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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.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment, animal remains, linen
  • Reportedly From: Saqqara, Egypt
  • DATES 664-332 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 26, or later
    PERIOD Late Period, or later
    DIMENSIONS 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)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 37.1362Ea-c
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION 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.
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