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One-Day Conference: The World of the Coffin: Between Craft And Art

Event Info

Host: EES
Type: Education - Lecture

Time and Place

Start Time: Saturday, 12th October 2013, 10:30 am
End Time: Saturday, 12th October 2013, 5:00 pm
Location: Archaeology Lecture Theatre, G.06, UCL
Street: 31-34 Gordon Square
City/Town: London, WC1H 0PY
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Contact Details

Email: contact@ees.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)20 7242 1880


The ancient Egyptian coffin is an iconic image, often used synonymously with the idea of 'Ancient Egypt'. As a finished product, the typology and evolution of coffins has been extensively studied. This conference aims to examine the coffin as a product of art or craft, through examination of coffin production and workshops, as the results of material practice. The cost, material, skills and decoration techniques involved in coffin production can affect the final product at least as much as the ritual concerns of coffin manufacture and design. One of the aims of this conference will be to investigate the role of the artists or the craftspeople inside the chaine-operatoire or circle of crafts in the production of coffins. Who commissioned coffins? Who worked on them? Are they the products of single craftspeople or multiple workers? Did different workers handle different materials and how did these various individuals inter-relate? Was there a specialist role of 'coffin-maker'? Who generated changes in iconography? These questions will be addressed by a panel of experts, and we look forward to welcoming many of you to contribute to this exciting event.

This conference is a collaboration between the EES and University College London.

10.30 Doors open, tea and coffee available
11.00 Dr Marleen de Meyer: Old Kingdom to early Middle Kingdom coffin production: A perspective from Dayr al-Barsha and beyond
11.30 Dr Wolfram Grajetski: The Coffins in the Middle Kingdom as objects of art
12.00 Coffee Break
12.30 Gianluca Miniaci: From the raw material to the consumption: the actors behind the anthropoid coffin production in the Second Intermediate Period
13.00 Lunch (please make your own arrangements)
14.00 Julie Dawson: Coffin construction: A pocket guide
14.30 Anders Bettum: The fragment of Merenptah's calcite coffin in the British Museum (EA 49739) and a reconsideration of the burial assemblage from KV 8
15.00 Coffee Break
15.30 Dr John Taylor: Evidence for workshop production in Theban coffins of the late Third Intermediate Period
16.00 Allison Williams: Late Period Coffins: Hybrid Stylistic Features Due to Craftsmen Migration?
16.30 Discussion
17.00 End


Marleen De Meyer

Abstract: By the Sixth Dynasty coffins had evolved into the standard rectangular box coffins, a type that continued on into the Middle Kingdom. Decorative elements such as the horizontal band of hieroglyphs and the sometimes inlaid udjat eyes, as well as construction elements of this type of coffin, are discussed based on evidence from the site of Dayr al-Barsha.
Speaker: Marleen De Meyer is a postdoctoral researcher at KU Leuven University (Belgium) and co-field director of the Dayr al-Barsha Project.

Wolfram Grajetzki

Abstract: The presentation looks at the development of Middle Kingdom coffins from the 12th to the 13th Dynasty with a special attention to
regional variations and local styles. Middle Kingdom coffins will be explored as a medium for painting.
Speaker: Wolfram Grajetzki (Univesity College London) has written several books and articles on coffins and burial customs.

Gianluca Miniaci:

Abstract: During Second Intermediate Period a new type of coffin developed: it was anthropoid in form, initially decorated with feathers (rishi type) and later with white background. The change from rectangular to anthropoid has been often attributed to ritual reasons, however the role played by material makers (artists and craftsmen) and the resources available at the time has not to be underestimated.
Speaker: Gianluca Miniaci is Marie Curie Research Fellow and lecturer in Egyptology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UCL). In 2011 he published the monograph, Rishi Coffins and the funerary culture of Second Intermediate Period Egypt.

Julie Dawson

Abstract: A discussion of the technology of wooden Egytpian coffins, how technical examination and analysis can reveal this and recent research in the field.
Speaker: Julie Dawson is the senior conservator of the Department of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, where her particular area of interest is the technology, deterioration and conservation of Egyptian coffins.

Anders Bettum

Abstract: It is a well-established theory today that Psusennes I acquired his sarcophagus (Cairo JE 87297) from Merenptah's burial in the Valley of the Kings, where it would have been the innermost one in a nest of three stone sarcophagi, further enclosing a nest of coffins. In my recent reinvestigation of Merenptah's funerary nest, however, I found evidence suggesting that Merenptah was never buried in Cairo JE 87297. Psusennes must have found the sarcophagus elsewhere, and is consequently not responsible for the destruction of the royal burial in KV8.

John Taylor

Abstract: Although coffins from the 22nd-25th Dynasties survive in large numbers, relatively few of them can be precisely dated by inscriptional evidence. However, a close study of their palaeography and the graphic technique of their paintings enables coffins to be grouped according to the craft-teams who decorated them, and also throws light on the range of associated objects (such as shabti boxes and stelae) which were produced in the same workshops.
Speaker: John H Taylor is Assistant Keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum, and specialises in the study of coffins of the post-new Kingdom period.

Allison Williams

Abstract: The anthropoid coffin of the Late Period evolved to resemble a statue and its decorative schemes incorporated the funerary texts that had previously covered tomb walls. These changes were also reflected in the craftsmen workshops throughout Egypt, as the previous period of decentralization had allowed for a free-flow of artisans to blend their regional decorative styles in other locations, suchas the traditional stylistic features of a 'Theban' coffin began to appear in Akhmim and other more northern regions in Egypt.
Speaker: Allison Williams is PhD candidate at the University of Liverpool researching the link between archaism and 25th - 26th Dynasty coffins.

Event Cost (Members) £25.00 tickets
Event Cost (Non-members) £30.00 tickets
Event Cost (Student Members) £20.00 tickets
Event Cost (Student Non-members) £23.00 tickets

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