Front side panel of outer coffin of Djehutynakht

Middle Kingdom, late Dyn. 11–early Dyn. 12
2010–1961 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Deir el-Bersha, Tomb 10, shaft A (Djehutynakht)


Height x width: 115 x 263 cm (45 1/4 x 103 9/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)


The Ancient World


Coffins and sarcophagi

The outer coffin of the local governor Djehutynakht of Deir el-Bersha is perhaps the finest Middle Kingdom coffin in existence. Like the second coffin that once nested inside it, the rectangular outer coffin was made of massive planks of imported cedar, pegged together and decorated on both its inner and outer faces. The paintings and inscribed funerary texts were intended to facilitate Djehutynakht’s passage to the afterlife and to sustain his ka in eternity.

While coffins of later periods would feature elaborate exterior decoration, those of the early Middle Kingdom were relatively plain on the outside, but beautifully embellished inside, where the offering scenes often parallel those seen in painted tombs. The paintings on the interior of Djehutynakht’s coffin are masterpieces, exquisitely detailed in thick, vividly colored paint. The artist’s painstaking brush strokes and eloquent use of shading produced a level of realism rarely surpassed in Egyptian art. The primary scene is on the left side of the coffin at the location where Djehutynakht’s head once faced. The focal point is an intricately decorated false door through which the ka could pass between the afterlife and the world of the living. Djehutynakht sits in front of the false door and receives an offering of incense. Before and beneath him is a vast wealth of neatly piled offerings, including an oversized ceremonial wine jar, sacred oils, the legs and heads of spotted cattle, tables laden with fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, and magnificently detailed geese. The two rows of large painted hieroglyphs above the scene contain a funerary prayer requesting offerings from the king and the funerary god Osiris on festival days. At the far right is the beginning of a menu giving a full list of desired offerings. Inscribed below in neat columns of tiny, cursive hieroglyphs are the Coffin Texts, a collection of funerary rituals and spells intended to protect and guide the dead on their way to the afterlife. These texts continue around the coffin’s interior.


From Egypt, Deir el-Bersha, Tomb 10, pit A. May 1915: Excavated by the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; assigned to the MFA in the division of finds by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: March 1, 1920)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition