An ancient Egyptian coffin complete with the skeleton of a man buried with a gold Pharaonic seal has been unearthed in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday.
Found in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel during work to install a gas pipeline, the coffin was part of a burial site dating to the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.).
The 3,300-year-old cylindrical clay sarcophagus featured a rare anthropoidal lid — a cover in the shape of a person — and was surrounded by “a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones,” IAA excavation directors Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri, said in a statement.
Showing an impression of a man’s face in the Egyptian style, with stylized hair, ears and hands crossed over the chest, the coffin contained the skeleton of an adult male buried with a bronze dagger, a bronze drinking bowl, pottery and hammered pieces of bronze.
“Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally, we assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government,” the researchers said.
Another, less likely possibility is that the coffin belonged to a wealthy local individual who imitated Egyptian funerary customs.
Next to the skeleton, the archaeologists found an Egyptian scarab seal encased in gold and affixed to a ring which bore the name of Seti I, the Pharaoh who conquered the region in the 13th century B.C.
One of the most powerful kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Seti I was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars as the pharaoh in the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.
According to the archaeologists, the seal points to a strong Egyptian influence in the Land of Israel, and the Jezreel Valley in particular, during the second millennium B.C.
The Israel Antiquities Authority is now planning an in-depth analysis of the man’s remains, including DNA testing, to determine whether he was originally a Canaanite or an Egyptian person who was buried in Canaan.
Photo: Parts of the coffin’s lid after an initial cleaning. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority