In the last edition of Arte-Factual, I wrote about the Metal Inrō from Tomb Raider 2013 and explained how these cases were used in pre-modern Japan. This time around, I will be taking a look at a well-known Ancient Egyptian artefact that makes an appearance in The Times Exclusive Level, a stand-alone level that was released in December 1999 and developed in conjunction with The Times newspaper.**
The artefact in question is the Anubis statue (or rather, statues) which can be seen in the screenshot below. Even at first glance, there’s very little doubt that these statues were modelled on the portable Anubis shrine that was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.
The Anubis shrine depicts the life-size recumbent figure of a jackal (the god Anubis in his jackal form) resting on top of a small naos shrine, which is mounted on a wooden sledge with four carrying poles. The jackal is carved from wood and varnished with black resin. In Ancient Egyptian culture, black was the colour associated with the dead and the night and is the colour of the bitumen used in mummification. This seems fitting, given the fact that Anubis was the god of mummification and the protector of the dead.
Jackals became associated with the dead and the afterlife early on in Egyptian history due to the jackals’ penchant for scavenging for corpses and chief embalmers would often wear Anubis masks while they embalmed the bodies of the deceased kings. Despite its association with death, this statue is a beautiful work of art. Its pricked ears, eye brows and eyes are gilded with gold leaf, it wears a gilded collar and scarf around its neck, its claws are made from silver, and its inlaid eyes are made from bright white calcite and shiny black obsidian. Who can resist that penetrating gaze?
The naos shrine is equally exquisite, though this cannot be appreciated in the screenshot (after all, we’re talking late 1990s graphics). The shrine is a compartmentalized chest made from carved and gilded wood and its sides are inscribed and decorated with recurring symbols of the gods Osiris and Isis: the djed pillar, which represents stability and the backbone of Osiris, and the tjet knot of Isis, which may represent female fertility. It’s possible that the symbols represent the duality of life and death or the contrasting but complementary powers of the masculine and the feminine.
A number of small artefacts and personal effects were found inside the chest’s compartments, including a number of blue earthenware amulets, statuettes depicting the gods Thoth and Horus, some jewels, and two wooden figurines.
When Howard Carter stumbled upon the Anubis shrine almost a century ago, the jackal was wrapped in a thin millennia-old linen shawl, adorned with delicate floral garlands, and guarding the entrance to the king’s Treasury. One can only imagine the thoughts that were running through his head when he set eyes on this long-lost guardian of the dead…
** If anyone knows why this stand-alone level was created, please let me know. Some claim that the level was created to commemorate the 75th or, according to others, the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb but since the tomb was discovered in November 1922, this seems rather unlikely. All I know is that The Times Exclusive Level was created to commemorate the fact that The Times was the first newspaper to publish the news of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. In 1972, The Times also sponsored the British Museum’s exhibition Treasures of Tutankhamun, which ran for a period of nine months and is considered to be the museum’s most popular exhibition to date.
Sources & Further Reading:
- Anubis (Wikipedia)
- Color in Ancient Egypt by Graciela Gestoso Singer, UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
- KV62 (Wikipedia)
- Recumbent Figure of Anubis (Tour Egypt)
- The Legacy of Tutankhamun: Art and History by Mey Zaki, Farid Atiya Press (2008)
- Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation (The Griffith Institute)
- Tutankhamun’s Tomb: The Thrill of Discovery by Susan J. Allen, James P. Allen and Harry Burton, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006)