Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Statues, Sculptures and Containers - Tutankhamun on a Lotus

The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Statues, Sculptures and Containers

Tutankhamun on a Lotus

Tutankhamun on a Lotus

Like many of the objects in Tutankhamun's tomb, this wooden life-size head covered with gesso (plaster) and then painted reflects elements of the orthodox religion reinstituted by the king. Here, however, the king is represented as a child, according to the small size of the head and the appearance of the features. All of the elements of the composition relate to a myth involving the young sun god.

Despite the fact that several theories existed simultaneously in ancient Egypt to describe the origin of the universe, it appears that all the concepts begin with primordial water. In one cosmological explanation, a lotus emerges on a mound in the water, and the infant sun god was born upon this flower. He then brings light to the land with his two eyes. This creation myth was accepted by some ancient theologians as the explication for the disappearance of the sun every evening and its reappearance the next morning. It was, in effect, reborn every day.

When the king died he often associated himself with particular gods, one of the most important of which was the sun god. In this sculpture, Tutankhamun is identified with the sun god, and, therefore, he too will be reborn every morning. Such compositions are not infrequent, and Ramesses II had himself depicted as the infant sun god on a pendant for a necklace.

The god Nefertem is often pictured with the lotus as well. Despite the fact that in one set of doctrines, he is the son of Ptah and Sekhmet, he is also regarded as the youthful sun god. In such an association, the sculpture may represent Tutankhamun as Nefertem, an embodiment of the newborn sun. Carter unearthed this object from the rubble used to fill the Entrance Corridor; it was not in the tomb itself. It is likely, therefore, that the robbers discarded it in their hasty exit. The jewelry that probably once adorned the head was stolen in antiquity, but the remnants of an earring still remains intact in the left ear. Only the back button and post still exist; the other parts and the right earring were stolen or destroyed over three thousand years ago.