The Tutankhamun Exhibit
Basic Funeral Equipment
Tutankhamun's small shrine is in the form of the sanctuary of Nekhbet mounted on a sledge. It is made of wood overlaid with a layer of gesso and covered with sheet gold. The wooden sledge is overlaid with silver. Carter was of the opinion that the gesso was first modeled in relief and the plain sheet gold was then pressed against it until it had registered the impression of the modeling, the outer face of the gold being finally chased. It seems doubtful, however, whether the gesso, even reinforced by gossamer-like linen, which a recent examination has shown to be present on both faces of the exposed gesso on the inside of one of the doors, would have had the strength to withstand the amount of pressure and friction involved in the process. If this doubt is valid, the scenes and inscriptions must have been worked on the gold itself; the gold sheets would then have been put face downward on a flat surface and covered with a piece of linen; the gesso in a liquid state would have been poured on the back of the linen so that it filled the depressions on the reverse side of the gold and, while it was still soft, the second piece of linen would have been applied to the outer surface. The purpose of the gesso would thus have been to give support to the decoration on the gold and to provide a flat surface for attachment to the wooden walls, roof, and door.
Every exposed surface of the shrine is covered with scenes, inscriptions, or some other kind of decoration, all in relief, of which the following are the principal:
Roof: Fourteen vultures of the goddess Nekhbet, with outstretched wings, are represented in relief on the top of the roof, seven on each side of a single column of inscription giving the names and titles of the king and queen. The vultures hold in their talons the hieroglyphic sign for "infinity" (shen). Cartouches bearing the names of either the king or the queen occupy the space at each side of the talons. On the front of the roof is the winged disk of Horus of Behdet, the place being named in the inscriptions at the tips of the wings. A winged uraeus with the "infinity" sign between its wings occupies the entire length of each of the vertical sides of the roof.
Front: Beneath the roof on all four sides and projecting outward at the top is a cavetto cornice with a torus molding at the base. The whole of the front of the shrine is in the form of a doorway, the lintel of which is decorated with the winged disk of Horus of Behdet and the jambs bear inscriptions describing the king as "the son of Ptah and Sekhmet", and as "the image of Ra who does what is beneficial to him who begat him". In each case he is proclaimed as "beloved of [the goddess] Uret Hekau", a name meaning "The Great Enchantress", who is called in another inscription on the shrine "Lady of the Palace".
Each of the two doors is provided at the top and bottom with pivots, which fit into sockets, one in the lintel and the other in the floor of the sledge, and with a silver bolt that slides through two gold staples into a third staple in the other door. Two additional staples, side by side in the middle of each door, were intended for a sealed tie. On the outer faces of the door are representations of incidents in the daily life of the king and queen, arranged in three panels on each door. The uppermost panel on the left had door shows the queen in a plumed headdress standing with hands upraised before the king, who hold in his right hand the crook and scepter and in his left a lapwing. In the corresponding panel on the right hand door and on both the middle panels, the queen holds out bunches of flowers toward the king and in the middle panel on the right she also holds a sistrum. The queen's headdress in two of these scenes is surmounted by a cone of unguent, flanked in one instance by uraei with the sun's disk. In the middle panels the king is seated on a stool and on a chair, both with thick cushions. He wears the blue crown on the left and the nemes headdress on the right. In the bottom panels, on the left side, the queen holds the king's arm with both hands and, on the right, the king's hand with her left hand, while extending a blue lotus and buds toward him in her right hand.
The gold overlay from the inner face of the left hand door is lost, but it is evident from the damaged impression on the surviving gesso that its decoration was very similar to that of the right hand door. Sandwiched between two panels that are entirely filled with the king's cartouches and supporting uraei is another scene of the queen holding a bunch of flowers and a sistrum toward the king. In this case her headdress is surmounted by lyriform horns and the sun's disk with two high plumes. At the bottom are two lapwings with outstretched human arms, both mounted on the hieroglyphic sign for "all" (neb) and having a five pointed star (dua) beneath the arms, thus forming a kind of monogram meaning "adoration of all people".
Sides: The toprails and two stiles of both sides are inscribed with the names and titles of the king and queen, followed by the words "beloved of the Great Enchantress" with or without the epithet "Lady of the Palace".
On the left side, in the upper register, the king stands in a boat made of papyrus stems throwing a boomerang, but the quarry - wild fowl rising from the papyrus marshes - is not shown. The queen stands behind him as an onlooker; in her left hand she holds a flail or perhaps a fly whisk. The king, who wears a corselet on the upper part of his body and over it two representations of falcons, holds in his left hand four birds that may represent his "bag" or may be tame fowl used as decoys. In the clump of papyrus behind the prow of the boat can be seen a nest with two fledglings. The right hand portion of this register is occupied with a scene that, although different in detail, repeats the theme of the bottom panel on the outside of the left hand door. In the present setting it seems out of place.
A second fowling scene is represented in the lower register. The action is not conducted from a boat, but on the bank at the edge of a papyrus swamp. The king is seated on a stool with a thick cushion, his tame lion is by his side, and the queen squats on a cushion at his feet. Behind his head is the vulture of Nekhbet. He is in the act of shooting an arrow at birds rising from the swamp, one of which has already been hit. The string of his bow has been delineated by the artist as though it passed around the king's neck. His quiver hands down behind him, suspended on a strap from his shoulder. The queen holds an arrow in her hand, ready to pass it to the king. With her other hand she seems to be pointing at the fledglings in the nest, perhaps urging the king to take care not to hurt them.
The other (right) side has four scenes, all of an unusual kind. In the left of the top register the queen extends toward the king a sistrum and a necklace with an elaborate counterpoise. At the front of the counterpoise are the head and shoulders of a goddess, surmounted by cow's horns and the sun's disk and having the uraeus on her brow. Human hands project from beneath her collar, each hand holding a sign for "life" (ankh) toward the king. The identity of the goddess is revealed as the Great Enchantress in the inscription beneath the necklace. Addressing the king, the queen says: "Adoration in peace, receive the Great Enchantress, O Ruler, beloved of Amun!"
In the second scene in the top register the king, seated on a cushioned chair, holds out a vessel containing flowers and the queen pours water into the vessel from a vase in her right hand. In her left hand she holds a lotus flower and bud and a poppy.
On the left of the lower register the king pours water from a vessel into the cupped right hand of the queen. Her left elbow rests on his knee. The king, holding a bouquet of lotus flowers and poppies, sits on a stool covered with a cushion and an animal skin. What appear to be balls under the claw feet are in reality the ends of rounded crossbars. In the right hand scene the queen is tying the king's floral collar behind his neck while he sits in a chair festooned with flowers. Nekhbet's vulture hovers over his head.
Back: Two scenes decorate the back. In the uppermost the queen stoops toward the king, her right hand touching his left arm. In her left hand she holds, in addition to a bunch of lotus flowers and buds hanging downward, an unguent-cone holder mounted on a stand and decorated with lotus flowers. A comparable scene on the back panel of the golden throne found in the tomb shows the queen anointing the king with unguent from a vessel; the scene on the shrine seems to represent an action of a very similar kind.
In the lower scene the king, seated on a throne and wearing the crown of Lower Egypt, raises his left hand to receive from the queen two notched palm ribs, the hieroglyphic signs for "years". Within these signs are the symbols for jubilee festivals and also amuletic signs in groups. They are attached at the bottom to single tadpoles - the sign for "one hundred thousand" - mounted on the sign for "infinity". The inscription behind the king reads: "The Son of Ra, Lord of crowns, Tutankhamun has appeared in glory on the throne of Horus like Ra".
In spite of the intimate nature of the scenes in general, at least three - the two on the back wall and the presentation of the necklace and counterpoise - depict episodes in the coronation of the king; they are, moreover, ceremonies for which there is some evidence that, in the late Eighteenth Dynasty, they were performed by the queen. It seems likely, therefore, that one of the purposes of the shrine was to commemorate the king's coronation, and through the processes of magic to renew his coronation, and through the processes of magic to renew his coronation in the afterlife.