Pall and its support (TAA i.3.21)

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:
Lindsay Allen and Jaromir Malek
Coordination: Elizabeth Fleming

TAA i.3.21.1


The support for the pall, made sufficiently large to stand over and cover the third shrine, is a wooden structure of gable shape, composed of nine parts framed together:- namely, two upright frame-work supports at each end, and five horizontal cross-beams.

The construction of the framework of the end supports is, to say the least, curious. In many ways it was unstable and inefficient. No doubt it was made in two halves to enable the sections to pass into the tomb, but why it was bolted with ebony bolts shot in copper staples, and secured with cord tied to special copper staples, after the manner of the folding doors of the shrines, when the parts could not possibly open or close after they were erected, is inconceivable. However, the back framing although bolted and tied in similar manner, was also tongued and mortised together.

Compared to the shrines its joinery is very poor; the woodwork is also much warped and twisted; in fact, its workmanship would appear to be that of an unskilled carpenter rather than that of a skilled joiner.

The end framework is simply mortised and tenoned together, and the joints of the principal members strengthened with corner angle pieces. The four principal uprights or corner posts of the framework are stub tenoned to wooden pedestal-like feet - i.e. a tenon is cut on the foot of the post which fits into a sinking in the pedestal. This joggle joint was strengthened by an angle piece fixed to the pedestal and on the outer and inner faces of the post. The five horizontal cross-beams were attached to the supporting framework at both ends by means of tapering right-angle pieces tenoned to their extremities. These right-angle end pieces fitted into copper staples fixed to the inner faces of the upright members of the end framing.

The whole of the structure is coated with gesso, which was varnished with a black resinous material; the inner and outer surfaces of the framework gilded and incised with a geometric pattern; the upper surfaces of the cross-beams gilded, and their rounded under surface gilded at intervals upon the black resin, giving the appearance of chequer-work.

The members and sections bear 'guide' marks to show how they fitted together, but no cardinal points, they in this particular case being unnecessary.

TAA i.3.21.2


Its external dimensions given in 'mean measurement' are:- Length 432 cents.; width 293 cents.; height of sides 239 cents.; height to summit of ridge 278 cents.

The battens employed for the framing measure 8 x 6 cents., and 4 x 6 cents.; for the posts 8.7 x 6 cents.; and for the cross-beams 6.5 x 6 cents. in thickness.

THE PALL - NO. 209.
The pall which completely covered the upper part of the wooden support was spread over it crookedly.

This linen pall, measuring some 5.50 metres in length, and some 4.40 metres wide, made up of several widths of material hemmed together, was unfortunately much perished. Its tissue was discoloured to a dark mahogany brown, and owing to the weight of the material, largely increased by the numerous gilded copper rosettes that ornamented it, parts were rent, parts hung in tatters, and irregular strips had fallen from its drooping edges. The fabric was of a coarse weave, of pure flax, and it contained no trace of cotton (see vol. ii, pp.198-9, pl. xxxvia). The gilded copper rosettes, 4.7 cents. in diam., were sewn to the fabric 22 cents. apart (from centre to centre) on the long axis, and 19.5 cents. apart on the transverse axis.

Although the tissue was very frail, it possessed sufficient strength to withstand the tensile strains of careful winding on to a wooden roller - the method we had to employ to remove it from its original support. But to render it strong enough to stand any kind of manipulation beyond that, it was essential to strengthen the threads with some flexible material which would bind the fibres together. Dr. Alexander Scott, who came out to Egypt (Winter 1923-4) at my request, as consulting chemist, gave valuable aid in solving this problem. From his experiments (see vol. ii, pp. 197-9), it was found that duroprene (a chlorinated rubber compound dissolved in an organic solvent such as zylene) proved the most efficacious in reinforcing and preserving the deteriorated tissue. I had a special linen lining prepared and dyed the same colour. The pall was transported upon the wooden roller to the entrance of the laboratory (the tomb of Seti ii, at the head of the Valley) for relining by the expert hands of Mrs. Newberry. At the crisis (see vol. ii, pp. xii-xviii),

TAA i.3.21.3


when my control ceased, the Cairo Museum officials, who took charge, left this unique relic in the open air, exposed to wind and sun, for the whole summer and most of the following winter, with the result that it almost entirely perished, and consequently our efforts to preserve it were rendered of no avail.

TAA i.3.21.4

For Pall in situ
see photos - negs. No. 614,
For fastenings of framework of pall support
see photos - negs. No. 611, 613.

TAA i.3.21.5 = Burton photo. 1911
TAA i.3.21.6 = Burton photo. 1913
TAA i.3.21.7 = Burton photo. 621
TAA i.3.21.8 = Burton photo. 1912
TAA i.3.21.9 = Burton photo. 611

(June 26, 2009)

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