Mummy foot casing, New Kingdom

Mummy foot casing, New Kingdom
Period:Egypt, New Kingdom, New Kingdom
Dating:1570 BC–1070 BC
Material:Cartonnage (all types)
Physical:35cm. (13.7 in.) - 650 g. (22.9 oz.)

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Links to others from New Kingdom

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  This cartonnage mummy foot casing is not a fragment, but rather a separate piece adorning the mummy of an army general during the New Kingdom. It unfortunately caved in and split (perhaps even while still in the tomb), then dried deformed. This unusually refined piece exhibits exquisite detailing, enlivened by gold leafing.

Foot Casing
A mummy foot casing, usually made of cartonnage, was a decorative element slipped on top of the feet of a bandaged mummy. Typically, the sole of the casing displays an outline of the defunct’s feet stepping on the depiction of symbolic prisoners. An Ethiopian represents the enemy at the southern end of the kingdom, and an Asian the enemy at the northern end of the kingdom. Pursuing the same idea, a traditional hieroglyphic text reads: “Every land, every foreign country, the tribe of Fn-Khw, and those who are ignorant of the united Egypt, are under your feet.”

It may seem strange to see as much care lavished on a foot casing as would have been on a facial mask. But from the predynastic time 5300 years ago, sandals were extraordinarily important symbols to ancient Egyptian kings. The slate palette of the King Narmer (circa 3200 BC) pictures the king followed by his official sandal bearer (He who carries the sandals). Furthermore, some egyptologists believe that the popular Egyptian sign Ankh, meaning “life” and often referred to as the “cross of life”, is a pictogram representing the strap of a sandal (Shaw 1995:34).

Cartonnage was a material used in the production of personal funerary ornamentation (masks, pectorals, foot casings, and sometimes whole coffins).

It was made with several layers of linen glued together and shaped in a mold. The resulting shell was usually coated on one side with gesso (a mixture of glue and whiting plaster). This smooth medium was well suited to detailed painting and gold leafing.

Although earlier examples are known, it is around Dynasty 18 that cartonnage became a material of choice, and it remained a popular medium though the roman period. In later times, the linen layers were sometimes replaced with recycled papyrus documents. Many of the papyri currently studied by Egyptologists were recovered from cartonnage.

Bibliography (for this item)

Khalil, Hassan M.
1976 Preliminary Studies on the Sanusret Collection. Manuscript, Musée l’Egypte et le Monde Antique, Monaco-Ville, Monaco. ((I) 205)

Bibliography (on Foot Casing)

Shaw, Ian, and Paul Nicholson
1995 The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. British Museum Press, London, United Kingdom.

Bibliography (on Cartonnage)

Duke University,
1991 Duke Papyrus Archive., Durham, NC.

Lucas, A., and J.R. Harris
1999 Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries (unabridged republication of the 1962 fourth edition by Edward Arnold Publishers). Dover Publications, New York, NY.

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