National Museums Scotland acquires rare fragments of ancient royal Egyptian box

Inscribed for Pharaoh Amenhotep II, dating to c.1427–1400 BC, the box, which is one of the finest examples of decorative woodwork to survive from ancient Egypt, has been in National Museums Scotland’s collections for 160 years.

The fragments, acquired with support from both Art Fund and the National Museums Scotland Charitable Trust, reveal clues about the original design of the box.

The decoration on one of the fragments features a motif representing the façade of the royal palace, tying in with the rich royal symbolism on the box, and confirming the object's royal association. Furthermore, where the decoration of the box differs from that of the fragments, it reveals that the part of the box was incorrectly restored in mid-20th century.

The box is a much more elaborate version of the types of wooden containers often found in ancient Egyptian tombs, other examples of which are in National Museums Scotland's collections. It was probably used in the royal palace to hold cosmetics or expensive perfumes and likely belonged to a member of the king's family, most probably one of his granddaughters.

Commenting on the acquisition, Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said: 'We are really happy to have helped National Museums Scotland take this unique opportunity to reunite the two fragments with their larger whole - one of the most significant objects in their ancient Egyptian collections.

The box and fragments will go on display in a new exhibition, The Tomb: Ancient Egyptian Burial, which opens at the National Museum of Scotland on 31 March. They will then go on permanent display in a new ancient Egypt gallery at the National Museum of Scotland opening in 2018/19.

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