The Golden Shrines of King Tutankhamun
Introduction about The Shrines :
Shrines were known since early dynastic period and the most famous ones were:
1- The Heb Sed shrine: The roof of this shrine slopes from both ends towards the middle making a depression in between what looks like two hills. This reminds us of the Axt sign (meaning horizon), which represents two hills with the sun disk rising in the middle. The style of roof of the outermost shrine of Tutankhamun was modeled on this shrine.
2- The Shrine of the North known as pr-nw or pr-nsr. It was the shrine of goddess Wadjet, the Cobra goddess of Lower Egypt. Her cult centre was at Buto (p)known today as Tell el Fara3een in Kafr El-Sheikh. It has a vaulted roof with two vertical boards (one on either side) like the innermost shrine of Tutankhamun.
3- The Shrine of the South known as pr-wr. It was the shrine of goddess Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. Her cult centre was at Hierakonpolis (nxn), known nowadays as El-Kom El-Ahmar near El-kab, north of Aswan. Its roof was vaulted or sloping from one side bulging above the entrance, like the 2nd and 3rd shrines of Tutankhamun.
Description of the four shrines:
Ø On the 17th of February 1923, Howard Carter demolished the bricked-up door of the burial chamber. The room was almost completely filled with a massive shrine, which he realized later that it was only the outermost of a total of four floorless shrines which lay inside one another and protected the quartizite sarcophagus of the king, housing his three coffins. They were arranged inside each other like Chinese boxes.
Ø They are made out of heavy panels of oak (6 cm thick) covered with gold leaf. The technique that they have been decorated with was that the wood was covered with plaster or gesso then gold leaves then it would be incised with inscriptions or drawings while it was still wet.
Ø It had been suggested that the function of these shrines was to replace the long corridors normally found in 18th and 19th dynasty tombs, as the tomb of Tutankhamun was not big enough to include all the required inscriptions to guarantee his protection in the afterlife.
Ø The shrines were assembled in the burial chamber inside out because none of them would have possibly passed through the door of its previous one neither through the door of the tomb itself or that of the burial chamber. They were also removed out of the tomb the same way but in reverse order. The difficult task of dismantling the shrines took about 84 days.
Ø The shrines have been hastily assembled in a way that they were orientated contrary to the directions painted on them, as the four sides of the shrines were meant to face the four cardinal points and the doors face the west, but when they were discovered they were facing the east. (Most probably they didn’t fit except that way).
Ø On the four shrines there is a text (mainly from the Book of the Dead) which begins from the innermost shrine which is nearest to the king’s body and ends at the outermost one.
Ø The first shrine is known as the Outermost shrine or the biggest shrine while the fourth shrine is known as the Innermost or the smallest shrine.
Ø Each shrine has double doors which were held shut by means of ebony bolts sliding within massive silver-coated copper staples. They were sealed with the necropolis seal except for the innermost one. The outermost shrine had been opened in antiquity; probably by tomb robbers but the rest were intact which lead Howard Carter to believe that whatever he was going to see from the 2nd shrine onwards has never been seen before since the time of the pharaohs.
The 1st Shrine (The Outermost shrine)
As we mentioned before, when Carter removed the blocked doorway that separated the burial chamber from the antechamber, he was surprised by what appeared to be a wall of gold; this wall was not more than the outermost of the four floorless shrines.
The dimensions of this shrine are 5.8 m long x 3.75 m wide x 2.75 m high. It is decorated with gold leaves inlaid with brilliant blue faience. If we take a side view at the upper part of the shrine, we can see that its roof takes the shape of the Axt (the Horizon) or the Heb-Sed pavilion decorated with two cobras with multiple coils, tail to tail with outstretched wings (one on either side). Just under the roof, there is a representation of the winged solar disc. Beneath this, there is torus moulding decoration.
Its external side has the least amount of inscriptions among the four shrines. It is mostly decorated with representations of the Djed pillar, sign of god Osiris, sign of stability and resurrection and the Tyet (Knot of Isis) sign of goddess Isis, sign of fertility and regeneration. A pair of protective Udjet eyes decorates the southern wall. They are either for protection or to allow the deceased king to have external communication with the outer world.
The right leaf of the door is decorated with a representation of a headless animal with its front paw-less legs tied together, this might represent the danger that the king is going to overcome in the afterlife. The left leaf has a representation of a seated deity holding in his hand the anx sign with a composite crown on his head. Another theory suggested by Alexander Piankoff states that the seated figure is the osirid king thus representing Osiris but the inscriptions read Hr nD it.f which means Horus the Avenger of his father so maybe Osiris is equated with Horus in his capacity to be reborn, while the headless and paw-less animal obviously represents the evil god Seth.
Interior of the Shrine:
The internal surfaces of the shrine are heavily inscribed with spells from the Book of the Dead. On the doors, right and left are spells from chapters 134 and 141 of the Book of the Dead. At the back panel, there is the 1st appearance of the Book of the Divine cow. This book tells the story of the Destruction of Mankind. It is very hard to see what is inscribed there, but we can see the figures of the cow goddess Hathor, Shu and other deities.
The Frame and the Pall:
Between this shrine and the next one, a wooden framework covered with a sheet (pall) of dark linen decorated with gilded bronze rosettes was found. There is a theory which suggests that the dark linen covering the shrine was an indication of the night sky and the rosettes represent the stars. There is a model showing the way this frame was originally found, which is displayed inside the showcase.
The 2nd Shrine
The dimensions of this shrine are 3.74 m long, 2.35 m wide and 2.25 m high. Its roof takes the shape of the pr-wr (predynastic shrine of the south). The roof is decorated with a winged solar disk in the centre and two winged serpents with multiple coils on the sides.
The king is represented on either leaves of the door; on the right side: he is represented holding the flail, his head adorned with two horns, a disk and two feathers and a larger disk above him. He is accompanied by MAat, goddess of Justice and Truth. In front of him, there is a representation of an altar with a vase and a bunch of lotus flowers. Facing him stands RaHrAxty depicted with a falcon head and the solar disk on his head. He is holding the Was scepter in one hand and the Ankh sign in the other.
On the left side: the king is represented holding the crook and the flail, wearing the double crown and above his head is the solar disk. He is accompanied with Isis and in front of him there is an altar with a vase and a bunch of lotus flowers. Facing him is Osiris holding the crook and flail.
At the back of the shrine there is a representation of Isis and Nephtys outstretching their wings and standing on the nbw sign.
This shrine is incised with spells from the Book of the Dead plus a very mysterious funerary book. This book is considered unique, though there seems to be some similarities to two scenes from the Imyduat and the Book of Gates.
Egyptologists believe that this composition deals at one side with what is known as the Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld and on the other side with the Creation and Refilling of the solar disk with fire during the night. This is the first instance of a composition describing the creation of the new solar disk.
These two books have an obscure nature with text that was not translated into normal hieroglyphs. This is evident from the fact that the texts that accompany some of the illustrations are cryptographic (coded) in order to preserve the secrecy of the formulae. However, it should be noted that other compositions exist that are also labeled “enigmatic” mostly from 20th dynasty tombs such as Ramsses VI and Ramsses IX.
This Enigmatic Book explains what happened to the solar disk in the night (after the death of the sun and it turned into " iwf " or the dead sun). This book told us that in the region of death, the dead sun passes by, or through, the bodies of the gods who reside there. Their bodies remain in the dark while their souls follow the sun in its journey. In other words, in the region of death the sun collects new energy for its rebirth in the morning.
The roof is decorated with a winged solar disk "Hr bHdty" in the center and two winged serpents with multiple coils on the sides.
The Right side: The text is divided into three registers, similar to the more familiar Imyduat but the solar bark is absent. However, just as in the Book of Caverns, the sun god’s presence is represented by ram-headed bird within a sun disk on this side, and by only a sun disk on the Left side. The order of the two sections of the book is defined by two boundary posts. Another indication of the order of the two sections is that darkness and the Place of Annihilation dominate the first section, which has only two large sun disks containing ram-headed birds, whereas light plays a major role in the second section, which is dominated by rays of light that came from disks, stars, and serpents. We really do not know if there were additional sections to the book or not. Thus the right side of this shrine represents the darkness whereas the light plays a major role on the left side.
We start at the far right: The scene begins with a similar scene as in the 1st hour of the Book of the Gates. It consists of a “head of Re” topping the jackal-headed “neck of Re”, which symbolizes the sun god’s creative power. The first two scenes in the upper and lower registers each display eight deities. Those in the upper register are in the “caverns of the Duat” and reside in darkness, while those of the lower register; their souls are able to accompany the sun god. The upper register deities are represented with different headdresses. The 1st one is human, 2nd cow, 3rd cobra, 4th and 5th are very particular because they are represented in frontal view (this was uncommon in Egyptian art but later popular in Greco-Roman art), the 6th lion head, the 7th cat head and the 8th antelope head. Piankoff (a famous Egyptologist) had suggested that these beings symbolize the different transformations undergone by the sun god while passing through the Netherworld. He appears to believe that those in the bottom register, which are split between two groups of four, with the chests of the four at the front having the shape of the scarab, a symbol for renewal, indicate that the process of transformation is complete.
The main scene here in the middle is probably the king in mummified form (though it had been suggested that it is a combination of Osiris and Re). He is encircled by two serpents at the top around his head and at the bottom around his feet, this serpent is called mHn, the Enveloper and his function is to protect the king’s head and feet. This figure of the king is named “He who hides the Horus”, where Horus here probably represents the reborn king. In the middle of the stomach we can see a sun disk and inside it a ram-headed bird representing the dead sun or the night sun (iwf literally meaning flesh). There is a group of seven deities who stand in adoration and seem to be trying to pull the sun disk using a rope from the body of the mummiform figure.
After the central scene, there are three scenes arranged vertically. In the upper register, seven goddesses within their coffins gaze upon the rays of the sun and follow the sun god with their ba-souls. The middle register was explained before (the 7 deities pulling the sun disk with rope). The lowest register is flanked by two guardians and its caption again refers to the Place of Annihilation. However, Re lights up this region "with his voice", so that its inhabitants may breathe. There is also a human-headed serpent that is coiled several times around two sarcophagi that contain the corpses of Osiris and Re. Here, a large oval containing hands has been read as "coffer".
The Left side: There are 3 registers, each contains 3 scenes. Here the sun god is depicted by means of sun disks in each scene where the disks are usually connected to the figures in front of them by means of rays of light (or fire). This is the section dealing with the refilling of the sun with energy at night.
At the far left, we can see the depiction of 4 pairs of arms; 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom, the two at the top are coming out of the sky while the two at the bottom are coming out of the ground. They are supporting two sun disks each with a ram-headed bird representing the dead sun (iwf). There is a theory that suggests that this scene is a part of the symbolic summary of the daily course of the sun that is kept in motion by means of the four pairs of arms. At the very end of the scene, we find serpents, the heads of four Negau-cattle, together with goddesses making a gesture of praise, an Osiris figure and an “arm of Re”. Some scholars recognize all this as the end of the composition, though others prefer to see it as the beginning, because of a very similar depiction on the ceiling of the corridor G in the tomb of Ramsses VI.
Moving further, we find the scene divided into 3 registers as mentioned before, above them is a line of hieroglyphic inscriptions.
The 1st register: It starts with a cobra spitting fire to a group of 6 mummified divinities. Each one is fronted by a ba-bird and has a star above its head that spits fire to the next divinity while the first one receives the fire directly from the cobra. According to the text, this is the light of Re, which enters them. After this the second scene in the upper register begins with a cat. Next, there are seven headless figures. They are fronted by their faces, which are depicted in frontal view; however, in each case the face is inserted between a star and a sun disk with rays. They are flooded with light from the rays of the sun disks above them. Apparently, this scene refers to the separation and rejoining of the head and the body. In the final scene of the upper register, six deities each stands on a MHn-serpent, which helps with his regeneration, aided by light from a sun disk in front of them.
The 2nd register: The caption of the beginning scene of the middle register mentions the ram-headed dead sun, and here, we find depicted a mummy that has turned itself over and is extending a hand to the dead sun (iwf). A serpent that is flooded by light springs from the feet of the mummy. After this, there are four beings with lion heads. We cannot see their arms, and from similar material in the sixth hour of the Book of Gates, we may conclude that they might be carrying the corpse of the sun. The last scene in the middle register is almost identical to the second scene, though now with six lion-headed figures. In each of these scenes, light from a sun disk surmounting a pair of legs enters the mouths of these creatures.
The 3rd register: A cobra spits fire (or light) that in every case is received by a lion’s head and, in turn, is emitted again by a cobra next to it. This light floods over six Osiris figures that, we are informed by the caption, are “clothed” with the light of Re. Sail hieroglyphs that signify wind or breath in front of them indicate that the Osiris figures have been granted breath. The middle scene of the lower register starts out with a lion that, like the cat in the upper register, is rising out of the earth, which hides a serpent. Afterwards, there are six mummiform figures with ram heads, and the caption here indicates that the deceased king is the object of their attention. In the last scene we see six goddesses. Each of them receives light from a disk and in turn, lets it pour from their hands onto the head of a serpent named “Evil of Face”.
The 3rd Shrine
The dimensions of this shrine are 3.40 m long x 1.92 m wide x 2.15 m high. Its roof takes the shape of pr-wr (shrine of the South). The scenes on the 3rd shrine are mainly protective scenes as they represent the guardians of the king and not the genies as the 2nd shrine.
The Doors and the Back:
There is a representation of four guardians; one is represented with a crocodile head, another with a lion head over which are two cobras and holding two knives (one in each hand) flanked by two ram-headed guardians. Some of the guardians are holding together with the knife some sort of plant scepter (reed). This scene is repeated at the back of the shrine; the only difference is that there is a guardian with an antelope head and another with a human head in between the two ram-headed guardians. The scenes are accompanied with extracts from chapter 147 of the Book of the Dead. At the top there is the winged solar disc (Horus of Behdet).
Inside, the ceiling is decorated with the winged sun disk and seven vultures with outspread wings holding the Shen sign. One of the vultures has the head of a snake. Below them is the representation of a flying hawk symbolizing the king. On the doors and on the rear panel, Isis and Nephtys protect the inside of the shrine with outstretched wings. On the right panel are two Udjet eyes and a procession of gods: Hapy, Anubis, Quebehsenewef, Geb and Nut. On the left panel are Nut facing Amsty, Anubis, Duametef, Geb and Horus Nedjitef. Thus, when the shrines were in place, the procession of gods on the exterior of shrine 4 faced the procession of gods on the interior of shrine 3.
The sides of the 3rd shrine represent the 2nd and 6th hours of the Imyduat, as follows:
The Left Exterior Panel:
It represents the 2nd hour of the Imyduat and is divided into 3 registers. Starting from left to right on the first register we can see a row of five guardians holding knives in their hands and seated on invisible chairs: one with human head, ram head, ibis head, baboon head and lion head. They are holding the knives in order to attack and destroy any dangers that may face the king in the afterlife. These guardians are followed by a human guardian who is holding a Kherep scepter instead of the knife, a falcon head with a ureas on his head and another human figure again with a knife in his hand ready to smite an enemy. Behind them are two baboon-headed figures followed by a double-faced figure: a falcon head and a human head. It had been suggested that this deity represented Horus and Seth together in the same body which is very unusual. Another theory suggests that he is a guardian who is represented with double face in order to be more effective against danger or maybe this figure was meant to be a good spirit and a destructive spirit at the same time. This fashion of representing a double face was later used in the Graeco-Roman period. In the same register there are female figures holding the Was scepter followed by a lion figure, a female, a lady with the Dw sign upon her head (maybe representing the western dessert) and goddesses one wearing the white crown (HDt) and one the red crown (dSrt).
The main scene in the middle register is the night journey of the deceased king disguised as the ram-headed dead sun (iwf) standing under a pavilion. He is preceded and followed by guardians and divinities the most important of which is Hathor with her title of nbt dpt (lady of the boat) in front of him, Sia the watcher and wepwawut (the opener of the way) and a falcon-headed deity behind him. At the prow of the ship, there is a representation of 2 cobras representing goddesses Isis and Nephtys or maybe the North and the South. In front of the solar boat there are 4 more boats, the 1st is empty except for two trees, these are probably two ears of corn because this boat is normally the boat of the corn deity Npr, the 2nd boat its prow and stern take the shapes of the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, inside the boat there are 2 depictions of the Kherep scepter flanking a crocodile (or maybe some other kind of reptile similar to the crocodile). The boat in front of it has a scarab at the prow while the stern has a mummified head with 2 feathers and the boat carries a representation of a cult object of Hathor which is the sistrum. At the front there is a fourth boat with a kneeling deity holding the Maat feather in front of him is a crescent moon surmounted by the lunar disk. The 3rd register depicts other deities related to the 2nd hour of the Imyduat.
The Right Exterior Panel:
It represents the 6th hour of the Book of the lmyduat. The first register from left to right show some of the divinities of the 6th hour seated on an invisible seats, one of them is seated and upon his head the signs of tA and Hnqt then one with red crown then one with a human head, in front of him is a falcon-headed deity then a baboon-headed deity then a mummy form and some other divinities and at the end is a group of 9 HqA scepters; 3 of them with the white crown, 3 with the red crown and 3 with a cobra.
The main scene in the middle register is the solar boat with the king camouflaged as the ram-headed dead sun (iwf) inside his shrine in his night journey. He is represented in a human body and the head of a ram and the solar disk at the top of his head, in front of him is goddess Hathor with the title of nbt-dpt (the lady of the boat) preceded by a divinity called (siA) which means the watcher and in front of him a divinity called (wp wAwt) meaning opener of the way. Behind the sun god there is a falcon-headed deity and the rest of the crew, the most important of them is “xrp” who is the helmsman, as he is the one responsible for steering the boat. After the boat, there is a baboon-headed figure holding an ibis in his hand (this represents two forms of god Djehwty or Thoth). Then there is a female figure holding two nw jars, four male figures with the white crown, four male figures with nothing on their heads then four male figures with the red crown (these figures probably represent the dead king).
In the third register (from left to right) there are two crocodile-headed figures along with 4 smaller crocodiles. In front of them are six standing male figures and two seated female figures. A huge snake is then represented with 4 human heads penetrating its body; these heads are probably the four sons of Horus emerging from the mHn snake. In front of it there are two seated figures.
The 4th Shrine (The Innermost Shrine)
The dimensions of this shrine are 2.90 m long x 1.48 m wide and 1.90 m high. Its roof takes the shape of pr-nw (the shrine of the North). It is the innermost shrine and the nearest to the sarcophagus that’s why higher rank of protective deities are represented on its walls (as the nearer we come to the body of the king, the more protection is needed).
On the interior of the ceiling is depicted Nut spreading her wings over the deceased while on the right and the left stands two winged figures of Horus above three nbw signs, then lower down there are two jackals of Anubis recline on pylons. While the exterior has representation (from left to right) of two Udjet eyes above pylon-shaped buildings, kneeling figures of Isis, Nephtys, Selkit and Neith followed by two figures of Anubis and a winged vulture and a winged serpent.
The doors and the back:
At the doors and the back there is a similar scene starting with the winged solar disk with 2 serpents one with the red crown and the other with the white crown for protection at the top. Then there is a representation of goddess Isis and goddess Nephtys with outstretched wings to protect the deceased king. On the inside of the doors are two winged figures of Isis and Nephtys outstretching their wings. The interior is inscribed with chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead; the text starts at the back wall, continues on the right and ends on the left wall.
On the Left side: (From left to right) There is Geb, followed by Dwamutef but represented with a falcon head (probably a mistake or because during the 18th dynasty. It had been recorded that there seemed to be an interchange between some of the heads and names of the 4 sons of Horus), then Anubis imywt and Amsty flanked on both sides with god DHwty (Thoth).
On the Right side: (From left to right) There is a similar scene also with god DHwty (Thoth) on both sides flanking Hapy (one of the 4 sons of Horus), Anubis xnty sH nTr, Quebehsenwef (here represented human-headed for similar reasons as mentioned before) followed by Horus in his form as Hr nD.it.f (Horus the Avenger of his Father).
N.B. All deities are accompanied by their names written in hieroglyphics after the Dd mdu in formula.