Mummy of Hornedjitef. Thebes, Egypt.

Brief IdentificationEdit

Mummification was practiced throughout ancient Egypt, and in many other states, as means of preserving a dead body for afterlife. The mummy of Hornedjitef he was buried at Thebes, Egypt on the west bank of the Nile River around 240BCE. He was an Egyptian priest of the Temple of Amun during the reign of Ptolemy III [See Filer 2003,4].

Hornedjitef was mummified and put into two coffins. The picture portrays the inner coffin which was made of wood and elaborately decorated. His detailed coffin and mummification allowed for passage to a second life which Egyptians strongly believed in. Today, the mummy of Hornejitef resides in the British Museum [See Filer 2003, 5]. :)

Technical EvaluationEdit

These mummy coffins were popular throughout ancient Egypt but during the Ptolemaic period, there was much less emphasis on the preservation of soft tissues, and more focused on the appearance of the casing; mummy casing became a type of art [Filer 2003, 8]. Each coffin was decorated based on the natural surroundings and the person encased.

Hornedjitef was encased encased into a mask, cover, and two human-shaped wooden coffins which were elaborately decorated. These four parts allowed for preservation of the body and a passage to afterlife. The inner coffin was made of sycamore wood [Filer 2003, 43]. Although Egypt did not have many tall trees, sycamore, a local wood, was used for the inner casing. The elaborate decoration, with the goal of achieving a lifelike appearance, was painted onto the wood. Hornejitef high status is reflected through gilding and the extensive funerary equiptment. Pigments were extracted from natural resources such as soot which helped blacken certain areas. Other colors were provided by metal ores, for gilding, and vegetables, for extra coloring [See Aufderheide 2003, 257].

Records show that the British museum acquired the mummy for $500 [Filer 2003, 6]. Many Egyptian objects, like the mummy of Hornejitef, came from Henry Salt, a consul-gerneral in Egypt who led many excavations. He himself said that the mummy of Hornejitef, "is the finest in quality of all that have ever been found in Thebes".

Local Historical ContextEdit

Hornejitef lived in Egypt during the height of the Hellenistic culture. After Philip II's assasination, his son, Alexander, became a military machine and wanted to conquer the world. Alexander was the pushing force behind the Hellinistic culture and was able to drive it as far as South Asia. While Alexander was still alive, his influence extended into Egypt. He founded dozens of new cities, and one of the most famous is Alexandria of Egypt which was a Hellenistic center. It provided proof that civilizations were linking in such distant societies [See Christensen 2009,16].

According the the British Museum website: "The Ptolemies tried to stress their desire to support things 'Egyptian' and many temples were built during this period."


The area in blue represents the Ptolemaic territory.

The Egyptians considered Alexander, recognized as the son of Amun, a god because of his ability to integrate Egypt into the larger world[Christensen 2009,16]. After Alexander’s death, his empire was divded among his generals. Egypt fell to one of his generals named Ptolemy which marked the end of ancient Egypt and the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period. Egypt had always been a very productuve land because of the Nile and this was no different in the Ptolemaic period. During the Ptolemaic period there were many agricultural advancements which required the work of the commoners because of the new crops, massive irrigation, and new lands. Another important job for ordinary people was to look after animals that provided them with milk and meat. Egypt could export papyrus, linen, and grain for other commodities. Hornejitef lived during this period [See Westermann 1927, 34].

Egyptians had over seven hundred gods and goddesses which proves that religion was very important. Hornejitef was a priest at the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Ptolemy II honored Amun witha a beautifully decorated gate.Hornejitef was a very high ranking priest, and a priest that everyone looked up to. Because the main goal of mummification was to preserve the dead body for afterlife, it was the families and friends of the decesaed who provided the dead person with all the necessities to enable a passageway to the second life [ Filer 2003, 7].

World-Historical SignificanceEdit

During the Ptolemaic Period Egyptian and Greek culture began merge and marked the end of ancient Egypt. Mummification was a popular and important tradition in Egypt like in many other parts of the world. Many other civilzations such as the people living on the Torres Strait and the Incas of Peru practiced mummification. It provided the dead with a passage to afterlife.

Because of the different levels for mummification, even the cheapest meathods were often too expensive for ordinary people so they could not be mummified. Only kings, nobles, and priests were typically mummified [See filer 2003, 12].

Excavations, such as the ones by Henry Salt, allow historians and scientists to learn about the Egyptian culture. The mummies and their coffins enable them to study the social belief systems that existed during the Ptolemaic period. The materials and items encased with the dead bodies allow historians to trace the identity and rituals of a civilization. Scientist can also track mummification practices throught the timeline of Ancient Egypt which allow the quality of mummy making to be traced [See Filer 2003, 6]. Towards the end of ancient Egypt, newmethods of taking out internal organs to prevent the body from rotting was a new advancement in the mummification process.

Hornejitef had many paintings on his inner coffin which give all of his titles. By this information alone, historians can conclude that Hornejitef was no ordinary priest, but a high-ranking priest [See Filer 2003, 12]. Ordinary priests looked up to him and may have believed he had special powers. Pictures of the sky-goddess and consetellations were also present on his coffin, representing the journey to his next life. Other coffins, such as the one of Ankh-hor which resides in Sweden, resemles that of Hornejitef's inner coffin.

Historians know that Hornejitef was very successful because of his responsibility as a priest, but there are many people who are interested in finding more about the priest and his family. Today the inner coffin resides in the British Museum, as do many other objects from Henry Salt.

Suggested BibliographyEdit

Aufderheide, Arthur. The Scientific Study of Mummies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Christensen, Wendy. Great Empires of the Past: Empire of Ancient Egypt. New York: Shorline Publishing Group, 2009.

Filer, Joyce. The Mystery of the Egyptian Mummy. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Westermann, William. Egyptian Agriultural Labor Under Ptolemy Philadelphus. New York: columbia University Press, 1927.

Britannica online, "Mummy,"

British Museum, "Ancient Egypt: The Ptolemaic Period,"

British Museum, "The Burial of Hornedjitef,"

British Museum, "Mummy Hornedjitef,"

British Museum, "Mummy Hornedjitef (inner coffin),"

British Museum, "Outer Coffin of the Priest Hornejitef,"

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