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A project of the American Research Center in Egypt

Funerary Equipment

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King Tutankhamen's funerary equipment surmounted by the wooden day-bed, no.377.
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The types of funerary equipment Egyptians put into their tombs had become standardized long before the New Kingdom, according to texts, images, and archaeological data. Based on the rank and economic means of the individual, provisions for a proper burial included a secure container for the mummified remains, food offerings, protective figures and objects, servant statues (shabtis), furniture, tools, weapons, and clothing. In addition to being emblems of status and for symbolic use in the afterlife, some also were meant to aid in resurrection and to offer protection.


The mummified remains of Egypt's elite were enclosed in a nested set of coffins placed in a Sarcophagus, usually a stone box covered with a lid. In Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom royal and private burials, sarcophagi and coffins were rectangular. Images of gates were carved on the sides and ends, and the top of the cover was vaulted, so that it resembled an idealized house or palace.

In the New Kingdom, from the reign of Hatshepsut onwards, royal mummies were placed in stone sarcophagi. The stone used through the reign of Thutmes IV was quartzite, a metamorphic form of sandstone. From Amenhetep III onwards, royal sarcophagi generally were carved from red Aswan granite.

The sarcophagi of the Dynasty 18 kings, through the reign of Amenhetep III, were cartouche-shaped in plan, with representations of Anubis and the four sons of Horus on the sides, Isis and Nephthys on the foot and head ends, and Nut on the lid. Royal sarcophagi from the Amarna period to the end of the dynasty revert to the rectangular shape with figures of protective goddesses sculpted on the corners.

Serqet, Duamutef, Anubis and Imsety, Nephthys, Isis (lid placed in the reverse of its original position).

In Dynasty 19, following the return to the cartouche-shaped sarcophagus under Rameses I, royal burials adopted different sarcophagus forms. Both Sety I and Rameses II used Egyptian alabaster mummiform sarcophagi, inscribed with texts and scenes from the Imydwat and the Book of Gates. Merenptah's group of four sarcophagi incorporated the shrine shapes of the past and even a cartouche-shape, combined with a mummiform effigy on two of the lids. They use extracts from the Imydwat and the Book of Gates for the decorative program. The combination of cartouche-shaped box with effigy sculpted on the lid continued through the reign of Rameses IV

Sculpted figure of Merenptah on cartouche-shaped lid surrounded by protective mehen serpent and covered with texts and figures of king and gods.

Beginning with the sarcophagus of Siptah, the form and decorative program became more standardized. The cartouche-shape is consistently used. The effigy on the lid is shown flanked by figures of Isis and Nephthys, with a serpent and a crocodile to the left and right of the legs of the king.

With Siptah, the decoration of the exterior of the sarcophagus adopts a new theme, a composition that has not survived on previous tomb walls, although certain figures from it do appear later in KV 1, KV 6 and KV 9 with excerpts from the Book of the Earth.

Effigy of Siptah as Osiris; kheker frieze alternating with Anubis jackals; Book of the Earth.

After Rameses VI, stone sarcophagi were not used to hold the coffins. Instead, the coffins were placed in a pit in the floor of the burial chamber. This feature already had appeared in KV 9, although it was used there only as an emplacement for the outer sarcophagus

Burial chamber J with pit in floor.


Very little remains of the coffins provided for New Kingdom royal burials, as these were largely damaged or destroyed by tomb robbers. Most of the coffins used for the reburial of royal mummies in the Third Intermediate Period were reused non-royal coffins. Aside from the set provided for the burial of Tutankhamen, only the coffins containing Thutmes I, Thutmes III, the occupant of KV 55, Sety I, Setnakht and Rameses III are part of their original burial equipment. The Coffin containing the mummy of Rameses II was not made for him originally, but based on artistic considerations appears to be a royal coffin of late Dynasty 18, perhaps for Ay or Horemheb, or even Rameses I, based on artistic considerations.

Royal coffins are all mummiform, and the decoration often includes a Rishi or feather pattern (both body feathers and wings). Specifically, royal costume includes the striped Nemes headdress, Uraeus on the brow, and the so-called crook and flail scepters held in the hands. Some burials had more than one coffin, nested one inside the other. Two well-preserved sets of coffins of Yuya and Thuyu, both non-royal individuals, were found in KV 42.

Second coffin of Yuya.

Canopic Equipment

The practice of removing and separately mummifying certain internal organs (liver, lungs, stomach, intestines) made it necessary to provide containers for them outside the coffin.  These are called canopic jars because later Greek travelers thought the deities carved on their lids were worshipped particularly in the Egyptian city of Canopus. The four organs and their containers were under the protection of the Four Sons of Horus, each responsible for a particular organ: Imsety for the liver, Hapy for the lungs, Duamutef for the stomach, and Qebehsenuef for the intestines.

Susan Weeks and Kent Weeks examining canopic jars.

For the New Kingdom kings, a stone shrine-shaped box with four compartments, called a Canopic chest, was provided. Quartzite, the same material used for the early New Kingdom royal sarcophagi, was also used for the canopic chests of Hatshepsut, Thutmes I and Thutmes III, but beginning with the burial of Amenhetep II, calcite was the preferred material. Beginning with the canopic chest of Amenhetep II, a new decorative program was introduced, with four protective goddesses, Isis, Nephthys, Neit and Serqet sculpted on the corners, their arms extended to embrace the sides of the chest. The individual compartments were closed by stoppers in the shape of the king's head. The mummified internal organs were each separately wrapped and sometimes provided with a miniature mummy mask or even a coffin.

Relatively few of the canopic chests for New Kingdom kings' burials have survived. Nothing remains of canopic chests for Thutmes II, Amenhetep III, Ay, Rameses I, Sety I, Amenmeses, Sety II, Setnakht, Rameses IV, Rameses V, Rameses VI, or Rameses IX. A separate pit in the floor of the burial chamber of Amenhetep III may have been the emplacement for the missing canopic chest of this king. Four semicircular recesses in the sides of the Burial pit of Rameses VII's tomb (KV 1) were probably intended to hold a set of Canopic jars that also have not survived.

Four semicircular recesses in the sides of the burial pit of Rameses VII's tomb (KV 1) that were probably intended to hold a set of canopic jars.
Four semicircular recesses in the sides of the burial pit of Rameses VII's tomb (KV 1) that were probably intended to hold a set of canopic jars.


These mummiform statuettes served as substitutes for the deceased when called upon to perform tasks in the realm of Osiris. They were inscribed with the owner's name and often with spell 6 of the Book of the Dead. They were fashioned of various materials including wood, Faience and stone. Some royal examples in bronze are known and others have been found made of wood covered with gold or silver leaf. Many other wood examples were covered with a coating of black resin. Stone examples are found in a variety of minerals including granite, sandstone, quartzite, limestone, and alabaster. In many examples, separate sets of tools including mattocks and baskets, were provided.

In theory, a complete set would consist of one worker for each workday, plus an overseer for each ten days and a higher-ranking overseer for each month. An additional five workers for the five Epagomenal days that occurred at the end of the year brings the total to 413.

Faience and calcite shabtis.

Ritual Figures

Figures in wood of the king and of various deities and protective creatures were placed in royal tombs, sometimes enclosed in individual shrines. Such figures are known from KV 34, KV 35, KV 62, KV 23, KV 57.

Wooden statue of Anubis jackal that has inlaid eyes, is covered with black resin, and has a collar that originally was gilded.

Others we know only from pictures painted on tomb walls. Pairs of life-size figures of the king are known, not only from Tutankhamen's tomb but also from others, such as the tombs of Horemheb, Rameses I, and Rameses IX. Another ritual figure is a hollowed box or tray in the shape of the god Osiris filled with dirt and sown with seeds which sprouted when the dirt is moistened, called a germinating Osiris. Examples of this symbol of resurrection have been found in KV 62, KV 57, and KV 36.

A specialized group of ritual figures are magic bricks and the protective figures that were often attached to them. These came as a set of four, oriented to the cardinal points, and placed in niches in the walls of the burial chamber surrounding the coffin. The four mud bricks were inscribed with protective texts from spell 151 of the Book of the Dead. The attached figures included a mummy, a jackal on a shrine, a Djed-pillar, and a torch.

Kheker frieze; magical brick niches; Book of Gates, third division (P)/fourth hour (H), middle register, scenes 18 and 19.


Wooden models are known from both royal and private tombs as early as the Middle Kingdom and bear a close conceptual relationship to similar subjects depicted on tomb chapel walls of the Old Kingdom. In New Kingdom royal tombs, the most prevalent examples were model boats. These were intended for several different purposes, including sailing to and from Abydos on the ritual pilgrimage to the tomb of Osiris. Other boat models were connected with the voyages of the sun god Ra, and some were meant to serve the deceased in traversing the watery regions of the realm of Osiris.


From the examples of material in the tomb of Tutankhamen, as well as from private New Kingdom burials, we see that furniture was an important component of burial goods. Stools and chairs were included, as were boxes or chests for storage. Beds were also included because of the association of sleep and death or awakening and resurrection. 

Head of bed.


Containers of various materials such as wood, basketry, pottery, faience and stone were used to hold different types of food offerings, perfumed oils and unguents. Pottery vessels of various forms, or fragments thereof, are the most prevalent. In addition to holding liquids such as beer, wine, and oils, certain types held meat.

More prestigious were stone vessels, usually of calcite, mainly for oils and unguents. Glass and faience containers are also known, again likely for holding oils, although some of the faience vessels were models or substitutes rather than actual containers. Baskets of foods such as fruit and bread have also been found.


Linen sheets and actual garments were placed in the tomb. Other items of apparel that might be found were sandals of leather and papyrus, gloves, staffs, wigs, head coverings, and even underwear.


Equipment for both hunting and warfare was placed in the tomb as protective devices against hostile forces in the Netherworld. Such weapons included bows and arrows, shields, spears, knives, axes, clubs, throw sticks, and chariots.

Jewelry and Amulets

Because of the intrinsic value of jewelry, it was one of the prime targets of tomb robberies and therefore is one of the least-preserved groups of burial goods. From the example of Tutankhamen's mummy, as well as traces visible on other royal mummies, as determined through x-rays, many items of jewelry and amulets were included in the wrappings that covered the body. Other jewelry was buried outside the coffin in boxes and storage chests, according to the example of KV 62.

Amulets and rings of Queen Tausert.