Sandro Vannini’s Photography – King Tutankhamun’s Senet Game Board

The ivory senet board game found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun (KV62) gives an insight into the Ancient Egyptian leisure activities. Image Copyright - Sandro Vannini. Click to skip to the slideshow.Four Senet boards were found inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun and suggests that the boy king was a keen player of the ancient game. In Ancient Egyptian society, senet was regarded as much more than just a game, however – it was a matter of life or death. The game involves throwing casting sticks or knucklebones, and over time became regarded as talismans for the journey into the afterlife with luck being a key deciding factor in the game.

Those who would win games of senet were believed to be blessed by powerful gods such as Osiris, Ra and Thoth. Senet boards were also often placed in graves, and they are specifically mentioned in the Book of the Dead. The Senet boards of King Tut are on display in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and are a subject of Dr Janice Kamrin’s tour of the museum in a video for Heritage Key (Watch the video). They are also a few of the many artefacts from KV62 which were photographed by Egyptology photographer Sandro Vannini, who’s images are brought online each week by Heritage Key.

‘Senet Board’ Slideshow

Heritage Key is working with Sandro and bringing his extensive catalogue of beautiful photography of Egyptian antiquities onto the internet, which we’re sure will fascinate even the most hardcore Egyptologist! To watch a slideshow of the Canopic Chest, simply click any of the thumbnails below.

See it for yourself in King Tut Virtual

But it doesn’t stop there, as you can also visit King Tut Virtual and see digital recreations of many of the famous artefacts from KV62, walk through the Valley of the Kings, explore the banks of the River Nile in Ancient Egyptian times and even see more of Sandro Vannini’s photography in the virtual gallery.

Sandro Vannini’s Photography

Over a decade of experience in photographing the magnificent artefacts and tombs of Egypt has honed the skills of Sandro, and given him the experience required to capture the beautiful details of the senet board. The equipment used to take the photographs obviously plays a key role too, and Sandro used a Hasselblad ELD Ixpress 528C camera to take these images. You can also see more of Sandro’s fantastic photography in his new book with the Director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, “The Lost Tombs of Thebes:Life in Paradise” as well as reading about Sandro’s experiences of shooting the photographs in Thebes on Heritage Key, and watching the video about the Lost Tombs of Thebes featuring Dr Zahi Hawass and Dr Janice Kamrin (Watch the video).

But for those of you who cant make the trip to the Cairo Museum to see the amazing artefacts, Heritage Key offers these stunning photographs by Sandro Vannini which capture the senet boards from the Tomb of King Tutankhamun. But there’s more: you can visit virtual replicas of many of Tutankhamun treasures in the Heritage Key VX King Tut exhibition, which features a digital recreation of many other breath-taking artefacts such as the Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun.

Don’t miss out on new treasures!

This post is part of a series focussing on amazing photographs from ancient Egypt. Keep checking back as well keep adding new images by Sandro Vannini. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the updates, simply subscribe by email to receive notifications when new images are uploaded. For the more digitally advanced, there’s also an RSS feed with updates available.

See More Amazing Photography by Sandro

Have a look at some of the other stunning photographs by Sandro Vannini here at Heritage Key:

Ask Sandro

We’ll be sitting down with our favourite photographer for an extended chat soon, so if you have any questions for Sandro we’ll send the answers straight to you!

King Tutankhamun’s Senet Game Boards

Of the ceremonial senet boards found in King Tut’s tomb (KV62), the most beautiful was an ivory version dated to 1333BC which was found by the great explorer Howard Carter. The ivory senet board is today on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.

The box contains a drawer in which the pieces of the senet board would have been kept. The pieces included two ivory knucklebones, five red ivory reels and five white ivory pawns. The drawer was fastened with bolts, although upon discovery in 1922, these bolts were missing. It is thought they were made from a precious metal such as gold or silver, and may have been stolen by grave robbers.

The ivory box is inscribed with yellow-pigmented etchings depicting King Tut and describing his as The Strong Bull, beautiful of birth, image of Ra, precious offspring of Atum, king of Upper and Lower Egypt, ruler of the nine bows, lord of all the lands, and possessor of might Nebkheperura. Around the drawer, Tut is described as The good god, lord of the Two Lands, lord of crowns whom Ra created and Beloved of all the gods, may he be healthy, living forever.

On one end of the box is inscribed an image of King Tutankhamun and his queen Ankhesenamun in a roughly carved etching depicting her offering a lotus flower. It’s entirely possible the Amarna royal pair would cosy up on summer evenings and play a game or two of senet!

Senet was played on a board of 30 squares, and the underside of the box features a grid of 20 squares. This side of the box was used to play another game called Tjau, which translates to “Robbers”. Although historians have attempted to make educated guesses as to how the two games were played, it is not clear on the rules that were adhered to in ancient times. Although the game features on tomb walls and papyri, it is assumed the rules of the game would have been passed on through word of mouth.

HD Video: Tutankhamun’s Burial Treasures: Lifestyle Objects

(Read the transcript on the video page)

You can watch more fantastic videos on Heritage Key’s Video Page including Zahi Hawasss insights into the death of King Tut, as well as a look at the new Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Additionally, you can find out more about Ancient Egypt on Heritage Key, as well as being able to explore the Valley of the Kings and the fascinating KV62 – King Tutankhamun’s tomb – in 3D in our exciting virtual experience! Also be sure to keep up to date on all new postings about Sandro’s photography from Egypt by subscribing to our feed, simply by entering your email address above.