Iron from Tutankhamun’s Tomb

by Katja Broschat et al.
AUC, 2022
ISBN 978-1-617-97997-2
Hardback, £29.95.

This is a lavish production from American University in Cairo Press, though at 62 pages long it is a rather slim volume. The book provides, for the first time, a complete account and reference work for all the iron objects that were found by Howard Carter in KV62 a century ago. It is a product of a research programme undertaken by a team of scholars, using the latest photographic and testing techniques. The photographs in the book are stunning, ranging from general shots of each object to x-ray photographs used to reveal otherwise hidden details. Detailed colour photographs are presented of the decoration applied to the objects, particularly the multicoloured inlays and the detailed chase-work that are such an arresting feature of the unique iron-bladed dagger.

Chapters are presented on each of the categories of iron object found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, and a selection of Harry Burton’s original photographs are used to set the historical context. There then follows a discussion of what is currently known about iron in pharaonic times, which focuses not just on Egypt, but also the iron-working technology of other nearby cultures from this period – cultures that may have influenced Egypt’s emergent Iron Age.

A discussion of the manufacturing techniques that may have been used is illustrated throughout by further stunning close-up photography. No work on Tutankhamun’s iron objects would be complete without a discussion of the origins of the iron, supported by the results of analysis undertaken by the team – non-destructive analysis, of course!

After presenting their conclusions on the collection of iron objects found in KV62, the book includes an appendix on the gold-bladed dagger that was also found in Tutankhamun’s burial. Generally, seen as complementary to the iron-bladed dagger, the construction methods of the gold dagger are explored, and comparisons made between these two stunning artefacts. The photography in the appendix is just as wonderful as the photography used throughout the book.

This publication presents a comprehensive and scholarly account of the iron objects found in Tutankhamun’s burial and elevates what might otherwise have been simply an academic paper to a fascinating work that would grace any enthusiast’s bookshelf or coffee table.

Review by Colin Reader