One way of looking at this is as an ornate jar for a king to keep some sort of cosmetic cream in, maybe it’s moisturiser to keep his skin supple in this life or the next, or perhaps it has ritual significance.

The other way of looking at it is as a very unsubtle piece of royal propaganda. Tutankhamun’s name is on the lion on top, reminding you of the association of the king with this predator and that he is under the protection of lion associated deities like the fearsome Sekhmet.

The side of the vessel has a hunting scene on it. Not just the sport of kings – desert creatures like the gazelle represented chaos, and the hunting dogs (who would be under the control of a human, you can see collars on two of them) are avatars of order.

The imposition of order over chaos is one of the primary duties of the king so this scene demonstrates his power and his upholding of maat. There’s even a lion (you can see its haunches at the right), the king himself joining in the defeat of chaos.

And finally at the bottom you can see three human heads sticking out from underneath it – there’s another one round the other side for four in total. These are the traditional enemies of Egypt, crushed beneath the weight of the king’s power and might.

So it might be pretty, but it’s also a fairly brutal message – Tutankhamun, lord of all he surveys imposing order on the chaos of the world by violence.

Cosmetic Jar with Lions, Hunting Scenes and Captives. From KV62, Valley of the Kings. New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, c. 1334-1325 BCE. Acc. No.: JE62119

It was found in KV62, Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and in 2016 it was in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE62119).

See it on my photo site:

I talked a little bit about hunting symbolism in my article on Tutankhamun’s ostrich fan:

Jigsaw puzzles:

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