First Vatican Coffin Conference
Vatican Coffin Project

Vatican Coffin Project

An international team project

The Vatican Museums, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, organised an international conference entitled the “First Vatican Coffin Conference” which took place over four days from 19-22 June 2013.
For the first time internationally renowned scholars compared their findings on all the themes relating to the coffins which so clearly express the clerical culture of Thebes in the Third Intermediate Period.
The approach was multidisciplinary and linked historical and textual-iconographic analysis with the most sophisticated scientific technology which are applied to the study of both the materials used and the painting techniques, as well as restoration.
The Proceedings are published by Edizioni Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano, edited by Alessia Amenta and Hélène Guichard.

Thanks to:
Accademia d’Egitto – Roma
Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums – Massachusetts Chapters

The Vatican Museums, in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre and the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, is organising this First Vatican Coffin Conference. It is the very first edition of a series of conferences planned by the Vatican Coffin Project. Set up in 2008 by the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Vatican, launched and developed by Alessia Amenta, in collaboration with the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration of the Vatican Museums, directed by Ulderico Santamaria, this Project was joined in 2011 by the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden and in 2012 by the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Serving Egyptology, the Vatican Coffin Project has the advantage of engaging in the most exhaustive material study of a large corpus, coherent although dispersed in various European collections. Beginning with those coffins belonging to our respective collections, the purpose of our collaborative research is to carry out a special revision of Third Intermediate Period coffins using the most sophisticated scientific technology and according to a joint protocol.
We decided to cooperate in this Project as we became aware of the importance and significance of the joint forces of our three museums as institutional collaboration has turned to be indispensable.
We are starting to share our results in order to use ‘physical’ data so far collected (choice of materials, palette and pictorial technology, manufacturing and assembly, tool marks, identification of ‘hand’ or manner of artists, etc.) as evidence for dating and identifying workshops. Further necessary ‘Egyptological’ study (stylistic, iconographic and textual) will unable us to distinguish groups attached to priestly families and/or to workshops. So all these data and reflections will be gathered into a common database and our understanding will increase over the course of the Project. as the results of texts and analyses are added to scientific investigations. The ‘yellow coffins’ (from the end of the Ramessid Period to the beginning of the 22nd dynasty) are the first batch of coffins to be analysed in the broader corpus of our three collections.
The approach of the Conference will be multidisciplinary and the various topics are broadly related to Third Intermediate Period coffins, from historical background to burial practices, from coffin technology to the most sophisticated scientific investigations applied to the study and restoration of coffins.
The difficult political context and the complex chronology of the Third Intermediate Period, associated with 19th century excavations often with poorly documented discoveries, make it difficult to fully understand all the nuances and details of this period. But we believe that the material and archaeometric studies on coffins, based also on the need to reconsider entire corpora (eg. the Bab el-Gasus cachette), will help us to render some weakly-known archaeological contexts, to rebuild some coherent funerary sets and assemblages and finally to discover new elements about the craftsmen’s practices, about social relations and about the clerical culture in the Third Intermediate Period, especially in the Theban region.
There can be no doubt that this invaluable international collaboration is already showing promising results. We hope that we will be able to share the Project and the protocol more widely. In the future the database, which will be continually up-dated as research progresses, will be available to the international community.
You are all always welcome to join us!”

Alessia Amenta, Christian Greco, Hélène Guichard
(Opening speech of the Conference)