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The tomb of Tutankhamen: c.1350 BC

The Egyptian belief in a very literal next world, a mirror extension of this one, means that their tomb objects are more intimate and domestic than those of any other culture. The most urgent need for the dead person is a detailed acquaintance with religious ritual, for the difficult transition to another existence, and this is largely provided by the paintings in the tomb. Once that first hurdle has been overcome, he or she will also need the furniture and fittings of everyday life.

The best example is the astonishing variety of objects in the tomb of Tutankhamen. It is almost as if the young king, or his valet, has packed for a long stay abroad - as indeed, in a very real sense, he has

The most evocative single object in the tomb of Tutankahamen is the gilded throne, with its apparently intimate scene set into the back; Tutankhamen's queen, Ankhesenamen, tenderly anoints him on the shoulder, as if perhaps for his coronation.

But the jumble of goods in this treasure trove also includes solid gold heads of the king inlaid with precious stones, full-length figures of him in various guises, dramatic and life-like animals, detailed alabaster boats and spectacular reliefs on a gilt shrine, together with countless other objects which demonstrate both the artistry and the technical skill of Egyptian sculpture.

It is impossible to say how many of the everyday items in Tutankhamen's tomb are really his own and how many are made specially. But they all can be used and it seems likely that most of them have been. Just as his golden throne and carriage are evidently too splendid not to have been used during his life, so his linen and sandals seem too ordinary to recreate just for death.

The same is true of his little tinder box for rubbing up a fire (which looks used), his folding stool and camp bed, his pen and paint boxes, his hat stand and his gloves. Some of the jars containing unguents are old and mended, and one even bears the name, rubbed out, of a previous owner. Much of this reminds one of moving house - which, in a way, is what he is doing.

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