit-knot was known as “the blood of Isis” and signified cosmic female sexuality and fertility. It was often associated with the eastern horizon at sunrise, when the sun was a similar hue. Personified symbols in the form of human heads atop a hieroglyph were common in Egyptian religious art. For instance, djed-pillars representing Osiris, the god of the underworld and Isis's husband, are often found inside coffins of this period, including Kharushere's own second coffin.

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