We know how important was the decoration on the corpse in Ancient Egypt.

The egyptian artist selected the most effective iconography for the benefit of the deceased. Among the most requested images were those of the two mourners Isis and Nephthys. Because, in their role of mourners of Osiris, guaranteed the mummy’s resurrection.

We have already seen that Artemidora selected images of Isis, Nephthys, the two mourners, and Osiris at their feet and at both sides od her corpse. In both cases, the decoration was very concise and minimalist, but highly effective.

Coffin of Artemidora from Meir (AD 90-100). Isis and Nephthys are a constant in the iconography.
Coffin of Artemidora from Meir (AD 90-100). Isis and Nephthys are a constant in the iconography. Photo: metmuseum.org

The funerary mask of Artemidora.

The funerary mask of Artemidora was the most decorated element of the whole set. In contrast to the body art the head appears as the selected support for a more complete composition. We can even distinguish an upper and lower register with their corresponding scenes.

Upper Register

The first thing that attracts attention is the background color: black.

The two Kneeling Women.

Over this background at each end (left and right) appear a mourning woman. Both present interesting features:

  • Unidentified (no name and no symbol)
  • Kneeling.
  • Half mane (or short hair) and a tape around the forehead.
  • Half naked. They are just wearing a simple skirt.
Funerary Mask of Artemidora. one of thetwo mourners n the right. Metmuseum. Ancient Egypt.
Funerary Mask of Artemidora. Right side. Photo: metmuseum.org

First, third and fourth points are not typical features of a goddess. So, maybe we have to think that they are not representing Isis and Nephthys, but just the two mourners in the funeral on earth, which profefssionally played their roles.

Funerary Mask of Artemidora lon of the two mourners on theeft. Metmuseum. Ancient Egypt.
Funerary Mask of Artemidora. Left side. Photo: metmuseum.org

We only find one difference between them:

  • The one on the left of the mummy appears with both arms raised
  • The one on the right of the mummy appears with one arm raised and the other resting on her knee.

The reason for making this difference remains unclear. Maybe with this the Egyptian artist depicted two differentiated women, that is two mourners, not the same mourner twice. Or maybe it was a matter of space…who knows!

The Jackal.

Behind both mourning women a jackal is depicted. It is not Anubis as divinity, but the lying animal as the guardian of the necropolis.

These three elements:

  • Unidentified mourners.
  • Jackal as guardian of the necropolis.
  • Background in black.

…could indicate that this is happening in the passage zone between life and death. In my opinion, the Egyptian artist represented the mourning ritual (two kneeling women) made by the two representatives of Isis and Nephthys in the necropolis (jackal); it happened inside the tomb as a prelude to the resurrection of Artemidora.

Funerary Mask of Artemidora two mourners on the back. Metmuseum. Ancient Egypt.
Funerary Mask of Artemidora. Back side. Photo: metmuseum.org

Osiris and the two Cobras.

But there is still another interesting element in this register. The center, just behind Artemidora’s head, is occupied by an image of Osiris flanked by both winged cobras. These two snakes are the South and the North (here identified as Uadjet), which obviously were the two mourners Isis and Nephthys.

In Ancient Egypt Isis was the South and Nephthys was the North and that was a a result of including the osirian legend into the solar iconography. This fits perfectly with the central image of Osiris, not with the osirian crown, but with the solar disk.

In addition to this, we find on the upper an imge of winged Khepri as the rising sun. And also notice the change in the background from black to gold.

It seems that we are facing a solar resurrection.

Let’s see in the following post what is on the lower register…