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Look, think, do: The Coffin set of Nespawershefyt

Description of this object or artwork

This detail is from the wooden anthropoid (human shaped) coffin set of Nespawershefyt which you can explore in the scans below. It is comprised of a mummy board and an inner coffin and an outer coffin. These both had a separate lid and box that would have all fitted together, one inside another. This was the first object acquired into The Fitzwilliam Museum’s ancient Egyptian collections. It was donated by two graduates of the University of Cambridge in 1822. Although we know they collected it whilst travelling, we do not know how they acquired the coffin set.

We know from the hieroglyphic inscriptions on this coffin set that Nespawershefyt was a high ranking official who worked at the temple of Karnak in ancient Thebes. His principal roles were ‘supervisor of craftsmen’s workshops’ in Karnak, and ‘supervisor of scribes’ in the temple of Amun. It is not surprising that someone high ranking within an arts and crafts profession has such a highly decorated coffin set. Presumably he could choose the best craftsmen for the job, and have a say over what would be included. The coffin set is densely decorated with religious scenes, including magical spells from the Book of the Dead. The text describes the types of offerings Nespawershefyt would receive in the afterlife, and spells to assure his safe passage to the netherworld. This panel shows Nespawershefyt kneeling down and offering his heart to be weighed by Anubis, the jackal headed god of mummification.

Since 2014 , The Fitzwilliam Museum has been conducting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research into its collection of more than 200 ancient Egyptian coffins and coffin fragments.You can find out more about Nespawershefyt's coffin set on the Ancient Egyptian Coffins Project website and with the 3D model and video below.

Unknown maker About 1000 BC
Outer coffin length approx 205 cm


This coffin is covered in wonderful pictures of ancient Egyptian gods.

Watch this story of the sun boat (called a solar barque)  

Did you spot the boat? Who is standing in it?  


Nespawershefyt lived in Thebes, modern day Luxor between 990- 940 B.C.

Can you work out how many years ago that was? 

How do you think these wooden coffins survived for so many years without rotting? 


Recent research into how these coffins were made, has helped us to work out what tools the ancient Egyptians may have used.

Have a go at making your own Ancient Egyptian paintbrush with our short how to video. 

Collections record

Collection record: 49036

3d model

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