Expanding on work accomplished through an earlier collaborative research grant, this project aims to build a new digital platform for an in-depth study of the ancient Egyptian funerary culture and its media. The main outcome will be a digital platform that allows to display a coffin in 3D and where users will be able to pan, rotate, and zoom in on the coffin, clicking on areas of text to highlight them and view an annotated translation together with other metadata (transcription of the hieroglyphic text, bibliography, textual variants, museological data, provenance, etc.)

In the ancient Egyptian language, coffins and sarcophagi used to preserve the mummy were literally called “chests of life” in order to express the desire of (re-)birth and life after death in the netherworld, where the deceased would assimilate to the gods. These coffins belonged to female and male individuals who were part of the elite of the society; they were expensive funerary items, which skilled scribes and artists decorated (inside and outside) with texts and images concerning the journey of the deceased in the netherworld and the gods and other supernatural creatures populating those regions. Wooden and stone mummy cases are central items of the Egyptian collections around the world and they were in use already since the Second Millennium BCE throughout the Greco-Roman Period. At present there is a renewed international interest in the study of ancient Egyptian coffins, with conferences and research projects studying particular coffin and burial-assemblages from prominent religious cult centers in Egypt such as Thebes (see the Lisbon-based project on Bab el-Gasus) or focusing on the coffin painting techniques and workshop production (see the Vatican Museum-centered “Vatican Coffin Project”).

However, there has been no comprehensive attempt, until now, to investigate the very complex function of the coffin decoration as an important media of the ancient Egyptian funerary culture and to understand how textual and iconographical patterns developed and are distributed on the interior and exterior surface of each coffin, which is in itself a fully independent, small-scaled architectural and conceptual entity, closely connected to the larger context of the tomb and of its decoration and funerary equipment. Through the study of the coffins decoration, one can gain new insights on the rituals which took place before burial, understand the materiality of the texts mapped on the object and explore new approaches of study of the ancient Egyptian religion and ideas on death and the afterlife.

It is especially by looking and visualizing an object in its tridimensionality that one can better understand how its textual and iconographical decoration is fully embodied on its media (the coffin itself); a 3D visualization of the inscriptions, in particular, allows us to read them without losing the sense of the specific section of the lid where it has been inscribed, at the same time allowing us to put special emphasis on the visualization of the text in a physical context, working on the relationship of the inscriptions to their support, the form and varieties of hieroglyphs and words and how they are closely related to the images embedded among the texts and complementing them.

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