An Egyptian Mourning Ritual from the Cache DB320 in Thebes.

We usually think that there is a strong lack of documents on the subject about mourning in ancient Egypt. But the more we visit museums all over the world, the more examples we find. The point is that we need to look even at the smallest pieces and also watch at them.

In this fragment of a coffin from Thebes the decoration shows a part of the mourning ritual, which was one of the main practices in the funerary ceremony of ancient Egypt.

Fragment of coffin from TT320 (Thebes) showing a part of the mourning ritual in ancient Egypt. Two mourners are bending over the royal mummy. XVII-XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Here we have a piece of a rishi coffin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is small, with incomplete decoration and with no inscriptions, so it could be of no relevance. Probably visitors ignore it, but it is extremely important for our subject about mourning women in ancient Egypt and their mourning ritual in the Egyptian funerary ceremony.

It comes from the debris area in the Royal Cache TT320[1] (also known as DB 320 for being next to Deir el-Bahari temples) and it is dated at the end of the XVII dynasty and the beginning of the XVIII dynasty.

The decoration of this small piece of wooden coffin shows the Egyptian mourning ritual made by five women. Three of them are on the left standing with crossing arms on their chests. On the right side, the mummy is flanked by two other mourning women. Although the whole bodies are incomplete, we can guess from their hips that both are bending over the corpse. The lower part of the mane of hair in the mourner on the left is still visible and from it we could deduce that she would be making the typical Egyptian nwn gesture of shaking the hair forwards. Most probably her fellow on the right was making the same gesture.

Detail of the stele of Abkaou in the Louvre Museum. XI Dynasty. Photo: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Detail of the stele of Abkaou in the Louvre Museum. XI Dynasty. Photo: www.commons.wikimedia.org

This would remind us the scene of the stele of Abkaou in Louvre Museum and dated in the XI dynasty, where the two mourners during the rites of the Osiris festivities are bending and shaking hair towards the mummy. The difference here is that it is royal mummy. In that case it reminds the scene in the funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga, where the two mourners are bended and making the nwn gesture towards the king’s corpse.

Mummy with both mourners on the extreme making the nwn gesture. Funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga. Photos: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Mummy with both mourners on the extreme making the nwn gesture. Funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga. Photos: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

With all these data we could deduce that this small fragment of painted wooden from the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows the two mourners in the role of Isis and Nephtys, so the Drty, performing their ritual mourning and shaking the hair forwards, which was a part of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, over the Pharao’s mummy.

 


[1] The TT 320 was built in XXI dynasty for hiding the mummies of kings, queens, royal relatives and Egyptian noble men; all of them dated from XVII dynasty until XXI dynasty.

 

Advertisements

2 responses to “An Egyptian Mourning Ritual from the Cache DB320 in Thebes.

  1. Very interesting article

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s