The first two instalments of Nico Piazza and Sandro Vanninis four-part video series Tuts Treasures saw Dr Janice Kamrin introduce us to the boy kings canopic vessels (Watch the video) and the various fearsome representations of animal gods that guarded his embalmed body (Watch the video). Part three focuses on the many ritual figures found inside black resined wooden shrines in the treasury of Tutankhamuns lavish tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
34 ritual figures were located in total inside KV62, which was first opened and investigated by Howard Carter in 1922. Their function? Protection basically, and ritual use and all those things that we dont completely understand, Kamrin explains to interviewer Sharif Soaier, whom shes seen guiding around the many King Tut exhibits at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. They all have to do with religion, and especially funerary religion.
The Guarantor of Order
The first two statuettes that Kamrin picks out (both of which came in pairs) reveal King Tut to be an action man, not frightened to roll up his sleeves, grab his spear and go in search of some big game (as Dr Zahi Hawass revealed in another Heritage Key video interview, falling from his chariot while hunting may even have been what killed the young pharaoh). In this one the king is riding on a panther, explains Kamrin, pointing at the two beautifully detailed gold figures mounted on wooden pedestals, and in this one, hes harpooning an invisible hippopotamus in a papyrus skiff.
These representations of Tutankhamun are loaded with meaning. For the ancient Egyptians, many animals were associated with gods of different omens good and bad. Basically hes showing himself as the guarantor of order, says Kamrin, the proper order of the Egyptian universe. And how he does that is that he defeats the forces of evil. The hippopotamus is the representation of the forces of chaos or evil.
Dude Looks Like a Lady
Another very interesting thing about these statues and a lot of the other pieces in the tomb is that they were not originally made for Tutankhamun, Kamrin notes. Whoever was responsible for stocking the boy kings tomb with ritual figures and other spectacular valuables after his death evidently wasnt too precious about what they were or where they came from. Hes using pieces from maybe a couple of other kings funerary assemblages, she adds.
Tut had rather effeminate features, as modern reconstructions of his face have shown. A few of the ritual figures have a highly androgynous quality; others, some experts speculate, may simply be representations of women that look like Tut. Its very hard to tell males and females apart in certain ways, says Kamrin (evidently shes too polite to just take a look up the statuettes skirts). There are some things the shape of the belly button and other details. But, in the faces, you can see that not all of them are Tutankhamuns face.
A King Among Kings?
The question of why Tut was entitled to not only a wealth of his own unique funerary treasures, but also the pick of other kings and dignitaries afterlife stashes is a question that has troubled many an Egyptologist, Kamrin included. It makes you wonder was there something special going on? she ponders. Was Tutankhamun especially honoured?
One scholar, Ray Johnson, has speculated that Tut for some reason possibly his restoration of the cult of Amun, whose symbols were defaced and whose priests were stripped of power during the reign of his father Akhenaten may have been uniquely venerated by Egyptian society in an unseen way. Its very interesting, comments Kamrin, [Johnson] has a lot of way off the chart ideas. Thats one of them that maybe they loved him so much because he brought back the worship of Amun.
The generally accepted perception of King Tut is that he was a relatively unimportant royal, and that his tomb merely seems so lavish because its the only one to date discovered almost fully intact (the reasons KV62 escaped plundering are discussed by Hawass in another video). Perhaps this is wrong, and Carter in fact got doubly fluky by locating not just the only royal tomb to date in the Valley of the Kings that has evaded robbers, but also the finest royal tomb of them all? Only the discovery of un-plundered burial chambers of royals whom we know to have been of especially high-standing such as Amenhotep I or Cleopatra (Dr Kathleen Martinez believes shes close in this video) will provide the necessary grounds for comparison.
Keep a look out for the final installment of King Tut’s Treasures, which is coming soon!
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