Can you tell me more about this coffin?
Ibises were among some of the most numerous animal mummies found in the archaeological record. They were related with Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom. This example is a particularly elaborate coffin.
As I'm sure you've seen throughout this exhibition the wrappings for these mummies could range from modest and undecorated linen to this wooden coffin with gilding and bronze attachments. The silver you see on this coffin was actually added much later, probably by in the 19th century.
The cemetery this particular ibis came from contained not only numerous other ibis mummies but also baboon mummies. Both of these animals were associated with the god Thoth.
Tell me about the ibis statue.
It's one of our star objects! It is obviously a very elaborate example of an ibis coffin. The gold body of this statue is where the body of the actual bird's mummy would be placed. As you may have read in the label, the silver head and feet were likely added later, but they do look like ancient bronze versions that did exist. Scientific testing suggests that the silver comes from the Americas.
In ancient Egypt, the ibis was sacred to the god Thoth who was the god of wisdom as well as medicine and magic. He was also said to know the future. He was a very popular god to appeal to in uncertain times.
Why is the ibis so special?
The ibis was associated with the god Thoth, who was the god of wisdom and knowledge. Thoth would often take the form of an ibis-headed man.
Ibises bred at the temple in Saqqara to eventually be mummified were even referred to as "The Ibis, The God and the Soul of Thoth."
Ibis mummies could be donated to Thoth by Egyptians hoping for guidance from the deity. This, as I'm sure you can see, is a particularly elaborate ibis coffin. It was a high quality donation to the god!
What would this be used for?
This is a coffin for an ibis mummy. The ibis was associated with Thoth, the god of wisdom and the mummified bird was believed to carry prayers to the god.
You might be interested to know that the metal legs of this ibis coffin were likely made in the late 19th, early 20th century. They were based on ancient models.
Why would they choose a specific animal? Would the owners be rich or royal?
The choice of the ibis would have been motivated by the belief that the ibis was a representative of the god Thoth. Donating a mummified ibis was thought to be a way to send prayers to Thoth, the god of wisdom. A coffin like this would have indeed been quite pricey. The person who bought it was not necessarily royal, but would have been rich.
This is beautiful. How heavy is it?
This ibis coffin is very beautiful, isn't it. I don't have an exact weight, but I can tell you that the coffin itself, the body of the bird, is made from gilded wood and the head and feet are made from silver.