The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt

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Stool, mummy bed, and triangle level from the tomb of Sennedjem
Nineteenth Dynasty, c. 1300 BC
painted wood
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

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BETSY BRYAN: The tomb of Sennedjem was found in a place called Deir el-Medina, a village on the west bank in ancient Thebes.

ALAN SHESTACK: It was the home of the royal artisans, who prepared the great tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Sennedjem oversaw their work.

BB: When Sennedjem's tomb was found, in it there was regular furniture from his home. This is a typical stool made with a rush seat. As you can see, it slopes in the center so that it would have been more comfortable to sit on.

One of the more interesting pieces is the bed of Sennedjem, very likely a bed that he actually would have used. It would have been covered with some sort of heavy solid mat, and then some kind of pillows on top of that. Probably in preparation for its being placed in his tomb, it was painted with images of two snakes that wind around it. The snakes refer to the protective snakes who protect the god Osiris and the sun god in the next world. So this is a means of protecting Sennedjem, too.

AS: The t-square was one of several tools found in Sennedjem's tomb that he may have actually used. Fitted with its own plumb bob to work as a level, it's inscribed for him with a religious text.

BB: The Egyptians always thought about the metaphorical meaning of things such as a balance or a level. And this associates his job as an artisan with doing right, keeping straight the same way that a balance keeps you straight. You have to be straight in your life.