Length: 228.600 cm
Width: 81.280 cm
Height: 40.640 cm
Room 57-59: Ancient Levant
White marble anthropoid coffin
Phoenician, 5th century
From Sidon, Lebanon
Reflecting the wealth of the city of Sidon
This white marble coffin is typical of a large number found in the nineteenth century at Sidon, one of the wealthy Canaanite (Phoenician) ports of the first millennium BC. Canaanite territory at this time was restricted to the coast and included the cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Aradus and Marathus. These centres produced objects of superb quality to meet the demands of the great powers of the Near East from Egypt to Mesopotamia and Iran. They also extracted and processed a dye from the murex sea shell which was used to create the most valuable and sought-after purple fabrics. It is from the Greek word for this colour, phoinix, that these Canaanites have acquired the name Phoenician. Their close trading links with Egypt influenced their burial practices and the male head on this coffin wears a headdress in Egyptian style. The quality of the stone work suggest the owner must have been wealthy.
During the eight century BC the natural Phoenician harbours became major ports for handling international shipping and commercial contacts were expanded across the Mediterranean, which resulted in the establishment of colonies. The Phoenicians took their style of burial with them and examples of coffins similar to this one are known from Cyprus, Sicily and Gades (Cadiz).
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)