Sarcophagus of Seti I

Now in the Sir John Soane's Museum, London

Made of alabaster, fragments of the lid are in the same museum

     

THE ALABASTER SARCOPHAGUS OF SETI I.

Discovery by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who has fortunately placed on record in his Narrative of the Operations and recent discoveries within the pyramids, temples, tombs and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia, London, 1820, p. 233 ff. In October, 1815,

Belzoni began to excavate in the Biban-al-Muluk, i.e., the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings, on the western bank of the Nile at Thebes, and in the bed of a watercourse he found a spot where the ground bore traces of having been "moved." On the 19th of the month his workmen made a way through the sand and fragments of stone which had been piled up there, and entered the first corridor or passage of a magnificent tomb, which he soon discovered to have been made for one of the great kings of Egypt. A second corridor led him to a square chamber which, being thirty feet deep, formed a serious obstacle in the way of any unauthorized intruder, and served to catch any rain-water which might make its way down the corridors from the entrance. Beyond this chamber are two halls, and from the first of these Belzoni passed through other corridors and rooms until he entered the vaulted chamber in which stood the sarcophagus. The sarcophagus chamber is situated at a distance of 320 feet from the entrance to the first corridor, and is 180 feet below the level of the ground. Belzoni succeeded in bringing the sarcophagus from its chamber into the light of day without injury, and in due course it arrived in England; the negotiations which he opened with the Trustees of the British Museum, to whom its purchase was first proposed, fell through, and he subsequently sold it to Sir John Sloane, it is said for the sum of 2000. An examination of the sarcophagus shows that both it and its cover were hollowed out of monolithic blocks of alabaster, and it is probable, as Mr. Sharpe says,  that these were quarried in the mountains near Alabastronpolis, i.e., the district which was known to the Egyptians by the name of Het-nub, and is situated near the ruins known in modern times by the name of Tell al-'Amarna. In the Yet-nub quarries large numbers of inscriptions, written chiefly in the hieratic character, have been found, and from the interesting selection from these published by Messrs. Blackden and Fraser, we learn that several kings of the Ancient and Middle Empires carried on works in them, no doubt for the purpose of obtaining alabaster for funeral purposes. The sarcophagus is 9 ft. 4 in. long, 3 ft. 8 in. wide, in the widest part, and 2 ft. 8 in. high at the shoulders, and 2 ft. 3 in. at the feet; the cover is 1 ft. 3 in. high. The thickness of the alabaster varies from 21 to 4 inches. The skill of the mason who succeeded in hollowing the blocks without breaking, or even cracking them, is marvellous, and the remains of holes nearly one inch in diameter suggest that the drill was as useful to him as the chisel and mallet in hollowing out the blocks. When the sarcophagus and its cover were finally shaped and polished, they were handed over to an artisan who was skilled in cutting hieroglyphics and figures of the gods, &c., in stone, and both the insides and outsides were covered by him.

With inscriptions and vignettes and mythological scones which illustrated them. Both inscriptions and scenes were then filled in with a kind of paint made from some preparation of copper, and the vivid bluish green colour of this paint must have formed a striking contrast to the brilliant whiteness of the alabaster when fresh from the quarry. At the present time large numbers of characters and figures are denuded of their colour, and those in which it still remains are much discoloured by London fog and soot.

The first to attempt to describe the contents of the texts and scenes on the sarcophagus of SETI I. was the late Samuel Sharpe, who, with the late Joseph Bonomi, published "The Alabaster Sarcophagus of Oimenepthah I., King of Egypt," London, 1864, 4to; the former was responsible for the letterpress, and the latter for the plates of scenes and texts. For some reason which it is not easy to understand, Mr. Sharpe decided that the hieroglyphic characters which formed the prenomen of the king for whom the sarcophagus was made were to be read "Oimenepthah," a result which he obtained by assigning the phonetic value of O to the hieroglyphic sign for Osiris . The prenomen is sometimes written , or , and , and is to be read either SETI-MEN-EN PTAH, or SETI-MEN-EN-PTAH. Mr. Sharpe did not, apparently, realize that both the signs and

were to be read "Set," and he gave to the first the phonetic value of A and to the second the value of O; he next identified "Aimenepthah" or "Oimenepthah" with the Amenophath of Manetho, and the Chomaepthah of Eratosthenes, saying, "hence arises the support to our reading his name (i.e., the king's) Oimenepthah." Passing over Mr. Sharpe's further remarks, which assert that the sarcophagus was made in the year B.C. 1175 (!), we must consider briefly the arrangement of the texts and scenes upon the insides and outsides of the sarcophagus and its covers. On the upper outside edge of the sarcophagus runs a single line of hieroglyphics which contains speeches supposed to be made to the deceased by the four children of Horus; this line is in two sections, each of which begins at the right hand side of the head, and ends at the left hand side of the foot. Below this line of hieroglyphics are five large scenes, each of which is divided into three registers, and these are enclosed between two dotted bands which are intended to represent the borders of the "Valley of the Other World." On the inside of the sarcophagus are also five scenes, but there is no line of hieroglyphics running along the upper edge. On the bottom of the sarcophagus is a finely cut figure of the Goddess Nut, and round and about her are texts selected from the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead; on the inside of the cover is a figure of the goddess Nut, with arms outstretched. On the outside of the cover, in addition to the texts which record the names and titles of the deceased, are inscribed two large scenes, each of which is divided into three registers, like those inside and outside the sarcophagus.

The line of text on the upper outside edge reads:--

I. Speech of MESTHA: "I am Mestha, I am [thy] son, O Osiris, king, lord of the two lands, Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, son of the Sun, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat, and I have come so that I may be among those who protect thee. I make to flourish thy house, which shall be doubly established, by the command of Ptah, by the command of Ra himself."

Speech of ANPU: "I am Anpu, who dwelleth in (or, with) the funeral chest." He saith, "Mother Isis descendeth . . . . . . . . bandages for me, Osiris, king Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, son of the Sun, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat, from him that worketh against me."

Speech of TUAMATEF: "I am Tuamatef, I am thy son Horus, I love thee, and I have come to avenge thee, Osiris, upon him that would work his wickedness

upon thee, and I will set him under thy feet for ever, Osiris, king, lord of the two lands, Men-Maat-Ra, son of the Sun, [proceeding] from his body, loving him, lord of crowns (or, risings) Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat, before the Great God."

To be said: "Ra liveth, the Tortoise dieth! Strong are the members of . . . . . Osiris, king Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, for Qebhsennuf guardeth them. Ra liveth, the Tortoise dieth! In a sound state is he who is in the sarcophagus, in a sound state is he who is in the sarcophagus, that is to say, the son of the Sun, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat."

Speech of NUT: Nut, the great one of Seb, saith: "O Osiris, king, lord of the two lands, Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, who loveth me, I give unto thee purity on the earth, and splendour (or, glory) in the heavens, and I give unto thee thy head for ever."

II. Speech of NUT, who is over the HENNU BOAT: "This is my son, Osiris, king, Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat. His father Shu loveth him, and his mother Nut loveth him, Osiris, son of Ra, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat."

Speech of HAPI: "I am Hapi. I have come that I might be among those who protect thee, I bind together for thee thy head, [and thy members, smiting down for thee thine enemies beneath thee, and I give [thee] thy head, O Osiris, king, Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, son of Ra, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat."

Speech Of ANPU, the Governor of the divine house: I am Anpu, the Governor of the divine house. O Osiris, king, lord of the two lands, Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, son of the Sun, [proceeding] from his body, the lord of crowns, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat, the Shennu beings go round about thee, and thy members remain uninjured, O Osiris, king, Men-Maat-RA, whose word is maat for ever."

Speech Of QEBHSENNUF: "I am thy son, I have come that I might be among those who protect thee. I gather together for thee thy bones, and I piece together for thee thy limbs. I bring unto thee thy heart, and I set it upon its seat in thy body. I make to flourish (or, germinate) for thee thy house after thee, [O thou who] liv[est] for ever."

To be said: "Ra liveth, the Tortoise dieth! Let enter the bones of Osiris, king Men-Maat-Ra, whose word is maat, the son of the Sun, Seti Mer-en-Ptah, whose word is maat, let them enter into their foundations. Pure is the dead body which is in the earth, and pure are the bones of Osiris, king Men-Mast-Ra, whose word is maat, like Ra [for ever!]."

On the bottom of the sarcophagus is a large, full-length figure of the goddess NUT who is depicted in the form of a woman with her arms ready to embrace the body of the king. Her face and the lower parts of the body below the waist are in profile, but she has a front chest, front shoulders, and a front eye. Her feet are represented as if each was a right foot, and each only shows the great toe. One breast is only shown. The hair of the goddess is long and falls over her back and shoulders; it is held in position over her forehead by a bandlet. She wears a deep collar or necklace, and a closely-fitting feather-work tunic which extends from her breast to her ankles; the latter is supported by two shoulder straps, each of which is fastened with a buckle on the shoulder. She has anklets on her legs, and bracelets on her wrists, and armlets on her arms. The inscriptions which are cut above the head, and at both sides, and under the feet of the goddess contain addresses to the king by the great gods of the sky, and extracts from the Book of the Dead