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typical for an Egyptian copper alloy figurine, though on such a large object the lead content is usually somewhat higher in the first millennium BC. The addition of tin increases the hardness of metal but also allows smoother, high-quality casts. The radiograph shows the quality of the cast, though a small area near the bottom contained a fault, and an additional repair piece had to be ‘cast-on’. Perhaps the craftsman was looking to impart a silvery hue to the bronze, a feature of arsenicrich and tin-rich copper alloys? The Cat ’s tail is modelled with stripes, through the addition of three bands of additional metal. Interestingly, these three bands are made with a different alloy. This effort must have been made to create a subtle colour difference, highlighting the stripey-ness of the Cat’s tail! Neal Spencer
Neal is a Curator in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum and Director of the Museum’s fieldwork at Kom Firin in the western Delta.
All images are copyright of the British Museum. Thanks are due to the British Museum’s Department of Photography, and the Department of Conservation, Documentation and Science, for their help with this project. Divine Cat: Speaking to the Gods in Ancient Egypt, a new temporary display sponsored by Asahi Shimbun, will be on show in the British Museum from November 8th, 2007 to January 27th, 2008.
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The AANCIENTNCIENTEEGYPTGYPT calendar for 2008
Free-standing, compact, handy size (16 cm wide x 13 cm high), a desktop calendar, ideal for the home or office. One page for each month.
Features colour photographs of twelve of the Treasures from the Tomb of Tutankhamun.
Ideal Christmas present for friends and relatives – or treat yourself! Limited numbers available – order now!
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ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008 Meeting the Boy King: an introduction to the life of Tutankhamun
Everyone is familiar with the name of Tutankhamun, and the fabulous gold mask and splendid jewellery that adorned his mummy. But what do these artefacts tell you about who Tutankhamun actually was? Charlotte Booth investigates.
Is it possible to truly identify someone from their funerary goods? In order to answer this question, think about a modern funeral. What can you tell about the person from their family’s choice of coffin, clothes, and head-stone? The answer is very little, generally, so why is it acceptable for this approach to be applied to the past? There were five thousand, three hundred and ninetyeight artefacts found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, and yet a limited number of objects are often the focus of TV shows, articles and books: the mask, the coffins and the golden shrines – objects the young boy may not have even seen – so how can we identify him from them? Unfortunately there is a degree of uncertainty as to how royal funerary assemblages were put together in ancient Egypt; along with donations from family members and friends, and a collection of ‘suitable’ objects from the stores, it is possible that Tutankhamun may have started collecting objects himself, to be placed in his tomb after death. Even if the majority of the items in his tomb were assembled after his death, with no input from him, one would hope that some personal belongings were included along with the traditional funerary goods, military items and food. It can therefore be assumed that some of the items in his tomb belonged to him or at least were familiar to him; and this is supported by the labels on some of the boxes which state such epithets as: “The box of his Majesty – Life! Prosperity! Heath! – when he was a child.”(See photo. below.)
It is from the objects that he owned and held that we can get a sense of who Tutankhamun was, and this article will focus on three groups of personal artefacts, which can help to create a picture of him. In order to truly understand who Tutankhamun was, we should look firstly at his most personal of all possessions, his body. Most of the investigations of the mummy of Tutankhamun are focused on trying to determine how he died. Although this is an important element in the history of this period of ancient Egypt, it was not as important to the life of the boy-king. Before his death he had eighteen years of life and his death was but a split second at the end of that. Despite his young age at death, his body shows
Above: a representation of Tutankhamun as a young boy. This splendid wooden sculpture shows the head of the king emerging from a lotus flower. It symbolises re-birth, but is probably a very good portrayal of the features of the young king. Left: the box that contained items belonging to the king when he was a child. Photos: RP.
ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008