Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Furniture and Boxes - Stained Ivory Headrest

The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Furniture and Boxes

Folding ivory headrest

Stained Ivory Headrest

Each of the headrests that Carter found in the Annex is fairly distinctive in style and composition. One of them, however, is completely different from the others. Whereas the other three are characterized by a solid central support, the example illustrated here resembles a piece of furniture used for sitting rather than an object used to prop up the head. In fact, with its two pairs of crossed supports, it is very similar to contemporaneous folding stools. As is the case with the inlaid chair, which imitates the style of folding stools, the heads of fowl form the bottom part of each of the supports. The horizontal stabilizers are attached to the open beaks of the birds. Unlike the inlaid chair, however, there is no inlay or gilding on the legs.

The entire object is constructed of ivory, much of which is carved and stained. The area where the head was to rest is constructed of three horizontal pieces that are alternately colored black and white. Attached to these, and curving upward on each side is a carved representation of the god Bes. Frequently represented on furniture, as in the panels of the arms on the chair of Sitamun, Bes was a household god who was often depicted as a lion, as on the jar in the form of a standing lion. He was also a protective deity, and in this role he would safeguard the deceased against enemies with a ferocious growl like that indicated on his green-stained ivory face. The inner side of this carved part is also darkly stained, and an upside-down lotus plant is engraved on its surface. While usually shown without any cushion to soften the hard surface on which the head lies, some headrests have been found that still have soft cloth wrapped around them.