Tutankhamun Necklace with Lunar Pectoral

The necklace of Tutankhamun was discovered in a cartouche-shaped box that was found on the floor of the treasury and likely worn during Tutankhamun’s life. Pectorals attached to necklaces and decorated with figures of deities and the symbols that were associated with them formed a high proportion of the jewelry found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. In this example the chains of the necklace consist of four rows of spherical and barrel-shaped beads made of gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, feldspar and resin.

The pectoral symbolizes the nocturnal journey of the moon across the sky. At the base is the long, narrow, hieroglyphic sign for the sky, appropriately inlaid with blue lapis lazuli. Beneath it are fringe-like inlays of feldspar and lapis lazuli representing drops of moisture; they are added to the sky sign in the hieroglyphic writing of words meaning dew and rain. Lotus flowers and buds grow from the celestial waters; the golden bark seems to float above them.

Tutankhamun Necklace with Lunar Pectoral
Tutankhamun Necklace with Lunar Pectoral

This arrangement illustrates the convention regularly adopted by ancient Egyptian artists to show two objects on the same plane when one object was behind another: the farther object was placed above the nearer. In this case the barque must be understood to be floating on top of the sky sign behind the flowers. So that it should be evident that the bark is conveying the moon and not the sun, the crescent is added to the moon’s disk, again in accordance with convention.

From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 61897