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The Coffin in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptians must have been very happy with the world they lived in. They didn't really want to leave it behind, so their burial customs and beliefs provided means to ensure a comfortable life in eternity.
A coffin was primarily a container for a corpse, to protect it form grave robbers and scavenging animals. But form earliest times, the coffin also had magical powers, powers to protect the deceased and guarantee his well-being in the afterlife.
The coffin was first a house for the deceased, an eternal dwelling. Pictures and hieroglyphic inscriptions painted on later coffins listed foods and other necessities that the deceased would need. The paintings could act as substitutes for the things that were pictured.
Anthropoid coffins, named for their human shape, served as a substitute for the body of the deceased. The spirit could still identify its resting place, even if the real body was destroyed. And later Anthropoid coffins depicted the owner as Osiris, god of the underworld. This gave the deceased an important association with the judge of the dead.
The coffin was practical, but more importantly, it was magical. And coffins dating from different periods in Egypt's history reveal much about the beliefs and lives of the people.
Select an image for more information about coffins in ancient Egypt.

© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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