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Collection Highlights

Headrest

Headrest
© BA Antiquities Museum/E. Omar

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0603

Inv.Inventory
 (Malawi Museum) 596

where to find


showcase 6

Headrest

Category:
Tomb equipment, headrests
Date:
Ancient Egyptian period, Old Kingdom, 6th Dynasty (2345-2181 BCE)
Provenance:
Upper Egypt, Minya, Sharuna (El-Kom El-Ahmar)
Material(s):
Rock, alabaster
Height:
21.6 cm
Hall:
In the Afterlife, showcase 6


Description

Headrest composed of three parts: a curved top, a fluted stem decorated with incised hieroglyphs, and a rectangular pedestal inscribed with an offering formula. This form, with its fluted stem, is characteristic of the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BCE).

Headrests

Headrests, usually of wood, ivory or Alabaster, were an essential part of an Egyptian household's sleeping arrangements. The Egyptians normally slept on their sides, and the headrest's curved upper part section raised the head above the bed. Headrests were frequently buried with the dead, notably in the Old and the Middle Kingdoms, and are often found inside the coffin, under the mummy's head.
The magical function of the headrest is explained in the chapter 166 of the Book of the Dead: it was essentially intended magically to raise up the head of the deceased in resurrection, just as the sun god was raised above the eastern horizon each morning. More importantly, it would prevent the cutting off and the loss of the head of the deceased, one of the numerous unpleasant fates that might befall and hinder resurrection.
The importance of the headrest is emphasized by the fact that even the poorest burials at Giza usually had brick or rough stone blocks beneath the head of the deceased.

Headrest Amulets

Amulets, in the shape of headrests, were thought to act as substitutes for the real object. One of the earliest firmly dated headrests amulets was found on the mummy of Tutankhamen. From the Saite Period onwards, headrest amulets, usually made of hematite, became common and were found primarily in private tombs. They are found quite often within the wrappings of the mummy and are usually located at the neck.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Andrews, Carol. Egyptian Amulets. London: British Museum, 1994.
  • D'Auria, Sue et al. Mummies and Magic: The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1988.
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