The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb is still one of the most impressive archaeological finds in recent times. Untouched by grave robbers, the teenage pharaoh has taught Egyptologists a wealth of information about how the rulers lived and died. And 95 years later, the ancient King is teaching us still, as new treasures from the tomb have been revealed.
After being packed up by Howard Carter following the monumental discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, a host of embossed gold applications – which are thought to have once been decorative fittings for bow cases, quivers, and bridles – have only now been studied and put on display. For close to a century, these artifacts remained in the same box they were first stashed in, squirreled away in the Egyptian Museum Cairo.
After careful conservation work, researchers have finally been able to examine the fragile gold items and the delicate motifs they show, revealing new links and influences from other parts of the Middle East. The images are thought to show a style that likely originated in the Levant, and more specifically the region that is now modern-day Syria.
The intricate designs show a variety of fighting animals and goats surrounding the tree of life, imagery that is not usually associated with Egyptian art, but are known from further afield.
“Presumably these motifs, which were once developed in Mesopotamia, made their way to the Mediterranean region and Egypt via Syria,” explains Peter Pfälzner of the University of Tübingen, who helped study the pieces, in a statement. “This again shows the great role that ancient Syria played in the dissemination of culture during the Bronze Age."
Intriguingly, the items bear a striking resemblance to similar embossed gold applications found in a tomb uncovered in the Syrian royal city of Qatna in 2002. This Syrian King is thought to have been around just before King Tut, suggesting that there was a flow of culture and iconography from Syria to Egypt during this time.
Chemical analysis of the gold motifs with classic Egyptian designs and those with foreign designs reveal that the metal does differ in composition. This could suggest that the applications have been traded over distance, but equally the researchers caution that it might also be simply that different workshops specialized in producing different objects in different styles.
The stunning objects are currently on display in Cairo, but will eventually find a home in the Egyptian Museum close to the pyramids at Giza.