Sandals of Tutankhamun

King Tutankhamun would symbolically trample on his enemies when he wore his sandals. This unique sandals are also adorned on the top and bottom by the nine bows, symbols of the traditional enemies of Egypt.

This pair of sandals is made of leather and has depictions of enemies on the soles. Four human figures portraying Asiatic and African neighbours, who were the traditional enemies of Egypt, are shown. The men are depicted as prisoners, lying prostrate with their arms bound behind their backs.

Sandals of Tutankhamun
Sandals of Tutankhamun

How many sandals were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun?

While the exact number of sandals is unclear, at least 80 samples were discovered in the virtually intact tomb of Tutankhamun, included in order to accompany him into the afterlife.

Although some sandals were discovered in surprisingly good condition, all that was left of others were small fragments of foot straps. The best preserved were the gold sandals discovered on the feet of the mummy of king Tutankhamun.

Related: Gold Sandals of Shoshenq II

“Tutankhamun’s footwear was of several kinds. Most common were sewn sandals, made of papyrus strips stitched together, which were probably for daily use.

On the other end of the spectrum were the boy-king’s solid gold sandals, which were never worn in life, but were intended for eternity. They adorned his feet as he lay in his solid gold coffin.

Perhaps most interesting are his leather sandals, cut like a mosaic with Syrian and Nubian prisoners on the soles, so Tutankhamun could step on the traditional enemies of Egypt wherever he walked.

It is important to note that none of Tutankhamun’s footwear showed asymmetrical wear, which suggests that he was not lame, as had previously been claimed.”

Tutankhamun and the Tomb that Changed the World, by Bob Brier (#aff)

The symbolism of depiction of enemies

The symbolism of enemies depicted on Tutankhamun’s leather sandals is not explicitly documented or widely agreed upon by scholars.

However, in ancient Egyptian art and symbolism, enemies could represent the king’s ability to conquer and subdue opposing forces.

Four human figures portraying Asiatic and African neighbors, who were the traditional enemies of Egypt, are shown.
Four human figures portraying Asiatic and African neighbors, who were the traditional enemies of Egypt, are shown.

The presence of enemies on Tutankhamun’s sandals could potentially symbolize his role as a powerful ruler who successfully defended Egypt against adversaries.

It may also reflect the king’s desire for protection and the belief in the magical or symbolic properties of such depictions.

Additionally, enemies depicted on royal attire and accessories could serve as a visual reminder of the king’s authority and ability to maintain order within Egypt.

By showcasing defeated enemies, the king could project an image of strength and power to his subjects and potential challengers.

However, it is important to note that ancient Egyptian symbolism often carried multiple layers of meaning and could vary depending on the specific context.

Without specific textual or iconographic evidence directly explaining the symbolism of enemies on Tutankhamun’s leather sandals, any interpretation would be speculative.

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 62685