Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Jewelry - Three Ornate Rings representing King Tutankhamun

The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Jewelry and Ornamentation

Three Ornate Rings

Three Ornate Rings

Wrapped together in a package, placed above the right wrist of Tutankhamun's mummy, were five rings, three of which are illustrated here.

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(a) Particular interest attaches to the material of this ring. It is a green translucent stone, which Carter thought was chalcedony. However, scientific tests carried out by Alfred Lucas, the chemist who assisted Carter in his work at the tomb, proved that neither a steel point nor quartz would mark it and that the stone itself did not scratch glass. He therefore deduced that it was probably nephrite, and not jadeite, as he had once supposed. Nepthrite is not a stone that is known to exist in Egypt or in any country of the Middle East; all the sources at present are located in either Europe or the Far East.. In view of its hardness it is not surprising that the figures are so roughly engraved in the two cartouches that form the bezel.

The king himself, wearing the blue khepresh helmet with streamers and a triangular kilt with apron, is shown in the right-hand cartouche. His throne name, followed by the words "given life", is written in a separate cartouche inside the main cartouche. He stands before the ithyphallic god Min of Coptos, who wears the same kind of plumed headdress as Amun, and holds a flail in his right hand. Beneath the flail is a single blue lotus flower with a long stem.

Min was an ancient god of vegetation and fertility whose cult was suppressed by Akhenaton when he closed the temples of all the gods except Aton. Tutankhamun revived the cult and reinstated its priesthood.

(b) The cartouche-shaped bezel of this ring bears a three-dimensional device. In this respect it is not unique among the rings from this tomb, but it is certainly the most elaborate of the fifteen rings found on the mummy. The central feature is a scarab of either lapis lazuli or blue glass with an atef crown on its head; two uraei with solar disks are mounted near the tips of the horns at the base of the crown. In front of the scarab is the lunar bark bearing the disk of the moon and its crescent. At the back, protecting the scarab with its outspread wings, is the falcon of Horus with sun's disk holding the shen sign in each talon, all in closionne-work; the inlay is of lapis lazuli, feldspar, and carnelian. Supporting the bezel are terminals with floral motifs, each consisting of a papyrus flower flanked by poppy buds, the stems of which form the tripartite loop of the ring. All three stems are made of gold and the two on the outside, which are those of the poppy buds, are inlaid with blue glass. Beneath the gold bezel, on the inner surface of the ring, are engraved the king's throne name and titles and the epithet "beloved of Thoth."

(c) The finely carved scarab that forms the bezel of this ring is made of chalcedony, a stone found in several places in Egypt both east and west of the Nile. Engraved on the base is a figure of the god Thoth, ibis-headed, with a lunar disk and crescent on his head. In his out-stretched left hand he holds an udjat eye and in his right hand he holds the ankh sign. The milky color of the stone is particularly suitable for the moon-god and very probably it was chosen for that reason. Besides being the moon-god, Thoth was also the patron deity of writing, magic, and wisdom, and it was he who restored to Horus the eye that he lost in his fight with Seth, the murderer of his father, Osiris. Although Horus is not represented on this scarab, Thoth's action in holding out the eye is an allusion to its return to Horus in accordance with the legend.