Clay coffin lid

Late Bronze Age, 13th century BC
From Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir), Israel

Although this object looks like a mask it is in fact the lid of a clay coffin. It was found in a tomb at Lachish but similar coffins have been found in the same region at Beth Shan and Deir el-Balah. During this period, the southern Levant was part of the Egyptian empire and Egyptian officials and soldiers were stationed in the larger cities. It may be for this reason that Egyptian styles of burial practice were adopted at these sites, though it is not certain whether the people buried in these coffins were Egyptians, local inhabitants or other residents inspired by Egyptian burial practices.

The coffins were constructed by adding coils of clay mixed with large amounts of vegetal material, probably straw, to form large jar-like containers with closed tops. The similarity of this technique to that used by contemporary potters suggests that the same craftsmen were responsible. However, after drying but before the coffins were fired, the upper walls were cut out on one side in order to form a close-fitting lid that was then decorated with applied and modelled pieces of clay to represent facial features. The coffins were probably fired in bonfires, judging by their low-fired and mottled appearance; on some of the lids from Deir el-Balah there are traces of red or white slip, with the facial features highlighted with gold, black and red paint.

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More information


T.K. Dothan, Excavations at the cemetery of, Qedem 10 (Jerusalem, Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1979)

J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Length: 56.000 cm (restored)
Width: 55.000 cm (max.)

Museum number

ME 1980-12-14,4297


Excavated by J.L. Starkey, Wellcome-Marston Research Expedition.


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