Tutankhamun's Alabaster Chalice ~ Known as the Wishing Cup

Slide the scrollbar to read the hieroglyphic inscription which goes around the rim of Tutankhamun's Wishing Cup. Start in the middle and go in either direction. Hover your mouse over the hieroglyph tops to read the translation from each group's tooltip.

lord years + 100,000 + eternity years + 100,000 + eternity life life the god 'Heh', also means 'millions' heaven, sky Son of Re, Amun (of Amun) Tut Ankh (Living image) ruler of Thebes forever and ever King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neb Kheperu Re, given life of Amun-Re lord of thrones of the two lands, lord of heaven, beloved years + 100,000 + eternity years + 100,000 + eternity life life lord the god 'Heh', also means 'millions'

Replica of the wishing cup 05.26.2007
Lovely wishing cup replica exhibited at the Museum of the Rockies [May 2007]

Howard Carter found the two handled alabaster chalice 1 now in the Egyptian Musuem in Cairo just inside Tutankhamun's tomb, probably dislodged there by tomb robbers. He copied the hieroglyphs of the inscription around the rim and sent them to Sir Alan Gardiner, requesting a translation. 2

Around the rim the inscription runs in two directions flanking the unidirectional ankh in the center front. With elegant symmetry, the inscription situates an ankh in the center on the back of the rim as well.

Beginning at the center with the ankh and reading from left to right, Carter provides this translation:

"May he live, Horus 'Strong Bull fair of births,' the Two Goddesses 'Beautiful of ordinances, quelling the Two Lands,' Horus of Gold 'Wearing the diadems and propitiating the Gods,' the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb Kheperu Re, granted life." 3
poor photo of the back of the wishing cup 2003
Back of Tutankhamun's alabaster chalice

Reading from right to left beginning again with the ankh, Carter translates:

"Live, thy Ka, and mayst thou spend millions of years, thou lover of Thebes, sitting with thy face to the north wind, and thy eyes beholding felicity." 3

Adapting to more contemporary English than Gardiner's, I think the wish might read:

"May your ka live, and may you achieve millions of years, you who love Thebes, sitting with your face to the north wind, and your eyes seeing happiness."
unidentifed old postcard photo of the Wishing Cup
Tutankhamun's Wishing Cup [old postcard]

Because of this wish for Tutankhamun's eternal life, Carter dubbed this chalice the king's wishing-cup. In 1995 part of the cup's inscription was placed on a new headstone for Carter in London. 4

The transluscent white drinking cup takes the form of a white lotus. Lotus buds with stems form a handle on two sides. On top of the buds the god Heh sits holding the hieroglyphs for years and life in each hand, above the signs for 100,000 and eternity, all together symbolizing eternal life. The hieroglyph for Heh stands for millions, seen above in the wish inscription.

The hieroglyph for the heavens surmounts a square on the front of the chalice's bowl. Three columns give the king's names and titles. Beginning with the middle column containing a cartouche, the hieroglyphs read from top to bottom:

"King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neb Kheperu Re, given life."

The left column and cartouche read:

"Son of Re, living image of Amun, ruler of Thebes forever and ever."

The right column says:

"Beloved of Amun-Re lord of thrones, and of the two lands, lord of heaven." 5

Pointing the mouse to the hieroglyphs activates drop-down tooltip translations in most browsers.

Innumerable photographs of Tutankhamun's wishing cup can be found online and in print. 1 3 6 7 8

NOTES:

  1. The Griffith Institute, Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation, The Howard Carter Archives. Burton photo: www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/014-p0455.html.
  2. The Griffith Institute, Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation, The Howard Carter Archives. Text: www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/carter/014-p0456.html
  3. Howard Carter & A.C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen, Dover Publication, NY 1977.
  4. David Moyer, "For the Record," KMT 6:2, Summer 1995. "The restoration project was carried out with the approval of Carter's great-nephew, John Carter, and was financed by generous donations from the Griffith Institute (Oxford University), the British Museum, the Egypt Exploration Society and private individuals, including W. Vivian Davis of the British Museum, Carter's biographer T.G.H. James, American archaeologist Dr. Donald P. Ryan, and a number of others."
  5. Karl-Theodor Zauzich, Hieroglyphs without Mystery An Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Writing, translated by Ann Macy Roth, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992.
  6. Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, Life and death of a pharaoh Tutankhamen, New York Graphic Society, Boston, published by Little, Brown, and Co. 1963 6th printing 1976.
  7. I.E.S. Edwards, Treasures of Tutankhamun, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1976.
  8. T.G.H. James, Tutankhamen, White Star S.r.l. 2000.