The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Statues, Sculptures and Containers
Gold Head of Staff in Tutankhamun's Image
Among the many objects from this tomb that remain unparalleled in Egyptian art are two small figures of the king, one in gold and the other in silver, the feet in each case being socketed into a plate of the same metal as the figure. Beneath the plate is a tubular shaft of silver or of gold. They were found, wrapped in fine linen and bound together, on the floor between the two outermost shrines protecting the king's coffins. Apart from their material, the two figures are almost identical in every respect. The gold figure, which is shown here, is cast solid and chased. It shows the king wearing only the blue crown and a pleated kilt with ornamented apron suspended from a girdle. His throne name is engraved on the clasp of the girdle. The upper part of the body and the feet are bare.
Nothing in the dress of the king indicates the purpose of the object. His crown (khepresh), sometimes incorrectly called the war helmet, first appears on monuments as a royal headdress at the end of the Seventeenth Dynasty and is commonly worn by Tutankhamun's predecessors in the Eighteenth Dynasty in many different circumstances: in battle, in religious and secular ceremonies, and in private life. He is represented wearing the same kind of pleated kilt shooting ostriches from his chariot, in some of the scenes on the small gilded shrine, and on the gilded wooden figure. The position of the hands, with their backs facing toward the front, is an exceptional feature in figures with a close-fitting kilt; normally this pose is found only when the kilt is of a different type with a triangular frontal projection. Perhaps this variation is but an extension of the regular practice of Egyptian sculptors, when carving in relief, of avoiding whenever possible depicting the hands in profile.
In form, this piece immediately suggests the standards carried by priests and officials in state and religious ceremonies. As a rule, however, such standards consist of a long staff surmounted by a cult object resting on a flat base. The cult objects include birds and animals sacred to particular gods and, exceptionally, even mummiform figures, but not human figures. Furthermore, the staffs are considerably longer than those of this piece and its companion in silver. Possibly these were more in the nature of wands than standards, or conceivably marking pegs used in some ceremony. The unmistakably childlike appearance of the king might suggest that the ceremony was his coronation, which occurred when he was about nine, but why they should have been made of two different metals and how they were employed cannot be explained. Nevertheless his age and consequently his shortness of stature may account for the reduction in length of the staff.