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Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Furniture and Boxes - Elaborately Decorated Chest


The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Furniture and Boxes

Elaborately Decorated Chest

Elaborately Decorated Chest


This elaborate chest was found by Carter in the Annex. The chest had already been ransacked when the officials of the necropolis restored order to the tomb. Since neither wardrobes nor closets were in use in Egypt until much later, boxes like these, varying in size and design, often served the same purpose. The detailed treatment of the outer surface of this piece suggests that it contained garments for ceremonial occasions.

The long horizontal decorative panel is bordered by alternately colored red and blue inlays, between which are plaques with vertical inlay of ivory and ebony. Both this and a similar band on the ledge is a border in a checkerboard pattern under which is another band, this time in a pattern of stylized petals made of white ivory. Surrounding the scene in the center, and extending outward at the top, are two white ivory inlays, between which is one band of ebony. The central panel, dived into five part, portrays several bovines, some in flight and others recumbent, and a lion pursuing an ibex. Details of landscape surround the creatures whose style is similar to that on the sheath of the golden dagger.

Bordering the scene on three sides are several separate floral groupings similar to the decoration in ivory veneer on the sides of the smaller of the two game boards.

Detail of Elaborately Decorated Chest

Although chests were commonly placed in tombs, judging from the physical evidence and the representations on the walls, no other example showed such skill and artistry in both construction and decoration. The Egyptians generally used chest for storage, and, originally it probably contained clothing of the king. The architectonic design with cavetto cornice is similar to that of the more vertically oriented golden shrine. When placed atop the chest, the lid would have been secured in place by a cord around the knob pictured here and one on the lid itself.

Made of a red wood, almost every part of the outer surface is either inlaid, gilded, covered, or veneered. Ebony, ivory, faience, calcite, and gilt are the materials that richly decorate the surface and adhere to it by means of glue and, in a few cases, copper nails.

In the center, surrounded by borders of stained ivory, is a scene depicting the king and queen in the marshes. Tutankhamun sits on a cushion on a chair while shooting arrows into the thicket before him. Fish are depicted in the pool, while birds flutter around the vegetation. Ankhesanamun, seated on a cushion at his feet, holds his next arrow in her left hand, while an attendant in the lower right retrieves a speared fish and bird. A similar, but much less cluttered scene, is embossed on the left side of the golden shrine. The string of the bow in both cases passes, not in front of, but behind the face of the king, unlike the bowstring used by Tutankhamun in the ostrich hunt.

The royal couple, portrayed in the informal attitudes introduced during the Amarna period, is relaxing in a lush garden. The floral motif is continued in the other decorative panels, which depict a variety of animals in pursuit of their prey. The lid shows the queen offering flowers to the king, while below them attendants are plucking flowers.

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