15 Pharaonic Objects Buried in Tut's Tomb

Tut's outer coffin. Malavoda via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

He may be the most famous of pharaohs, but Tutankhamun was just a teenager when he died in 1323 B.C.E. after a brief nine-year rule. In Egypt's long history, he was a minor ruler (yet a demigod, like all pharaohs).

Tut looms large in the popular imagination thanks of a stroke of luck. For millennia, the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings were plundered as soon as anyone could get into them. But Tut's remained hidden beneath a workers camp built not too long after his death. And so its treasures stayed hidden until 1922, when Howard Carter dug into the ground and found a staircase leading to the unbroken seal on Tut's tomb.

Tut may have not have been a power player, but he was still a demigod during the New Kingdom, a golden age of Egypt, and his multi-room tomb reflected that. It was stuffed to the brim with thousands of objects meant to make his afterlife eternally posh. It took Carter eight years to remove and catalog everything within. Today a small fraction of them are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Tut's Burial Mask

Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0


It's famous for a reason. Beautifully sculpted and inlaid, with sensuous lines and features, it represents an idealized version of the boy king. In early 2015, Tut's beard—standard on all pharaohs, even female ones—was reported to have been accidentally snapped off and hastily glued back on with epoxy, which damaged the surface. The director of the Egyptian Museum later denied the episode had ever happened.  

2. Statue of Anubis


The jackal-headed god Anubis—here depicted in full canine form—ushered souls to the afterworld. He was also associated with mummification, and was thought to protect graves.

3. Headrest

In an age of memory foam pillows, this headrest doesn't look very comfortable. But perhaps stone seems cozier when Shu, the god of air and wind, gives your head a lift. These headrests were long popular in Egyptian tombs as an essential accessory for the "sleeping" inhabitants.

4. Canopic Jars

In this alabaster chest, four Tuts seem to sit in an intimate face off. These are canopic jars containing Tut's organs, which would have been removed before mummification. The Egyptians believed he needed those innards in the afterlife. Tut's face is the stopper on each jar.

5. Tut's Fan

Dmitry Denisenkov via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Egypt is hotIf you're a demigod, your fan is extra special—gilded and inlaid, with your name in a royal cartouche.      

6. Game of Senet

Dmitry Denisenkov via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0


Who says a pharaoh can't enjoy a good board game? By the time Senet, or "passing," was buried with Tut, it had been played in Egypt for some 1800 years and had come to be associated with passing from life to death. The game was popular at all levels of society. Its rules have been lost to time, but we've made some educated guesses about gameplay.

7. Leopard Head

Dmitry Denisenkov via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Adorable here but fierce in real life, the leopard was much admired by Egyptian royalty and imported from southern Africa. The hieroglyph of a leopard head is used in association with words related to strength.

8. Throwing Sticks

Günter Bechly via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The throwing sticks (seen here as reproductions in an exhibit in Germany) found in Tut's tomb would have been used for hunting birds in the afterlife.

9. Statue of Ptah, the Creator God

Image Credit: Getty Images

Known as "the beautiful face," "the lord of truth," the master of justice," and "the lord of eternity," blue-capped Ptah was a creator god and the patron of craftsmen and architects—basically, the people who built Tut's tomb and everything in it.   

10. Solar scarab pendant

 
There's no creature as associated with ancient Egypt as the scarab. These beetles were hugely popular among all Egyptians, and they left behind countless thousands of examples. Here the scarab is associated with the sun god Ra—in his rising-sun form, the scarab-headed Khepri—and the wings of Horus, the sky god.

11. Royal Chariot

Maladova via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Tut's chariot had been dismantled before being placed in the tomb, but it's been reconstructed for display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (This image is of a reproduction from an exhibit in Germany.) Recently, some researchers theorized that Tut died after a fall from his chariot, but it's more likely that an accident or disease caused his death.  

12. Kid Tut

Tut's features in this childhood depiction are unusual due to both aesthetics and genetics. Tut's father was Akenaten, who scandalized polytheistic Egypt by trying to force the monotheistic worship of Aten. He also nurtured a more naturalistic approach to royal art—and in the process documented his own family's genetic anomalies, including oddly shaped skulls, which persisted in the family due to close interbreeding. Tut's mom and dad were also brother and sister. 

13. Ornate Painting of Warfare

A classic way rulers have gotten people to remember them is by killing a whole bunch of other people—if not in real life then at least on painted wood. Here Tut is shown on his chariot aiming his crossbow at enemy soldiers, perhaps Syrian. That decapitated head beneath his horse isn't an outlier. Another gruesome depiction shows Tut receiving the severed hands of his enemies.

14. Perfume Vessel

Frank Rytell via Flickr // CC BY 2.0


Filled with expensive perfumed unguents, the alabaster vessels found in Tut's tomb were still marked with the "finger marks of thieves on their interior walls," according to Carter. This one depicts the pot-bellied, big-breasted, intersex fertility deity Hapi, shown in double form, who oversaw the annual flooding of the Nile. 

15. Tut Himself

Harold Carter and an anonymous worker study Tut.

In recent years, the analysis of Tut's mummy—along with many of his famous relatives—has provided many details of their lives. Tut appears to have been slight and sickly, with a club foot and malaria. He fathered two girls with his half-sister. Both were stillborn.

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Drought Reveals Ancient Sites in Scotland That Can Only Be Spotted From the Air
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iStock

Typically rainy Scotland is in the middle of an unusually dry summer—and local archaeologists are taking advantage of it. As the BBC reports, the drought has revealed ancient sites, including Roman camps and Iron Age graves, that have been hidden by farm soil for years.

Historic Environment Scotland has been conducting aerial surveys of the country's landscape since the 1930s, but it's in seasons like this, when the crops recede during dry weather, that the buried remains of ancient structures are easiest to spot. Conditions this summer have been the best since 1976 for documenting archaeological sites from the sky.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

The crescent-shaped crop mark in the photo above indicates a souterrain, or underground passageway, that was built in the Scottish Borders during the Iron Age. The surveyors also found remains of a Roman temporary camp, marked by straight lines in the landscape, built in modern-day Lyne—an area south of Edinburgh already known to have housed a complex of Roman camps and forts.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

In the image below you'll see four small ditches—three circles and one square—that were likely used as burial sites during the Iron Age. When crops are planted over an ancient ditch, they have more water and nutrients to feed on, which helps them grow taller and greener. Such crops are especially visible during a drought when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and brown.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland has a team of aerial surveyors trained to spot the clues: To date, they've discovered more than 9000 archaeological sites from the air. HSE plans to continue scoping out new areas of interest as long as the dry spell lasts.

It's not just in Scotland that long-hidden settlements are coming to light: similar aerial surveys in Wales are finding them too.

[h/t BBC]

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Billion-Year-Old Rocks Reveal the First Color Ever Produced by a Living Thing
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Billions of years ago, before there were plants and animals on Earth, there were rocks, tiny organisms, water, and not much else. It’s hard to envision what our barren planet looked like back then, but scientists now have some idea of what colors dominated the landscape.

As Vice reports, a team of researchers from Australian National University (ANU) were able to pinpoint the oldest colors ever produced by a living creature: purple-red hues dating back more than 1.1 billion years. The pigments, which appear pink when diluted, were found in molecular fossils of chlorophyll that had been preserved in rocks beneath the Sahara desert. A billion years ago, though, this area was “an ancient ocean that has long since vanished,” Nur Gueneli of ANU said in a statement.

Chlorophyll may very well be green, but these pinkish pigments are a result of "fossilized porphyrins, a type of organic compound that forms an atomic ring around a magnesium ion to form a chlorophyll molecule," Vice explains.

While this provides an interesting visual, the color itself is less important than what it reveals about some of the earliest life forms on Earth. Scientists determined that the chlorophyll was produced by ancient organisms called cyanobacteria, which derived energy via photosynthesis and ruled the oceans at that time, researchers wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Larger planktonic algae—a potential food source for bigger life forms— were scarce, which may explain why large organisms didn’t roam the Earth a billion years ago. That kind of algae was about a thousand times larger than the cyanobacteria.

“The cyanobacterial oceans started to vanish about 650 million years ago, when algae began to rapidly spread to provide the burst of energy needed for the evolution of complex ecosystems, where large animals, including humans, could thrive on Earth," ANU associate professor Jochen Brocks said.

So the next time you encounter algae, you can thank it for helping you secure a spot on this planet.

[h/t Vice]

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