Tutankhamun Gold Rings

Five Gold Rings of Tutankhamun 

From the Middle Kingdom until the latter half of the Eighteenth Dynasty finger rings consisted generally of a loop of cord or metal and a swivel bezel, often a scarab, that revolved on the loop. Rings with the loop and bezel in one piece, made of metal, semiprecious stones, or faience, were uncommon until the Amarna Period, when they seem to have become fashionable.

Fifteen rings, some with swivel bezels, were found on Tutankhamun's mummy, but only two were actually placed on his fingers; the remainder were bound in the linen wrappings, five over the right wrist and eight beside the left wrist. In addition, eight rings, which the ancient robbers had inadvertently left in the tomb wrapped in a piece of linen, were found in a gilded chest in the antechamber, where they had no doubt been placed by the necropolis staff. Five of these twenty-three rings are illustrated here; they are all made of gold and in every case the bezel is in the form of either a single or a double cartouche.

Tutankhamun Gold Rings

Tutankhamun Gold Rings

(a) A bipartite ring; the two hollow loops with lily-form terminals are soldered together at the bezels only. Each bezel is decorated in openwork with a figure standing on the basket hieroglyph neb, which is often used to fill the oval base of a cartouche. On the left bezel the figure represents the king presenting an offering.

The offering is received by the falcon-headed sun-god, Ra-Harakhty, shown in the right cartouche wearing the sun's disk and uraeus and holding the was scepter in his right hand and the ankh sign in his left. On the sides of each of the two loops are engraved an udjat eye on one side and a baboon on the other.

(b) One of the two rings found on the king's mummy; it was on the middle finger of his left hand. The bezel is engraved with a figure of the king kneeling and holding in his outstretched hands an image of the goddess Maat, who is represented seated on the neb sign. In her hands she holds the ankh sign. At the top of the cartouche is the protecting falcon holding in each talon the shen symbol.

Maat was the goddess who personified the action of the creator of the universe, Atum, when he established the right order in nature and society. The action depicted on the bezel reproduces an episode in a series of ceremonies performed every morning by the king or by the high priest who deputized for him. It took place in the Temple of Karnak in front of the shrine containing a statue of the god Amun.

After opening the door of the shrine and performing some preliminary ceremonies, the king knelt before the statue and offered it an image of Maat, exactly in the manner shown on the bezel. Offerings of food and drink were placed every day before the god, and maat, in the abstract sense of right order, was regarded as divine food.

Queen Hatshepsut, who lived more than a century before Tutankhamun, refers to Amun in an inscription at Beni Hasan in these words : "I magnified maat that he [Amun] loves, for I know that he lives on it."

In his field notes, Howard Carter made the following comment on this ring: "A magnificent specimen of goldsmith's work. The face is an absolute portrait of the king, showing extraordinary affinity to Akhenaton."

(c) Massive gold ring with hoop and bezel cast in one piece. The seated figure on the bezel represents the god Amun, or Amen-Ra as he is called in the hieroglyphic inscription in front of his crown. In his right hand he holds the ankh sign and in his left the was scepter. He wears on his head his regular headdress consisting of a close-fitting cap surmounted by two plumes and the sun's disk.

Amun, whose name means "the one who is hidden," first achieved prominence in the Twelfth Dynasty, four of whose kings were called by the name Amenemhat, which means "Amun is foremost." His cult was brought to Thebes from Hermopolis, in middle Egypt, where he had been worshipped since early times. In the Eighteenth Dynasty Amun gained real ascendancy over the other major gods and became the official state god.

The powerful sun-god Ra of Heliopolis became associated with him at Thebes under the name Amen-Ra and Thebes itself was called Heliopolis of Upper Egypt. Tutankhamun's predecessor, Akhenaton, suppressed his cult, together with the cults of all the other gods except that of the sun's disk, Aton, but Tutankhamun restored Amun to his former preeminence and reopened the temples of the other gods.

(d) The right-hand cartouche contains the king's throne name, Nebkheperura, and the left-hand cartouche his original personal name, Tutankhaton. The change to Tutankhamun was made in about his ninth year when he was crowned by the priests of Amen-Ra at Karnak. By making this change the king formally detached himself from the cult of Aton and declared his adherence to the cult of Amun.

(e) The seated figure in the cartouche of this massive gold ring represents the falcon-headed god, Ra-Harakhty, whose name, which means Ra-Horus of the Horizon, is written in hieroglyphics in front of him. He holds the same insignia as in the ring at the top of the illustration. The sun's disk with uraeus, above his head, is also a feature common to both rings and a regular element in his iconography.

Engraved on the loop, near the bezel, are the king's throne name on one side and his personal name on the other side. On the side of the throne is the heraldic device to commemorate the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. Since remote antiquity the center of the sun-cult had been located at Heliopolis, near the modern city of Cairo. It was there that the sun-god Ra had his sanctuary.

Horus was the deity personified by the Upper Egyptian kings who conquered Lower Egypt, where Heliopolis was situated, at the beginning of the historical period. For political reasons it was necessary to unify the cults of the two gods, with the result that the composite god, Ra-Harakhty, came into being.

The geographical proximity of the new capital, Memphis, to Heliopolis, together with the religious link that had been created, enabled the priests of Heliopolis to exercise their influence over the crown. However, when in the Eighteenth Dynasty the capital was established at Thebes, four hundred miles to the south, and Amun was recognized as the state god, Heliopolitan influence inevitably diminished.

 Probably in order to restore some of the god's lost prestige, Amenhotpe III and his sone, Amenhotpe IV, before he moved the capital to Amarna and adopted the name Akhenaton, built sanctuaries at Karnak to Ra-Harakhty, and his name was expanded to "Ra-Harakhty lives, rejoicing in the horizon, in his name the sun-light-which-is-Aton.

" Soon after its earliest occurrence, this name was divided into two parts, both written in cartouches like royal names in order to show that Amenhotpe IV regarded him as the divine king, although the epithet "King of the Gods" had long been borne by Amen-Ra. His "reign," such as it was, did not last for more than a few years, although Ra himself survived because he was regarded by Akhenaton as the ancient god in whom the true god, Aton, had always existed.

 Tutankhamun's accession to the throne, followed by his revival of the old cults, restored Ra-Harakhty to the position he had occupied in the Egyptian pantheon before the time of Amenhotpe IV.

Gold Cloisonne Earrings of Tutankhamun

Like a number of other articles that had been placed in a cartouche-shaped box, these gold earrings were most probably used by Tutankhamun in his lifetime. They show signs of friction, which is only likely to have occurred through use. In order to attach them to the pierced lobes of the ears, a stud-like clasp was made in two pieces, so that it could be taken apart. Each piece is composed of a short cylindrical tube closed at one end by a gold disk with raised rim, on which is mounted a hemispherical button of transparent glass.

When the clasp is closed, one tube fits inside the other. A portrait of the king, painted behind one button on each earring, is visible through the glass covering. Microscopic examination has suggested that it is not, however, a true painting; it seems to consist of particles of colored glass fused on the underside of the clear glass button. Two pendent uraei attached to the disks flank the portraits. Suspended on ring eyelets from the clasps are figures of hybrid birds with gold cloisonne bodies and wings of falcons and heads of ducks.

  Gold Cloisonne Earrings of Tutankhamun

The wings curve inwards, meeting at the top to form a complete circle. In their claws the birds hold the shen sign for infinity. The heads are made of translucent blue glass and the bodies and wings are inlaid with quartz, calcite, colored faience, and blue, red, white, and green glass. Pendent extensions from the tails of the birds consist of open-work gold frames encrusted with alternate rows of gold and blue inlay, arranged in a feather pattern, and cylindrical blue and gold beads that terminate in five heads and hoods of uraei.

Earrings, at least for royalty, were a relatively recent innovation at the time of Tutankhamun. Their popularity in the New Kingdom was probably a legacy of the Hyksos invaders who brought them from Western Asia, where they had been in vogue for many centuries. Apart from a very small number that have been ascribed to the Middle Kingdom, the earliest recorded examples in Egypt were found by Sir Flinders Petrie in a tomb at Thebes that he dated to the end of the Seventeenth Dynasty (c. 1570 B.C.).

At first they seem to have been worn chiefly by women, not merely by members of the nobility but also by some of those who served the nobility, such as musicians and dancers. According to one of the Amarna letters, earrings were among the principal items of jewelry brought by a Mitannian princess to Egypt at the time of her marriage to Amenhotpe III (c. 1386-1349 B.C.). How soon, and to what extent, the custom was adopted by men is uncertain, but the first king whose mummy shows pierced lobes of the ears is Thutmose IV (c. 1419-1386 B.C.). Perhaps it is no more than a coincidence that he was the first Egyptian king to marry a Mitannian princess, because instances of men wearing earrings occur in the wall paintings of at least two Theban tombs that antedate his reign.

Compared, however, with the countless representations of female wearers of earrings, the number of representations of male wearers is very small and, in the main, confined to young princes. The lobes of the ears of the mummies of several kings, including Sethy I and Ramesses II, were pierced and it must be supposed that at some stage in their lives they wore earrings. Moreover, sculptures of kings from Amenhotpe III and Ramesses II often show pierced lobes.

A possible explanation is that earrings were normally - though not invariably, and particularly not in Amarna times - discarded by boys when they reached manhood. Such an explanation would accord with the fact that, in spite of the profusion of other kinds of jewelry, no earrings were placed on the mummy of Tutankhamun. It would also account for perforations in the ears of the gold mask being covered with gold foil.

Ivory and Stone Bracelets of Tutankhamun

Both these pieces were regarded as anklets by Carter, but it seems more probable that they were bracelets. Flexible bead anklets fastened by ties or clasps were worn by women from predynastic times onwards and, exceptionally, by men as early as the Twelfth Dynasty. Rigid anklets, made of two hinged plates of metal, were a much later innovation; they were worn in the New Kingdom by both men and women.

The two kinds of anklets, flexible and hinged, are generally indistinguishable from bracelets; identification is only possible when they are found in situ on a body. Such evidence is not available in the case of these rings; both were found in the annex and not on the mummy. Size and the fact that each was made in one piece strongly suggest that they were bracelets; the stone example, moreover, belongs to a well-known type.

Ivory and Stone Bracelets of Tutankhamun

In design and decoration the style of these bracelets is simple without being plain. The ivory ring on the left has a fluted exterior surface and a triangular profile; on both sides the pattern is broken by an inset bronze or copper plate inscribed in gold and fixed with rivets. On one side the inscription gives Tutankhamun's throne name, Nebkheperura, followed by the epithet "ruler of order." It is a less common epithet than "ruler of Heliopolis of Upper Egypt" and its meaning is that his kingdom conformed with the order prescribed by the gods.

On the other side, the plate bears the king's throne and personal names, with the appropriate titles, and a heraldic device consisting of the king in the form of a sphinx trampling underfoot an Asiatic enemy. Behind the sphinx stands the lioness-headed goddess Sekhmet protecting the sphinx with her outspread wings, between which are the hieroglyphic symbols ankh and shen.

The stone ring on the right, which is made of fine quality crystalline limestone, was found broken. Its bulbous outer surface has a narrow flange at both edges. Along the central axis is inset a row of small diamond-shaped pieces of lapis lazuli bordered by gold wire. It has no symbolism or other evidence of its royal ownership.

The type, known by the name mesketu, is mentioned in historical texts and made of gold, it was one of the pieces of jewelry given to soldiers and officials as a reward for distinguished services.

Faience Scarab Pectoral

Faience Scarab Pectoral

Turquoise-blue glazed faience winged scarab, with holes for attaching to a mummy net. The scarab or dung beetle was seen as an earthly echo of the sun-god, moving as a disk across the sky, and therefore became a symbol of daily rebirth. 

Faience Scarab Pectoral

Large scarabs were placed over the heart from the Middle Kingdom, and pectorals incorporating the scarab are known from the New Kingdom. The faience winged scarabs appear in the Late Period as part of sets of amulets attached to bead-net mummy-coverings.

Pectoral of Khonsu

This pylon-shaped, or gateway-shaped, pectoral of Khonsu has a stone heart scarab fixed in its center. On the front of the pectoral, the two goddesses Isis and Nephthys decorate the right and the left of the scarab.

Pectoral of Khonsu

The underside of the pectoral contains seven lines of Spell 30b of the Book of the Dead. The upper part of the pectoral was pierced by four holes on each side, two of which still contain the ends of strings.