The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Furniture and Boxes
Cabinet with Hieroglyphic Fretwork
The original contents, which Carter thought might have been fine linen, were stolen in antiquity, but the necropolis officials who replaced the piece in the Annex stored four headrests in it. Unlike most of the other cabinets in Tutankhamun's tomb, whose lids are fixed in place by means of a tongue and groove construction, the lid of this piece can be opened and closed by the bronze hinges attached to the back of the chest. As was the case with the others, a cord would be wrapped around the gilded wooden knobs, and a seal would be impressed in wet clay.
The style is typical of Egyptian furniture, and it can be traced back over one thousand years. The legs supporting Tutankhamun's cabinet are longer and thinner than most examples of the same design and account for its elegant appearance. Composed of ebony, they extend upward and form the framework for the chest; the panels on the sides and the lid are of a reddish-brown wood that may be cedar. A hieroglyphic inscription, incised and filled with a yellow pigment, covers most of the ebony bands, but it does not extend to the legs. The phrases and epithets refer to the king and his relationship to the traditional pantheon; the Aton, however, is also mentioned.
The openwork design of the fretwork takes to form of a hieroglyphic inscription; ankh and was are the vertical signs, and neb is the horizontal sign - the ankh is ebony and the others are gilded wood. "All life and dominion" is the phrase that is repeated around the chest, and it is the same that occurs on the chest with applied gilded decoration. Hieroglyphs were often used as a decorative motif on both furniture and jewelry, but they also served the purpose of communicating a message.