The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Jewelry and Ornamentation
Necklace with Lunar Pectoral
Pectorals attached to necklaces and decorated with figures of deities and the symbols that were associated with them formed a high proportion of the jewelry found in Tutankhamun's tomb. In this example the chains of the necklace consist of four rows of spherical and barrel-shaped beads made of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, feldspar and resin.
At the top of the necklace is a gold cloisonne counterpoise inlaid with a lotus flower and buds, two poppies, and two rosettes. Ten bead tassels, each ending in a faience corolla, are attached to a gold bar supported by the lotus flower. The clasp consists of a tenon that projects from the left-hand corner of the counterpoise and slides into a mortise in the upper terminal bar of the necklace. The lower terminals, which are joined to the pectoral, bear the king's personal name and his throne name, flanked by uraei with outstretched wings embracing the shen sign.
The pectoral symbolizes the nocturnal journey of the moon across the sky. At the base is the long, narrow, hieroglyphic sign for the sky, appropriately inlaid with blue lapis lazuli. Beneath it are fringelike inlays of feldspar and lapis lazuli representing drops of moisture; they are added to the sky sign in the hieroglyphic writing of words meaning dew and rain. Lotus flowers and buds grow from the celestial waters; the golden bark seems to float above them. This arrangement illustrates the convention regularly adopted by Egyptian artists to show two objects on the same plane when one object was behind another: the farther object was placed above the nearer. In this case the bark must be understood to be floating on top of the sky sign behind the flowers. So that it should be evident that the bark is conveying the moon and not the sun, the crescent is added to the moon's disk, again in accordance with convention. Furthermore, the moon and crescent are made of electrum, a mixture of silver and gold and therefore lighter in color than pure gold or red carnelian, which were the materials normally used in representations of the sun. The shape of bark itself with its incurved prow and stern is developed from the ancient Nile craft made of stems of papyrus lashed together. The design is the same as that of both the sun's bark and the bark used to convey the dead on funerary voyages to the sanctuary of Osiris at Abydos. A thin cord, of which traces can be seen at the base of the moon's disk, was used to attach the pectoral to the wearer's clothing in order to keep it in position when worn. Its presence suggests that the necklace, like many of the other objects found in the cartouche-shaped box, was a personal possession worn by the king in his lifetime.