Fragmented Bodies and Splintered Coffins: What can they tell us about Ancient Egyptian Mortuary Practices?

Author(s): Anne Austin

Year: 2015


Intrusions into the burial chamber directly impact the mortuary assemblage, often erasing the purposeful placement of grave goods and destroying the peaceful preservation of the body. So what can these palimpsests of havoc actually tell us about original mortuary practices? In this talk, I answer this question through analysis of Theban Tomb 290, the ancient Egyptian tomb of Iry-Nefer. This tomb, studied in 2013-14 as part of the French Institute mission at Deir el-Medina, contains up to 70 individuals from the 19th through 21st dynasties. Through a qualitative analysis of the state of preservation of the bodies in combination with a quantitative analysis of the minimum number of elements, I determine the primary ways bodies in this Egyptian tomb were fragmented after burial. I then use Egyptological research into post-depositional looting in antiquity and modernity to determine how the reuse of grave goods impacts fragmentation of the body in Egyptian tombs. While post-depositional processes can fracture evidence for ancient Egyptian mortuary practices by damaging key areas such as the head and pelvis, they also offer unusual access to the innermost layers of mummification, allowing insight into daily life practices such as tattooing and preparation of the body during embalming.

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Cite this Record

Fragmented Bodies and Splintered Coffins: What can they tell us about Ancient Egyptian Mortuary Practices?. Anne Austin. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395722)


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min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;