Tutankhamun's Painted Box

The Back

The back of Tut's painted chest

The back of Tut's painted chest, Cairo Museum © Nile Muse 2003

The side of Tutankhamun's painted chest at the back currently facing the wall in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo presents a similar tableau, mirrored, to the scene on the other long side in front. The king drives his chariot with the reins tied around his waste to free his hands to draw his bow, but here he vanquishes Nubian enmies of Kush. His hunting dogs and Egyptian soldiers help to fight the enemy. Behind the king chariotry and foot soldiers march in rows. Immediately following the king's chariot, three fan bearers shield the king from the sun with feather fans on tall poles.

Closer view of the back of Tut's painted chest

Closer view of the back of Tut's painted chest, Cairo Museum © Nile Muse 2003

Above the king the long black bar represents the hieroglyph for the sky. Perfect checkered strips with a diagonal secondary pattern surround the scene, with a row of rosettes outside that border. Large blocks of alternating colors comprise the next outermost ornamental border, those trimmed finally with small strips of alternating colored squares. Time has darkened some colors beyond recognition.

The team of horses on this side of the box consists of a chestnut near us and a bay behind. Up close you can see the teeth in the near horse's open mouth. Like all the horses painted on the chest, the horses leap forward as if rearing on their hind legs to clear the mass of fallen enemies, here Nubians. All the courtiers' horses are chestnut.

Two cartouches identify Nebkheperure Tutankhamun with a few columns and a row of hieroglyphs proclaiming:

"The perfect god, the image of the Sun rising over foreign lands, like Re when he appears, crushing the vile land of Kush, shooting his arrows agains his enemies." 3

The paint is cracked on this side of the lid. The scene depicts the king charging to the left, hunting lions and lionesses. Hieroglyphs say, "combating the lions, his success ensues, his power is like the son of Nut." 5

v.1-12 | Front of Chest | Chest Lid | Back of Chest | Chest Ends ] Next: the Ends »


  1. Howard Carter and A.C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen Dover Publication, NY 1977. Includes black and white photos of both sides of the lid and the chest in situ by Harry Burton.
  2. William MacQuitty, TUTANKHAMUN the Last Journey, A Quartet book, Crown Publishers, NY, 6th printing 1978. Includes an extreme closeup color photo by MacQuitty of Tut in his chariot facing right trampling Asians.
  3. Jean-Pierre Corteggiani, The Egypt of the Pharaohs at the Cairo Museum, Hatchette Guide Bleus, Paris, 1986. Color photo of the full side of the chest with the chariot facing to the left (Nubians and lions).
  4. David Sandison, The Art of Ancient Egypt, Laurel Glen Publishing, San Diego, CA 1997. Has a full color two-page photo of Tutankhamun's hunting chest lid portraying the animal hunt with the horses hieroglyphs.
  5. The Griffith Institute, www.ashmolean.org/gri/, Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation, The Howard Carter Archives, Photographs by Harry Burton. www.ashmolean.museum/gri/carter/021.html, Carter No.: 021 Notes made by Mrs. de Garis Davies in January/February 1951 on the casket of Tutankhamun.
  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. Color photo of full side of chest with horses facing right, trampling Asiatics; close up of that scene and closeup of the similar scene on back side with horses facing left, trampling Nubians.
  7. T.G.H. James, Tutankhamen, White Sta S.r.l. 2000. Color photo two page spread close up of scene with horses facing left, conquering Nubians.

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