The outer coffin is designed as a replica of the earth as the ancient Egyptians envisioned it. Accordingly, the rectangular form of the box may be regarded as a depiction of earth itself. The ancient Egyptians then imagined that the heavens were supported by four posts, and each of these, also representing one of the four cardinal points of the compass, is found in each corner of the earth-box. Each of these supports is decorated with an undulating pattern which is to be understood as a depiction of the hide of a cow. Accordingly, each post represents one leg of the celestial cow, identified as the goddess Nut. She is often represented standing over the earth so that her belly becomes the vault of heaven. It is for his reason that the lid of this coffin is likewise vaulted.
The symbolism inherent in the design of this four poster, vaulted ceiling coffin is furthered when one considers that the ancient Egyptians also believed that the sun was metaphorically swallowed by Nut each evening at sun set and emerged from her womb each morning at dawn. This mythological cycle represented the death and aspired resurrection of the deceased interred within the coffin. The presence of the cow goddess Nut, representing the support of the heavens and the heavens themselves, is appropriate because the owner of this funerary ensemble was the aristocratic Lady named Merit-it-es. It is fitting that the resurrection of a woman is made manifest in the religious symbolism of a goddess rather than a god.
The falcon perched at one end of the vaulted lid deserves special comment because it is not depicted with feet and legs but is rather designed as a mummy. This mummified falcon represents Sokar, the patron deity of the necropolis of Memphis. Throughout its long history, Memphis retained its status as the venerable religious capital of the entire nation. Sokar was venerated as the guardian of tomb of the god Osiris which Sokar protected by perching on its roof, just as he is here perched on the roof of the coffin of Merit-it-es. In the inscriptions around this coffin, the name of Merit-it-es is habitually preceded by the epithet, “the Osiris,” effectively identifying her with the god of the Hereafter. In this subtle way, text and image work together to suggest that Merit-it-es, like the god Osiris, will have her final resting place protected by the great Memphite deity, Sokar, as she makes her journey across the night sky en route to her resurrection.