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Sarcophagus of Hapmen


Height: 119.400 cm (max.)
Length: 274.400 cm (max.)
Width: 139.700 cm (max.)

Gift of King George III

EA 23

Room 4: Egyptian sculpture

    Sarcophagus of Hapmen

    Found in Cairo, Egypt
    26th Dynasty or later, 600-300 BC

    Also known as the 'Lover's fountain'

    This large stone sarcophagus was one of the discoveries of the Napoleonic expedition in Cairo. It was being used for ritual washing - hence the plug-holes cut in the base - in the mosque of Ibn Tulun, one of the oldest in Cairo.

    The exterior is decorated with texts and figures of various funerary deities. The design, and the texts that do not refer to Hapmen (the owner of the tomb) are almost exact copies of those on the sarcophagus found in the tomb of King Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) in the Valley of the Kings. Since no other copy of this sarcophagus type is known in the intervening period (over 800 years), it seems that either someone visited the royal tomb and took the design back, or an original design for the sarcophagus was uncovered. Either way, it was used in a monument consciously intended to recall the style of an earlier period.

    It is a fascinating example of the continuity of Egyptian practice, spread over both time and place, since it is most probable that Hapmen was buried somewhere in the Saqqara/Giza or Lower Egypt area. However, his tomb has never been found, and it is not known how the sarcophagus reached Cairo.

    The sarcophagus came to the British Museum from the French after the Treaty of Alexandria.

    W.C. Hayes, Royal sarcophagi of the XVIII (Princeton, 1935)

    T.G.H. James, Ancient Egypt: the land and it (London, 1988)


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