What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Wooden inner-coffin of Irtyru

Wooden inner-coffin of Irtyru

Hand-coloured engraving by C. Vandergucht, 1737

Hand-coloured engraving by C. Vandergucht, 1737

Length: 199.200 cm

EA 6695

The British Museum acquired its first mummy and coffin in 1756 when William Lethieullier (1701-56) bequeathed most of his collection of Egyptian artefacts. Until then the Museum contained relatively few Egyptian objects, most of these being small pieces from Sir Hans Sloane's collection.

Lethieullier, who came from a wealthy family, had travelled to Egypt in 1721-22. It is not known exactly where he went, but he certainly collected many objects from Saqqara. These included this coffin and the mummy it contained, which were shipped back to England on the Dove in 1722. The mummified body was of Irtyru, a man who is named in an inscription on the coffin. Various gods are also represented on it, including the sky-goddess Nut and below her a scene in which Irtyu is judged before Osiris and Thoth.

After his return Lethieullier joined the Coldstream Guards, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General by the time of his retirement in 1752. He continued his antiquarian interest throughout this time, joining the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1724. The mummy and coffin were clearly important pieces in Lethieullier's collection, since a coloured engraving was made of it and in 1727 Lethieullier allowed Alexander Gordon to prepare an essay on the coffin.

On display: Enlightenment: Classification