The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Jewelry and Ornamentation
Two Ornamental Bracelets
Very few of the major pieces of jewelry found in Tutankhamun's tomb were intended solely for purposes of adornment. Decorative elements in design are not infrequent, but they are usually subsidiary to the central motif, which was thought to have magical, and especially protective, properties of some kind. In this respect they conform with Egyptian jewelry in general: artists and craftsmen devoted much of their skill and ingenuity to devising images drawn from a fairly limited range of myths, often placing them in an attractive setting.
The two bracelets illustrated here belong to the ornamental class; nothing in their decoration has any recognizable amuletic or magical significance. The one illustrated on the left is a rigid bracelet, from the left forearm of Tutankhamun's mummy; the one on the right is a flexible bracelet from his right wrist. Both bracelets have as their bezels semiprecious stones mounted on plates of gold or electrum; the jewels are probably turquoise in the rigid bracelet and lapis lazuli in the flexible. In each case the jewel is set in a border of applied granular-work and small bosses, bands of braided rope, and continuous spirals. The wrist strap of the rigid bracelet, which is made of four gold tubes bound together, represents the stems of the papyrus flowers and buds at the hinge end of the strap and lilies interspersed with buds at the clasp. These floral terminals serve the same purpose as the corresponding elements on the udjat eye bracelet. In the flexible bracelet the wrist strap consists of eight strands of gold disk and barrel-shaped beads divided by a central strand of blue glass and carnelian beads. The spacer bar at the free end of the strap has a tenon that slides into a groove on the fixed bar attached to the plate on which the jewel is mounted.