The ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, and the life in the afterworld involved the same material objects as the living world. High-ranking Egyptian leaders stockpiled lavish furnishings, food and jewelry to use after death. The discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 gave Egyptologists special insight into the type of personal adornment worn during Tutankhamun's life. Ancient kings had a direct link to the gods, in Egyptian religion and life, and the jewelry incorporated important symbols of protection. The design for Tutankhamun's tomb included an ante-chamber, annex, coffin chamber and a small treasury located adjacent to the coffin room filled with the king's riches -- including jewelry, gemstones, gold and silver.
Eye of Horus
Egyptians believed in the power of a number of gods, and some of the most powerful had special duties to protect Egypt's kings from harm. King Tutankhamun's tomb held a golden chest containing a gold and glass necklace featuring the Eye of Horus, a god who lost his left eye during a battle with his rival Seth. The goddess Isis, restored Horus's eye. The ancient Egyptians believed the eye had the power to restore life and protect the holder against harm. The design of Tutankhamun's necklace amulet incorporated the eye symbol and another protective symbols. These images also appear in other decorations on Tutankhamun's coffin as a warning to would-be robbers that the tomb's goods and riches that the king needed in his new life had godly protection.
Ancient Egyptian society valued clear glass and colored gemstones, and the color of both had significant meaning. Tutankhamun's gold death mask featured gemstones, but the jewelry found in the king's treasure room, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets and headdresses, also used red jasper, an important protection for the trip to the afterlife, carnelian and topaz stones. The wealthy and political and religious leaders, including Tutankhamun, wore the blues of lapis lazuli and turquoise as visible sign of status. The blue-colored gemstones also symbolized regeneration to the ancient Egyptians.
Tut's mummified body wore his diadem, a gold-banded crown that held semiprecious stones and featured the head of the protective cobra on the front. Another thin golden band covered the top of Tutankhamun's head to keep the crown in place. Four golden ribbons hung from the back, but a shorter ribbon with the head of an arched cobra ready to strike peeked around Tutankhamun's neck. The snake represents one form of the Horus eye and tells all who see Tutankhamun that the gods protect the king as an earthly representative of the gods and goddesses.
Tutankhamun used gold-gilded wooden sticks encrusted at the top with precious stones for a number of daily activities. Each of the sticks featured the king's personal cartouche, an oblong shape containing the king's name in characters known as hieroglyphs. Although the sticks appear to be an odd form of jewelry today, the teenager carried a stick for both decoration and power. Tutankhamun also used the sticks during religious ceremonies and rituals. Tutankhamun's tomb contained 132 gold and gemstone encrusted sticks for the king to use in the afterlife.
- National Geographic: Tutankhamun -- The Golden Beyond
- Discovery News: Inside King Tut's Tomb
- Maverick Science: The Eye of Horus
- National Geographic: Ancient Artifacts and Symbols
- Ahramonline: Tutankhamun's Sticks Transferred to Grand Egyptian Museum for Restoration
- Durham University: Sacred Signs -- Naming
- Discovery News: Crashed and Burned -- How King Tut Died
- Discovery Channel: What Were Some of the Treasures Found in King Tut's Tomb?
- The Griffith Institute: List of Objects
- British Museum: Faience Wedjat Eye Amulet
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images