From 7-9 April the Ancient Egyptian Coffins Past, Present and Future conference was held in Cambridge, to coincide with major Death on the Nile exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum – a part of the museum’s bicentenary celebration.

The exhibition itself is particularly interesting not only for the rich and varied collection it showcases, but also for the information about the construction and materials, as well as the iconography, of coffins in ancient Egypt.  There is also an emphasis both on conservation – with a small working conservation lab at the back of the exhibition – and on conservation science, with information about the sampling and imaging technologies used for the scientific analysis detailed, as well as details of methods of reconstruction.  This includes reconstructions both of the decorative layers, and of the original carving and carpentry of the structures. This link explains more about the methods used for analysis: Coffin Technology.

The conference was organised by the Fitzwilliam and the University of Cambridge and brought a national and international group of experts from the fields of both conservation and Egyptology to discuss the development of the coffins technologically and iconographically, to detail the post antiquity history of coffins and to speak about the current developments in technical examination and analysis.  It was particularly valuable to combine speakers from both fields, who rarely get the opportunity to share information and work together in a combined conference which embraces both disciplines.

Three colleagues from the Belgian Archaeological Mission in the Theban Necropolis also attended.  For the Belgian mission the conference was particularly well timed, in terms of speaking to and sharing information with colleagues and other experts in the field, as it co-incides with what will become a conservation campaign focusing on the conservation and stabilisation of the many fragments of coffins, funerary furniture, cartonnage and masks discovered in the excavation.  Below are some photos of the first stages of first aid stabilisation work and lifting of some of the finds from the excavation, which will later receive conservation treatment.

While here are some links about some of the other conservation work at the Belgian mission: Conservation of a New Tomb, Materials Ancient and Modern, Conservation of Theban Temples and Tombs Symposium.

These photos are courtesy of my colleague, and photographer on the project Victor Dupuis.