Sarcophagus of Bakenkhonsu



Granite sarcophagus consisting of a box and lid, inscribed for a man called Bakenkhonsu, a name roughly meaning 'servant of Khonsu'. Bakenkhonsu is well known to Egyptologists because there are many surviving inscriptions about him. A statue of Bakenkhonsu in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, is inscribed with his autobiography which tells us about his career and achievements under King Ramesses II of the 19th Dynasty. His career spanned over 70 years, during which time he rose to become the High Priest of Amun, one of the most powerful positions in Egypt. As Chief Overseer of Works, he carried out building projects for King Ramesses II and the eastern temple at Karnak, known as ‘the temple of Amun-who-hears-prayers’. Bakenkhonsu’s mummy and coffin were originally inside this sarcophagus, buried in Theban Tomb 35, but are now lost. The sarcophagus is shaped like a mummy, with the arms crossed on the chest and the hands holding divine emblems. Across the chest is the winged figure of the sky goddess Nut. A band of text down the front is a prayer to Nut. The sides of the sarcophagus bear protective images of the ibis-headed god Thoth and the Four Sons of Horus. Before the Second World War the sarcophagus was on display in the Main Hall of the Museum and was shattered when the Museum was bombed in 1941. It was pieced back together 50 years later. Conservation began in 1988 with a final arrangement a few years later following the discovery of further fragments. Small arrears of loss were reconstructed from resin (except for the beard). The sarcophagus weighs 2172 kg (Charles Gatty who catalogued the collection in the 1870’s noted that it was "said to weigh 4 1/2 tons"). Presented to the Museum by Joseph Mayer in 1867 who had purchased it from the 9th Viscount Valentia's collection, no. 427 in the Sotheby's 1852 sale catalogue. Mayer gave £30 for it according to a priced catalogue