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Tutankhamun's wardrobe

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by Dr Gillian Bowen
Publish date
26 July 2011
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Dr Gillian Bowen is the Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Ancient History, Monash University. Join her for "Tutankhamun’s wardrobe", an exploration of Ancient Egyptian attire, Tuesday 26 July 2011, as part of the Tutankhamun Tuesdays Public Lecture Program.

Dr Gillian Bowen Dr Gillian Bowen.
Source: Dr Gillian Bowen
 

In 1922, when Howard Carter first opened the virtually-intact tomb of Tutankhamun, he astounded the world with the vast array of treasure. Among the items, which received little attention from the public but were meticulously recorded by Carter, was the king’s wardrobe: his underwear, tunics, kilts, gloves, socks, shoes and sandals. This is the only substantial collection of items from a royal wardrobe to survive from ancient Egypt.

Many of the garments were poorly preserved as the cloth had disintegrated over the millennia and the elaborate beadwork had fallen off. To preserve these precious items, Carter employed Alfred Lucas, a chemist and specialist conservator. Surprisingly, other clothes were in perfect condition. The garments, along with the iconography such as that shown on the gilded throne, allow us to glimpse the wardrobe of Tutankhamun and his queen, Ankhenenamun. The items represent the height of fashion in the late 18th Dynasty.

Amongst the garments, Carter counted around 145 loincloths, which functioned as underwear, and 81 pieces of footwear. Some of the ceremonial clothes are made of the finest linen which resembles silk and the embroidery and beadwork on these garments and the shoes is exquisite. The marquetry sandals are made of wood, leather, bark, plaster and the decoration is in gold. The scenes show the traditional enemies of Egypt, the so-called “nine bows” on which the king tramples. These items were made by specialist craftsmen as well as the women in the king’s harem. Very few items from Tutankhamun’s wardrobe are on display in the Egyptian Museum and this talk offers one of the few opportunities to view images of the garments.

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