Exceptional Facts About the Seals of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Seal of Tutankhamun Tomb
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I was a small kid in fourth grade when the first time my elder brother told me about the treasure of Tutankhamun. He portrayed Tutankhamun as one of the great kings of the world and his treasure as one of the biggest treasures of all time. I think he was not at all wrong. The discovery of the Tutankhamun tomb and treasure is one of the exceptional discoveries of the 20th century.  

Howard Carter discovered it in 1922 underneath the remains of workmen’s huts built during the Ramesside Period. Known as KV62 is the standard Egyptological designation for the tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, now renowned for the wealth of valuable antiquities that it contains.

However, the tomb contains a lot of precious artifacts but I was more fascinated by the seal which was applied on the fifth shrine of Tutankhamun. This door was tightened through a simple rope which was further locked by mud seal which contain a small hieroglyphic symbol and a name of pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Seal of Tutankhamun Tomb

Pic 1 – Fragmentary Impression of the Necropolis Seal from Tutankhamun’s Embalming Cache [2]

Tutankhamun the son of Akhenaten was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th Dynasty. He ruled c. 1334 – 1325 BC during the New Kingdom of Egyptian history.

English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922 in which he found more than 5000 ancient artifacts.

Seals with Jackal and Nine Captives

Pic 2 – Seal of Tutankhamun Tomb

During the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb the impressions of seven different seals were recorded, out of four is visible in the above picture. The seal which was applied as a Tutankhamun’s Necropolis seal and visible in Pic 1 above is the fourth seal from left in Pic 2

In the simplest form, they depict the jackal above 9 bound captives, arranged either in rows of three or in alternating groups (Fig. 2 from left)[1].

Nothing specific can be derived from them, except that the bound ones are to be understood as dead ones rather than as “enemies”. In two seals the recumbent jackal is identified by a cartouche reading as Tutankhamun (Fig. 3 and 4 from left).

The disposition of the nine captives upon this seal impression (Second seal from left) differs from the customary three rows of three (First seal from left).

According to Howard Carter’s notes [5], an upper row contains three Asiatics, a middle row four Africans, and a lower row contains two Asiatics. The differentiation is possible by the termination of rope. For Asiatics rope is terminated as a northern flower.

Seal with Jackal and Four Captives

Pic 3

In this pic 3 jackal is shown in standing position over four bound captives with the annotation « their chief »[1].

Why in this case the jackal is depicted standing; the reason of this is not clear, but it might have something to do with the time the seal was made, i.e. that Tutankhamun was not yet buried because on all other seals Jackal is depicted in seating position which certainly represent the deceased Pharaoh. Why only four bound captives in this seal, that is also not clear?

Just think how Howard Carter felt when he arrived and saw this seal for the first time for which he was looking more than a decade. A seal that has been untouched since it was applied.

Thirty-two centuries have been passed since the seal was applied but still looks the same as it was on its first day.

This type of seal has not been found in any other Egyptian tomb. Might be all famous tombs were looted multiple time before modern excavations, so seal on those tombs were already broken and lost.

Time Capsules of History-Ancient Seals and Stamps

How did Tutankhamuns tomb escaped from being robbed?

The reason Tutankhamun’s tomb is well intact and unlooted was Horemheb[6]. Horemheb took the throne after Ay. He destroyed all public records and monuments erected by Akhenaten and erased the memory of Tutankhamun.

He ruled Egypt for the next 27-28 years and, in that time, did return Egypt to its former status as a great power.

Tutankhamun’s tomb was accidentally buried when workmen built the later tomb of Ramesses VI (r. 1145-1137 BCE) and his name was forgotten until Howard Carter and his team discovered the site in 1922 CE.

The tomb was broken into twice during the reign of Ay and resealed and then, because Horemheb had erased Tutankhamun’s name from the records and it had become buried, the tomb was overlooked by grave robbers and remained intact until its discovery in the 20th century CE.

Other Important Tomb Seals

Tomb Seal of Seti II

Pic 4 – Relief of the sun god Ra and a scarab, at the entrance of the Tomb of Seti II[4]

In this scene from the tomb of Seti II is shown the central image of the title illustration associated with the Litanies of Re. It is composed of the globe of the sun, inside which are carved the sun god in two of his guises: his dawn form Khepri, the scarab beetle, and his night form, the ram-headed Ra.

Litanies of Re

The Litany of Re is an important ancient Egyptian funerary text of the New Kingdom. Like many funerary texts, it was written on the inside of the tomb for reference by the deceased. Unlike other funerary texts, however, it was reserved only for pharaohs or very favored nobility.

Tomb Seal of Den

Den, also known as Hor-DenDewen and Udimu, is the Horus name of a pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period who ruled during the First Dynasty of Egypt in 2970 BC.

Den was interred within a tomb (“Tomb T”) in the Umm El Qa’ab area of Abydos, which is associated with other First Dynasty kings. 

Tomb T is among the largest and most finely-built of the tombs in this area. His tomb at Abydos is the first with a stepped entrance. In his reign there appear to be significant developments in the use and systematicity of writing.

Pic 5

Seal found in the tomb of pharaoh Den is a cylindrical seal which contains a earliest confirm list of first dynasty pharaohs. The names are listed in following order[3]:

  • Narmer
  • Hor-Aha
  • Djer
  • Djet
  • Den
  • Merneith (Den’s mother and regent)

This seal has an important role in the Egyptian chronology as it contains the name of Narmer as the first king of the first dynasty which often contradicts with Menes.

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25150192
  2. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/560680
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_seal_impressions
  4. https://egypt-museum.com/post/172220632286/seal-of-tomb-of-seti-ii
  5. http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4tutseals.html
  6. https://www.ancient.eu/Tutankhamun/

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