Tutankamun on a papyrus raft

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This artefact was found in the treasury of Tutankhamun’s tomb, contained inside one of twenty-two black-painted wooden caskets or shrines. In each of these caskets there were one or more wooden statuettes portraying either Tutankhamun in different poses or a number of deities from the Ancient Egyptian religion. Each of these statuettes are attached to a black, wooden rectangular base, and when discovered were wrapped in a piece of linen that was datable to the rd year of his father, Akhenaten’s reign. In the series of these statues there was another with Tutankhamun depicted standing on the back of a leopard. Though in the case of this statue with Tutankhamun on a papyrus raft there was two made that are identical.

This statuette is known to be the most harmonious and elegant of the whole collection. The body of Tutankhamun was made of strong wood, as well as the raft that was painted green and gilded in the places where the details of papyrus appeared. The front and back of the papyrus raft are in the form of papyrus flowers with gilded petals. This narrow vessel is typical of the simple rafts created by the Ancient Egyptians. The harpoon in which Tutankhamun is holding is also carved of wood but the coil in his left hand being crafted out of bronze.

This statuette reaches the height of 6.5 cm, 18.5 cm in width and 70.5 cm in length.

This statuette portrays a religious belief in the time of the Ancient Egyptian society as well as being associated with the archaic rites of Buto being an ancient city in the Delta.

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Here seen is Tutankhamun incarnated as Horus, who according to a mythical belief was sought to revenge the murder of his father (Osiris, God of the dead) by fighting against the evil Seth. Seth being his father’s brother had been turned into a hippopotamus (known as an evil creature to Egyptians) for killing Osiris. Tutankhamun, like the god Horus, had the task of fighting against evil and preserving the order.

Tutankhamun is depicted in anticipation of hurling his long spear at Seth. He is taking a long, intentional step forward with his front foot flat and back foot poised on the tip of his toes and looks to be concentrating intently on the act he is following. His arms look to have been crafted separately from the body and which emphasise the dynamism of the hunting Pharaoh.

Tutankhamun is seen wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, with the royal cobra decorated upon the front of the crown. His facial features are youthful and fine; his eyes are inlaid with obsidian, bronze and glass. Outlining his eyes are a kohl colour, as well as eyebrow length exaggeration typical of the Ancient Egyptian styling. He is wearing a Usekh necklace or collar around his neck, with the outlines of beads engraved into the wood. Tutankhamun is shown wearing the pleated loincloth, typical of the period. The loincloth being knotted at the front, and falls into pleats as it goes down, it reaches higher at the back then at the front, and realistically falls from his body, in an open fan-like fashion. Tutankhamun is seen wearing papyrus sandals that were a part of his official costume.

We can see that this statuette was created in the Amarna or Aten period as the visibility of the lightly swelling muscles, the bulging belly and the lowly situated hips, as this era depicted a more naturalistic form of art. Hence this statue would have been made before Tutankhamun changed from Aten to Amun ruling.

This Statuette has a highly significant role of understanding the time and the person being Tutankhamun. Through this piece we can gather information on religion, treasures, fashions and even the various forms of art and the way in which his life was interpreted. We can see that religion was a high aspect of Tutankhamun’s every day life and religion and the association between the Pharaoh and their gods dominated their society in the time of his reign. They believed that the Pharaoh was the closest link to the gods and they had to follow examples and tasks set by them to help gain acknowledgment from them. From statuettes we can see the appearance of the Pharaoh through the art forms. With the gained knowledge of the Amarna styled art we can come to realise the time in which it was created and the relationship of Tutankhamun to other Pharaohs, therefore gaining background knowledge of Tutankhamun and his relatives. We are also able to see the style of costuming worn by the Pharaoh Tutankhamun as a primary source. All these aspects found in this statuette contribute to our understanding of Tutankhamun.

An intriguing and interesting aspect is brought up in this artefact. As we know this piece was created in the Amarna period, but this statuette is depicting an Amun belief associating with old gods. So we are left considering why in fact this old belief was still preserved even though this religion no longer existed at the time.

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