Head of a Leopard with Cartouche of Tutankhamun
The tomb of Tutankhamun contained many leopard heads like this gilded one. This head differs from others in having the king’s cartouche incised atop its head. The leopard head adorned a garment that imitated the animal’s skin. This was the distinctive garment of the Sem priest.
The leopard’s body and fur were particularly valuable in ancient Egypt: its fur was worn by the Sem priests performing the ritual of the Opening of the Mouth ritual and often by the king in ceremonies.
The Sem priest was charged with revitalizing the mummified body of the king in the ritual known as the “Opening of the mouth.” If the deceased were his predecessor, the new king would supervise the ceremony dressed as a Sem priest.
The ancient Egyptian Leopard head hieroglyph, Gardiner sign listed no. F9 is a portrayal of the head of a leopard; it is in the Gardiner subset for “parts of mammals”.
In the Egyptian language, the Leopard head hieroglyph is used as a determinative or abbreviation for words relating to ‘strength’. In the language it is used for pehti-(pḥty).
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 62629