Category Archives: BC

Two hundred and fifty eight

Perfume Vessel

c1333 BC
From tomb of Tutankhamun, Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Dozens of perfume vases were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, all made of this milky alabaster and all topped with life-like and intriguing interpretations of the ancient Gods. The vases, decorated with gold and cartouches (the frame that indicated a Pharaoh’s name – in this case reading Tutankhamun), are similar in style and shape to those vessels that bore Tutankhamun’s organs. During the mummification process the organs were removed – the heart, the liver, the stomach, the lungs and the brain – then washed and preserved in scented jars. These organ jars were stored in an elaborately decorated trunk found in the burial chamber, also on display in the museum. It is telling of how the Egyptians saw their bodies after death that these organs would be similarly encased as precious scents and perfumes, such as lotus and papyrus flower; they were considered part of the treasure provided for the afterlife. The actual organs were necessary for re-birth; without every single one resurrection would be impossible. This perfume vase features the God Bes, protector of households and particularly important to women and children. He originated as a lion, literally symbolising protection, but developed a humorous persona due to his responsibilities towards the mother and child. Like a jester he was meant to entertain women during childbirth, waving and sticking out his tongue, distracting them from the trials they were to go through. Likewise, for the children he provided humour and distraction to entertain them in their early age; Bes was considered as the very first ‘babysitter’. The detail and reasoning into God Bes’s role shows just how considered the Egyptian Gods’ responsibilities were; there was someone to look after everything – many faces to the one force that governed Ancient Egypt.

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Two hundred and fifty six

Boats into the Underworld

c1479 BC
Tomb of Thutmoses III, Valley of the Kings

Thutmoses III was the son of Hapshetsut, one of the few woman Pharaohs, who named herself supreme ruler due to her son’s youth at the death of his father. When Thutmoses III angrily took back his rule (it remains speculative whether he had a hand in his mother’s death…) he went on to create the biggest Empire Egypt has ever seen. These drawings are taken from the walls of his tomb and are particularly interesting as they appear unfinished, left in the initial stages of black and red before colour and detail were added. It is intriguing to view the pencilling-in that lies beneath the bright colours of the hieroglyphics and pictures that usually cover the walls of the Ancient Egyptian tombs, viewing their decorative method in its early stages. Here we see the depths of the Egyptian underworld, mapped out in rivers that the dead would sale through to reach Osiris (god of the underworld) who would judge their life to see if they could join him. They sailed in a boat shaped like the crescent moon, mirroring the journey the moon makes through the dark each night, the dead King centred in the boat under a shrine. The God Horus (symbolising protection) stands behind lifting his arm for security, his face taking the shape of a hawk. The snakes and three-headed monsters represent the beasts and trials one would have to face on the journey to Osiris, which the ‘Book of the Dead’ would dictate how to pass.

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