The Canopic Chest of Tutankhamun

The Canopic Chest of Tutankhamun

Here in this corridor we have two showcases one of them housing the canopic shrine which is made out of gilded wood inlaid with precious and semi precious stones, the other one housing the canopic chest which is made out of one block of alabaster and drilled inside which the canopic jars.

 The Canopic Chest of Tutankhamun

The name Canopic: 

Canopic is a mistaken name given to the canopic jars, but the correct name is viscera jars because the ancient Egyptians used to mummify the deceased and get out the organs during this process then they mummify these organs and put them inside jars which were called viscera or canopic jars.

The name of canopic jars comes from a story which mentioned that there was a Greek sailor called (Canupus), who was saling in the sea suddenly there was a great storm, so he was obliged to rest on the Egyptian shore in the site of Abu Kir in Alexandria (the capital of Egypt during the Graeco-Roman period), then the king of Egypt was beaten by a scorpion and the Greek sailor cured him, so the king rewarded him by deifying him. Then, he was worshipped in the form of a jar having a human head like god Osiris who was worshipped in the same form at this site. Therefore, he was called Osiris-Canupus and since that time the scholars started calling any jars having a human head canopic jars.

The development of the canopic chest and jars throughout the history: The first canopic chest to be found is dating back to the 4th dynasty, it belongs to queen Hetepheres the wife of king Senefru the founder of 4th dynasty and the mother of king Cheops the builder of the great pyramid at Giza plateau.
-The canopic chest was divided into 4 compartments containing the viscera of the deceased which were liver, lungs, stomach and intestines.
- While, the first canopic jars to be found belongs to queen Mersankh the third wife of king Chephren the builder of the 2nd pyramid at Giza plateau.
- During the old kingdom, the stoppers of the canopic jars used to be flat or domed.
- During the first intermediate period and the middle kingdom, the stoppers of the canopic jars developed and take the shape of the head of the deceased and they even added the details of the body which were the arms and the feet and then they attached it to the jar to imitate the real mummy of the deceased.

- By the 18th Dynasty during the New Kingdom, the stoppers continued to take the shape of the head of the deceased. But by the end of the New kingdom especially during the Ramasside period the stoppers started to take the shape of the 4 sons of hours who were Imesty, Hapi, Dwamut-f and Qbhsnw-f, each one of them was responsible for the protection of one of internal organs together with a protective goddess.

- The stopper of Imesty takes the shape of human being and he protected the liver together with the protective goddess Isis.
- The stopper of Hapy takes the shape of baboon and he protected the lungs together with the protective goddess Nephtys.
-The stopper of Dwamut-f takes the shape of jackal and he protected the stomach together with the protective goddess  Nieth.
- The stopper of Qbehsnw-f takes the shape of falcon ad he protected the intestines (Large and small intestines) together with goddess selket.
Imesty→human head→liver→Isis.

- During the 21st dynasty or 3rd intermediate period with the develop of  the mummification process, the canopic jars became dummy or empty because they used to get out organs from the body and mummified them then they return them back to the body of the deceased.

- While in  the 22nd dynasty during the reign of king Sheshonq the canopic jars were found dummy and inside them they even placed dummy organs.

-So, for the ancient Egyptians the canopic jars became an important tradition even if it was not used. Therefore, the religious belief of the canopic jars covered over their real function.
-Usually the canopic jars were placed inside the burial chamber or at the foot of the coffins to allow the mummy when the soul comes to easily collect the organs to be easily resurrected.

The Canopic Chest of Tutankhamun

-The development of the canopic chest:
The first canopic chest which belongs to Queen Hetepheres was found plain not decorated, but sometimes they used to inscribe the names and the titles of the deceased on the canopic chests of the Old Kingdom.

During the middle Kingdom the canopic chests were found decorated with representation of god Anubis (the inventor of mummification, the chief of embalming, and the guardian of the necropolis) standing above the  sign of cloth and the sign of vegetation as god Anubis was related to the mummification process  so we found him upon the viscera chest and he was standing above the sign of cloth which indicates the wrappings and vegetation sign indicating the herbs used during the process of mummification.

-During the Ptolemic period both the canopic jars and chest were rare to be found.
The alabaster chest:

-This alabaster chest found inside the gilded wooden shrine in the treasury room facing the burial chamber both being guarded by god Anubis, it is made out of one block of alabaster, it consisted of the lid and the chest itself.

-The lid of the chest made in the form of the house of the south (pr wr), it is decorated with the cavetto cornice and hieroglyphic inscriptions mentioning the names and the titles of king Tutankhamen. In the frontal side there is a representation of goddess Isis in kneeling attitude with outstretched wings. Goddess Isis was the mother of Horus, and the during his life time was regarded as Horus so Isis was considered the mother of all kings.

-The chest itself: in the 4 corners we have representation of 4 protective deities depicted in high relief, each one of them wearing a long garment with her emblem above her head ,with outstretched wings and with a side look or view looking to each other to ensure the protection of the viscera of the deceased.

-Between figures of the deities, in each side of the chest there are two lines of hieroglyphic inscriptions colored with the black color mentioning the name of the deity, the organ and one of the sons of Horus.

-Inside the chest we have 4 compartments containing the jars, but we found that the jars cannot be separated from the chest as the jars were drilled inside, both the chest and the jars were one piece.

-The stoppers take the shape of the head of king Tutankhamen with cobra and vulture at the forehead, wearing nemes headdress. He is represented with all the details of his facial features as we see, the eyes were emphasized with black lines, and the lips with red color. Moreover, we have traces from the Amarna style of art as we see, the pierced ear lops and the wrinkles around the neck. Now we have 2 stoppers and the other two are missing.

The Canopic Chest of Tutankhamun

-At the bottom of the chest, there is a gilded wooden part decorated with two signs one of them is a vertical column having 4 horizontal lines representing the backbone of Osiris which is known in the ancient language as (dd pillar), it is the sign of stability and resurrection and the other sign is known as (Isis knot) sign of fertility and resurrection.

-The alabaster chest is represented upon a gilded sledge to allow it to be easily carried.

The Golden Throne of King Tutankhamen

Tutankhamun Throne

The Golden Throne of King Tutankhamun is a masterpiece of art, not only in ancient Egyptian times, but also in the history of the art of mankind in general.

The Significance of the Throne in Ancient Egypt: 

- The Throne in Ancient Egypt, as in many eastern countries, was a symbol of authority and prestige. Six chairs were buried with Tutankhamun in his tomb, scattered throughout the Antechamber and the Annexe.

- For the Ancient Egyptians, the Throne means in Hieroglyphs (ist) and it was the emblem of Goddess "Isis"; therefore, the one who was sitting on the throne was represented the son of "Isis" who is God "Horus", so the king was sacred because he is "Horus" who is qualified to sit on the lap of Goddess "Isis".  

Actually "Howard Carter" discovered five other thrones and chairs belong to King "Tutankhamen". These thrones and chairs were found scattered in the "Annex" and the "Antechamber" of the tomb.

Tutankhamun Throne

Tutankhamun Throne

Tutankhamun Throne

Place of discovery

- This golden throne was discovered covered with folds of black linen shrouds in the Antechamber of the tomb number (KV62) of King Tutankhamen beneath the Hippopotamus funerary bed. 


Why was this fine piece given little honour in its final placing?

Because this golden throne has nothing to do with the court of Thebes or even Memphis, but it is associated with El Amarna. So It was manufactured at the beginning of the reign of Tutankhamun.


The Amarna style of art is evident in this piece in the following points:

 (1) The Solar Disc which dominated the main scene of the backrest of the throne is the representation of God "itn" with the rays of the sun emerge from it to indicate to the power of the god "itn" (Who was the power behind the sun not the sun disc itself) and these rays end with human hands to represent the anthropomorphic association between the God "itn" and his sole priest on earth (The King) to provide the people through the body of the royal family with life and prosperity which was represented near the nostrils of the royal family.

 (2) The names of the king and his royal wife are written in the earlier form or (itn) form on all of the sides of the throne and also it's back except for two places (near the head of Tutankhamon at the backrest and on the inside of the left arm rest of the throne) which were probably added later after the religious revolution.

(3) The intimate scene which is full of affection between the royal couple.

(4) The naturalistic scene of birds flying over some marches of papyrus plants without any representation of human beings.

(5) The physical features of both the king and the queen such as the elongated face, slim waist, heavy hips, slim legs, and the sandals.


Description of the Golden Throne

- This golden throne is made out of wood covered with sheets not leafs of gold and silver and inlaid in some parts with semiprecious stones such as (Turquoise with its light blue color "mfqAt",  faience with its dark blue color "xsbt", and carnelian with its orange color) and some parts inlaid with painted glass. As we know that the silver sheets were very expensive even more expensive or precious than gold because the silver was very rare in ancient Egypt, but the artist used its sheets to cover the costumes of the royal couple and also to differentiate between the two crowns over the serpents on both edges of the thrones because the artist imitate the red color of the crown of Lower Egypt by gold and the white color of the crown of Upper Egypt by silver.

 - The main scene on the backrest of the golden throne is representing the King "Tutankhamen" seated on a throne similar to this throne cushioned to be more comfortable for the king and that also was a tradition from "El Amarna" period of art. He is sitting in front of his wife "Ankhesenamen" who is represented while bowing and lovely touching his shoulder and massaging the body of the king by special kinds of perfumed ointments and unguents.


-As we see that this scene is full of signs of love and affection between the royal couple such as:-

(1) The massaging scene and the touch of the body of the king from the queen.

(2) Around the main scene there are flowers and fruits, which are considered codes or symbols of love and affection in ancient Egyptian art.


-The king "Tutankhamen" is represented wearing a composite crown, which is similar to the "Atef" crown with more additions of serpents wearing solar discs and two feathers. He is wearing a hair wig which ended from the back with two streamers which is also one of the traditions of the "Amarna" style of art. He is wearing a wide "wsx" collar covering most of his shoulder and his chest. He is also wearing the "Sndyt" royal kilt which is very long and pleated with central tab which was the fashion of this time. He is putting his feet upon a footstool which is similar to this footstool in front of us inside this showcase. In front of the king, there is his wife Queen "Ankhesenamen" wearing also a composite crown with two feathers and solar disc and two horns. She is wearing a wig with two streamers, wide collar, and also she is wearing her dress which is made out of silver.

- Behind the queen, there is a high table with a collar on it, which is a very unusual feature.


-On the two edges of the throne we can see that king "Tutankhamen" wanted to stress on his control of both Upper and Lower Egypt by 4 features:-

 (1) There are two serpents, one of them is wearing the white "silver" crown of Upper Egypt (HDt)" as a pun because both silver and white has the same translation in Hieroglyphs and that was a preferable tradition of the ancient Egyptians" and the other serpent is wearing the red "gold" crown of Lower Egypt (dSrt).

 (2) On the hand rests of the throne, there are two big serpents, their eyes are inlaid with semiprecious stones and they rest upon the "nb" sign, decorated by colored squares, wearing the double crown with gold and silver (sxmty).

 (3) The two big serpents on the hand rests of the throne have two wings which is a representation of the unity of the Two Main Goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt (The cobra goddess of Lower Egypt "wADt" and the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt "Nxbt").

 (4) On the four edges of the throne between the four legs, there are four broken representations of the "smA tAwy" sign which consists of the lungs and the trachea of the king tight with the papyrus plants "Sign of Lower Egypt" and lotus flowers "Sign of Upper Egypt" to imitate that the breath of the king is the support of the unification of the two lands.


-The two hand rests of the throne take the shape of two lions in which the artist perfected his work in the anatomy of the two lions, in their paws which is made out of lapis lazuli, in the difference between the front and the rear legs of the lion, the lower part of the front leg of the lion is represented with part of lapis lazuli, and also the facial features of the lion even the mane of the lion, the ears of the lion, and the inlaid eyes of the lion with semiprecious stones to imitate that the king is flanked by two real lions with all features of ferocity, power, and wildness of the lions.


- The existence of these two lions has several indications such as:-

(1) May be these two lions indicate to the power and the might of the king and that he is capable to rule Upper and Lower Egypt despite the fact that he was ten or eleven years old when he was crowned upon this throne.

(2) Since lions were believed to live on the desert margins, they came to be considered as the guardians of the eastern and western horizons, the places of the sunrise and sunset. In this connection they sometimes replaced the eastern and western mountains, symbolic of past and future, on either side of the horizon hieroglyph (akhet). So the two lions may represent the western horizon and the eastern horizon or the past and the future and the king who is sitting between them is the present or the sun of the horizon.

-Also in this concern, the lions were guarding the gateway through which the sun came and went each day. Since the sun was born each morning and died each evening on the horizons, so the lions were also connected with death and rebirth. That is why chairs and beds of the living were sometimes decorated with lions’ paws or heads, perhaps in order that the occupant would rise renewed after rest or sleep.

 The back of the throne:

 -On the back of the throne, there is the naturalistic scene of ducks flying over the marches of the Nile. Also there is a freeze of cobras made out of semiprecious stones and decorated with sun discs over their heads. There are three lines of hieroglyphic inscriptions representing the "itn earlier form" of the names of the king when his name was "tut anx itn" and his wife was "anx s n pA itn".

The Footstool:

- Concerning the footstool of the throne, it is made out of heavy wood covered with gold leafs and decorated on its top with 6 of the nine traditional enemies which may be an exaggeration of the three enemies from the eastern, the western, and the southern borders of Egypt (The Asiatics, The Libyans, and The Nubians) to indicate to the plural of plurality or the perfection of power over the enemies and that was accomplished by 3x3=9 "psDt psDwt" or by 3x2=6 as the case of this footstool of the golden throne of king "Tutankhamen". Other opinion said that the real number of the enemies of Egypt in the reign of king "Tutankhamen" was six enemies, but this opinion isn't strong because on the other 5 footstools we found the nine traditional enemies which are:-

 The Nubians,

The Libyans,

 The Asiatics,

 The Sea people,

 The Ashurians,

The Hittites,

The people of Kush,

The Babylonians, and,

 the Palestinians.



On the front and back of the footstool, we can see the "rxyt" birds with the human hands to represent the commoners of Egypt sitting on the "nb" sign meaning all , and beside them; we find the "dwA" sign which is "to adore". So this is translated as: the king is being adored by all commoners.


On the middle of this scene on the footstool, we can read a vertical line of hieroglyphs which says " Nbw tAw xAst nbt wrw n rTnw dmi mi wax r Tbwy.k mi ra Dt : All the great ones of the foreign lands are being united like one under your sandals like Re forever ”. The king wanted to declare that despite the fact that he was a boy, but he was capable of subjugating all of the enemies of Egypt and to be adored by the people of Egypt also.


- There are two modifications in this throne which are: -   (1) the modification of two of the "itn form" of the king to "twt anx imn HqA iwn rsyt" on two parts of the throne. The first part is above the head of the king in the main scene on the backrest of the throne and the second part is inside the left hand rest of the throne.

(2) The modification of the hair wigs and the crowns of both the king and the queen. The evidences of that modification are the streamers which aren’t fixed to the hair wigs and the rays of the sun which are cut above the crowns of the king and the queen.


- If we concentrate on the main scene of this throne, we found that both the king and the queen are wearing one sandal, so there are weak opinions said that the king and his wife are sharing the same pair of sandals as an evidence of the marriage and the sharing of authority between the king and the queen. What really happened is that the parts of the other sandals of the king and the queen were broken off while this throne was transported from the tomb to the Egyptian Museum because we can see traces of the missing sandal on the right leg of the king.