Chemistry (TAA i.3.9)

Howard Carter's notes made in preparation of the complete publication of Tutankhamun's tomb
This section:
Concept & Direction: Jaromir Malek
Scanning: Kent Rawlinson, Keunjoo Kim and Jenni Navratil
Transcription and editing:
Elizabeth Fleming and Jaromir Malek
Coordination: Elizabeth Fleming

TAA i.3.9.1

Specimens from the Tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amun examined by H.J. Plenderleith.

The following pigments came from one of the King's palettes from the toy box found in the Annexe:

Black Galena (Lead sulphide)
White Gypsum (Cake)
Green Copper frit (Cake)
Blue Copper frit (Granules)
Red Ochre Iron oxide (Cake)
Yellow Orpiment (Arsenic sulphide)

Yellow ochre was used for painting the walls of the Burial Chamber.

Material from the Shrines.
One of the metal tongues which secured the second shrine lid proved to be of copper containing some tin and a little gold.
Tin 1.54 per cent
Gold 0.07 "
The metal was only superficially oxidised and still bore traces of the resinous material which had been used to lute it in position. The Shrines were enriched by a covering of thin gold laid on a gesso consisting mainly of carbonate of lime. In the specimens examined the gesso varied in thickness from 1/16 to 1/8 inch and the gold from the finest leaf to gold sheet or foil of about 1/10 m.m. thickness.

An interesting discovery was made in the case of one batch of fragments, namely, that the gesso contained the remains of organic tissue which proved on examination to be animal skin. It was found possible to isolate the tissue and to confirm the identification by cutting a section. This showed the presence of several hair follicles which may be easily seen in the accompanying micro-photograph. The outside of the hide was next the gold.

The object of providing such a resilient cushion beneath the gold is entirely a matter of conjecture but it seems likely that it was to afford a suitable surface for tooling. If this be the case one sees here the genesis of a technique which was exploited to such advantage some hundreds of years later in the decoration of Persian and other book-bindings.

H. J. Plenderleith.

TAA i.3.9.2



Dear Dr Carter,

I believe that I am to have the pleasure of meeting you at Dr Smith's on Friday evening.

Enclosed are some notes on the materials that I have had to deal with. You get a print of the leather section and I shall forward the negatives if you would like it.

Yours very truly

H. J. Plenderleith

TAA i.3.9.3 and 4 = photocopy of a letter from Alfred Lucas to Henry Plenderleith, dated 15th July 1927, regarding botanical specimens. Not scanned or transcribed.

TAA i.3.9.5 = photocopy of 29 typewritten pages of a lecture given by Henry Bunker and entitled 'Scientific Aspects of the Egyptian Discoveries'. Not scanned or transcribed.

(August 25, 2009)

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