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Tutankhamun's Treasures

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The treasures of Tutankhamun have been marveled at since their discovery by Howard Carter on November 4, 1922. It was the first, and to this day the only, royal tomb in the history of Egyptology to be found practically untouched, even though in ancient times it had been the object of no less than two attempts at robbery.   The emptying of Tutankhamun's tomb lasted several years and made possible the recovery of about 3500 articles, confirming the tomb as the most exceptional archeological discovery ever made in Egypt. A few of the items are displayed here.

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Tutankhamun's second coffinA close-up of Tutankhamun's second innermost coffin, also referred to as the intermediate coffin.   It is made of gilded, laminated wood with inlays of polychrome glass pastes.  The physiognomy of the second coffin differs markedly from the that of the first (presently located in Tutankhamun's tomb) and third (shown below) coffins.  There is every reason to believe that, as with other objects from the burial furniture, Tutankhamun was not its intended owner.
Tutankhamun's third coffinTutankhamun's third coffin is made of solid, hammered gold and weighs about 450 pounds. The royal mummy of Tutankhamun was found inside this coffin.  In all three of the coffins, Tutankhamun was represented identically with the nemes headdress and the ceremonial beard, folding his arms as his hands grasp the insignia of royal power - the heqa-scepter in the left and the nekhakha-flail in the right.  From Tutankhamun's forehead a cobra and a vulture stand out, emblems of Wadjet and Nekhbet, the two tutelary deities of Lower and Upper Egypt. Although Tutankhamun's two innermost sarcophagi are displayed in the Museum, the outermost one still holds the mummy of Tutankhamun and resides in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Tutankhamun's MaskTutankhamun's famous gold funerary mask rested directly on the pharaoh's mummy inside the third coffin. The pharaoh wears the classic nemes headdress striped with transversal bands of glass paste imitating lapis lazuli and is adorned with a wide collar composed of streaks of semiprecious stones and colored glasses. The eyes are made of quartz and obsidian.   As on the coffins, the lapis-lazuli outline of the eyes reproduces the distinctive kohl eye make-up originally applied to protect against the sun's glare but increasingly employed for its beautifying effect.

Chalice-shaped lampOne of the two calcite lamps found in Tutankhamun's burial chamber.  The cup takes the form of an open lotus flower and is flanked on both sides by rich, openwork decoration in which the god Heh is depicted kneeling on a number of papyrus plants with his arms raised.   With one hand he is holding a palm branch (the hieroglyphic symbol for 'a year') that forms one edge of the scene, while the other touches the ankh symbol placed alongside Tutankhamun's cartouches.  The cartouches, one containing his birth name (nomen) and the other his coronation name (prenomen) of Nebkheperure, are set above the hieroglyph signifying gold.  This elaborate decoration contains the wish for unity and a long reign for the pharaoh. When employed as a lamp, the cup was part filled with oil - perhaps sesame oil - traces of which still remain, and provided with a floating wick.  When lit from within, a scene becomes visible which is painted upon the outer surface of a thin calcite liner cemented inside the cup.  The side shown here shows Ankhesenamum, Tutankhamun's wife, presenting him with two long palm branches symbolizing 'millions of years'.  The other side carries Tutankhamun's prenomen and nomen between horizontal bands of petal ornamentation.

Tutankhamun's StatuesThe foremost and furthermost gilded wood statuettes portray Tutankhamun hunting hippopotamus with a harpoon from a boat made of papyrus. He wears the red crown of Lower Egypt and stands in a light papyrus skiff such as were used by those hunting with a throw stick or harpoon in the Delta marshes.  The scene depicted (the pharaoh, protector of order on Earth, spearing the hippopotamus, incarnation of chaos and evil powers) evokes the legendary fight of Horus against Seth.  For magical reasons, the hippopotamus, is excluded from the composition.  The center gilded, wooded statue portrays Menkeret carrying the mummified pharaoh.

Canopic ChestTutankhamun's Canopic Chest was carved from a single piece block of delicately veined and semi-translucent calcite, picked out in contrasting dark blue pigment.  The chest contains four alabaster Canopic Jars used for the burial of the viscera removed during mummification. Exquisitely modeled in calcite, each lid represents Tutankhamun wearing the nemes with separately modeled vulture head and uraeus.  The facial features are carefully picked out in black, with dabs of red for the lips.  All four are hollowed out underneath and carry a symbol painted in black on the shoulder to identify the compartment for which they were intended.  The specific organs stored in the jars were the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines.

The Canopic ShrineThe gilded wood Canopic Shrine contained the Canopic Chest pictured above.  The outer canopy of this shrine consists of four corner posts supporting a cavetto cornice surmounted by a continuous frieze of uraei inlaid with colored glass and faience.  Between the posts, on each of the four sides, stands an elegant guardian goddess of gilded wood - Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selkis, each identified by the hieroglyph upon her head.  Each figure stands feet inwards, arms outstretched in a gesture of protection with the head gently inclined to either right or left, breaking the rule of frontality which is basic to Egyptian art.   Within this outer framework is a second layer, the shrine proper, each of its gilded walls decorated in sunk relief with its own cavetto cornice decorated with a second cobra frieze.
Winged scarab pectoralA pectoral of Tutankhamun, who, with his advisors, was at pains to emphasize the return to diverse worship of the sun and other deities after Akhenaten's experiment with monotheistic Atenism.  Two forms of the sun-god are incorporated into this pendent: the scarab beetle Khepri, god of the rising sun who each day pushed the solar disc into the sky, and the winged solar disk with uraei most commonly known as Horus Behdety or Horus of Edfu, son and heir of Ra and mighty defender of his royal father against Set.  The scarab in this pectoral is made from a green stone, the color symbolizing rebirth.  The scarab is winged and holds Tutankhamun's cartouches in front of itself.  The feathered wings of the scarab are supported by the kneeling figures of Nephthys and Isis, respectively to the left and right of the scarab, wearing the hieroglyphs that signify their names on their heads.  The decoration of the pendant is executed in the cloisonné technique, with thin gold wires forming small cells that were typically filled with colored glass paste.
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© All pictures are Copyright 1998 - 2001 Grisel Gonzalez

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