From Gamhoud to the World (Conclusion)

I underestimated the length of Kamal’s article when I started translating it. However, if you managed to soldier through it, you probably had a few questions. Here were some that I’ll be pursuing:

Gamhoud coffins in Budapest, by Heidi Konkanten

Gamhoud coffins in Budapest, by Heidi Konkanten

  • What does the fish above the mummy on one of the coffins signify? Is Kamal correct in thinking that it’s a reference to the myth where Osiris’ phallus is eaten by an Oxyrhhinchus fish?
  • Did they have mulberry, peppermint, and myrtle in Ancient Egypt? What species were they?
  • Why would a sieve be placed in a burial?
  • Who is the God Af? Is this an outdated term?
  • Kamal says the goddess on the breast/belly of each coffin is Neith, but in one case it’s Nut. Is it really consistent? Is it ever Neith?
  • Where are the Gamhoud coffins and other artifacts today?

Thanks to recent scholarship, we can partially answer the last question. We know a lot about two of the coffins that went to Krakow, and several of the pieces that went to Budapest. Of the majority of the coffins, which stayed in Cairo, there has not, to my knowledge, been much published. I admit to not having looked very hard for publications on the coffins in Vienna. If anyone has any info on publication of Gamhoud coffins/artifacts from either of these places, let me know.

The Coffins that Went to Krakow

  • Szymańska, Hana and Krzysztof, Babraj (Eds.) Mummy: Results of the Interdisciplinary Examination of the Egyptian Mummy of Aset-iri-Khet-es from the Archaeological Museum in Krakow. Krakow: Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2001.
  • The "tasteful" coloring on the coffin of Aset-iri-khet-es. Photo by Kea Johnston

    Tasteful color choice on the coffin of Aset-iri-khet-es. Photo by Kea Johnston

    Though the coffin of Aset-iri-khet-es wasn’t mentioned in Kamal’s report, it was one of the coffins that was given to Krakow as part of the division of finds from the excavation. Aset-iri’s mummy was in poor condition, and had to be removed from the coffin in order to conserve the coffin. After much debate, it was decided to unwrap the mummy in order to rewrap her in new bandages and place her in her restored coffin. (Szymanska 2001, 20) This report meticulously details the unwrapping of Aset-iri’s mummy and the restoration of her coffin. The construction of the coffin is covered, as are a medical examination of the priestess’ mummy. A chapter is devoted to the unusual linen and wood amulets placed within the wrappings, and even to the insects found in the bandages. This book is everything a publication of a funerary assemblage ought to be, and I think Aset-iri-khet-es herself would enjoy it.

  • Szymańska, Hana and Krzysztof Babraj. The Gods of Ancient Egypt. Krakow: Archaeological Museum in Krakow. 2000.

    This museum catalog goes with the exhibition of the same name at the Archaeological

    2013-05-16 06.36.37

    Kamal does not note the beautiful paintings of Isis/the Lady of the West which adorn the bottoms of some of these coffins, like that of Aset-iri-khet-es. Photo by Kea Johnston.

    Museum Krakow. It provides beautiful color pictures of the Aset-iri-khet-es’ coffin and cartonnage as well as pictures of a second of the three coffins from Gamhoud that went to Krakow. The book also features some coffins that the authors suspect originate from the nearby site of el-Hiba.

  • imaginelabs. wmm_mak_as_2438. Sketchfab. Online, Accessed 12/10/2015

    3d Model of Aset-iri-khet-es’ mummy, coffin and cartonnage. I wish the textures had a slightly higher resolution, but you can zoom and pan and adjust the lights.

  • Johnston, Kea. Krakow Museum of Archaeology. Flickr. Online, Accessed 12/10/2015
    One of the coffins from Gamhoud that was not published in "The Gods of Ancient Egypt"? Picture by Kea Johnston

    One of the coffins from Gamhoud that was not published in “The Gods of Ancient Egypt”? Picture by Kea Johnston

    Yes, I’m going to plug my own flickr feed here. Shameless.  I think I might have a picture of the third coffin–the one that’s not in the museum catalog.  I also have a lot of pictures of the Hibeh coffins, Aset-iri-khet-es and the anonymous coffin that is in the museum catalog.


  • Vörös, Gyõzõ. Sharuna-Gamhud. Budapest: Egypt Excavation Society of Hungary.2008.

    This book is mostly about Fulöp Back, the expedition’s sponsor, and his family. It covers the excavations in Sharuna in more detail than it does the finds at Gamhud because the author is interested in ancient Egyptian architecture and Smolenski found remnants of a Ptolemaic Temple at Sharuna. However, it does have colored pictures of some of the small items from the Gamhud excavation that remained in Back’s private collection–a rolled-up papyrus, a mummy mask and a canopic jar are among these.  Aside from the coffins that went to the aforementioned museums, several made their

    way into private hands via Back himself, and are today either in private collections or in a handful of smaller central European museums. One was sold by the Cairo museum and is now in the Burgdorf Ethnographic Museum in Switzerland (p 132).

  • Györy, Hedvig. The Story of the Gamhud Excavations. in  Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. Ed. Jean-Paul Goyon and Christine Cardin. Vol. 1. OLA:150.  Dudley, MA: Uitgeverij Peeters. 2007., p 907-917.

    This article describes some of the coffins in Budapest (though it mentions that Budapest received many other items from the site as well), attempting to categorize them by Kamal’s system (the three types listed at the beginning of part two of this series), with limited success. Györy tries to track down the other coffins in the group,

    Detail from a coffin in Budapest. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen.

    Detail from a coffin in Budapest. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen.

    giving the interesting detail that one of the coffins that went into a private collection is now also in the care of the Polish Academy of Sciences (p 909, citing Sílwa). She works with the Cairo museum to rediscover the coffins from the excavation which were not recorded as having come from Gamhoud. She adds that the site was excavated again in a Survey of Middle Egypt done by Tübingen University (Not published). The results from this excavation are apparently in the Ashmunein Magazine (p 216).  It was again surveyed by the Egyptian government in the late eighties, which found that due to the rising water tables, the ancient tombs had collapsed and anything that remained had been destroyed (p 217).  The site is now under cultivation.

  • Györy, Hedvig. Antiquities from Gamhud. KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt Vol. 9 No. 1. 1996. p 27-30.

    Short article about an exhibition of the Gamhoud coffins at the National Museum, Budapest. The information it contains is all in the previous source, but the pictures are in color. There is also a color picture of the qsr.t style box-coffin in the collection, a type which was not mentioned by Kamal, but of which there are several partial examples in Budapest. (Györy, 2007: 914)

  • Kontkanen, Heidi. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Flickr. Online, Accessed 12/13/2015.
    Another coffin from Gamhoud in Budapest. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen.

    Another coffin from Gamhoud in Budapest. Photo by Heidi Kontkanen.

    Kontkanen has some excellent pictures of Egyptian collections around the world. Her pictures from Budapest focuses heavily on the Gamhoud coffins and show many details that can’t be appreciated by simply reading Kamal.


  • Schreiber, Gábor. The Burial Ensemble of Tasenet from Gamhud and the Ptolemaic Coffin Style in Northern Middle Egypt. in “Art and Society: Ancient and Modern Contexts of Egyptian Art” ed. Katalin Kóthay. Budapest: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 2012. p 257-263.

    A publication of the coffin of Tasenet in Cairo, which was found by Kamal at Gamhoud. Gives a new translation of the texts–Shreiber notes that the cartonnage of  Tasenet features a rare prayer to Isis and speculates that this may be the result of contact between Greek and Egyptian cultures in Northern Middle Egypt, as the Greeks particularly identified with Isis.

  • Kóthay, Katalin. The Gamhud Artisans. in “Art and Society: Ancient and Modern Contexts of Egyptian Art” ed. Katalin Kóthay. Budapest: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 2012. p 235-257.

    I haven’t read this one yet because I just found it while perusing the table of contents for the previous collection.

…and if I continue to read every new thing I find as a prerequisite to clicking “publish” on this article, it will never go out the door. So, the Perfect being the enemy of the Good, I’m going to call it here and go have lunch.



Posted in Excavations of the Past, Gamhoud, General, Ptolemaic Coffins | Leave a comment

Excavations at Gamhoud, Part II

The following is the second part of a translation of Fouilles à Gamhoud by Ahmed bey Kamal:1) Kamal, A. “Fouilles à Gamhoud”. Annales du Service des Antiquitiés de l’Egypte. 9:1 (1908): 8-30. Online.

I: Coffins

The number of coffins collected in the Necropolis of Gamhoud has grown to seventy, of which forty-seven were found by Mr. Smolenski, and twenty-three by myself. They are in sycamore wood or mulberry 2) I’m not sure they have mulberry in Egypt. I wonder if he’s talking about Tamarisk? , and can be classified in three different categories:

  1. The coffins imitating coffins in stone from the same time period. These are, for the most part, enormous, and some of them are composed of two boxes encased one inside the other. The boards are of a variable thickness between 8 cm and 9 cm.  This category of coffins bears a simple or striped mask, rarely adorned with a scarab. The face is gold and the writing is fairly careful.
  2. Coarse coffins made to imitate those of the New Kingdom. They are of a round shape and slightly flat above the legs in the area meant to bear the funerary inscriptions. The boards in them are thin.
  3. Coffins of ordinary workmanship which are made of thin boards and are sometimes simple and sometimes rich in their polychrome painting.

All these coffins are stuccoed in the following manner: First, a the exterior of the coffin is passed over with a layer of sand mixed with liquid gum, and then, a second layer with Spanish white, also mixed with gum. On this last layer, different scenes are traced which form the decoration of the coffin. Then, the details are brought out with colors. The drawing and coloring are very sloppily executed in different colors: white, red, yellow, black, and green. The colors are applied with taste but without care. As for the writing, it is often poorly written and consists of summary legends which boil down to the ordinary offering formulae, often faulty, and which only very rarely give the name of the deceased. It is for this reason that I believed it useless to give here all the legends written on the coffins found by Mr. Smolenski or myself, because several examples will suffice for the reader.

Continue reading

References   [ + ]

1. Kamal, A. “Fouilles à Gamhoud”. Annales du Service des Antiquitiés de l’Egypte. 9:1 (1908): 8-30. Online.
2. I’m not sure they have mulberry in Egypt. I wonder if he’s talking about Tamarisk?
Posted in Excavations of the Past, Gamhoud, Ptolemaic Coffins | Leave a comment

Excavations at Gamhoud, Part I

Excavations at Gamhoud

Kamal, A. “Fouilles à Gamhoud”. Annales du Service des Antiquitiés de l’Egypte. 9:1 (1908): 8-30. Online.

Ahmed bey Kamal, translated from French by K M Johnston.

We know that almost all the museums of Europe have undertaken, for several years, to commission excavations on Egyptian territory. The Museum of Budapest, until now, has neglected to take part in this scientific work, but a Hungarian, Mr. Phillip Back, desirous to render service to both science and his country, wanted very much to dedicate, as had been done by other patrons, several hundreds of Livres to such an excavation. The results of these researches should form the nucleus  of a collection of Egyptian antiquities destined for the Museum of Budapest. His demand, addressed to the director General of the Museum at Cairo, Mr. Maspero, was favorably received, and Sharouna was designated as a field for Excavation. Mr. Smolenski, a Polish Egyptologist, was then charged with directing the work in the aforementioned locality, and assembling a detailed report for the Annales du Service. From Sharouna, he would then move his worksite to the Libyan desert, across from Gamhoud, for reasons that will soon be revealed. Continue reading

Posted in 30th Dynasty Coffins, Excavations of the Past, Gamhoud | Leave a comment

Return to Gamhoud

A few of you who know me know that I am a graduate student, and my foreign language exam for my Master’s degree is quickly approaching. In order to practice my French, I’ve decided to revisit an article that I summarized when I first started this blog, having hashed out the basic skeleton of the narrative using my rudimentary French and Google Translate. The French is a lot better now (though if you find mistakes, feel free to drop me a note—unless you are a spambot, then, please do not).

This article is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s an account of an excavation in Middle Egypt that yielded a lot of Ptolemaic period coffins. This makes it intrinsically interesting to me.  On one hand, it provides a provenance for several coffins, mummies, and masks that are now in museum collections in Budapest, Krakow, and Cairo. Provenance is a rare thing when we are talking about items extracted from the ground around the turn of the century.
On the other hand, the article serves as a harsh reminder of what was until the fairly recent past, the standard in archaeology.  Continue reading

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Mummies and Coffins in US Regional Museums (Pinterest Board)

One of my interests in the last few years has been locating regional museums in the United States that have Egyptian collections. It has become sort of a game. If I get an unexpected layover somewhere (which I always do because I have the worst luck in flying), I see if they have any local museums with Egyptian objects. Mostly I do this through google and Flickr, though sometimes old newspaper clippings are also helpful.

It seems like every nouveau riche of the gilded age wanted an Egyptian artifact to show off to his friends, and the local library, historical society, or museum was often the ultimate benefactor. Also, as I noted in the post about the Scripps Museum in San Diego, small museums often supported organizations like the EES. In the 19th and early 20th Century, Egypt divided finds with excavating organizations, so a lot of the finds from the EES digs were distributed to the donors and wound up in small collections.

Very few of these objects have been formally published, and because of this, their existence isn’t widely known. For this reason, I’ve started a Pintrest board of Egyptian mummies and coffins in US regional museums. These are the ones I want to see but haven’t seen yet (unless the picture on the map is credited to meechmunchie, my Flickr alter-ego).  Eventually I’d like to have all of them on the list.

But wait, you say! Isn’t Pinterest for looking at wedding cakes and tutorials for  overly precious craft projects? Well, yes it is. However, they have a feature that allows me to build a map with pictures of things in different locations, and it’s surprisingly fun to use.

Follow Rokujo’s board Rokujolady’s Coffins and Mummies of the US Tour on Pinterest.

Posted in 21st Dynasty, 30th Dynasty Coffins, Excavations of the Past, General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Still Alive (News, and maintenance)

It has been forever since I updated this blog, and many things have changed in my world. I am no longer a software engineer with Egyptological dreams, I’m now an Egyptology graduate student who sometimes codes. In the future, my goal is  that “sometimes coding” will involve actually learning how to use WordPress to make this page a little less generic.

Mourning Isis, from the foot of the coffin of Nauny, MMA  30.3.23a

Mourning Isis, from the foot of the coffin of Nauny, MMA 30.3.23a

If you follow the page at all, you may have noticed that I have removed the old mediawiki page.  I backed up all of the content, and I hope to recycle some of it into blog posts, my hope being that presenting it in a less encyclopaedic format will be of interest to more readers. There was some really nice information up there, so I’m not going to waste it.

Finally, if you have posted in the comments, and are not a  Spambot, I apologize for not having approved your comment. At this point, there are so many spam comments in the backlog that I will probably have to just delete all of them unless I can find a spam solution that will filter out all the spam I’ve already gotten.  I suppose I should be proud that my page attracts such a large and diverse group of spambots, from all over the world.


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Provenance Seeks Mummy-Case

What does Mr Robert Nagengast have to do to send you home with this nearly flawless Ptolemaic or late-period mummy-case? He says he has to ask his manager, but he thinks he can even throw in a 1991 mauve Pontiac Bonneville in almost-working condition!

Robert Nagengast sells a mummy at his gallery. 1965.

“What Every Home Needs–A Mummy”

This is a press photo with a slug on the back with the title “What Every Home Needs–A Mummy” . It’s from the Baltimore Sun, and stamped with the date Dec 8, 1965, which I assume is close to the time the associated story ran if it ever did.  (Online archives of the Sun only go back to 1990.) A stamp on the back gives the photographer as Ralph Robinson. Unfortunately, the identity of the editor who saw fit to “enhance” Mr. Nagengast’s eyebrows and mustache with a black marker is unknown.


See? People were ‘shopping things before they had ‘shop.

In seriousness, though, the slug on the back reveals that Mr. Nagengast worked for Windsor Galleries on 1913 North Charles Street in Baltimore. He said in the article that his shop would be hosting the mummy-case for a couple of months before putting it on sale.

Mr. Nagengast apparently obtained the mummy from a private collection about which no further details are given. The article states that the mummy case is from the 4th -6th century, and I assume the author means “BC”, and 400-600 BCE seems a reasonable guess (for once). Note to self: Do more research on this style of mummy-case. The slug also points out that the mummy is not inside.

So where is Mr. Nagengast’s mummy case now? I’ve got no idea. It seems Windsor Galleries is long gone–gone enough not to leave a trace on Google. Google Maps shows an empty lot and an abandoned gas station at 1913 Charles in Baltimore.

Part of my reason for posting it is on the pie-in-the-sky hope that someone might see it and say “Hey, that looks like the mummy in the museum in my hometown!” I hope it’s still around, and maybe its current curators did not know about its stint in Mr. Nagengast’s gallery.  My other reason for posting this is that I think often we disregard the modern history of ancient artifacts–and this is an aspect of their history that I find fascinating.  If the famous Nefertiti bust could talk, her tales of the 20th century Germany would be at least as riveting as her stories of Akhetaten. Whether we like journey these objects have taken or not, whether it’s ethical or legal or even morally right, the journey is interesting. In the case of this somewhat portly businessman with his extra-dark ‘stache, hawking his mummy-case, it’s slightly humorous.

Text of the slug on the back:

What Every Home Needs--A Mummy
It may not be the latest in living room furniture, but for historians and Robert Nagengast, of 
the Windsor Galleries, it's a find. Specifically, it is an Egyptian mummy case (minus the 
mummy) dating back to the Fourth to Sixth Century. Mr. Nagengast obtained it from a pri-
vate collection. He said it will be on display at 19(?)13 North Charles street for several months be-
fore it goes on sale.
Posted in Antiquities Market, Ptolemaic Coffins, Uncategorized, Vintage Images | Tagged | Leave a comment

Stumbling Upon Mentuhotep, Overseer of the Granaries

“Huh. That looks familiar”

A offering by the king of a thousand in bread, beer, cattle, and fowl for the ka of the Overseer of the Granary of the God’s Offerings(?) Mentuhotep.

I often think this about seeing artifacts in older publications–like I might have seen them before in a small museum, unlabeled, or labeled “unprovenanced.”  For example, I was pretty convinced that one of the coffins in Eva Liptay’s book on Third Intermediate Period Coffins in Prague was almost identical to the Stanford one. I was thinking that maybe they were part of a set.  On looking carefully, I noticed that they were really different….so when I get that deja-vu feeling, I usually dismiss it as my mind playing tricks on me.

Not today! I’ve got this one nailed! Continue reading

Posted in Abydos, Amarna, California, Excavations of the Past, Middle Kingdom, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A “Remuddled” Yellow Coffin At Stanford University

At some point in the last decade of the 19th century a Doctor R H Plummer, Professor of Anatomy at the oldest medical college in the Western United States,  traveled to Egypt and bought himself a mummy case along with its occupant. When he returned home to San

The Case of Dr. Plummer’s Mummy

Francisco, Dr Plummer gave the coffin to the museum of his university, the Cooper Medical College. He mentioned  having recently acquired his donation from Thebes in a commencement speech he gave to the class of 1891. (Plummer,1892, 5)  The mummy “lived” through the great quake of 1906 and when the college was merged with Stanford University in 1912, it went to Stanford.

The coffin strikes any viewer who has seen several of this type of coffin as looking very odd, and the placard at the Cantor Museum explains why:  over eighty percent of the lid was estimated by the conservators to have been repainted in modern times. This “remuddling” is said to have been to make the decor more appealing to modern tastes, but the rationale for this isn’t explained.  I am curious as to who the owner was, and what the original looked like.  In order to make a guess as to its original appearance, we need to look at the style of the coffin and exactly what was repainted and recarved in modern times.

Continue reading

Posted in 21st Dynasty, California, Third Intermediate Period Coffin | 4 Comments

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: A Hieratic Scrawl on the Ka Nefer Nefer Mask

I recently found this picture from a 1952 article in the Illustrated London News. There’s a two page spread on the discovery of the Tomb of Sekhemkhet by M. Zakaria Goneim, and a picture of one of my favorite funerary ensembles, that of Lady Ka Nefer Nefer!

This picture really illustrates something I’ve brought up on the wiki, and something that I’ve seen mentioned once in the literature, though I can’t remember where.

In the 1952 picture, Ka Nefer Nefer’s mask has something scrawled on the hand. On the following picture taken by myself at the Saint Louis Art Museum, circa 2010, it does not. You can see that the inscription has been rubbed out.

 In Goneim’s official publication of the excavation, he translates the hieratic inscription on the hand as “Neferu”. Goneim thought that Neferu was the lady’s nickname, and his transcription of the name into hieroglyphs is shown at left. (Goneim, 1957, pp27)


The shabtis bear her full name, Ka Nefer Nefer, and the amulets are inscribed for Neferu. This hieratic scrawl on the hand was the only place where the mask itself was inscribed for her.

…and now it’s gone.


“The Discovery of a New Step Pyramid: A Third Dynasty Find at Sakkara.” The Illustrated London News 7 June 1952: 980-81. Print.
Goneim, M. Zakaria, Service des Antiquites de L’Egypte. Horus Sekhem-khet – The Unfinished Step Pyramid At Saqqara, Volume 1. Excavations at Saqqara. Imprimerie de L’Institut Francais D’Archeologie Orientale. Cairo. 1957. pp 25,26 pp 113,115, Plates LXVII-A, LXVIII


Posted in Antiquities Market, Excavations of the Past, New Kingdom Coffins, Vintage Images | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments