Chest of Tutankhamun with Miniature Panoramas

This magnificent wooden chest of Tutankhamun is painted on all its surfaces with hunting and war scenes. On one side of the lid, King Tutankhamun is depicted in his chariot, hunting gazelles, deers, ostriches, and other desert animals. On the other side, he is shooting arrows at lions. The short sides shows the king is depicted as a Sphinx trampling the enemies of the North and the South.

Battle scenes along the length of the chest’s sides show the king riding in his chariot, accompanied by well organized archers, lancers, cavalrymen, and fan bearers, charging the enemies of Egypt; one side of the chest features the enemies of the South, and on the other side, the Northerners.

Chest of Tutankhamun with Miniature Panoramas
Chest of Tutankhamun with Miniature Panoramas
Tutankhamun depicted as sphinx trampling enemies of Egypt
Tutankhamun depicted as sphinx trampling enemies of Egypt

“Egyptian furniture did not include wardrobes. Instead, clothes were stored in chests and boxes. One of Tutankhamun’s boxes is decorated with exquisite scenes painted on all its sides as well as the lid. Although the box is quite large [61 x 43 x 44.5 centimeters] the complexity and detail of the scenes makes them miniatures when compared with tomb paintings.

On the long sides of the box the king is shown in his chariot charging the Syrians and Nubians, i.e. the two potential enemies in the north and the south. On the lid the king is again in his chariot, this time in two scenes of hunting wild animals. On the two short sides he is, in the guise of a sphinx, trampling over fallen enemies. These are the traditional themes reaffirming the pharaoh’s domination over external enemies and the forces of nature, but they are presented in a way which became standard in the New Kingdom.

The chariot was only introduced to Egypt in the period preceding the rise of the New Kingdom. The confused mêlée of fallen enemies is similar to the depictions of battle scenes on temple walls…”

Egypt: 4000 Years of Art, by Jaromir Malek, Phaidon Press Limited, London, UK, 2003

A scene painted on the side of a casket of Tutankhamun depicting a battle against the Nubians. This detail shows wounded or dead Nubian soldiers and horses jumbled together in a scene of chaos.

King Tutankhamun in a battle against Nubians
King Tutankhamun in a battle against Nubians

The precise details of the ethnic features of the Asians and Africans, the chaos in which they are depicted, and the contrasting order of the Egyptian battle lines make this chest a masterpiece unequalled in ancient Egyptian art. When found in the tomb, it contained sandals, cult robes, necklaces, a headrest, and a belt.

From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Wood and ivory. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 61467