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Words spoken by: Andrew Fulton ‘ Mysteries of two of Tutankhamun’s tomb objects’

Among the 5000 or so objects found by Howard Carter in Tutankhamun’s tomb there are two that I find to be somewhat interesting and puzzling. The photographs below (figures 1 to 3) were part of a collection taken by Harry Burton as a record of all the items found in the tomb together with hand-written notes by Carter which are now kept in the Griffiths Institute in Oxford.

Figure 1 shows a representation of Sopdu or Soped, resident deity of the Eastern nome or administrative district (of which there were eventually 42 in Egypt- 20 in Lower Egypt and 22 in Upper Egypt). Soped’s nome (number 20 in the list of Delta nomes) is named after the god and was situated in the north-eastern Delta. Soped was eventually assimilated with Horus and depicted as a crouching falcon with a feather protruding from his back as can be seen from the photo. His cult centre was at Per-Soped (present day Saft el-Henna near Zagazig.) He was also worshipped at the turquoise mines in Serabit el-Khadim.  Soped is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts utterance 222 where he is associated with sharp teeth. Eventually Soped became associated with the frontier and was called the “The Lord of the East” (Watterson, 1999, p.95).

Figure 1 Soped  Burton P1024 © Griffiths Institute, University of Oxford

Figure 2 (Burton PO304 © Griffiths Institute, University of Oxford) shows, as described by Carter, a representation of the “nome sign of Aphroditopolis “(using the Ptolemaic name) but in fact is called Antaeopolis . Aphroditopolis is the name of the 22nd Nome much further north.

Antaeopolis is the 10th nome of Upper Egypt situated now in Middle Egypt. The depiction is of the cobra goddess Wadjet and was discovered wrapped in a coarse cloth. The pedestal contains an inscription described by Carter (Fig.4) as being “very crudely written in yellow paint” and containing the throne name of the king (Nebkheperura) in a cartouche. Although Wadjet is the symbol for the nome, the main deity was in fact Seth. Wadjet is associated to a much greater extent with the Delta where she became the patron goddess and one half of the protective goddesses of the king, the other being Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. The two goddesses formed the uraeus worn by the king. Wadjet was in particular associated with Per-Dep (Buto) in the north-western Delta. Figure 3 shows Wadjet unwrapped.

Fig.3 Wadjet unwrapped: Burton © Griffiths Institute (University of Oxford)

Fig 4 Howard Carter’s note (37a) about the Wadjet object /nome sign

All four images are ©Griffiths Institute, University of Oxford

So what is the significance of these two objects to Tutankhamun?

The first question to ask is whether these objects are representative of the two nomes or of the god/goddess or both? There are no other similar representations in the tomb, certainly with connections to the nomes. There are statues of other gods but not in this format. If it is the nomes that are important to Tutankhamun why is this so? There does not seem to be any strong link involving the Cobra nome in Upper Egypt. The Sopdu nome has importance generally to Egypt due to being both on the eastern frontier and giving access to the turquoise and malachite mines of Sinai where, as noted,there  was a shrine to Sopdu. There seems to be, however, no similar object to reflect the southern border with Nubia and its valuable gold mines.

 If the objects were solely related the deities and only coincidental to the nomes then perhaps these were of particular significance to Tutankhamun. It is understandable that Wadjet was significant as she was the tutelary goddess of Lower Egypt but this had always been the case. Sopdu was the Lord of the East but relatively minor in comparison with other gods and by the New Kingdom he had been assimilated to Horus.

The questions remain unanswered but maybe someone can shred further light on these questions.

Further reading

Watterson B.(1999) Gods of Ancient Egypt. Bramley Books


Andrew Fulton: Career in Banking and HR, MA (Theology ) Cambridge University,  Certificate in Egyptology 2003 Manchester University. Regular contributor to Ancient Egypt Magazine. Interested in Egypt since 1997 after Nile cruise. Particular interests include names of pharaohs, the nomes/administrative districts and Roman Egypt.



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