Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning

Coffins of the late Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC) and Second Intermediate Period

In the Twelfth Dynasty the external faces of coffins were decorated with vertical lines of hieroglyphs in addition to the horizontal text band running along the top. In the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty all sides of the coffin were covered by the palace facade motif; derived from the niched brick facades found in Early Dynastic Egyptian architecture (Tarkhan, Gizeh). The decoration on the inside disappears.

Coffin fragment UC 38035; late Twelfth Dynasty, provenance unknown (click on the image)

picture of a complete coffin of the late Twelfth Dynasty: Rifeh, tomb of the two brothers

In the Twelfth Dynasty the first anthropomorphic (human shaped) coffins appear. They are always part of a set of at least two coffins: an outer box coffin and an inner anthropomorphic coffin.
Coffin found in the tomb of the two Brothers, Rifeh

In the Thirteenth Dynasty and Second Intermediate Period the decoration of the coffins becomes stylized. The palace facade turns into a geometrical pattern.
Coffin board, UC 38036 (Stewart 1986: 3, no. 2, pl.2), Second Intermediate Period or early New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC ), unknown provenance (click on the image)

another example: UC 55168

In the Second Intermediate Period the so-called rishi (Arabic for 'feathered') coffins came into use. The rishi coffins are anthropoid coffins with a feather decoration over the torso, on the lid part. They are no longer part of a coffin set with an outer box coffin.
Rishi coffin found by Petrie at Qurneh


Willems 1988 (the major study on Middle Kingdom coffins)


Copyright © 2001 University College London. All rights reserved.