Non-invasive wood identification on parts of King Horemheb’s ritual couches (New kingdom)
Keywords:King Horemheb, Ritual couches, Wood identification, Cedar of Lebanon, Christ’s thorn
The inclusion of couches as basic artefacts of ritual use in ancient Egyptian royal tombs first emerged in the New Kingdom; these are very rare objects, and very little information is available concerning the timber used to make them. To address this knowledge gap the present paper deals with the identification of wood from parts of ancient Egyptian ritual couches from King Horemheb’s tomb using reflected light microscopy as a non-invasive analytic technique. Although these couches are from a royal tomb, our results show that the four identified wood species (Cedar of Lebanon, Sycamore fig, Tamarisk and Christ’s thorn) are among the most common timbers found in ancient Egypt. This confirms that the shortage of timber in ancient Egypt forced the use of the few available timbers for specific purposes, according to their properties, and led the Egyptian carpenters to use large logs from external sources, such as cedar of Lebanon, confirming trading of wood in ancient Egypt.
 Smith, G. E.; Tutankhamen and the discovery of his tomb by the late earl of Carnarvon and Mr Howard Carter, G. Routledge & Sons, Ltd., London (1923).
 Reeves, N., The Complete Tutankhamen (the King-the Tomb-the Treasury), The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo (1990).
 Ruffinatto, F.; Macchioni, N.; Boetto, G.; Baas, P.; Zanuttini, R., ‘Reflected light microscopy as a non-invasive identification tool for wooden artefacts’, IAWA Journal 31(3) (2010) 317-331, https://doi.org/10.1163/22941932-90000026.
 Ruffinatto, F.; Cremonini, C.; Macchioni, N.; Zanuttini, R., ‘Application of reflected light microscopy for non-invasive wood identification of marquetry furniture and small wood carvings’, Journal of Cultural Heritage 15 (2014) 614-620, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.culher.2013.11.013.
 Carivellaro, A.; Schweingruber, F. H., Atlas of Wood, Bark and Pith Anatomy of Eastern Mediterranean Trees and Shrubs with Special Focus on Cyprus, Springer-Verlag, Berlin (2013).
 Gale, R.; Cutler, D., Plants in Archaeology, Westbury Publishing, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2000).
 Wheeler, E. A.; Pearson, R.; LaPasha, C.; Zack, T.; Hatley, W., Computer-aided wood identification - Reference Manual, The North Carolina Agriculture Research Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh (1986).
 Wheeler, E. A.; Baas, P.; Gasson, P. E., ‘List of microscopic features for softwood identification’, IAWA Journal 25 (2004) 1-70, https://doi.org/10.1163/22941932-90000349.
 Wheeler, E. A.; Baas, P.; Gasson, P. E., ‘IAWA list of microscopic features for hardwood identification’, IAWA Bulletin 10(3) (1989) 219-332.
 Cartwright, C., ‘Cedrus Libani under the microscope; the anatomy of modern and ancient cedar of lebanon wood’, Archaeology and history in Lebanon 14 (2001) 107-113.
 Giachi, G.; Guidotti, M.; Lazzeri, S.; Sozzi L.; Macchioni, N., ‘Wood identification of the headrests from the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Florence’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9(2016) 340-346, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.08.027.
 Gale, R.; Gasson, P.; Hepper, N., ‘Wood’, in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, ed. T. Nicholson & I. Shaw, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2000) 334-371.
 Ismail, Y.; Abdrabou, A.; Abdallah, M., ‘A non-destructive analytical study and the conservation processes of Pharaoh Tutankhamun´s painted boat model’, International Journal of Conservation Science 7(1) (2016) 15-28, http://www.ijcs.uaic.ro/public/IJCS-16-02_Ismail.pdf.
 Rifai, M. M.; El Hadidi, N. M. N., ‘Investigation and analysis of three gilded wood samples from the tomb of Tutankhamun’, in Decorated Surfaces on Ancient Egyptian Objects. Technology, Deterioration and Conservation, ed. J. Dawson, C. Rozeik & M. M. Wright, Archetype Publications, London (2010) 16-24.
 El Hadidi, N. M. N., ‘The Cheops Boat – 50 Years Later’, in Conservation of Historic Wooden Structures, Alter Ego Ing Arch S.r.L, Florence (2005) 452-457.
 Nour, M. Z.; Iskander, Z.; Osman, M. S.; Youssof, A., The Cheops Boat, Ministry of Culture and National Orientation, Cairo (1960).
 Cartwright, C., ‘Egyptian mummy portraits: examining the wood workers’ craft’, in Portraits and masks: burial customs in Roman Egypt, ed. M. Bierbrier, British Museum Press, London (1997) 106-111.
 Dawson, J.; Marchant, J.; Von Aderkas, E.; Cartwright, C.; Stacy, R., ‘Egyptian coffins: materials, construction and decoration’, in Death on the Nile (Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt), ed. H. Strudwick & J. Dawson, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2016) 75-246.
 Cartwright, C.; Spaabæk, L.; Svoboda, M., ‘Portrait mummies from Roman Egypt: ongoing collaborative research on wood identification’, The British Museum-Technical Research Bulletin 5 (2011) 49-58.
 Abdrabou, A.; Abdallah M.; Kamal, H. M., ‘Scientific investigation by technical photography, OM, ESEM, XRF, XRD and FTIR of an ancient Egyptian polychrome wooden coffin’, Conservar Património 26 (2017) 51-63, https://doi.org/10.14568/cp2017008.
 Abdrabou, A.; Abdallah, M.; Shaheen, I. A.; Kamal, H. M., ‘Investigation of an ancient Egyptian polychrome wooden statuette by imaging and spectroscopy’, International Journal of Conservation Science 9(1) (2018) 39-54, http://www.ijcs.uaic.ro/public/IJCS-18-04_Abdrabou.pdf.
 Abdallah, M.; Abdrabou, A., ‘Tutankhamen’s small shrines (naoses): technology of woodworking and identification of wood species’, International Journal of Conservation Science 9(1) (2018) 91-104, http://www.ijcs.uaic.ro/public/IJCS-18-08_Abdallah.pdf.
 Cartwright, C.; Taylor, J. H., ‘Wooden Egyptian archery bows in the collections of the British Museum’, The British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2 (2008) 77-83, https://research.britishmuseum.org/pdf/BMTRB%202%20Cartwright%20and%20Taylor.pdf
 Abdrabou, A.; E Hadidi, N. M. N.; Hamed, S.; Abdallah, M., ‘Multidisciplinary approach for the investigation and analysis of a gilded wooden bed of King Tutankhamun’, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 21 (2018) 553–564, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.08.015.
 Boulos, L., Flora of Egypt, Vol. 2: Geraniaceae – Boraginaceae, Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo (2000).
How to Cite
This work is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium following no commercial or derivatives, provided the original author and source are credited.
Copyright remains with the authors.