Ankh Mirror Case of Tutankhamun

The ankh mirror case of Tutankhamun is carved in gilded wood and the king’s name is inlaid on the lid with colored glass and semiprecious stones. The interior of the case is lined with silver. The mirror it once contained was not found.

Mirrors, made of polished gold, silver, copper, or bronze, were part of the cosmetic accessories of women and men. They were sometimes preserved in cases such as this elaborate one in the form of an Ankh, or life sign.

Tutankhamun Mirror case in the form of an ankh
Tutankhamun Mirror case in the form of an ankh

The ankh sign is perhaps the most well known and most represented hieroglyphic in Egyptian art. It was often depicted as a cross with a loop at the top, resembling a key. In the shape of a T surmounted by an oval ring, perhaps reminiscent of the lace with which the sandals were tied to the feet, it is a sign that means “life”, “living” or “alive”.

In art the symbol often appeared as a physical object representing either life or substances such as air or water that are related to it. It was especially commonly held in the hands of ancient Egyptian deities, or being given by them to the king, to represent their power to sustain life and to revive human souls in the afterlife.

The ankh was commonly associated with the gods and goddesses, and it was believed to hold the key to eternal life. It was frequently depicted in Egyptian art and was used in various religious and funerary contexts.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 62349