Issue 4, 2017


Sergej V. Ivanov

Greco-Roman Coffins from Deir el-Banat (Fayoum)



Since 2003, the Centre for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been carrying out archaeological excavations at Deir el-Banat (Fayoum). The overall territory of the site is more than 60 ha; it includes three areas: remains of a ‘nunnery’ that functioned until 11th century AD, and two vast necropoli.
The main work of the CES RAS mission is focused on the Southern Necropolis — in 2006–2017, there was excavated the area of c. 1200 m2 and were studied 371 graves. The earliest of the graves are dated to the Late Ptolemaic — Roman Periods. Normally they consist of a rectangular entrance pit oriented along West-East axis, and one to three side niches made along the walls of the pit. Side niches were used as placements for coffins containing mummified bodies. Most of the mummies were furnished with cartonage masks (often gilded), applications and foot-cases.
The subject of this paper is coffins coming from Greco-Roman graves. Most of these coffins are of anthropomorphic shape. Such coffins have two parts: a flat bottom and relatively high cover. Normally they are made of barely fitted wooden planks and covered with a substance consisting of sand and a bounding agent. The coffins have no additional elements attached, except of masks that were made separately and added to the head part of coffins’ covers.
Approximately half of these coffins are undecorated, while the other half are painted from outside. It is possible to define several styles of decoration.
Less popular were coffins of rectangular shape. These ones were made of wood and, more frequently, of reed. Besides, there are cases of burials in coffins made of pottery.

Keywords:
Greco-Roman period, Deir el-Banat, anthropoid coffins, Ancient Egyptian burial customs.

Original language — English.

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