Ostrich Fan of Tutankhamun

This ceremonial fan of Tutankhamun originally held ostrich feathers, it is made of wood covered with sheets of gold and inlaid with colored glass, turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and translucent calcite. The handle is inset with gold bands at intervals.

The palm of the fan is decorated with the king’s twin cartouches, which are protected by vultures wearing the White and Red Crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively. Several signs are represented: “Was” symbolizing “dominion”; the Shen, symbolizing “eternity”; the “Nebu,” meaning “gold”; and Pet, for “sky.”

Ostrich Fan of King Tutankhamun
Ostrich Fan of King Tutankhamun

A single ostrich feather represented the Goddess Maat who was the personification of Truth, Justice and the Essential Harmony of the universe. Ostrich feathers were often used to make fans for wealthy or important people in ancient Egypt. Fans made with ostrich feathers appear frequently in wall reliefs.

The ostrich was an animal brought to ancient Egypt from southern Africa. The ancient Egyptians used the eggs of ostriches to make small containers for perfume, and the feathers to make fans.

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 62000