Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Jewelry - Openwork Gold Buckle representing King Tutankhamun

The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Jewelry and Ornamentation

Openwork Gold Buckle

Openwork Gold Buckle

The adoption of the horse drawn chariot by the Egyptians, some two hundred years before the time of Tutankhamun, not only changed the character of their methods of both hunting and warfare, but also gave artists an opportunity to introduce a greater element of liveliness and movement into their representations of some of the royal activities. Even the peace-loving Akhenaton and his queen, Nefertiti, are frequently shown in the wall reliefs of the tombs of the high officials at Armana riding in chariots followed by their daughters, also in chariots, each chariot drawn by a pair of richly caparisoned, lively steeds. Tutankhamun is portrayed on his painted casket both hunting and fighting in chariots, and again on the pal of his fan, shooting ostriches from his chariot and returning from the hunt. The conception of the king as a dashing warrior and a huntsman was an innovation of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the image was maintained as an artistic convention whether or not it corresponded with reality in the case of a particular king.

On this openwork gold buckle Tutankhamun is shown riding in his chariot, ostensibly returning from fighting against the Asiatics and the Nubians. Two captives, one from each enemy, are being driven in front of the chariot harried by the king's hound. They are bound together by the stems of a papyrus and a lily. It is simply a heraldic device, without foundation in historical fact, for there is no evidence that Tutankhamun took part in any military exploit. Moreover, as the Asiatics occupied the territory northeast of Egypt, and Nubia lay to the south, it would have been geographically impossible to wage war against both these enemies in a single campaign. The heraldic nature of the representation is further emphasized by all the other elements in the composition: the protecting vulture of the goddess Nekhbet of Upper Egypt hovering above the king and extending towards him the sign of life, (or ankh); the winged cobra-goddess Wadjet of Lower Egypt behind him embracing with its wings the oval ring, or cartouche, bearing his throne name, Nebkheperura; and to the left of Wadjet, the cluster of papyrus growing in a swamp, also symbolizing Lower Egypt. In the bow-shaped field at the base of the buckle the same general idea is represented by somewhat different symbols. In the center is the hieroglyphic sign for "unification" (sema); bound to it by the stems of a papyrus and a lotus flower are a bearded Asiatic and a Nubian captive. Flanking the group, on the right, is the lily of Upper Egypt and, on the left, the papyrus, with two buds, of Lower Egypt. An approximate interpretation of the two scenes would be that Tutankhamun, protected by the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet and supported by the people of Upper and Lower Egypt, will vanquish all his enemies.

The king is clad in a long pleated robe, similar in appearance to the robe in which he is depicted on the pal of the fan when returning from the ostrich hunt. In actual hunting he wore a leopard skin corselet and a kilt with ornamental apron. He holds in each hand a pair of reins and also a bow in his left hand and a whip in his right, both objects represented in such a way that they do not conceal any part of the king's arms or hands. The case for the bow is attached to the outer side of the chariot and the quiver, with arrows projecting above it, is suspended from Tutankhamun's girdle. The chariot itself is a light vehicle, lighter than the four state chariots found in the antechamber of Tuankhamun's tomb, but apparently not unlike the two chariots whose dismembered elements had been placed in the treasury of the tomb. The horses have hogged manes and their headstalls are decked with ostrich plumes, sun's disks, and streamers, but the artist has failed to show any connection between the reins and the bit. A conspicuous feature of the harness and housing of the only horse that can be completely seen is the edging in fine gold applied granules. The same kind of decoration has also been used on the king's wig and collar, the chariot, and the collar of the hound.

The sheet gold of which this buckle is made shows the same rose pink color as some of the gold beads in the necklace from the gold mask. In this instance some of the film appears to have been deliberately removed, but it is also possible that it failed to adhere to the surface through some fault in its application.