The discovery of a 3,800 year old coffin

During the German Archaeological Institute’s campaign in upper Egyptian Thebes/Luxor in the autumn of 2004, two richly decorated and nearly undamaged wooden coffins were discovered in a shaft complex of the necropolis of Dra‘ Abu el-Naga in western Thebes.

The coffin ensemble was still standing in the exact position where it had been placed during the burial almost 3,800 years previously. The burial chamber is only marginally larger than the exterior coffin and is the reason why an attempt by tomb robbers to remove the coffins from the chamber failed. The thieves, therefore, made a hole in the foot panel of the exterior coffin, removed the foot panel of the interior coffin, and through these openings, removed the mummy of the person buried here and presumably numerous other objects of the original burial goods as well.
The ca. 250 cm long, 101 cm wide, and 105 cm high box-shaped exterior coffin bears a horizontal line of hieroglyphs around the outside. The inscriptions of these so-called offering formulas include several mentions of the title and name of the owner, who was a high official, a judge named Imeni. The wooden coffin inside the exterior one is also box-shaped and is decorated with bands of inscription only on the exterior. These inscriptions name not, as expected, the name and title of Imeni, but those of “his beloved wife, the lady Geheset”.

An initial interpretation of this unusual finding is given by two vertical inscriptions at the head and foot ends of Imeni’s coffin, which were certainly applied significantly later than the other coffin decorations. Here, the word Geheset is mentioned again. The inscriptions explicitly indicate that Imeni gave this coffin, originally made for him, to his “beloved wife Geheset”. This inscription allows a reconstruction of the unusual procedures: the large coffin was made for judge Imeni’s burial during his lifetime, but certainly never used. Instead, the coffin was “rededicated” to Geheset. Geheset was then buried in both coffins.
As the anthropological examinations of the human remains of the person once buried in the inner coffin have shown, Geheset was a well-situated lady, probably of African origin, whose skeleton showed a series of highly remarkable pathological findings.
A further remarkable feature about the discovery of the coffins of Imeni and Geheset arises from another aspect. From the pottery found, the burial of Geheset can be dated to the first half of the 13th dynasty (ca. 1795-1720 BC) a period for which there is only sparse evidence in Upper Egypt. With one exception, coffin ensembles of this kind, especially found in situ, were previously unknown from the Theban necropolis.

Read more about this remarkable find at…/ind…/efb/article/view/2145