Model coffin lid

Accession Number
Current Location
House of Death (ground floor), Offerings case
Object Types
Model | Tomb equipment, Coffin/sarcophagus/cartonnage, Coffin/sarcophagus lid
Middle Kingdom to Second Intermediate Period
Egypt, Esna
Height: 62mm | Width: 288mm | Depth: 92mm
Number of Elements

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A miniature pottery coffin lid covered with a thin white wash. The shape suggests this is in imitation of a vaulted coffin. The excavation number 135E, suggests this may come from Esna, where pottery coffins were found (Downes 1974, 93). Similar examples from Esna had a thin white wash and some bore offering formulae. This example probably dates from the Middle Kingdom to the Second Intermediate Period. These models are found in burials, one to a burial and contain models of the deceased made of wax, clay, or wood wrapped in bandages. These have been seen as precursors to shabtis. The earliest, of the Eleventh Dynasty, are without inscriptions and may not have performed a worker role but rather might be intended to replace the body of the deceased if it should decay (examples include Munich ÄS 6085 and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 37.550a-c). The fact that these early examples are made of beeswax may be significant in that beeswax had a magical role (Raven 1993; Manzano 2001, 514–517). Later Middle Kingdom examples do have inscriptions and appear more like later shabtis in form. Model coffins with shabtis are often votive, being left by relatives, or maybe even the living person themselves, by sites of special significance for rebirth. For example, a wooden model coffin was found of King’s Son, Wahneferhotep by the causeway of the pyramid complex of Senwosret I (Metropolitan Museum of Art 14.3.69a and b and 14.3.70; Oppenheim et al. 2015, 237).


Downes, D. 1974. The Excavations at Esna 1905–1906. Aris and Phillips. Manzano, L.B. 2001. Bees and flowers in ancient Egypt. A Symbiotic relationship with the mythopoeic concept of light. In Aufrère, S. (ed.) Encyclopédie Religiese de l’Univers Vegetal. Croyances Phytoreligieuses de l’Égypte Ancienne. Montpellier, 493–519. Oppenheim, A., Arnold, D., Arnold D. and Yamamoto, K. 2015. (eds.) Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York. Raven, M.J. 1983. Wax in Egyptian magic and symbolism. Oudheidkundige Mededeelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te. Leiden, 64: 7–47.

Wellcome Number
Other Identity
135E (excavation number in black ink written on one short end | 1301 (written in red ink on one short end)
J. C. Stevens. Auction and Sale Rooms: 23 Nov 1920, Lot 387
Auction Details
Early Egyptian pottery, head rest in limestone and other specimens.
Previous Owner
Sir Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853–1936)
Excavation Details

Excavated by John Garstang within tomb 135 at Esna in 1906.

Long-term loan, The Wellcome Trust (15 Feb 1971)
Last modified: 23 Oct 2022

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