The three ritual beds of Tutankhamun are a very serious proposition, guarded by some of the ancient world’s fiercest chaperones. King Tut’sAnubis Shrine, fashioned in the seventh year of Akhenaten’s reign, was something to be carried processionally during the final movements of the king’s mummy. Dr Janice Kamrin (watch a video of Dr Kamrin exploring the lost tombs of Thebes with Zahi Hawass here) points out that Anubis “is in the form of a jackal, or as we Egyptologists like to say a ‘super-jackal’, because he’s not quite a jackal: he’s a better form of the jackal.”
Anubis certainly cuts a fearsome figure, sitting astride his gessoed and gilded wooden box with a steely glare that stresses his importance in guarding the Pharaoh’s mummy. Anubis was also the god of mummification, and priests would wear Anubis masks when performing vital ceremonies, like the opening of the mouth.
This gessoed Anubis sat at the entrance to Tut’s treasury, and wore a floral collar when Howard Carter first found him over 80 years ago. His stoic eyes are inlaid with calcite and obsidian, and his claws are inset with silver. The shrine would have represented the triumphant fifth magic brick in King Tut’s tomb, protecting it from intruders.
Next in this second of four special videos on Tut’s Treasures, Dr Kamrin focuses on the king’s three ritual beds. It’s not known exactly what they were used for, but most scholars agree they held the royal mummy at various stages of its preparation for the afterlife. Each bed’s side panels are made in the form of a specific deity.
The first Dr Kamrin comes across is wrought in the image of a lion, called ‘Menhit‘; the third a cow named ‘Mehit-Weret’. Yet Dr Kamrin switches their names according to the popular-held opinion that the two inscriptions were actually confused by their makers. All three beds are made mostly of gilded wood, though small touches have been made with other materials. The lions’ eyes are fashioned from clear quartz; their tears from blue glass.
Next up is the bed of Ammut, a strange mythical creature known to devour the hearts of evildoers at the weighing of the heart ceremony in the afterlife. Ammut has the head of a hippo, lion’s legs and the body of a crocodile. “She’s a hippo-lion-croc,” Dr Kamrin says, “they put together these three very dangerous creatures.” She certainly looks the part; a manic expression and slathering ivory teeth rounding off her menacing figure.
The third and final ritual bed is that of Mehit-Weret, “the great cow of the heavens and the flood,” says Dr Kamrin. “Between her horns she’s wearing the disc of the sun, and one of her jobs was to carry the reborn sun-god (ie Tut) to the heavens.” She’s the most striking of the three: her patchwork skin, adorned with blue paste, represents the starry sky. “There’s all sorts of symbolism put together,” Dr Kamrin says. Bedding the king hasn’t been this complicated since Henry VIII hit puberty.
Look out for the third part in our ‘Tut’s Treasures’ series with Dr Zahi Hawass, coming soon! You can receive instant notification of the arrival of future instalments of King Tuts Treasures by signing-up to Heritage Keys RSS feed. Doing so will also give you an immediate heads up when we post other top videos on the site recent gems have included Zahi Hawasss insights into the death of King Tut, a look at Kathleen Martinezs hunt for the tomb of Cleopatra and a chat with Lord Norwich on history’s great cities. Check out Heritage Keys video page for all our videos to date.