The decorated wooden coffin of Tamenkhamun is the only significant Egyptian antiquity to enter the collection in recent times. It was acquired from the collection of J. Bedford, postmaster at Kyancutta in South Australia, who also established a small museum. Bedford purchased the coffin in England in 1910 and it was sold in the 1960s, well after his death.
Inscriptions on the coffin note that Tamenkhamun was a 7th century BC minor official in the administration of property owned by the temple of the god Amun at Thebes.
The coffin’s decoration is shown as though upon the bandages of the body itself, and comprises representations of various gods who ensured the protection of the body. It also shows a figure of the mummified body lying upon a lion bed with the soul shown as a bird hovering above and Tamenkhamun himself making offerings to the gods.
On the basal section of the coffin is the standard of Osiris, god of resurrection. The inscriptions contain prayers to the gods and the request for an eternal supply of offerings for Tamenkhamun.
In 1925, the mummy and coffin of Tjeby the Elder arrived in Melbourne, having been donated by Alan Rowe in 1923. Tjeby was discovered in the cemetery of Sheikh Farag, in southern Egypt, in a small, undecorated tomb. His body was wrapped in linen, his chest covered with plaster painted with a floral collar, and his head covered with mud modelled to show his facial features and the wig he would have worn during life.
Tjeby lived during the second part of the 20th century BC to the early part of the 19th century BC; he is the oldest ancient Egyptian in Australia.
Dr Colin Hope