What Types of Objects Were Buried With Tutankhamen's Mummy?
Amulets were buried with the mummy usually in and around the mummy bandages. These amulets would protect the mummy after death. The eye of Horus (or 'wedjat eye') was a famous amulet which was used as a symbol of protection from evil. Shabtis were small statuettes usually in the form of a mummy and were placed inside the tomb of the deceased. The Egyptians believed that these figures would come to life when called by the dead person and would serve him in his afterlife.
However, the name of King Tutankhamun on some of the mud seals (09.184.260; 09.184.261; 09.184.262) and torn linens (09.184.220; 09.184.693) in the Davis-Ayrton pots caused knowledgeable archaeologists to take notice. Indeed, Howard Carter and Arthur Mace stated in The Tomb of TutankhAmen: Discovered by the Late Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter (London, 1923) that the Davis discovery had served as one of the leads by which the intact tomb of the king was finally located in 1922. In the meantime, Herbert E. Winlock, the Metropolitan Museum’s curator and long-time excavator, had discovered assemblages of rather similar objects and materials in the neighborhood of several nonroyal tombs in western Thebes. He was thus able to identify the linen sheets and bandages and sacks of chaff and natron from the large jars as leftovers from the embalming of King Tutankhamun’s body. It appears that the ancient Egyptians did not simply discard the remains from the mummification process, but collected them in pottery containers or coffins and buried them in the neighborhood of a deceased’s tomb. This was not a simple matter of trash disposal, but reflected the belief that even traces of a person’s physical remains contain something of his or her identity. The objects from the Davis pit became thus a means to reconstruct some real activities that took place at a royal funeral more than 3,000 years ago. The mummification of King Tutankhamun’s body may have been more careful than that of his higher status subjects—and his burial was certainly immeasurably more lavishly equipped—but in essence it was not different from the embalmment of any person of reasonable means during his time. Indeed, although people of lesser means and status had to be content with only parts (sometimes very rudimentary parts) of the treatment repertoire available for kings, the difference was for the most part in the amount of time, material, and expertise expended. In principle, the mummification of a king concerned his human body, a part of his identity that he shared with all other human beings.
Tutankhamun was only the age of nine when he became king of Egypt during the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom (c. 1332–1323 B.C.E.). His story would have been lost to history if it were not for the discovery of his tomb in 1922 by the archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings. His nearly intact tomb held a wealth of objects that give us unique insights into this period of ancient Egyptian history (Reeves, 1990). Tutankhamun ruled after the Amarna age, when the pharaoh Akhenaten, Tutankhamun’s probable father, turned the religious attention of the kingdom to the worship of the god Aten, the sun disc. Akhenaten moved his capital city to the site of Akhetaten (also known as Amarna), in Middle Egypt—far from the previous pharaoh’s capital. After Akhenaton’s death and the rule of a short-lived pharaoh, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen shifted the focus of the country’s worship back to the god Amun and returned the religious center back to Thebes. During the early twentieth century, Howard Carter, a British Egyptologist, excavated for many years in the Valley of the Kings—a royal burial ground located on the west bank of the ancient city of Thebes. He was running out of money to support his archaeological digs when he asked for funding for one more season from his financial backer, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon (Howard Carter and A. C. Mace, 1933). Lord Carnarvon granted him one more year—and what a year it was!
On hthe whole, because the precise use and function of sticks and staves as kingly regalia is not fully understood, scholars will continue to reinterpret the staff assemblage of Tutankhamun’s tomb. One group, led by Drs. Salima Ikram and Andre Veldmeijer, founded the Tutankhamun Sticks and Staves Project to document the items in the assemblage, analyze the technologies used to produce them, identify their uses and understand their role and position in Tutankhamun’s tomb, death and life. Though some of these many items could have been walking aids, it is more likely Tutankhamun used these staves as royal regalia for religious rituals and public appearances.
Howard Carter and A. C. Mace, The Tomb of Tut-ankh-amen (New York City: Cooper Square Publishers. 1933), (vol. 1) pp.95-96.
Reeves, The Complete Tutankhamun (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), pp. 108-109.