I’m sure most everyone is familiar with Tutankhamen, or has at least heard some twist on the legendary curse of the pharaohs, but what exactly was inside of this tomb and what was the discovery like? This week, I think it would be interesting to explore a little bit about one of the more well-known tombs in ancient history.
On February 16th of 1923, archaeologists would unseal the tomb of King Tut, with Howard Carter leading the way into the expedition of this 3,300-year-old structure. The discovery of hidden steps covered in debris that led to the tomb was preceded by over five years of fruitless searching by Carter’s team who tirelessly worked under the suspicion that there was still at least one undiscovered burial chamber remaining in Egypt. The initial uncovering of the tomb actually occurred on November 26th of the previous year, however the seal to Tutankhamen’s resting place was not broken until February.
There are four main areas in the tomb, the antechamber, the annex, the burial chamber, and the treasury room. The burial chamber housed a triple-layered sarcophagus, the final one being the familiar solid gold coffin. Paintings adorn the walls of the chamber, depicting passage to the underworld featuring specific imagery of Tutankhamen. It is the only room in the tomb that has decorated walls.
The treasury is located on the right side of the burial chamber from the entrance. It housed over 5,000 catalogued items of both personal and monetary value, including a gilded sculpture of the god Anubis guarding the entrance to the room. Behind Anubis laid a massive canopic shrine representing the protection of the Goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Sreket. Howard Carter described this shrine as, “the most beautiful monument that I have ever seen–so lovely that it made one gasp with wonder and admiration.”
Many miniature ceremonial sailing boats were scattered in the treasury as well, designed to represent safe passage into the afterlife. Another interesting fact is that two mummified fetuses were also discovered in the treasury as well. Through DNA testing, they have been proven to be the stillborn children of Tutankhamen.
I really enjoy the mystery behind a lot ancient art and how it is categorically linked to the spiritual world. It makes me wonder where spirituality connects with contemporary art, and what our aim is as artists in the first place. Maybe we won’t know until our descendants are studying it!