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 Wikipedia.com: 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!  

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