An anthropoid coffin, uncovered by the author, lies undisturbed in the grave where it was placed more than 3,000 years ago. Burial in anthropoid coffins like this one at Deir el-Balah, south of Gaza, was an Egyptian custom adopted by the Philistines who later occupied this site. The form is similar to a large storage jar, but it accommodates the human shape it contains—flat base, narrow at the feet, gradually widening for the trunk and shoulders, and rounded at the head. This coffin is about six feet long and about six feet in circumference. Small storage jars placed near its head served as grave markers.
A face appears on the coffin lid. The face is framed by rows of indentations representing a curly Egyptian style wig. It is clearly outlined—almost like sculpture in the round. The arms and face are molded in a naturalistic style.
When they opened the coffin, the archaeologists beheld a poignant and dazzling sight (inset). Inside lay two skulls just barely touching. Gold and carnelian earrings and pendants that once adorned the woman rested beside the skulls. Alongside the skeletons were bronze and alabaster vessels. Above the large bronze platter was an alabaster cosmetic spoon shaped in the form of a nude “swimming girl.” To the right of the spoon was a bronze mirror. Scarabs of faience and carnelian and seals helped to date this burial to the 13th century B.C., the reign of Ramesses II.