Coffins of the Amun Priests

20 April until 15 September 2013

Restorer in actionRestorer in action
Coffin of an Amun priestCoffin of an Amun priest

The three-thousand-year-old mummy coffins of the priests of Amun in Thebes form the focus of this exhibition. You will discover the world of these servants of the god Amun, learning about their ways of life and their central rituals of death and burial. Special attention will be devoted to the restoration of the mummy coffins now taking place in collaboration with the Vatican Museums and the Louvre. Every week you can see conservators at work in the museum.

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Coffins of the Amun Priests

Around 1000 BC, the most powerful priests and priestesses of ancient Egypt were the attendants of the Temples of Amun in Thebes. They were buried in mummy coffins with exceptionally beautiful decoration. These wooden coffins from the underground galleries of the Bab el-Gasus tomb form the heart of the exhibition. From its own collection, the museum will present archaeological finds from Bab el-Gasus, such as the mummy coffins, the accompanying funerary figurines in wooden caskets, and historic correspondence about the arrival of the coffins in Leiden. From museums in other countries, including the Louvre and the Vatican Museums, two mummy coffins will be on display, along with 19th-century photographs and watercolours showing the discovery of the tomb.

Conservators at work in the museum

The exhibition will also highlight the restoration of the mummy coffins, a joint project of the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities with the Vatican Museums and the Louvre. Every week at the museum you can see conservators at work, who will be happy to answer your questions about the restoration of the cases.

Mummy coffins scattered around the world

Bab el-Gasus, the hidden burial place of the priests, was discovered by French Egyptologists at the late date of 1891. They ultimately found 153 sets of mummy coffins. In the late nineteenth century, the Egyptian authorities distributed these coffins among seventeen friendly countries, including the Netherlands, France, and Vatican City. Today, many of the coffins are in poor condition, with flaking paint and fading colours.

Collaboration with the Vatican Museums and the Louvre

In the international Vatican Coffin Project, the Vatican Museums, the Louvre, and the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities are joining forces and pooling their expertise to examine and restore the mummy coffins of Bab el-Gasus using the latest techniques. This research is yielding new information about the history of the coffins.