Cover Inspiration for THE ANCIENT EGYPT SLEEPOVER

Héloïse Mab is a super-talented French illustrator based in Bristol. She did the artwork for the front and back covers of my new book THE ANCIENT EGYPT SLEEPOVER.

The front cover was inspired in part by the photo below, taken by photographer Benedict Johnson at one of the British Museum’s real sleepover events.

© Benedict Johnson, reproduced here with permission

Benedict’s photo shows three children beneath an imposing statue of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, one of two colossal busts in the British Museum’s collection. Now you can see why the head on the cover of the book only has one ear. It’s not a mistake!

Podkin Amenhotep One-Ear

You can see the Amenhotep III colossus in the British Museum’s collection here. That massive closed fist belonged to the same statue, and is listed in the collection here.

On the far left of Benedict’s photo are four seated and standing statues of the goddess Sekhmet from the mortuary temple of Amenhotep. She was the goddess of destruction and was usually depicted in the form of a lion. Sekhmet’s nicknames include ‘Mistress of Dread’, ‘Lady of Slaughter’ and ‘She Who Mauls’. Sounds like someone you’d want to keep happy, right?

© The Trustees of The British Museum

Amenhotep III wanted to keep Sekhmet happy, too. That’s why he had 365 seated statues of Sekhmet and 365 standing statues of Sekhmet put in his mortuary temple – people could sacrifice to a different one every day of the year. The four statues in the British Museum are listed in the online collection here.

Héloïse has included Sekhmet among the statues on the cover of THE ANCIENT EGYPT SLEEPOVER. As for the running boy in the centre, he is the main character in the story. His name is Muhammed, or Mo for short. Like the children in Benedict’s fab photo, Mo isn’t going to get much sleep at this sleepover!

THE ANCIENT EGYPT SLEEPOVER comes out in January 2022, published by Caboodle Books.

Illustrator Héloïse Mab’s website and instagram.

Photographer Benedict Johnson’s website and instagram

© Héloïse Mab

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 23: Tutankhamun’s Ostrich Feather Fan

You probably feel sad or angry at the thought of hunting ostriches, but for Ancient Egyptians it was a great sport. Ostriches run at speeds up to 45 miles per hour, and people loved zooming after them in their chariots.

The centre of Tutankhamun’s fan was a semicircle of gold, and there would have been ostrich feathers all around the curved edge. The picture on the fan shows Tutankhamun in his chariot, hunting an ostrich.

Notice Tutankhamun’s throne name Neb-kheperu-re in the cartouche in the top right corner, and the jaunty ankh symbol striding along in the bottom left corner. Amusingly, the ankh is also holding an ostrich feather fan!

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 22: The Anubis Shrine

There were five rooms in Tutankhamun’s tomb – the antechamber (containing the funeral beds, chariot parts, mannequin and other treasures), the annexe, the burial chamber and the treasury.

The treasury was the last room to be catalogued and photographed. Carter and his colleagues did not get to it until 1926, four whole years after the first discovery of the tomb!

The most striking piece of treasure in the treasury was this shrine with a statue of Anubis on top. It is made of wood and painted black. The ears, eyebrows, eye outlines and collar are all made of gold. The whites of the eyes are made from calcite and the pupils are obsidian. The claws are made of silver. What an amazing piece of craftsmanship!

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 21: Mannequin of the Boy King

I love this mannequin. It’s so simple and inexpensive compared to most of the bling which surrounded it in the first chamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Our best guess is that it was used as a dummy for storing the boy king’s many elaborate pectorals (a pectoral is an ornamental breastplate, like the Necklace of the Sun on the Eastern Horizon which we looked at on Day 12).

The mannequin (or mannikin, as Howard Carter spells it) is a life-sized model of Tutankhamun from the waist up, wearing a white linen tunic and a yellow flat-topped crown. It was ‘peering out’ from among the golden chariot parts when Carter first looked into the tomb on 26 November 1922. Here it is in his own handwriting, part of his diary entry that day:

http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4sea1not.html

Here is the mannequin being carried out of the tomb to a storeroom where it could be examined and catalogued.

from the Harry Burton photo archive

And here it is in the storeroom.

from the Harry Burton photo archive

And here is a newspaper article by Howard Carter describing how he found the tomb. There’s that mannequin again, peering out from the sepia page at thousands of eager readers.

The black and red cobra on the front of the crown depicts the goddess Wadjet. You wouldn’t mess with someone who had a cobra goddess on their head, would you?

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 20: Ankh-shaped mirror case

Anubis holding ankh symbol – Wikimedia Commons

Tutankhamun’s beautiful mirror case was in the shape of an ‘ankh’ hieroglyph. ‘Ankh’ meant life, and it also meant mirror, so the object itself is basically a pun.

In Ancient Egypt, people believed that life was a powerful force swirling through all the world. They believed that life was given by the gods, which is why you often see pictures and statues of Egyptian gods holding the ‘ankh’ symbol.

Ancient Egyptians used the word ‘ankh’ a great deal in everyday conversation. Their phrase for ‘please’ was ‘May you be healthy and alive!’

Tutanhkhamun’s throne name ‘Nebkheperure’ is part of the decoration inside the loop of the ankh on the mirror case. Can you spot it? If you missed Day 13 of this series, on how to write Tutankhamun’s names in hieroglyphs, you should have a quick read of that first.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 19: board games in the afterlife

Eternity is a very long time, so it stands to reason that board games should be available. It was common for Ancient Egyptian tombs to contain board games to keep the deceased occupied in the Field of Reeds. This ivory senet board is a particularly fine example.

Senet was played on a board with thirty cells. Two players lined up their pawns on their starting line and then took it in turns to move. The moves were dictated not by dice but by the throw of four black and white senet sticks.

We know this senet board belonged to Tutankhamun because it has his throne name written on it in hieroglyphics. Can you spot his name in the inscription above?

This painting from Nefertari’s tomb shows her playing senet in the afterlife.

from the tomb of Nefertari in Egypt’s valley of the queens

Below is another popular board game, discovered by Howard Carter as it happens, though not in Tutankhamun’s tomb. It is called hounds and jackals. The hounds and jackals race each other along parallel tracks towards the finishing hole.

The hieroglyph for a senet board was mn (pronounced men or mun) and it looked like a senet board viewed from the side. If you recognize it that’s because it’s part of the name of the God Amun and therefore also Tutankhamun’s name.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 18: Tutankhamun the Harpooner

As we saw when we looked at the paintings of Nebamun, the craftspeople who created the artwork in tombs were more interested in portraying an ideal picture of life than a realistic one.

That said, I believe that some people are too quick to exaggerate how weak and sickly the boy king Tutankhamun was, and how much that would have limited what he was able to do. Sure, he had a club foot, but that is no reason why he would not have been able to stand up in a skiff and chuck a harpoon at a fish, or to zoom around in his Ferrari in hot pursuit of ostriches.

This gilded statue of Tutankhamun the harpooner was just one of the tomb treasures that came to London in 2019 for the ‘Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. See if you can spot it on the virtual walkthrough below.

Treasures of Egypt Day 17: Tutankhamun’s chariot ‘The Ferrari of antiquity’

By the time of Tutankhamun, chariots were being widely used in hunting and warfare. For an archer shooting arrows at an enemy army, a chariot provided a much more stable platform than a horse. Chariot riders could shoot arrows accurately even when their horse was at full gallop, 25 miles per hour. They were the heroes of the time, like Premier League footballers today.

There were parts at least four different chariots in Tutankhamun’s tomb. One of them is particularly small and speedy, and this is most likely the one the king used himself in ostrich hunts and battles.

Scientists who study Tutankhamun’s chariot always end up being incredibly impressed. The wheels, the tyres, the axle, the bearings, the lubrication made of animal grease, all of these things show a very high level of engineering sophistication. One professor declared that the construction of Tutankhamun’s chariot was more impressive than the construction of the pyramids! Another called it ‘the Ferrari of antiquity.’

We know from studying Tutankhamun’s mummy that he broke his leg not long before he died. Was this the result of a chariot fall? Was he out ostrich hunting at the time?

If he did fall from his chariot, it was not because of any fault in the chariot’s design. It was more likely Tutankhamun’s own weakness, brought on by malaria, or perhaps instability caused by his club foot.

The above picture is a replica of the chariot. Below is a (colorized) photo of what it looked like when Carter first set eyes on it. Not quite as shiny!

photo from Harry Burton’s archive, coloured by Dynachrome

Treasures of Ancient Egypt Day 16: the golden throne

Throughout history and throughout the world, could there be any greater symbol of power and dominion than a golden throne? This one belonging to Tutankhamun is eye-wateringly beautiful, covered not only with gold leaf but also silver and semi-precious stones.

The picture on the back panel shows the young pharaoh being anointed with perfume by his wife Anknesenamun. The legs of the chair have lion’s heads and paws.