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Egypt: The Treasury and its Objects


The Treasury and its Objects

The Canopic Shrine

Six feet, six inches high, the canopic shrine dominated the treasury. This monument of gilded wood held Tutankhamun's internal organs. Since mummification was essentially a process of drying out the body, the parts most likely to decay were first removed through an incision made in the body's side. Tutankhamun's viscera were then placed in four miniature gold coffins, each under the protection of a different goddess: Isis - the liver; Nephthys - the lungs; Neith - the stomach; Selket - the intestines. These four goddesses appear both as gilded wood statuettes guarding the monument and in relief carvings on it's interior shrine. The heart was left in it's place in the body.

Carter first saw the treasury on February 17, 1923, but delayed work on it until the adjacent burial chamber was cleared. In the winter of 1926-1927, he emptied the treasury of it's smaller objects to make room for dismantling the complicated canopic shrine. Removal of the gilded wood canopy and walls of the outer shrine revealed the canopic chest, carved from a single block of alabaster. Within were the small gold coffins holding the king's internal organs.

The Gods

Despite it's promise of a life eternal, the netherworld was filled with dangers that had to be overcome. A variety of gods were called upon to aid the deceased on his precarious journey to the afterlife. The treasury of Tutankhamun's tomb was filled with over fifty images of such deities. Some were carved, according to tradition, in the likeness of the king himself. Others took the form of sacred animals such as the cobra god Netjerankh.

The Boxes and Jewelry

An open room adjacent to the burial chamber, the treasury contained mostly funerary equipment - ritual jewelry, model boats for the trip through the netherworld, images of the gods, and shawabty statuettes to do the king's work in the afterlife. The large, gilded canopic shrine held Tutankhamun's internal organs.

Although robbers had entered the treasury in antiquity, the stole only small objects and jewels, leaving the whole chamber more or less in it's original order. Carter discovered this room in February 1923 but sealed it off for three and a half years while clearing the burial chamber of it's shrines and coffins.

The Shawabty and Portrait Figures

The treasury held numerous ritual images of Tutankhamun. many of these were portraits, providing resting places for his spirit. Others were shawabtys, or substitute workers who were to magically perform the king's duties in the afterlife. Carter reported finding 413 shawabtys, equipped with miniature implements, in the the tomb. Made of wood, stone or clay, these mummiform statuettes ranged considerably in artistic quality.


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