The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Basic Funeral Equipment
When found, this alabaster casket was lying in the Antechamber with the lid removed, no doubt by the robbers. There was nothing to suggest that they had interfered with its contents, which consisted mainly of an ivory pomegranate, a layer of cloth, a mass of decayed (horse?) hair, and two balls of hair wrapped in linen, one 2 inches and the other 2-3/8 inches in diameter. Balls of dried Nile mud, sometimes with tufts of hair in the center and sometimes with fragments of papyrus or linen, have been found in Egyptian tombs and they are thought to have had a magical significance, the nature of which is still obscure, although there is evidence to suggest that they were associated with some form of contract. Since this casket bears the names of both the king and the queen, it is conceivable that each ball contains the hair of one of them. If some contract of importance was thereby signified, it may explain why such simple articles were placed in so elaborate a casket.
The box and lid of this casket are each carved from a single piece of alabaster (calcite) and the two knobs are made of obsidian (volcanic glass). The decoration throughout is incised and filled with colored pigments. On the lid it consists of formal bouquets in which the chief components are a papyrus flower, cornflowers, mandrakes and lily petals. Two identical horizontal bands of blue lily petals beneath friezes of a checker pattern decorate the box. At the head end the bands are broken by a rectangular frame within which are the cartouches of the king and of the queen. Above the cartouches are their titles "Good God, Lord of the Two Lands" and "Son of Ra, Lord of the Diadems" for the king, and "Great Royal Wife" for the queen. The cartouches of the king are followed by the wish that he may be "Given life for ever and ever" and beneath the cartouche of the queen is the wish that she may "be given life and be fruitful".