(In A Box) Dead Wannabe Pharaoh (Middle Kingdom)

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Such a sad thing, this dead guy stuck in a box for the rest of time with nothing to do. He’s not stretched flat on his back, in state, as it were. What accentuates the presentation of this figure’s vulnerability is the way the curators (one presumes) propped him up on his side. With his face pushed into the corner of the coffin, his eyes stare straight onto a hard physical limit. You see this especially well when you look close up, and then represent it digitally with a decent zoom lens.
It gets even worse, even more piteous. On first view, I figured this guy was a pharaoh, but he’s not. Apparently the afterlife is the best time to social climb. He only wants to be a pharaoh, or even a god.
According to the description  of this “object” online at the Met for the soon-to-close Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom. “Khnumhotep was an estate manager or steward during life, but both his mummy and coffin are designed to associate him with divinity and kingship in the afterlife. The elegant gold funerary mask on his mummy, still in its original condition, exhibits royal attributes such as the uraeus, transforming Khnumhotep’s body into an avatar of Osiris, king of the afterlife and god of resurrection. The inscriptions on the coffin proclaim that he is worthy of association with various deities. The coffin features a series of elaborate palace-facade motifs, an already ancient pattern that was believed to replicate early constructions made of organic materials. At one end is a pair of eyes through which it was believed Khnumhotep would magically view the world of the living.
coffin

Mummy and mask of Khnumhotep, ca. 1981–1802 B.C. Egyptian, Middle Kingdom Human remains, linen, cartonnage, paint, ebony, obsidian, travertine (Egyptian alabaster), gold, faience; L. 174.7 cm (68 3/4 in.) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.182.131c) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/544322

Coffin and Mummy of the Estate Manager Khnumhotep
Period: Middle Kingdom
Dynasty: Dynasty 12
Date: ca. 1981–1802 B.C.
Geography: Probably from Egypt, Middle Egypt, Meir (Mir), Khashaba excavations
Medium: Wood (Ficus sycomorus), pigment, human remains, linen, cartonnage, paint, ebony, obsidian, travertine (Egyptian alabaster), gold, faience

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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