There are many mysteries concerning the tomb of Tutankhamun and some of these have been highlighted and resolved by Amandine Marshall’s article (AE 133) concerning the break-ins. There are other mysteries about some of the 5,000 or so objects found by Howard Carter. There are two that I find to be somewhat interesting and puzzling.
The photo (above) shows a representation of Sopdu or Soped, resident deity of the Eastern nome. Soped’s nome is named after the god and was situated in the north-eastern Delta. Soped was eventually assimilated with Horus and depicted as a crouching falcon with a feather protruding from his back, as can be seen from the photograph. His cult centre was at Per-Soped (present day Saft el-Henna near Zagazig). He was also worshipped at the turquoise mines in Serabit el-Khadim. Soped is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts where he is associated with sharp teeth for some reason. Eventually Soped became associated with the frontier and was called “The Lord of the East”.
The photo is the nome sign of Antaeopolis, the 10th Upper Egyptian nome, situated in Middle Egypt. The depiction is of the cobra goddess Wadjet. The pedestal contains an inscription described by Carter as being “very crudely written in yellow paint” and containing the throne name of the king (Nebkheperura) in a cartouche. Although Wadjet is the symbol for the nome, the main deity was in fact Seth. Wadjet is associated to a much greater extent with the Delta where she became the patron goddess and one of the two protective goddesses of the king, the other being Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. The two goddesses formed the uraeus worn by the king. Wadjet was in particular associated with Pe-Dep (Buto) in the north-western Delta.
So what is the significance of these two objects to Tutankhamun? The first question to ask is whether these objects are symbols of the two nomes or of the god/goddess or both? There are no other similar representations in the tomb with connections to Egypt’s nomes. There are statues of other gods but not in this format. If it is the nomes that are important to Tutankhamun, why is this so? There does not seem to be any strong link involving the Cobra nome in Upper Egypt. The Soped nome has importance generally to Egypt due to being both on the eastern frontier and giving access to the turquoise and malachite mines of Sinai where, as noted, there was a shrine to Soped. There seems to be, however, no similar object to reflect the southern border with Nubia and its valuable gold mines.
If the objects were solely related to the deities then perhaps these were of particular significance to Tutankhamun. Wadjet was the tutelary goddess of Lower Egypt but by the New Kingdom Sopdu had been assimilated to Horus.
The questions remain unanswered but maybe someone can shed further light on them to add to many others associated with Tutankhamun.
In response to the article by Carl Graves and Heba Abd-el-Gawad [AE 133, suggesting the Rosetta Stone be renamed “Hagar Rashid”], no one knows how the trilingual stone ended up forming part of a fortification captured by the British from the French, but it certainly didn’t originate there – whether you call the location Rosetta or Rashid. Why not call it what it is: the Ptolemy V Stone – it commemorates his coronation!
AE 134 competition
If you recognise where in Egypt this photo (below) was taken, email the Editor (email@example.com) before 15 January 2023 with your answer, giving your full name and address.
One lucky reader will have their name selected at random from all the correct answers and will win a copy of The Nile: History’s Greatest River by Terje Tvedt (reviewed in AE 132).
Winner of the September/October 2022 Competition
Congratulations to the winner of the photo competition that appeared in the last issue of the magazine (AE 133).
The winner will receive a copy of Tombs of the South Asasif Necropolis: Art and Archaeology 2015-18 edited by Elena Pischikova et al. The photo (below) is of the Tenth Pylon at Karnak.
Next issue: March/April 2023, out in February
• Egypt’s golden couple: the lives of Akhenaten and Nefertiti through the eyes of Colleen and John Darnell.
• Kathryn Slinger searches for patterns in the distribution of private tombs in Upper Qurna.
• Julian Heath takes us back to the earliest ‘proto-villages’ in Neolithic Egypt.
• Karl Harris goes off the beaten track as he searches for a small New Kingdom tomb in the Wadi Hilal at Elkab.