Coffin for a shrew
Late Period to Early Ptolemaic Period, 2nd Half 1st millennium BCE
Copper alloy, 7,5 x 1,9 x 3,1 cm LBH
This shrew is depicted in a delightful manner with its trunk-like snout and long tail that has to be supported at the end. Its face with its large eyes and jug ears is vividly formed. The oblong-shaped box serves as a base for the figure on the one hand, but is also the coffin for the mummified animal. The small mummy was placed in the coffin through the now-open narrow side of the box.
The various phases of the sun’s course could be embodied by a single deity or assume the shape of various deities. A later myth speaks of Horus of Letopolis, who, as Chentiirti or Machentiirti, that is, as the seeing or the blind god respectively, could represent the day or the night side of the sun. The two different aspects of Horus of Letopolis were symbolized by the shrew and the mongoose. The shrew, living largely below the surface of the earth and considered “blind” by the Egyptians, represented the night side. Conversely, the mongoose, with his large alert eyes, represented its day side. A large number of statuettes of shrews and mongooses from the Late Period are preserved and often mounted on small coffins.
G. Roeder, Ägyptische Bronzewerke, Pelizaeus-Museum zu Hildesheim, Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen 3, Glückstadt 1937, plates 34, g. On the meaning of both animals see E. Brunner-Traut, Spitzmaus und Ichneumon als Tiere des Sonnengottes, in: NAWG 1965 (7), 123 –163.