Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients

The bull coffins of Tell Abû-Yâsîn

Although bull coffins of Tell Abû-Yâsîn were discovered in 1937, they remain for the most part unpublished. They are an unusual ensemble for Ancient Egypt, comprising numerable unique depictions. They were made for the holy animal of the falcon god Homerti of the southeast Nile Delta, who is often portrayed in the imagery.

Contrary to most animal coffins, these ones are fully decorated with reliefs on the inside, not only on the sides but also on the underside of the lid and on the bottom (figs. 3 and 5). The decorated pieces were brought to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo around 1940 (figs. 2, 3 4 5 and 6). The single plain piece stayed in place and can still be viewed there today.

There are three pairs of coffins with matching lids belonging together (for example figs. 2 & 6 and 3 & 5). Seen together, it is possible to get a full impression of the decoration of the complete ensemble. Just the four sides of an intact coffin alone originally would have contained nearly 400 depictions of gods with their captions (figs 9, 10). For example, the sky goddess Nut is portrayed on the coffin lids with the twelve day and night hours and a large number of other various deities besides, amongst depictions of stars and constellations.

This project, supported by the DFG, hopes to have the whole group of coffins examined and published in the next three years, by 2012. These publications will include the transcribed hieroglyphic texts with their translations and commentaries, and computer-generated line drawings of the reliefs.