Shrew Coffin with Mummy
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Shrews and ichneumons both prey on snakes and therefore won the Egyptians’ admiration and worship. Though snakes could turn their powers to protecting kings and queens, serpents also threatened the sun god Re on his journey through the next world. Egyptian religion made room for both the positive and negative aspects of certain animals.
The shrew mummy bundle shows that more than one animal was sometimes included in one package.
Wood, pigment, animal remains, linen
Dynasty 26, or later
Late Period, or later
37.1362Ea (Coffin): 3 1/16 x 2 13/16 x 6 13/16 in. (7.7 x 7.1 x 17.3 cm)
37.1362Eb (Panel): 3 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 11/16 in. (8.9 x 39.4 x 1.8 cm)
37.1362Ec (Mummy): 1 x 1 x 4 13/16 in. (2.6 x 2.6 x 12.3 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
One wooden coffin for a shrew mouse. The coffin (37.1362Ea) is roughly rectangular in shape with a sliding wooden panel on the side (37.1362Eb), which opens to allow access to the interior. Atop the coffin a representation of a shrew mouse had been carved. This is one piece with the coffin. Eyes, ears, feet, and tail as well as the snout are realistically rendered. The coffin was painted in a very colorful manner. The sliding panel being decorated with three circles. The end panels are painted with a lotus blossom and are circle design like that of the panel, respectively. A red border has been painted around the top side. The colors employed are red, black, and white. No gesso was used. A mummy is contained within (37.1362Ec).
Condition: The paint is slowly disappearing. Much is lost from the sliding panel and the end panels, especially that bearing the circle motif. The other end panel had fared better. Some superficial cracks exist.
This item is not on view
Shrew Coffin with Mummy, 664-332 B.C.E. Wood, pigment, animal remains, linen, 37.1362Ea (Coffin): 3 1/16 x 2 13/16 x 6 13/16 in. (7.7 x 7.1 x 17.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1362Ea-c. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum (Gavin Ashworth,er), 37.1362Ea-b_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg)
overall, 37.1362Ea-b_Gavin_Ashworth_photograph.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph (Gavin Ashworth, photographer), 2012
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What Egyptian god is the shrew is supposed to be associated with?
Shrews were used to stand in for the ichneumon, the African mongoose. The ichneumon was associated with Horus and the god Atum, and was worshipped for it's ability to see in the dark and ability to kill snakes.
You might have seen a small statue of a king and (much larger) Ichneumon elsewhere in the exhibition!
Interesting! I knew the ichneumon was variously worshipped, also as the goddess Mafdet, but I didn't know the shrew could be a possible stand-in for it.
Isn't it fascinating?
It really is!
Tell me more.
This is a wooden coffin with a shrew figurine on top. Shrews
were associated with the sun god. Because of their night vision and talent at killing snakes , they aided the sun god in his battle against the evil serpent Apep, who threatened to throw the world into disorder.