Gilded Statuette of Tutankhamun with a Harpoon
Collection of hardwood figures buried with Tutankhamun (about 32 statues in total) were found divided between the Antechamber, Burial chamber and the Treasury. Seven of them represented the king himself while the rest included a strange group of divinities or maybe representing the king himself in the form of those divinities maybe to acquire their blessings. These statues were mostly gilded or black in colour, both colours are associated with regeneration and rebirth. They were wrapped in linen shawls with the manufacture date of the 3rd year of Akhenaten’s reign.
The greater number was recovered from the Treasury, where they had been crammed into 22 double-doored shrines of black resin-coated wood mounted on sleds and with sloping roofs. The doors of only one of those shrines had been opened by tomb robbers while the seals of the remainder had survived untouched since king Tutankhamun’s funeral.
They were mainly made out of wood covered with gold leaf. The eyes of all figures are framed in bronze and inlaid with glass or semi-precious stones except for Qebehsenewef and Dwamwtef whose eyes are simply painted in black. The fittings, including the objects they carry and their sandals are of gilded copper-alloy.
The bases of the majority of the statues are inscribed with the coronation name (niswt bity) of Tut: Nebkheperure, beloved of “the appropriate diety”.
According to HOWARD CARTER, these figures of gods or divinities represent a record of myths and beliefs, ritual and custom, associated with the dead and the afterlife. But their exact meaning in the burial is not clear to us, they might have represented good or evil and or they may have some form of magic associated with them.
Some scholars suggested that TUTANKHAMUN is represented in the form of these deities but we don't have a strict meaning for that. Maybe he wanted to embody some of their aspects in the afterlife. Others suggest that the reason for placing them in the tomb might be that due to the fact that the ancient Egyptians were religious people so they were hoping for these deities to accompany them in the afterlife?!
The statue itself:
Many scholars accused the ancient Egyptian art of being static i.e. the statues were always either seated or standing and especially those of kings. But this statue of Tutankhamun harpooning made them reject this idea; it is an exception of the rules of traditional art. The king is represented in full action just about to hurl a harpoon into the flesh of an invisible enemy, which in our case is probably a hippopotamus lurking in the swamps.
It is one of a pair discovered in the Treasury. It was coated with gesso and gilded. The eyes are inlaid with calcite and obsidian, set in bronze sockets, same metal being used for the eyebrows. The king is shown standing on a papyrus boat made out of wood painted dark green with some parts gilded. Below the boat there is a black wooden pedestal. He is wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt, a wide collar, pleated kilt with central tab and sandals. He is holding a harpoon in his right hand and a coil of rope in his left hand with which he would tie his captured enemies. The uraeus, sandals, harpoon are made of gilded bronze but the rope is not gilded.
How did ancient Egyptians hunt hippos?
In Pharaonic times hippopotami were spotted frequently at the swamps and papyrus marshes of the lower Nile. Ancient Egyptian nobles hunted them and representations of such hunts were sometimes included among the wall decorations of the tombs. The method employed was to attach a cord to a barb and to project it by means of a harpoon towards the victim. When several barbs entered the body of the animal so that it had become weak through loss of blood, it was pulled to the bank by the ropes and killed.
This statue can be associated with the legend of Horus of Behdet (or Edfu): According to a legend preserved in a late text on a wall of the Temple of Edfu, the god Re-Horakhty when he ruled on earth conducted a military campaign into Nubia accompanied by his son, Horus. While still away from home he received news that his throne was in danger and he decided to go back to Egypt. On reaching Edfu he instructed Horus to attack the enemy, whose identity is not at that point specified, though subsequently reference is made to Seth and his followers. Horus carried out the attack by first flying to the sky in the form of the winged solar disk and then swooping down on the enemy, killing very many, though a number seem to have escaped. Thinking that his victory was complete, he returned to the boat of Re-Horakhty. The surviving enemies however changed themselves to hippopotami and crocodiles in order to attack the sun-god in his boat. Once more the battle was taken up by Horus and this time he and his followers slaughtered the enemy with harpoons, pursuing them down the Nile until they were completely destroyed.
Why was the hippopotamus not included in this statue?
It is obviously for magical reasons because he is one of the forms of the god Seth so his presence might be a source of danger to the king in the afterlife.