Tut May Have Been First ‘Gloved One’ : Egypt: Tiny gloves caught British archeologist’s eye when he entered boy-king’s tomb in 1922. He sent his wife to Harrods to check the size.
Among the gold, jewels, chariots and boomerangs tucked away in King Tutankhamen’s tomb 3,200 years ago, a small child’s glove intrigued Arthur Crutenden Mace the most.
After he entered the tomb in 1922, the British archeologist dispatched his wife to a London department store for clues.
“Will you please go to Harrods and look at children’s gloves,” wrote Mace, who hoped they might shed light on the boy-king’s age when he wore the delicate, linen glove.
Mace accompanied archeologist Howard Carter on his expedition that brought Tut’s treasures to a world captivated by ancient Egypt and its mysteries. The letter was one of dozens Mace wrote to his wife--still unpublished in their entirety--that describe the tomb and its contents, including the wardrobe of the young king.
The tiny gloves were among the clues that first led archeologists to suspect that Tut ascended the throne as a mere child. Mace guessed he was 3 or 4 when he wore the gloves, but never determined the exact age.
Now a British archeologist will examine the gloves for more information on the king’s clothing, most of which is still stacked in boxes in a small, dark, dusty storeroom in Cairo’s cluttered Egyptian Museum.
Her research promises to illuminate the customs and daily habits of the ancient Egyptians who lived along the Nile.
“It is one of the greatest collections,” Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood said by telephone from her home in Leiden, Netherlands, where she teaches at the National Museum of Ethnology.
Tut’s wardrobe, some of it in surprisingly good condition, includes loose-fitting, sleeveless tunics worn over loincloths. Some are plain white, others embroidered with red, yellow and blue threads and studded with gold.
Also found were white linen belts, jeweled sandals made of reeds, white loincloths and head scarves. Carter and Mace found the wardrobe packed away in boxes in Tut’s tomb in Luxor.
Vogelsang-Eastwood, who specializes in Roman Egyptian textiles, has completed the first comprehensive catalogue of Tut’s wardrobe. It’s a field that she’s largely created on her own, and in Mace’s letters she hopes to find clues about the state of the clothes when found.
The design of clothes was similar for farmer and Pharaoh, but the attire of the upper classes was often embellished with embroidery or made of fine linen too costly for the poor.
What she has already learned is fascinating.
One of the king’s riding gloves was made from three pieces of material to give more room for the fingers, a technique that wasn’t patented in the United States until 1945.
Almost without exception, they were of simple form.
“The clothes were either tucked or knotted or tied with material. They had no zippers, no buttons,” said Vogelsang-Eastwood, who has written a book on the subject called “Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing.”
Tut was 9 when he ascended the throne in 1334 B.C. He died at 18 after a brief, unremarkable rule, but captured the modern imagination because his was the first tomb found with the riches of its age untouched by robbers.
The statues, jewels, gold and household items such as folded chairs and pillows say little about his life. The serene face of his solid gold mask, in the Cairo Museum, is still his most identifiable legacy.
In a stuffy storeroom of the museum, curator Soheir el-Sawi had a chest of drawers opened to show a reporter the upper half of a tunic, now a brownish cloth spangled with dime-sized gold studs.
The piece was spread on yellowed pages of an English newspaper from 1922. Some of the studs that fell off the garments were collected in a matchbox. Thousands of loose colored beads were tucked in one of the drawer’s corners.
Mace helped Carter put the treasure in wooden boxes, then shipped them aboard steamers up the Nile from Luxor to Cairo.
Now the boxes lie stacked in the stuffy storeroom.
The clothes were put away after their discovery because the museum lacked the space to display them and money for equipment to protect them from heat and humidity.
All but a few garments remain in sealed boxes--much as they were for thousands of years.
“The Egyptian Museum has so much, they can show only a few of everything,” said Vogelsang-Eastwood, who is trying to raise $150,000 to build a clothing-conservation lab at the museum.