Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Golden House Of Pharaoh

In my novel, “The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen,” Ankhesenamun, wife to King Tut, must watch as the tomb is sealed on her husband’s short life.  When bringing to life the funeral procession, Opening of the Mouth Ceremony, and sealing the sarcophagus, I was constantly flipping back and forth between reference books to make sure my descriptions were as accurate as possible. 

One of the scenes that easily got mixed up in my head was putting the consecutive lids on Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus.  There were multiple layers, and there were also fabrics and flowers placed between each layer.  I think I went over that scene more than almost any other in making sure everything was being done in the correct order. 

Seeing the replicas of these lids was astounding.  The amount of detail and brilliance of each piece of King Tut’s sarcophagus literally stops you in your tracks.  Additionally, because I was looking at replicas, I could see what these items would have looked like when they were first created.  The delicate lines, the inlayed jewels, the bright shine of gold, I had a hard time leaving the sarcophagus display room!
So let’s bring in my narrative with photos from the Putnam exhibit.  This should be exciting... 
The Hidden Things of the Heart (Excerpt)
1322 B.C.
Funeral Procession of Pharaoh Tutankhamun
            We stood in the breath between silence and speaking.
            The large rectangular stone sarcophagus, which had been prepared inside the tomb, had bided its time.  Like courtyard walls without a central household to protect, it had waited hollow and alone, as if the gods had reached down and scooped up everything inside with their gigantic hands.  It was situated atop a lion-shaped bier which had yet to feel the weight of more than just gold but also a king’s soul.  
            At last, his golden coffin had arrived.  As it finally sat inside the sarcophagus, the coffin we had followed here looked dwarfed by its outer shell.  Servants scurried over with the first lid to be placed over my husband’s image.  I watched as the lid was slowly laid over the coffin, sealing and protecting the House of His Body. 

            My husband now began his descent into the Afterlife.  He would leave this world forever.  One lid had been laid, a lid carved to mimic the golden coffin’s appearance.  The last two were waiting to be placed, two more seals of protection also carved out with his image. 
            It was time to let go.
            In my hand was a wreath.  The base was of papyrus and was shaped beautifully from the season’s foliage: blue cornflowers, olive leaves, and the loose petals of blue water lilies.  I leaned over and blew a kiss down upon the first lid.  Then onto it, encircling the rearing cobra and vulture of the first lid’s crown, I reached down and laid my wreath to rest.  As I stepped back, priests came forward to cover this lid in white shrouds.  Then the next lid was held high before being gently lowered into place. 
            Using handles made from silver, two on each side, the lid was eased down.  I could see fragments missing, intentionally chipped off, from the toe portion of this protective layer.  It disgusted me to think that this was not properly measured in the first place.  The workmen had callously resorted to hacking away the images of my husband because of their own inadequacy.  This carelessness made me sick.  Was this the remembrance fitting a king?  This was what the land offered him?  Broken beauty, halved names, and thus forgotten prayers intended to seal his life.  That and subsequently more shrouds laid upon the surface by the dutiful priests.
            Next came the final lid, which had been crafted to match the base of the large sarcophagus.  But this lid had broken in its construction.  Originally of yellow quartzite, the workmen had to prepare a new one quickly, and the replacement was made from pink granite which was then painted over in yellow to attempt to match the base.  I sighed mournfully.  It was a poor substitute.  Everything about this day was underwhelming.  The world had moved so quickly, ready to leave Tutankhamun and everything associated with him behind in its wake -- including me.  The respect and love he deserved at his final goodbye was forgotten.
Photo by:
           The final lid was laid, and an echoing thump rang.  As the sound finally settled in my ears, I knew it was time to leave.  The funerary banquet would begin when we returned to the palace, and Ay would sit in my husband’s chair.
            I turned away, and the last thing I saw of his body’s house was the etchings of outstretched wings attached to one of four goddesses.  The four ladies, Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selket, were positioned on each corner of the stone sarcophagus.  I did not look close enough at the high relief to distinguish which goddess it was, all I knew was that they would now protect him.  I did not want to look closely enough to see if these images were also damaged in some way.
Photo by:
Copyright 2015 J. Lynn Else
Published by J. Lynn Else at CreateSpace
(First published August 15th 2013)
According to observations made at the time of discovery, it was noted that parts of King Tut’s sarcophagus were, in fact, damaged!  From the quartzite lid to the ill-fitting coffin lids, despite the overwhelming beauty of the pieces, there were also many flaws.  Because completion of his funerary materials were prepared so quickly, mistakes were made, and there was not enough time to fix them.
When I was still in college, my grandfather passed away.  As a veteran of WWII, he was buried at Fort Snelling.  I remember being so upset with the trumpet player who performed taps at the end of the outdoor service.  It was played very quickly (like double time!), there were a few missed notes, and then he walked off.  I’m not sure if he had another funeral to get to, but I remember being so upset at the lack of respect and the hasty job that trumpet player gave my grandfather.  I brought this feeling into my story through Ankhesenamun’s feelings during the funeral procession and burial--only in her case, we’re talking about a ruler of her world, a Pharaoh.  Their belief system demanded strict rituals, prayers, and spells which enabled Pharaoh to pass through the different hours of the Afterlife.  

Howard Carter spent four painstaking years excavating King Tut’s tomb.  The grandest of all his finds was the intact stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other.  Inside the final coffin, made of solid gold, was the mummy of Tutankhamun preserved for more than 3,000 years.
Photo from:'s-tomb/
Per The exposed outer coffin of Tutankhamun, measuring 2.24 meters long with its head positioned to the west, rested on a low leonine bier that was still intact though certainly suffering from the strain of a ton and a quarter worth of weight it had endured over the prior 3,200 years. Fragments chipped from the toe of the coffin lid at the time of the burial, a crude attempt to rectify a design problem and allow the sarcophagus lid to sit properly, were found in the bottom of the sarcophagus. The chippings revealed that the coffin was made of cypress with a thin layer of gesso overlaid with gold foil.
The original design of the outermost coffin's lid had incorporated four silver handles, two on each side, which were used to lower the lid into place...these same handles would be used, once more to raise this lid, by Howard Carter and his team.
Photo from:
When an object is still able to be used as designed after 3,000 years!?! Well, that’s just master craftsmanship there.
Keep watching for more photos and stories about the life and death of King Tut.  Then discover more about this fascinating family with The Forgotten 2: “Heir of the Heretic” set to be released at the end of this year!!!  A few scenes may be dropped in subsequent posts. 
Until that time, here’s a little verse for you:
The sacred barque will be joyful and the great god will proceed in peace when you allow this soul of mine to ascend vindicated to the gods... May it see my corpse, may it rest on my mummy, which will never be destroyed or perish.

— Book of the Dead, spell 89 —

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ensuring Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt

In my last blog post, I shared photos from my visit to the Discovery of King Tut exhibit, leaving off at the Treasury Room.  So this is where we'll pick up on today.

Per KingTutOne.comThe treasury room was stocked with many items such as shrines, chests, boats, and two of King Tut’s believed stillborn daughters. This room could easily be accessed directly through the burial chamber on the eastern side of the room’s wall. Although this room could be easily accessed, a statue guard with a large portable shrine of the jackal-headed god named Anubis was strategically placed at the entrance.

Definitely one of the most eye-catching items is the carved wood shrine gilded in gold surrounded by four goddesses that protected the internal organs of Tutankhamun.  This is known as "The Canopic Shrine."  It measured 6 feet and 6 inches tall.  The organs were placed in four mini gold coffins.  Each of these were under proction of a different goddess as follows: Isis - the liver; Nephthys - the lungs; Neith - the stomach; Selket - the intestines. The heart was left in the body.

The canopic chest itself was carved from a single block of alabaster.  In this chest rested the mini coffins of the internal organs.  Their stoppers were shaped into the head of the king.  Sound creepy?  Its actually quite beautiful, as I'll show below.  Though typically, the stoppers were sculpted into the heads of Horus' four sons.  Four cylindrical compartments held the organ coffins.  The four goddesses are also found here enveloping the corners of the chest.

So why did these organs have such protection around them?  The ancient Egyptians believed the deceased would need these organs in the afterlife.  Thus, they were carefully stored.  The four organs were individually wrapped and placed in their respective jars.  After that, oils were poured over the organs.  Finally, the jars were ritually closed, conserving the organs for eternity.  The deceased needed their body preserved in order to pass into the Afterlife.  These four organs were vital to complete the body.  Without them, the deceased would not be able to live eternally.  

Another eye-catching item in the treasury is the shrine of Anubis. This item guarded the entrance to the Treasury.  It is made from wood and covered in black resin.  His eyes were inlaid with calcite and obsidian set in gold.  The Anubis statue was wrapped in a linen shirt from Pharaoh Akhenaten's 7th regnal year according to ink hieroglyphs on the shrine.  A scarf was tied around the neck of Anubis, with lotus and cornflowers woven in it. 

Check out this picture from 1922 of how the Treasure looked when it was discovered.  You can see the linens finely draped around the proud Anubis statue.  Photograph by Harry Burton. 

Per The shrine was placed on a kind of sledge, which had two carrying poles projecting from the front and back. It is therefore presumed that the Anubis shrine was used in the funerary procession of the Pharaoh and finally placed in front of the canopic chest in the Store Room.

You can find a scene in my book, "The Forgotten: Aten's Last Queen," where this statue leads the funeral procession of Tutankhamun.  Bringing to life the traditions and beautiful detail of this ancient world was immensely satisfying for me.  I spent a moment in my book when my main character reflects upon King Tut's death and looks to the Anubis Shrine in her musings.  Can you find this scene in my book?  

Further posts to come about the treasures of King Tut leading up to the release of book 2 of "The Forgotten" series, "Heir of the Heretic."  May Aten protect you until we meet again!