Statuette of Tutankhamun the Harpooner
A gilded, wooden statuette of King Tutankhamun stands on a wooden boat that is painted to represent a papyrus boat. Its details are picked out in gold leaf. The king, wearing the Deshret Red Crown of Lower Egypt, holds a harpoon poised to strike an unseen enemy.
According to the myth of Osiris and Isis, the king here represents their son, Horus, who avenged his father, Osiris. His adversary, Seth, often portrayed as a hippopotamus or crocodile, is not depicted, as he is a potentially harmful image. The figure of the king holds a bronze coiled chain to bind the animal, representing Seth, after spearing it. The statue was found wrapped in linen in a varnish-blackened chest.
In Pharaonic times hippopotami were spotted frequently at the swamps and papyrus marshes of the lower Nile. Ancient Egyptian nobles hunted them and representations of such hunts were sometimes included among the wall decorations of the tombs.
The method employed was to attach a cord to a barb and to project it by means of a harpoon towards the victim. When several barbs entered the body of the animal so that it had become weak through loss of blood, it was pulled to the bank by the ropes and killed.
From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 60710