W922 and W923
Body coverings on painted linen from Deir el-Bahri. These date to the Roman Period (AD 220-270) and measure approximately 70cm in length.
When these were first discovered they were thought to be Christian. However, they are typically Egyptian in symbolism.
Both figures hold a chalice of wine. Wine was used in Egyptian funerary symbolism (e.g. the tomb of Petoris in Dakla Oasis) and the god of the dead, Osiris, was said to have introduced the vine to Egypt. The plant is probably myrtle.
The wreaths here worn by the deceased show they are the blessed or transfigured dead.
Both figures wear and a tunic with clavi and a mantel over the top. Both have heavy gold jewellery, and the male has a shrine-shaped pendant. It is unlikely that the deceased owned such high status jewellery in real life (Riggs 2005, 241). The male has a clipped beard and a moustache. He wears a pectoral in the shape of an Egyptian shrine.
At the bottom of each shroud is a henu-barque of the god Sokar, a god of rebirth. The barques in both instances are shown, set on four legged-stands and have antelope heads. The celebrations of Sokar continued into the Roman Period.
At each side of the barques sit jackals with keys around their necks. These keys probably represent the keys to Hades. This motif is not known until the twelfth regenal year of the emperor Trajan AD 109. The jackal has a cord in its mouth, the other end of which is attached to the solar disk above the barque. The jackal is towing the sun through the sky.
Published by Christina Riggs in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology Vol. 86, 2000, 121-144 and Christina Riggs, 2005 The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt. Art, Identity and Funerary Religion. Oxford University Press, 232-243.
See also Parlasca, K. 2006. Roman Mummy Masks in Sowada, K.N. and Ockinga, B.G. Egyptian Art in the Nicholson Museum, Sydney, Sydney: Meditarch Publishing, 191-196.