See & Do
Virtual Exhibition Tour
As the exhibition has now closed, we have created a short video tour which includes a selection of our favourite artefacts.
We know it’s not the same as seeing them in real life, but we hope you enjoy.
TUTANKHAMUN: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh unveiled more than 150 original objects from the tomb with 60 pieces travelling out of Egypt for the first and last time. Below are some of the highlighted artefacts that were on display at Saatchi Gallery.
Solar Hawk Figure of Horus
This figure of a solar falcon was found in the southeast corner of the Antechamber behind the chariot. An image of the scarab god Khepri (the morning sun) covers the front and back faces of the disk upon the falcon’s head. Broad bird wings spread out from the god’s insect body. Above the beetle’s head is the solar disk flanked by a pair of uraei, from whose serpent bodies hang ankhs (the symbol for “life”). Each uraeus wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Three additional ankhs hang from the sun disk. Below the beetle are three plural strokes and a neb basket. So within the solar disk we have an elaborate writing of Tutankhamun’s throne name, Nebkheperure.
This falcon is the god Horus, who embodies the king and is closely associated with Re.
Figure of Tutankhamun on a skiff
This figure depicts Tutankhamun standing aboard a papyrus raft, the earliest form of watercraft on the Nile. His right arm is raised, ready to strike with a harpoon, while his left is outstretched with a rope that would be fastened to the weapon.
In this guise, Tutankhamun has taken on the form of Horus, fighting his murderous uncle, Seth, who had tried to usurp the crown. Seth does not appear here but is clearly implied. He would be imagined as a hippopotamus, the most dangerous animal in the Nile River. Images of hippopotamus hunting, a perilous sport, appear in Egyptian art beginning with the Predynastic Period. In New Kingdom tomb paintings, the tomb owner might appear very much as Tutankhamun does here, ready to deliver a fatal strike to the enraged hippo.
Ostrich Hunt Fan
Fans were objects of prestige in ancient Egypt and serving as “fan bearer on the right side of the king” was a great honour. They provided both shade and breeze in Egypt’s hot climate and were thus closely associated with the breath of life.
One side of the fan shows the strong young king charging along in his chariot while a hunting dog keeps pace. Tutankhamun draws his bow to shoot a pair of ostriches desperately trying to flee. An arrow has pierced the neck of one bird, while the other has fallen. Behind the king, an anthropomorphic ankh runs along carrying a fan very much like this one. The reverse side shows the successful royal hunter returning home. The birds lie draped over the shoulders of his attendants, and the horses prance, as if ready for another chase. In the inscription Tutankhamun is described as “lord of might” – his prowess at the hunt providing evidence of his strength.
The king may have been a good hunter in life. The inscription on the stock indicates that he hunted ostriches in the desert near Heliopolis with one of those hunts having provided feathers for this fan.
Calcite Box with Floral Decoration
This calcite box contains a piece of linen within which was wrapped two balls of human hair (possibly from Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun), animal hair (possibly from a horse), and an ivory pomegranate which, due to its large number of seeds, symbolised sexuality.
Some scholars believe that the contents were part of a ritual contract which had been undertaken by Tutankhamun and his queen at the king’s coronation. The inscription gives the names of the royal couple. The king’s titles are (left and centre) “Good god, lord of the Two Lands and son of Re, lord of the diadems,” and the queen’s (right) as “great royal wife.” The inscription after the king’s cartouches reads “given life forever and ever.” The queen’s name is followed by “given life and be fruitful.”
These linen gloves, woven with a scale pattern of alternating red and blue bands, may have been worn by Tutankhamun in the cool Memphis winter, the area he lived much of his life. They may also have been worn while driving chariots out in the desert, to better grip the leather reins.
Carter’s team laid one of this pair flat and treated it chemically for conservation. The other remains neatly folded.
The earliest evidence for the wearing of gloves in Egypt is seen in the reign of Tutankhamun’s father, Akhenaten. A pair was among the gifts that Akhenaten granted to the chief of his chariotry, Ay. A scene depicting this gifting appears in the tomb created for Ay at Amarna.
Around eighty vases and other vessels were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The vessels you see here are formed of calcite, also known as Egyptian alabaster, a commonly-used material as it was soft and could be carved into elaborate forms. The vessels held scented unguents and oils with which the king would have been anointed.
The Unguent Vase with Papyrus and Lotus Flower Design is one of the most detailed examples. One of the stand legs had been broken in antiquity, perhaps during the robbery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Its contents, a fatty substance, would have been more valuable to the thieves than the vessel itself. Palm ribs form the decoration on either side of this vase. These rib markings were used to denote time – a notch cut for each year of a king’s reign.
Below the palm rib the sign for “100,000” is perched on shen rings (“eternity”). Between the ribs and the vase are floral forms – a clump of papyrus growing from a lily flower. These two plants; papyrus and lily represent Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt, respectively.
Thus the design signifies a wish for the king to rule over the entire country forever.
These curiously shaped wooden boxes contained food provisions for the afterlife; beef— the most highly prized protein source in ancient Egypt—as well as the meat of goats and sheep including cuts of rib, joints, and a beef tongue. Staples of poultry; duck and goose, were also provided.
Elsewhere in the tomb Carter found twenty-six jars of wine, an abundance of honey, fruit, nuts, seeds, and spices, and the staple of all Egyptian social classes, bread.
Examination of Tutankhamun’s mummy with modern technology has informed us that the king ate well in life, as one might expect for a royal son. The abundance of food in the tomb would have ensured that he continue to do so in the afterlife.
Bronze Torch Holder
Carter found four almost identical torch holders standing on one of the ritual beds in the Antechamber.
Torches with wicks of linen were used to light the palace. They were also used to help workmen see in the dark depths of tombs. Besides their practical use, torches also served magical functions. In the Book of the Dead spell 137B, a spell for lighting a fire for the deceased, the flame represents one of the eyes of Horus and saps the strength from Horus’s opponent, the god Seth. Torches were also placed on the magical bricks that were inserted into the niches of burial chamber walls.
In one example, human arms reach out from the bronze ankh to hold a linen wick. Although it is one of the most common Egyptian symbols and its meanings (“life,” “mirror”) are well known, Egyptologists still debate what the ankh sign actually represents. Suggestions range from a sandal strap to a ceremonial girdle. Some believe it might be a combination of symbols for “male” and “female.”
Model Solar Boat
Thirty-five model boats were found in the tomb. From the Early Dynastic Period onward, boats were important elements of royal funerary kit. At Giza, two huge boats of imported cedar wood, complete with cabins and steering oars, were dismantled and buried in pits next to the Great Pyramid. Recent study has proven that they represent the two solar boats: the night barque (mesektet) and the day barque (mandjet).
By the New Kingdom, the burial of actual boats had been replaced by models, such as the one shown here. This model takes the form of a divine boat, which often reflected the shape of the Nile’s first watercraft, papyrus rafts. This model, inscribed with Tutankhamun’s names, represents one of the solar barques. He can be imagined occupying the built-in throne, where Re would also sit.
The World-famous Gold Coffinette
Within a chest, each of four canopy compartments contained tiny gold coffins holding organs which had been removed from Tutankhamun’s corpse and mummified separately. The coffinettes resemble the much larger coffins which held the body. The king appears in the form of the mummy Osiris, wearing the nemes headdress with the patron goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt on his forehead. These goddesses, Wadjet and Nekhbet, also appear with feathered wings wrapped around the torso of the king. A feathered pattern known as rishi covers the lower half of the body. In the left hand, he holds the flail, and in the right, the crook, two ancient scepters of kingship that appear in the hands of Osiris. The divine beard strapped to Tutankhamun’s chin also identifies him with the gods, but the holes in his ears, a detail given even to these miniature coffins, were a fashion of the king’s human lifetime and a characteristic of Tutankhamun himself.
Each organ was considered under the special protection of one of the goddesses and one of the four sons of Horus, who are sometimes referred to as funerary genii. Heroglyphic inscriptions of spells run down the coffinette lid. In this particular item, Isis and Imsety guard the king’s liver. During the New Kingdom, the other three organs and their divine guardians were lungs, Nephthys and Hapy; stomach, Neith and Duamutef; and intestines, Selket and Qebehsenuef.
Gilded Wooden Naos
This shrine sits atop a sledge covered with silver. Within was a rectangular ebony base for a statue. But there is no figure on it, only a pillar with Tutankhamun’s names and titles, and, before this, two footprint-like depressions suggesting that a figure had once stood here. What happened to the statuette is unknown, and it is even speculated that there never was one at all. It could be that the footprints were enough to indicate the presence of the king, now transformed into a divinity.
The scenes on the doors and the outer faces of the walls are dedicated to Queen Ankhesenamun attending to her husband. On the doors, she raises
her hands in worship of the king, offers him bouquets, shakes a sistrum (a ceremonial rattle) or supports him while walking. On the right side panels, she accompanies him on bird-hunting expeditions. In one, she helpfully passes Tutankhamun his next arrow. In a third scene, the queen again supports him as they walk.
The left side shows the royal couple in four scenes of a more obviously ritual nature. She rattles a sistrum and menat (a necklace of beads that, like the sistrum, is sacred to Hathor), pours wine or water into an elaborate chalice decorated with flowers, and fastens a pectoral around his neck. Once, Ankhesenamun receives a gift of oil, poured by her husband into her cupped hand.
The Egyptians would have recognised sexual elements in many of these images. The waterfowl, flowers, and the acts of pouring and throwing/shooting have erotic connotations, as do some of Ankhesenamun’s hairstyles and implements, which relate her to Hathor, goddess of love and female sexuality.
Still, interpretation of the shrine’s imagery remains a matter of speculation. Primarily, these scenes may relate to the relationship between Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun in their eternal roles as husband-king and wife-queen and the duties necessary to maintain cosmic order. The affection between the royal couple, although stylised and ritualised, seems nonetheless deep and genuine.
Gold Inlaid Pectoral
Lapis lazuli scarabs dominate the imagery of this bulky pectoral. The centrepiece
is the morning barque of the sun, where two uraei flank the largest scarab, above which is a carnelian solar disk. Between the snakes and the beetle are three hieroglyphic signs (top to bottom): djed (“stability”), ankh (“life), nefer (“beauty/ good/perfection”). Two serpents guard the solar disk; an ankh hangs from each one via a chain consisting of repeating motifs.
The basket, scarab, and solar disk spell out Tutankhamun’s throne name, Nebkheperure, although the basket here is not the neb basket but the heb basket, meaning “festival.” Next comes a pair of snakes wearing solar disks upon their heads with ankh and nefer signs between them.
The ends terminate as vultures, seen in profile with one wing outspread. To each of these, two strands of beads attach the clasp, which takes the form of serpents.
The back of this piece of jewellery is equally remarkable. The flat gold backs of the elements are engraved with designs reflecting the inlay on the front, or, in the case of the scarabs, moulded to form realistic images of the underside of the beetles.
Life-size Guardian Statue of the King
This life-size statue of the king, and another similar to it, stood facing each other against the north wall of the Antechamber. Located between them was the entrance to the Burial Chamber which had been blocked up and plastered over.
This figure shows the king striding, the typical pose for standing male figures. (Most, but not all, standing female figures appear with both feet together.) The statue wears a kilt, and on the triangular spread of its apron is a sporran with his names and titles and two uraei and, at the corners, leopard heads. His right arm hangs by his side, grasping one of Egypt’s most ancient kingly weapons, a mace. The left arm bends to hold a long staff, which, below his hand, spreads out into the form of a papyrus umbel. This is the mekes staff, which may have served as a weapon in much earlier times. On his upper and lower arms are armlets and bracelets. Around Tutankhamun’s neck is a broad collar, over which hangs a shrine- shaped pectoral decorated with a winged scarab, suspended by a wide chain.
Rebirth is symbolised in the black colouring – the colour of the nutrient-rich soil, deposited by the annual Nile floodwaters, from which new plants—and new life—arose. Details of the king’s costume; his staff, the frames of his eyes, and his eyebrows are rendered in gold, which was associated with divinity.
The headdress worn by this figure is the nemes, most frequently worn by Egyptian kings, it is believed to be linked with the morning sun in the form of the god Re-Khepri. It is also thought to identify the king with Horus, both as the son of Osiris, king of the dead, and as the son of the great solar god, Re. The counterpart of this guardian figure wears a headdress known as the afnet, khat, or bag wig, which has associations with the netherworld and night. The two headdresses are often paired, perhaps to convey the concepts of day and night.
At least one scholar has suggested that the extensive use of gold in Tutankhamun’s figures was a tribute to how deeply loved the young king was, perhaps because during his reign the traditional religion, including the cult of Amun, was restored after the period of his father’s “heresy.” It may also reflect increased access to the rich treasuries of Amun’s temple.
Tutankhamun’s tomb contained nine beds, three of which served in the king’s funerary rituals. The other six are of a style meant for the living to sleep upon, with short legs and a board at one end. One of these beds was constructed to fold for easy transport and storage. According to Carter, the king had used five of the beds during his lifetime, but not this one. He believed this bed, constructed of wood that was covered with stucco and given a thin layer of gold foil, was intended to serve the king in the netherworld only.
The headboard features figures of the protective hippopotamus goddess Taweret and the dwarf god Bes whose indicate that the dead king would use this piece of furniture in the afterlife in happiness and joy, which are the associations of this deity. Other scholars believe that the bed serves as a symbol of rebirth in the otherworld as Bes is also the protector of new born children, and Taweret is a goddess of childbirth.
As a place where sleepers spent the night and awoke in the morning, beds became symbols of rebirth. No doubt the symbolic associations of both protection and rebirth were intended here.
Egyptian beds are higher at one end than at the other. Some scholars believe that the board with the Bes figures is at the foot of the bed, but others argue the board is at the head. With the head of the sleeper at this end, the body would experience improved blood circulation, something of which the Egyptians were aware.
Gold Ba Bird Pectoral
The human-headed bird represents a ba, the aspect of an individual that flew from the body at the moment of death. The deceased’s ability to reach the afterlife depended on the ba reuniting with the body and the ka (“life force”). The pectoral here was made of gold inlaid with glass to mimic turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. In the bird’s claws are shen signs, rings that symbolise the eternal circuit of the sun. The craftsman rendered the human face of this beautiful piece with exquisite sensitivity.
EXHIBITION ONLINE SHOP
The Tutankhamun Online Store features products from the Tutankhamun Exhibition including exclusive pieces, designer collaborations and the official Exhibition catalogue by Dr. Zahi Hawass.