Lotus Chalice of Tutankhamun

This chalice in the form of a lotus is decorated with a whorl of circles and sepals in low relief. The handle is a lotus flower and bud supporting the symbol of eternal life. The cup bears the names and titles of King Tutankhamun. On each side of the cup there are two birds.

The text around the rim expresses wishes for the king to live millions of years and to enjoy great happiness. The lotus chalice is carved from a single piece of alabaster. The chalice takes the shape of a white lotus in full bloom, identified by its rounded petals.

Lotus Chalice of Tutankhamun
Lotus Chalice of Tutankhamun

The supports for the handles are shaped like blue lotus flowers which are flanked by buds growing upward, with the god Heh seated on a basket (the neb symbol) on the tips of the petals. In each hand Heh holds a palm rib with notches for counting the years; each palm rib rests on the back of a tadpole sitting on a shen ring. At the upper end of each palm rib there is an ankh symbol, the sign of life.

“May your spirit live, may you spend millions of years, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, your eyes beholding happiness.”

The inscription on ‘The Wishing Cup’ and Howard Carter’s Grave

This is a typical depiction of the god of the “million years”, the god of infinity and eternity: the palm rib is the hieroglyph for year, while the tadpole represented 100,000 and the shen ring symbolised eternity. A kneeling image of the god was the hieroglyph for the number “one million”.

The same motif is found on other items from the tomb like the cedar chair (JE 62029). The chalice therefore symbolises the infinite and eternal life of King Tutankhamun.

Egyptian alabaster, from the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 62125