2014/04/12

Tutankhamun Vulture Collar

Vulture Collar  of Tutankhamun

When the predynastic kingdom of Upper Egypt conquered the Lower Egyptian kingdom and the two crowns were unified, it was natural that the principal deities of the conquerors should accompany them and extend their realms accordingly. One of these deities was the vulture-goddess Nekhbet, whose sanctuary lay at Nekheb (Elkhab) on the east bank of the Nile, across from Nekhen (Hierakonpolis), the capital of the Upper Egyptian kings, whose patron god was Horus. Very probably it was the geographical proximity of Nekheb to the capital that first made it desirable for the local rulers to recognize the goddess; in return for their recognition they received her protection.   In her capacity as royal protectress, she could hardly fail to gain kudos from the successful conquest of her protégé, Menes.

 Her position as a tutelary goddess of the kings of united Egypt was firmly established at the beginning of the dynastic period and remained unaffected by political and religious changes, except in the Amarna period, throughout Egyptian history. The flexible gold collar, which represents the vulture-goddess Nekhbet, was placed on the thorax of the king's mummy so that it covered the whole of the chest and extended upwards to the shoulders. The elongated wings, set in a circular fashion, are divided into districts that are composed of 250 segments, with feathers engraved on the back and inlaid on the front with polychrome glass in imitation of turquoise, jasper, and lapis lazuli.

Tutankhamun Vulture Collar

The segments were held together by thread that passed through small golden eyelets projecting from their upper and lower edges.  On one side of each segment, except in the district known as the lesser coverts - at the top of the wing, close to the body - there is a border of minute gold beads that divides its feathers from those of its neighbor. The body of the bird is inlaid in the same manner as the lesser coverts, while the tail feathers resemble the primary and the secondary districts of the wings. Both the beak and the eye in the delicately chased head are made of obsidian. In each of the talons the bird grasps the hieroglyphic shen sign, inlaid with read and blue glass.

 A floral-shaped mankhet counterpoise, which was attached by gold wires to eyelets at the back of the wings, hung down the back of the mummy. Collars and necklaces were placed on Egyptian mummies not as objects of adornment but to provide magical protection. They were also represented on the cartonnage covers of mummies and on the lids of anthropoid coffins. Among the many collar amulets painted on the walls of rectangular wooden coffins dating from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000 B.C.) are four made of gold and inlaid on the outer surface, shaped to represent a falcon, vulture, winged cobra, and combined vulture and cobra. 

Tutankhamun's mummy, which was more than half a millennium later in date than these coffins, was equipped with all these inlaid collars except the cobra collar, in addition to all four collars in sheet gold without inlay. They were purely funerary in character and very different from the bead or gold collars worn in life.

Amulet of Tutankhamun Throne Name

 The  Amulet of Tutankhamun Throne Name  


Egyptian kings, when they ascended the throne, assumed four names and titles besides the name that they already possessed and to which the title "Son of Ra" was added. In formal documents, particularly those carved on monuments to record historical events and personal achievements, all five names and titles might be written, but the usual practice was to employ only the throne and personal names, both of which were written, as a rule, within cartouches. If space was too restricted to allow room for more than one name, it was generally the throne name that was chosen. Several pieces among Tutankhamun's jewelry bear only the throne name, Nebkheperura, without a title.  It was spelled with three signs, representing a basket (neb), a beetle, to which three vertical strokes were added to indicate the plural (kheperu), and the sun's disk (ra).

 Amulet of Tutankhamun Throne Name

The name of the sun-god Ra was written first for honorific reasons and the basket was written last because, when the name was written in an upright cartouche, the sign filled the rounded base of the cartouche. In one respect only does the name show any variation: the beetle may or may not have wings, but the reading is unaffected by their presence or absence. The pendant illustrated here is an example of the writing of the throne name without the addition of the title "king of Upper and Lower Egypt." In common with other pendants of its kind among Tutankhamun's jewelry, the scarab is disproportionately large. 

It is made of very heavy gold plate, finely chased on both the upper and the lower surfaces. The sun's disk, inlaid with carnelian and flanked by pendent uraei, is held in the front claws (one broken) of the scarab, thus reproducing the action of the beetle in nature. Beneath the scarab, and separated from it by the three strokes indicating the plural, is the basket, made of gold and inlaid with blue glass.  Fragments of what seem to have been the beaded borders of wings remain attached to the left side of the basket and the right-hand edge of the sun's disk.

The surviving traces do not appear to fit a cartouche or, at the base, an additional band of gold, as suggested by Carter. A gold eyelet for suspension is soldered to the back of the plate bearing the sun's disk. Two rows of small gold beads, found on the neck of the scarab, are not shown in the photograph, but some blue and gold beads can be seen between the left-hand uraeus and the head.


Tutankhamun Votive Shield

 The Votive Shield of Tutankhamun


This shield is one of eight that Carter found in the Annex. Boomerangs, throw-sticks, bows and arrows were also among the military equipment stored in this room. Although this elaborately decorated object, like three similar shields, was never meant for use in life, four of the shields clearly were battle-worthy. Made of wood and covered in animal hide, they were slightly smaller in size than the ceremonial versions. The four larger shields were constructed similarly in that the background of each composition was cut away, leaving an openwork design. Each was made of wood that was smoothed with gesso and then gilded.

Tutankhamun Shield

On the front of the shield Tutankhamun triumphantly brandishes a scimitar in his right hand and holds the tails of his foes, two lions, in his left. Representations of the king smiting enemies had already become a standard theme in Egyptian art, and the artist here is recreating a traditional motif, albeit with some modifications, that had already been in existence for more than fifteen hundred years. Behind him, the Upper Egyptian vulture goddess, Nekhbet, spreads her protective wings about him. The basket upon which she perches rests on the plant symbolic of Lower Egypt, the papyrus.

The winged sun disk hovers over the whole scene, while the king is about to slay the lions, which considering the context should be understood as symbolic representations of his traditional enemies. Aside from the usual epithets, the hieroglyphic inscription likens the king to the warlike god of Thebes, Montu.