Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Kerchief from Tutankhamun's Embalming Cache

Period:
New Kingdom
Dynasty:
Dynasty 18
Reign:
reign of Tutankhamun
Date:
ca. 1336–1327 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Valley of the Kings, Embalming Cache of Tutankhamun (KV 54), Davis/Ayrton excavations, 1907–08
Medium:
Linen
Dimensions:
W. 66 cm (26 in); L. 51 cm (20 1/16 in)
Credit Line:
Gift of Theodore M. Davis, 1909
Accession Number:
09.184.218
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 122
In December 1907 Theodore M. Davis, a wealthy American who was funding excavations in the Valley of the Kings, discovered a small pit near the tomb of Seti I. Inside the pit were approximately a dozen large sealed whitewashed storage jars (09.184.1). Among other things, the jars contained bags of natron (a kind of salt), pieces of linen with hieratic inscriptions dated to Years 6 and 8 of a king named Tutankhamun (throne name Nebkheperure). At the time, almost nothing was know about Tutankhamun, and Davis declared that he had discovered the king's tomb.


Davis received a number of the jars and their contents in the division of finds and, in 1909, he gave most of his share to the Metropolitan Museum. It was only later that Herbert Winlock, the field director of the Museum's excavations at Thebes, realized that the natron and linen were embalming refuse from the mummification of Tutankhamun.


Worn linen sheets and clothing were used for wrapping and padding mummies. Linens that weren't actually used for mummification were sometimes buried in embalming caches. Three mended and laundered head cloths (09.184.217–.219) found in Tutankhamun's embalming cache were originally identified as kerchiefs worn by guests at the king's funerary meal. We now believe that they were part of the leftover embalming linen. This blue kerchief, dyed with indigo, is quite small and may have belonged to Tutankhamun when he was a child. Whether it was worn by Tutankhamun or not, examples of dyed linen from ancient Egyptian times are extremely rare, making this a very precious object. Two of the kerchiefs were made for adults (09.184.218, .219); the third is child-size (09.184.217).
Excavated by Theodore M. Davis in the Valley of the Kings (KV 54), 1907. Received by Davis in the division of finds. Given by Davis to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1909.

Winlock, Herbert E. 2010. "Materials Used at the Embalming of King Tutankhamun." In Tutankhamun's Funeral, edited by Herbert E. Winlock and Dorothea Arnold. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 37, fig. 32.

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